TURN­ING THE TA­BLES

AUS­TRIA, BRI­TAIN & GER­MANY

Driven - - MOTORSPORT -

AS YOU READ THIS, F1 IS EN­JOY­ING A SUM­MER BREAK AFTER A HARD-FOUGHT OPEN­ING STINT OF 12 FROM 22 RACES, IN WHICH THE PEN­DU­LUM HAS SWUNG WITH BASEBALL BAT FE­ROC­ITY BETWEEN LEWIS HAMIL­TON AND SE­BAS­TIAN VET­TEL. EGMONT SIP­PEL RE­PORTS ON THE THREE RACES PRE­CED­ING THE HUN­GAR­IAN GRAND PRIX.

Wow! When last have you seen any­thing like this year’s Ger­man GP?

Well, that depends.

If the ques­tion is framed around Lewis Hamil­ton’s surge through the field– from 14th on the grid to the top of the podium – then we’d have to ref­er­ence Kimi Räikkö­nen’s vic­tory in the Ja­pa­nese GP of 2005, where the Kim­ster started in 17th be­fore snatch­ing the lead from Gian­carlo Fisichella at the start of the very last lap.

Ex­actly ten years be­fore Kimi’s golden mo­ment, Michael Schu­macher fa­mously won at Spa from 16th on the grid.

Just re­cently, even­tual vic­tor, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, started from 10th in Azer­bai­jan be­fore slid­ing back to 17th by lap six.

An even big­ger fight-back was reg­is­tered in Canada, in 2011, when Jen­son But­ton came from dead last on lap 37 of a 70-lap race, to pass Se­bas­tian Vet­tel half­way around the fi­nal tour.

Yet, the record for the low­est start­ing po­si­tion from which a Grand Prix has been bagged be­longs to John Wat­son.

For the 1983 United States GP West on the streets of Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, slow Miche­lin qual­i­fy­ing rub­ber only se­cured grid slots of 22nd and 23rd for Watty and McLaren team mate Niki Lauda, but the race tyre was more than a match for the Goodyears and Pirellis.

Watty won from Niki in sec­ond.

AUS­TRIAN Gp AT THE RED BULL RING

Take into ac­count that this edi­tion of Driven went to print on the eve of the Hun­gar­ian GP, and you’ll un­der­stand why to­day’s re­view is lim­ited to the trio of races hav­ing pre­ceded Bu­dapest, where the crys­tal ball favoured the Red Bulls.

How­ever, 2018 has tended to make a mock­ery of pre­dic­tions.

Mon­treal, for in­stance, is a Merc track. The three-pointed star won there in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This year, how­ever, they suf­fered from not hav­ing their new en­gine ready. Hamil­ton qual­i­fied fourth and lost an­other place in the race, with arch-ri­val Vet­tel win­ning at a canter.

Merc then in­tro­duced their up­dated mill in France and the Ham­mer duly trot­ted out a win after Vet­tel had re­moved him­self from con­tention by crash­ing into the Ham­mer’s team mate, Valt­teri Bot­tas, on the open­ing lap.

Hav­ing added some chas­sis up­dates in Aus­tria, the Mercs com­fort­ably led un­til Valt­teri’s gear­box seized and Merc com­mit­ted the sin of not pit­ting Lewis un­der the Vir­tual Safety Car. Things took a turn for the worse when Hamil­ton’s car lost fuel pres­sure, forc­ing his re­tire­ment on Lap 64, out of 71.

Vet­tel, in the mean­time, was un­able to take full ad­van­tage of Merc’s mis­for­tunes, as he had been pun­ished by a three place-drop on the grid, to sixth, for hav­ing blocked Sainz dur­ing quali.

Aus­tria was Merc’s first dou­ble re­tire­ment due to tech­ni­cal is­sues since 1955. This de­light­ful lit­tle fac­toid nev­er­the­less failed to mask the team’s re­cent strate­gic vul­ner­a­bil­ity, hav­ing thrown away an easy win in Aus­tralia and elect­ing not to pit Hamil­ton in China be­hind the Safety Car, while Red Bull did – from where they won the race.

Merc’s strate­gic blun­der in Spiel­berg smelled like one too many.

Red Bull, as ever, was ready to pick up the pieces, in this case with Max Ver­stap­pen, who clocked up an im­pres­sive vic­tory. The young Dutch­man pressed hard on the open­ing lap to seize the ini­tia­tive from Räikkö­nen in the fast Turn 6/7 com­plex and then maxed out with­out hurt­ing his tyres.

BRITISH Gp AT SIL­VER­STONE

Next up on the cal­en­dar was the fast and free-flow­ing Sil­ver­stone, where the Sil­ver Ar­rows had been boss­ing it ever since the British GP of 2013.

Seen against the back­ground of the W09’s speed in France and Aus­tria, Bri­tain seemed like a slam-dunk for the Brack­ley Boys, es­pe­cially as Sil­ver­stone was one of only three cir­cuits – all of them newly resur­faced – on which the thin­ner-gauge (by 0.4 mm) Pirelli tyres would be used this year – the oth­ers hav­ing been Barcelona and Paul Ri­card where Hamil­ton had dis­ap­peared into the dis­tance.

And then Fer­rari turned up with a new floor, in­tended to im­prove the SF71H’s per­for­mance in high-speed cor­ners – which it did.

Yet, at Sil­ver­stone, the fo­cus in­stead cen­tred on the red cars’ tremen­dous straight­line speed. Räikkö­nen was quick­est, his 325 km/h well clear of Hamil­ton’s 321 and Bot­tas’ 320 km/h.

And worse: with a faster exit speed out of Chapel, Hamil­ton was clearly down vis-à-vis the Fer­raris at the end of the Hangar straight, which seem­ingly sug­gested that the Merc was de­r­at­ing – or run­ning out of its elec­tri­cal en­ergy boost – faster than the Fer­rari.

The FIA has taken an in­ter­est in Maranello’s bat­tery this sea­son, but no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties have been found, thus far. The the­ory about Fer­rari’s abil­ity to side­step the op­po­si­tion’s hastier de­r­at­ing tempo is quite com­plex (we’ll cover that when we have more space), but it seems likely that the Pranc­ing Horse has found a clever way of cir­cum­vent­ing reg­u­la­tions govern­ing the stor­age and ex­change of en­ergy between the elec­tri­cal sys­tem’s MGU-K and MGU-H.

Hamil­ton’s pole at Sil­ver­stone was there­fore against the run of play; Lewis was knack­ered af­ter­wards, and it all came to nought on Sun­day with a lethar­gic start, after which Räikkö­nen bumped him into a spin on the open­ing tour.

The re­cov­ery drive from stone dead last to sec­ond was dogged and up­lift­ing, yet Vet­tel’s supreme drive to vic­tory– on Merc ter­ri­tory– was a worry to Toto Wolff and his team.

GER­MAN Gp AT HOCk­EN­HEIM

That worry turned into a headache at Hock­en­heim, where it was es­ti­mated that the red cars gained half a sec­ond on the sil­ver

cars, just on the straights. With Hamil­ton go­ing out, on top of that, in Q1 (courtesy of a hy­draulic leak which im­paired the car’s steer­ing, ac­cord­ing to the team), Vet­tel would have ex­pected an un­op­posed stroll to pole, which was not quite the case, as Bot­tas re­ally took up the ba­ton.

Seb nev­er­the­less pro­duced one of his on the limit spe­cials for his home crowd (he was born just a few kilo­me­tres down the road from Hock­en­heim), while the de­fi­cient power of Red Bull’s Re­nault V6 was once again ex­posed, as it was on Sil­ver­stone’s long straights.

With Bot­tas as his only real threat, then, Vet­tel quickly built a com­mand­ing lead in the race. It was clear as day­light that only rain could stop him – and rained it did, with cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for Fer­rari.

If the ques­tion then, in the open­ing para­graph of this story was not about Hamil­ton’s re­mark­able come­back drive in Ger­many, but rather about Vet­tel’s mas­sive

faux pas in the wet, slid­ing off at the track’s slip­pery Sach­skurve and crash­ing into the bar­ri­ers – all of it in slow mo­tion – we’d prob­a­bly find the two best analo­gies in Hamil­ton’s own ma­jor low-speed gaffe in China, in 2007, when he slid wide on pit lane en­try and beached his car; and in Ayr­ton Senna’s 1988 crash into the bar­ri­ers in Monaco when he was lead­ing sec­ond-man Prost by al­most a minute.

Hamil­ton’s mis­take cost him the ti­tle; Senna sur­vived the calamity.

But how will it pan out for Vet­tel?

We will see. A 32-point swing just in Ger­many – 25 less for Seb, seven more for Lewis– is noth­ing to sneeze at. The ta­bles had been em­phat­i­cally turned on both Hamil­ton and Vet­tel in their home races. At the tempo that these two guys have been de­r­at­ing points at times, the pic­ture might again have changed in Hun­gary.

And if it didn’t, it will after the sum­mer break. So, stay tuned!

Above

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel charg­ing to glory at Sil­ver­stone

Top Mid­dle The Red Ar­rows aer­o­bat­ics team putting on a show after the British GP.

Top Left Who cares if your rac­ing suit is su­per un­flat­ter­ing when you’ve just won the Ger­man GP at Hock­en­heim.

Top Right Seb did some heavy lift­ing on the track to raise the British GP tro­phy.RightMax Ver­stap­pen show­ing his best side at the Aus­trian GP.

Top Im­age Ver­stap­pen stun­ning the Spiel­berg crowd with a great per­for­mance.

Above Lewis ei­ther propos­ing to Valt­teri Bot­tas, or thank­ing himre­ally nicely for giv­ing him a leg up in Ger­many.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.