Rosberg reins, Team Williams surges, and Jenson Button is on the ropes. Who will find redemption at the 2014 British Grand Prix?
Photo: Srdjan Suki / epa / Corbis
Monaco may be sexier, but no F1 race is more storied than the British Grand Prix. The first modern Grand Prix was held at Silverstone Circuit in 1950 and, for the last quarter-century, the track has seen more than its fair share of history. Scuderia Ferrari notched it first-ever victory here; Bruce McLaren's fatally crashed here; Senna hitchhiked on Mansell’s sidepod here. The 3.6-mile, 18-turn circuit is hallowed ground.
Here’s are the major storylines going into the big race on July 6.
The Williams May Be F1's Second Fastest Car
Perhaps the most surprising development in Austria was the emergence of Williams’ Mercedes-powered FW36, which managed a front row lockout in qualifying and looked exceptionally quick on race day. Though the Mercedes AMG factory team took a one-two victory, the margin was all of 6 seconds, compared to the 50-second cushion in earlier races. Have Frank and Claire cracked the code to staying in the same frame as AMG?
If so, it’s bad news for Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo has managed to keep the team afloat so far, but was stymied by technical issues in Austria. Meanwhile, Vettel’s season went from woeful to ignominious when he was lapped and subsequently forced to retire halfway through the Grand Prix. The Champ’s car just will not cooperate and Rob White, Renault’s F1 powertrain boss, isn’t exactly a rainbow of optimism. In an interview this week, he admitted Renault is already “pushing for next year," and that further tweaks to its 1.6-liter turbo engine “will be more long-term." Translation: Red Bull should expect little aid for its horsepower-deprived RB10.
At Silverstone—where 67 percent of each lap is spent at full-throttle, with average speeds over 160mph—we’ll get to see the grid stretch its collective legs. Watch the gap between Mercedes and Williams, sure, but keep an eye on distances between Williams and Red Bull. As Renè Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve would remind us, a race for second can be just as compelling as a race for first.
Photo: Hans Klaus Techt / epa / Corbis
Nico Doesn't Have the Championship Just Yet
Riding into Northamptonshire with a point total more than twice that of its nearest competitor Red Bull squad (301 versus 143), it’d take a Chernobyl-sized meltdown to keep Mercedes AMG from claiming the 2014 F1 Constructor’s Title. Still, this year’s Driver’s Title is far from decided.
Just two years ago, Fernando Alonso’s mid-season lead over Sebastian Vettel totaled more than 40 points before the German stormed back to take the crown. In 2010, Alonso left the British Grand Prix down nearly 50 points, yet lined up at Bahrain for the season finale leading in the title chase. And nobody knows the fickle business of Driver’s Championships better than Hamilton, who, in 2007, held a 17-point lead on Kimi Räikkönen entering the penultimate race; even under the 10-point-per-win scoring umbrella, the Flying Finn won out.
Is Nico on a roll? Certainly. Does Lewis need a bounce-back win? Yes. But, make no mistake about it, the Driver’s Championship is very much in play at Silverstone.
Photo: Hoch Zwei / Getty Images
Jenson Button Is in the Hot Seat
Prior to the Austrian Grand Prix, we’d expressed some concern for Button, who’s feeling the walls closing in from every direction—with his contract expiring, the grid’s second-oldest driver was in dire need of a strong performance. Instead, Kevin Magnussen showed him up by finishing 7th while Button failed to make top-ten. The Brit’s lead over his rookie teammate is down to a mere 14 points. Worst of all, though, is that Ron Dennis now suspects it’s all due to a lack of effort: “Do I want [Button] to try harder? Of course I do—he's a highly-paid grand prix driver. Yes, we are not giving him the best car and, yes, it would challenging for him to win in it, to say the least, but he could do his bit…”
Clearly, the McLaren brass is losing patience with its lead driver. We hope that this, Button’s 14th British Grand Prix, isn’t his last and that the ex-World Champion will have one final rabbit in his hat for the hometown fans.
OUR PREDICTION: Hamilton, on native soil, edges out Rosberg for the win; Ricciardo comes back strong to claim his fourth podium of 2014.