So, the FIA cunningly elected to ban hot/cold blowing. I shall briefly explain the basics of this, which I barely understand myself. It’s technical, but important (like working out how to undo a bra with one hand).
Cold blowing involves passing air through the exhaust even when the throttle is not being pressed. This air is then channelled in such a way to increase rear downforce, which increases grip, decreases tyre degradation and enhances lap times. Hot blowing is much the same except that it involves the burning of fuel (whilst off-throttle) and is more effective.
Both were meant to be banned. Now it’s turned out the ban was just a heavy restriction, and that has been thoroughly changed for each engine. The problem is that Mercedes claimed they need a 10% overrun (hot blowing, I think) for reliability. The FIA agreed. Renault, who supply Red Bull, claimed they need some cold blowing for the same reason, and the FIA said they could have 50% (interesting, given they only used 45% before now). Both sides are unhappy, and McLaren reckon Red Bull, already well in the lead, may have a further advantage.
It’s a right dog’s dinner. There’s no way of knowing who gets the advantage or if it’s more or less equal.
Update: very shortly before qualifying Red Bull were told Renault engines can only have 10% cold blowing. Remains to be seen what the future regulations will be.
Backed Alonso for pole at 6.6. Unfortunately it didn’t work out.
Qualifying was heavily disrupted by occasional bursts of light rain that were just enough to make setting faster times on slicks impossible, but not wet enough to make the intermediates worthwhile.
First glance of the impact of the engine rule changes is that, for all their bellyaching, Red Bull remains top dog, but only just. Ferrari are in a very strong second. Although Button snagged fifth he was a huge 0.7s off Massa, and barely ahead of di Resta, who put in an excellent effort. Hamilton got a rather unimpressive tenth.
Put forward a single tip for Alonso at 4.5 (with Ladbrokes rather than Betfair, as the odds were longer and there’s no commission), advocating a lay at 1.5 on the betting exchange. Happily, this one came off, and so the race and weekend overall was green. Again, better without hedging (I’ll address that in my mid-season review).
The race was a little bit bizarre at the start, because a shower had passed over about half the track. The start was bone dry, but half of it was sopping wet, so the drivers universally decided to start on intermediates. Vettel got a cracking start, passing Webber, and Alonso just held station.
There was a little passing at the sharp end early on, with Hamilton and Schumacher making up many places quite quickly, though generally the first phase of the race was notable for the gaps between the cars. There was soon a 4s or so gap from Vettel to Webber and a similar gap to Alonso. Schumacher continued his penchant for mechanical rhinoplasties, and was the first fellow on slicks when he came in for a new nose.
As Schumacher banged in fast laps the other drivers ditched their intermediates for softs (being wet initially they did not have to use hard tyres during the race) and the race began in earnest. Red Bull remained out in front, and there was a nice fight between Alonso and Hamilton, with the Briton passing the Spaniard but not really pulling away.
Unfortunately, Schumacher then got a stop and go penalty, with a 10 second wait (the Silverstone pits are very short, hence the harshness of the penalty). Despite this, he had a pretty good race and finished 9th, having started 13th and suffered that penalty. I rate his performance more highly than Rosberg’s 6th (17s ahead).
Vettel did suffer a slightly rubbish pit stop, and was stuck behind the (at-this-stage) significantly slower Hamilton, whilst Alonso, staying out longer on his tyres, scampered off into the distance. It’s no small irony that Hamilton really helped Alonso get away as Vettel was unable to pass the Briton.
El Cheerio was unstoppable today, pulling out a very healthy lead which Vettel, even in clear air at the end of the race, was unable to reduce. Hamilton lacked fuel at the end and had to go into fuel-saving mode (so the engine had less power). This meant he had no chance to stop the faster Webber from taking 3rd, and enjoyed a very robust tussle with Massa for 4th, which he just managed to retain.
Webber really closed up fast on Vettel, and the German barely kept ahead of the Aussie despite the Red Bull boss Christian Horner deciding to issue a team order (which they tend not to do) on the last lap or so to hold station. Webber ignored the request/order but didn’t manage to pass Vettel, incurring a double psychological blow.
McLaren recovered enormously in the race compared to their woeful qualifying. Button could have scored good points, but he was released from a pit stop before one of his wheel nuts had been put on, forcing him to retire in a rather shambolic way.
It was also a good race for Perez, who again scored points and notched up a good 7th. Di Resta started in a brilliant 6th but only finished 15th.
It’s hard to be sure whether the plethora of very good shiny new upgrades Ferrari brought to Silverstone or the engine changes helped the most, but this was a great leap forward for the prancing horse. In race trim the McLarens and Red Bulls were very similar, and I’d say Ferrari was a touch better. I don’t know what will happen regarding the regulations, but if they stay as they were for this race Alonso may stand a chance.
Silverstone is a particularly tasty track for Red Bull. It’s possible their relative loss of performance is more than indicated by the result, and they may be (on average) the third team going by race pace. We’ll find out as the season continues.
The German Grand Prix is in a fortnight, followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix just a week later. After that there’s a four week gap, during which I’ll post the mid-season review.