The day started with Ferrari making an announcement confirming Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 season. That put rest to a lot of speculation such as Sergio Perez eyeing that seat along with Romain Grosjean saying he would want to try for it. However, knowing how speculative and narcissistic some of the people in the press room would be, now they ask ‘Why Kimi? Has Ferrari made the correct decision?’. Well it has put a major part of the speculation to rest, but without being biased to the Finn who has been one of my favourites since I was 15, he quiet deserved it. He has 96 points and is running third in the drivers’s standings (the same as Vettel), 4 podiums (Vettel has 5), 2 DNF’s (Vettel has 3). When it comes to a dram free team line-up, it is the best lineup Ferrari can have with both supporting each other, unlike Mercedes. Another critical point is that the 2017 car might suit the Finn’s unique driving style and comfort.
Honestly, there are very few drivers who are Ferrari material, and can replace the 2007 World Champion, apart from Lewis, Button, or Alonso. When it comes to developing the car, Kimi has no demands from the Italian team and does not mind playing ‘No.2’ driver either, therefore the Maranello verdict has been well accepted by fans and the paddock, however some press room colleagues of mine are still watching the Finn with a magnifying glass. They won’t give it rest, the worst I have heard is ‘Maybe Ferrari is waiting for Lewis in 2018’.
A fiery Team Principals press conference with Vijay Mallya gracing the GP with his presence, Toto Wolff, Maurizio Arrivabene, Claire Williams, Dave Ryan and Eric Boullier gave out quiet a few big points. Firstly the Brexit issue is at its peak here in England, and there was no way it wasn’t going to be touched upon in an F1 press conference, with majority of the teams being based in UK. For now it is all a ‘wait and see’ scenario, but in a gist, the areas it will effect are the exchange rates, travel expenses, budgets for teams such as Williams (as said by Claire) and work permits/ visas for team personnel/ employees and even the media.
Entry of the ‘king of good times’/ now ‘king of bad times’ didn’t make much difference to me but most colleagues of mine were prepping with their ammunition to lead an assault of questions hours prior to the press con. However, all their efforts were quiet worthless and two got slammed when they touched upon his personal finances, ‘damaging the sport’s image’ and ‘travel restraint questions’. They were reminded it was an FIA conference and were asked to clearly stick to F1 questions. I didn’t have much to say to ask him, as I secured a 1-1 interview which was intriguing and interesting. But a big statement he confirmed was the driver line-up of his team which seems to be secured till 2017. He added that Perez was never going to go to Ferrari, and he has signed the 2017 contract many weeks ago. Another big reveal was that their 2017 car is already 60% ready in the development procedure, and he has been involved in pushing and overlooking the process.
When it comes to Toto obvious questions were thrown at him, those about the Nico and Lewis spat and their contract. Lewis is confirmed for next year, however he said Nico is in discussion still. Adding to it he said that there’s no 100 percent certainty to it, but they would confirm that soon. When it comes to Niki Lauda’s blast about Lewis, he is said to have redacted the statement, and blamed it on the media saying he never said it and he was misquoted on the Red Bull Programme where he was interviewed. Unfortunately, it seems there is live tv proof to what he’s said and every German could translate the interview. This possibly comes after the team and Lewis expressing their discontent over those remarks (I’ve mentioned them in my earlier post).
Claire Williams is yet to finalise the line-up for 2017 and Eric Boullier too is not confirming anything yet. Another rumour doing the rounds is that of Toto pushing Pascal Wehrlein for maybe a Force India seat for 2018, since Mercedes are the tyre suppliers.
Mercedes have shown sheer dominance in the qualifying and the superiority of their car. Front-row lockout for both means an interesting duel at the front, knowing the warnings both drivers have received from the team on their new ‘rules of engagement’. Ferrari seemed weak and Vettel’s second gearbox penalty has shown another weakness in the consistent gearbox failures the team is having, including one with Kimi in Baku. The Red Bulls seemed strong at Silverstone, with young Max out qualifying Ricciardo yet again. The Dutchman was three tenths faster than the Australian. The ‘zero tolerance’ rule imposed by FIA for the turn 9,15 and 18 did make the qualy a bit exciting seeing two Brits, Button and Palmer get eliminated in Q1. The rule imposes strict deletion of clocked times if drivers go off track limits on those particular turns, unless they are in a position where they lose control over the car and there is a technical issue. This rule was particularly for the Silverstone circuit, however one doesn’t know if it will be carried on further to other tracks in the season .
The crash of the day was that of Marcus Ericsson in the third Free Practice session , he crashed while coming out of the Stowe corner onto the straight, and slammed into the barriers. He walked out unscathed, but it cost him his qualifying and Sauber will have to race against time to get his car ready for tomorrow.
There wasn’t much juice/gossip/ speculation the entire day, but the Silvers in front-row, Bulls in second row, and Finns in the third row will lead to an interesting start to the grand prix.
I stress upon the start because the grip levels are low therefore the start can be a little tricky, and there is a 100% certainty of a downpour for the race around 1:00 pm local time. Adding to it, there are very few overtaking areas on this circuit, but resurfacing has lead to varied grip levels and ‘tyre management/degradation’ will be key tomorrow. Safety car periods and retirements can be expected, but then again nothing is certain in Formula 1 and for all you know, it can have an anti-climatic ending like Australia or Baku. One can only hope for another repeat of the Austrian drama!!!