The high speed flowing Silverstone circuit should suit the Ferrari and to make sure that they give themselves the best chance of coming away with a British Grand Prix win, the team has decided to roll out the latest version of the 2017 engine that weekend.
It will be the third engine of the season, with Sebastian Vettel having a scare in Baku at the weekend with a coolant leak which necessitated an engine change before qualifying back to the original race engine from earlier in the season, which has done almost 5,000km.
He will use the second engine in Austria next weekend after it was returned to Maranello and analysed.
Both Ferraris will then have the third engine for Silverstone on July 14-16, which is a real power circuit and where the efficient aerodynamics of the car should really show through. Ferrari has won the British Grand Prix only twice in the last decade.
There have also been clarifications from the FIA technical department behind the scenes on oil burning in engines and there were suggestions in Baku that this was something that affects Ferrari more than its rivals. Version three of the engine will no doubt also address these questions.
Pirelli has also made a move with regards to Silverstone, switching the tyre specification to softer tyres. We will not see the hard tyre again, one suspects, as they accept that the 2017 tyres are too hard and start to bring the softer compounds to races. Silverstone is a high load circuit, but this year we will see Supersoft, Soft and Medium tyres for the race and later in the season on tracks like Spa and Suzuka we are likely to see a similar approach.
Vettel needs to regroup
There is some dismay that the ‘red mist’ Vettel returned on Sunday, the one which was last seen swearing on the radio at FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting during a testy end to the 2016 campaign.
This season he has been very calm and clinical in taking his opportunities in qualifying and the races. But on Sunday, enraged by contact after what he perceived to be Hamilton slowing down on corner exit ahead of a Safety car restart, he drove alongside and banged wheels with the Mercedes driver.
He was cautioned after Mexico as to his future behaviour and there are some who feel that the FIA should have been stronger with him after Baku, as the image of a driver deliberately driving into a competitor out of pique, doesn’t play well with the FIA’s Road Safety messaging.
Whilst it is true that this is an unwelcome precedent for F1, the comparisons with road safety do become rather stretched as there are many things that happen under racing conditions on a circuit that wouldn’t be acceptable on the roads, not least the extreme speeds which are the basic premise of the sport itself.
Meanwhile Toto Wolff has calmed things on a corporate level in the last days, saying that there is no spat between Ferrari and Mercedes and that they have a good relationship, which will not change.
The feeling is that it is good for business if there is a bit of edge between the title rival drivers (and one hopes that Vettel will not be booed at Silverstone after what happened in Baku)
But Ferrari and Mercedes have bigger fish to fry together.
The new owners of F1, Liberty Media, are starting to roll out their plans and strategies for the growth of the sport, but the top teams are also pushing back, wanting more freedom to exploit their own brands and stars for themselves. There is a long way to run on this. To what extent are the big teams obliged to help promote the sport generally and to what extent can they act unilaterally?
Wolff appeared in a panel at the FIA Sport Conference last week with F1 CEO Chase Carey and notably observed that “I wouldn’t want to be in Chase’s shoes”, with regards to satisfying all the various parties, stakeholders and broadcasters in F1.
And of course the elephant in the room is the payment to the teams from F1’s prize funds.
The top teams are prepared to accept a modest move towards a more fair distribution after 2020, but the real fight will come when that gets down into the details. The sport should have grown by then so the teams should be sharing a larger stake anyway, but there are signs that Ferrari and Mercedes, knowing their worth and having seen this all coming for some time, are going to flex their muscles on all levels.
Meanwhile Silverstone has confirmed the timetable for this year’s British GP weekend from July 13-16 and, as rumoured at the Baku weekend, there will be track action on the Thursday as well as plenty of entertainment off track. But at this stage it is only F2 and GP3 cars, not any running for F1 cars.
This seems to be part of a wider long term strategy to put more around the GP weekend to give promoters more of a chance to recoup their money.
FIA Formula 2 and GP3 cars will run on Thursday afternoon and later that evening Travis will play on the main stage. Entry for Thursday is £40 (£20 for children).
The weekend will build up to the British GP at 1pm on Sunday.
Some Silverstone updates:
Tickets still available from £40 (Thursday general admission)
General admission for all children aged 10 and under is FREE
Sunday general admission is available for £185
Sunday grandstand seats available from £260
As for the wider music offering: Sara Cox will be headlining on Friday night as she presents ‘Just Can’t Get Enough 80s’ DJ Set with guests, Reef & The Hoosiers will be headlining the Saturday night concert and the Rick Parfitt Jr Band will be playing at the British Grand Prix After Party on Sunday, with drop ins from F1 drivers. All of the concerts from Friday are included on the days’ tickets.
For more information or to book please visit www.silverstone.co.uk