Will Gray

Three things we learned from Silverstone

Will Gray

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The face of Lewis Hamilton after his dreadful decision to abort his second flying lap in final qualifying said ‘my weekend is over’ – but somehow he pulled off an incredible turnaround.

It’s not that sixth on the grid was anything to worry about – with the Mercedes pace and his talent for finding space where others do not, a fast comeback was inevitable. He was second by the end of lap four.

It’s not even that it was a bad mistake – okay, he should have considered the changeable conditions and continued, but after two bad sector times most drivers with pole in the bag would have aborted the lap. He was simply unlucky that the final sector had dried so much.

But his shrugged shoulders, monosyllabic responses and absolute loss for words after the session painted such a demoralised picture that Hamilton’s entire world looked like it had just fallen apart.

In the past, Hamilton may have reacted differently, gone into his shell, festered and failed in the following day’s race. This time, he turned to his family. He spent the evening on Saturday at home in Hertfordshire with his father, brother and stepmother. He had their full support at the track on Sunday.

And when things went right from the start, there was only going to be one winner. On home soil, and determined to begin slowly chipping away at the points advantage Rosberg has built in recent races, his mind was in exactly the right place to make the most of that ‘second a lap’ home crowd advantage.

It’s hard to believe a Hamilton in that mental state would not have battled and passed Rosberg – and it’s disappointing we lost the chance to see it when the German suffered his first retirement of the year. For Hamilton, however, it was the icing on the cake. “I think we’re four points behind,” he told David Coulthard on the podium. There was no thinking about it.

The gap now is less than the difference between first and second place, so a win at the next race would see Hamilton back in front. And he’s in the right place now to step the mind games up another level...

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It takes a big crash to remind everyone just how dangerous a sport Formula One is – and at 47G, the demolition job Kimi Raikkonen did on his Ferrari at Silverstone did just that. In comparison, Felipe Massa’s dramatic accident in Canada earlier this year was only 27G.

Recent safety developments have focused on impact structures, with added crumple zones on every impactable area designed to deform and absorb the force of the crash, leaving the driver cocooned in the rigid protection of the carbon fibre monocoque. It was the crushable nose, which crumpled as planned on the head-on impact with the barriers, which potentially saved Kimi Raikkonen’s career.

A couple of decades ago, that kind of impact could have left the Finn in much more serious trouble at best. The force on his body could have been higher without the deformation zones; his head could have impacted the steering wheel without the HANS device; and his legs could have been damaged far more without the material advances that have effectively bullet-proofed monocoques.

But above all of these safety benefits, the biggest thing that saved him was luck. He was narrowly avoided by Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi and was fortunate that Williams’ Felipe Massa had the instinct to spin and avoid t-boning him, albeit still colliding with his left rear wheel.

Raikkonen limped away and went to the medical centre for checks. He will miss this week’s test, but should be back for the next race. And the lesson from all of this is that advancements in safety must never stop – because when the luck runs out, you need all the help you can get.

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The confirmation at Silverstone that Caterham has been sold to an anonymous Swiss and Middle Eastern consortium of investors is a worrying sign of the direction Formula One is headed.

Tony Fernandes set up the team alongside fellow newcomers HRT and Virgin in 2010 on the promise of a budget cap of £40m. When that cap never came, it left all three in jeopardy. HRT quickly succumbed to financial collapse and Virgin quickly realised playing in F1 would no longer cost ‘pocket money’ so sold up to Russian supercar brand Marussia, who were then forced to close their automotive business this year, no doubt partially because of their commitments to F1.

Caterham, it seemed, were the strongest of the three – even hiring former race winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen in a strong driver line-up. They were beaten to 10th in the standings by Marussia last year, however, and lost out on crucial millions of TV and race prize revenue.

And the writing was on the wall when they had to opt for pay drivers instead of talent and then let highly rated technical chief Mark Smith go in a design room reshuffle earlier this year.

Colin Kolles, long-time constructor of potential F1 projects that had so far never made it to fruition, led the negotiations for the new consortium but is now sitting behind the veil of former Minardi, Midland and Spyker driver Christian Albers, who has no team leader experience, and Manfredi Ravetto, formerly of the failed HRT team.

The management takeover is the latest in the quality drain, and unless there is a quick turnaround it is hard to see the leaks stopping there. Which is why what should be a celebrated investment could actually turn out to be the beginning of the end...

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