An aerodynamic upgrade for Red Bull helped wing the performance advantage their way – while cool temperatures at Silverstone left championship leader Jenson Button flummoxed.
Meanwhile yet another team abandoned KERS leaving Ferrari the only team still using the energy recovery devices – although Felipe Massa reckoned it paid dividends for him at the start of the race.
The only team left using KERS after McLaren’s abandonment of the technology. And they’re not happy about it, either. Stefano Domenicali said:
I cannot [say how much it has cost] because it is too heavy for me to say that, to be honest. I know that if you put that amount of money into the development of the car, then you would have been fast like Red Bull today. It was millions of Euros.
However Felipe Massa drove a fine race to salvage fourth from 11th on the grid, thanks in part to the system:
My start was very good, thanks for the KERS. I did a very good initial start, even without the KERS. I passed Fernando and when I got the power from KERS, I was able to push and pass more cars. So the KERS was a big help for us – although more on the start.
Abandoned plans to bring new parts to the race. Lewis Hamilton ran his car without KERS on Friday while Heikki Kovalainen continued with the system, allowing the team to decide whether to continue with it or not. Unsurprisingly, Kovalainen’s car also ran without KERS on Saturday, and both cars remained that way for the rest of the weekend.
But it did little to improve their performance – in fact one wonders whether Hamilton would have benefitted from KERS after he found himself 19th on the grid, losing his final flying run following Adrian Sutil’s crash. A light-fuelled strategy proved ineffective in rescuing his race, which he ended in 16th, and indulged in a quick ‘doughnut’ afterwards. Martin Whitmarsh mildly rebuked him for putting unnecessary strain on his engine and gearbox, but he knows as well as anyone it’s the least of McLaren’s concerns.
Heikki Kovalainen had just been passed by Hamilton when he was hit by Sebastien Bourdais. He took on new tyres after the contact, but with the rear of the car vibrating strangely the team elected to call it a day.
Having shown signs of progress with their new diffuser at Istanbul, BMW once again languished at the back at Silverstone, despite using a mildly revised front wing. Nick Heidfeld compromised his progress further by damaging his front wing at the start, though it was mild enough for him to be able to wait for his first scheduled pit stop for a replacement. Despite this, he still managed to keep Fernando Alonso behind for many laps.
Mario Theissen has vowed to increase the pace of development on the car, an are in which they are conspicuously lacking this year having been strong in recent seasons. The team also confirmed it will not use KERS again this year, despite having been the strongest advocate of the technology before the season started.
Fernando Alonso was held up by Nick Heidfeld earlier in the race, and ended up finishing two places behind his team mate.
Both the Toyotas made poor starts. Jarno Trulli suffered a “launch issue” and dropping from fourth to seventh at the start (hampering Jenson Button’s progress), and Timo Glock also slipped three places to 11th. Like Brawn, Toyota were unhappy with the cooler temperatures.
Sebastien Bourdais was left fuming after his collision with Kovalainen:
He changed line twice. At the exit to Stowe, I was on the normal line and he went to the inside, I moved to the outside, then he moved over so I moved across to the other side and he changed again. He braked early, because he’d only just left the pits on full tanks and cold tyres. I was trying to out-brake him, but he should not have changed line like that. It was frustrating and then at the end I lost water pressure and had to stop in the garage.
Meanwhile the yawning gap in performance between the Red Bull-Renault RB5s and Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR4s grows ever greater:
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull – 1’20.735
2. Mark Webber, Red Bull – 1’20.915
16. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso – 1’22.466
19. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso – 1’22.711
Toro Rosso do not yet have the double-decker diffuser used by Red Bull (either the first version introduced at Monte-Carlo nor the new one brought to Silverstone).
With a revised front nose and updated diffuser, Red Bull were emphatically fastest from the word go. They were one-two in both Friday sessions, one-three in qualifying (Mark Webber briefly held up by Kimi Raikkonen, who went unpunished), and one-two on race day.
Nico Rosberg’s fifth place moved them up to fifth in the constructors’ championship ahead of McLaren. Rosberg’s fastest lap was the third best of the race, beaten only by the flying Red Bulls.
New parts arrived straight from the factory on Friday, but the team only had enough for Adrian Sutil’s car. He duly impressed with the third-quickest time in second practice. But on Saturday his brakes failed at the Abbey chicane and he crashed heavily. The team repaired his car overnight but discovered a fuel pressure problem shortly before the race, which meant he had to start from the pit lane.
Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile, had an excellent run to his second top ten finish in three races. The prospect of a points finish on merit has never looked stronger for the team.
Rubens Barrichello finally put one over Jenson Button. Button seemed ill at ease with his car on Friday and was nearly squeezed out in Q2 on Saturday. He may have rued the cool temperatures afterwards, but for the first time this year he plainly didn’t get as much out of his car as his team mate.