Silverstone 2011 F1: Ferrari Triumphs, Red Bull Feuds and McLaren Goes Backwards
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The FIA have finally found a way to fracture the dominance of Red Bull.
Unfortunately, they will be hard pushed to change the rules in the middle of the race weekend every race for the rest of the season, but their tinkering has final broken Red Bull’s stranglehold on the 2011 Formula One season.
And, if the rumour mill is to be believed, they have done it all at the behest of Ferrari.
Then again, if we believe the conspiracy theorists, Ferrari are responsible for the global financial crisis, climate change and they may have had a hand in the Kennedy assassination.
Certainly, Ferrari's blown diffuser system was not as good as McLaren and Red Bull and they have quietly been complaining to anyone who would listen, but the loud noises were coming from the minnows at the back of the pack.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand where exactly the urgency was coming from to prompt the FIA to rewrite the rules in the middle of a race weekend—particularly when it involves something as crucial as how a diffuser behaves.
These cars are developed over many months, changes take a long time to incorporate, and only then after a lot of testing.
Obviously there was a lot of disquiet about the so-called “reliability” exemptions the manufacturers were given, to ensure that their engines weren’t damaged by these changes to how they operate in throttle-off mode.
The unseemly tiff between Christian Horner and Martin Whitmarsh exposed just how much ill feeling there is between the teams. It was handbags at five paces by comparison to more physical sports, but by F1 standards it was a prize fight.
So Ferrari and Alonso have finally got onto the top step of the podium for the first time this year and it was a very solid win.
They have been very close to Red Bull all weekend and although Alonso inherited the lead because of a pit-stop blunder by Red Bull, he looked likely to make the pass on the track anyway.
The prancing horses have been quietly developing and improving all year and have perhaps caught the leaders out. They have a lot to do to catch Red Bull, but McLaren would definitely be in their sights.
McLaren, on the other hand, continued their slide at Silverstone. They didn’t help their cause by not giving Lewis Hamilton enough fuel and forgetting to tighten Jensen Button’s lug nuts.
Hamilton was also at his demolition-derby best when Felipe Massa tried an audacious overtaking move in the final corners of the race. Hamilton managed to hit Massa, pushing him wide for the next corner and allowing Hamilton to squeak across the line for a narrow fourth-place finish.
Hamilton lost a big chunk of his front wing in the process and would have been in even more difficulty had the race not ended when it did.
There is also more trouble brewing in paradise. In the closing stages of the race, Mark Webber was given the order to “maintain the gap” to Sebastian Vettel.
Webber voiced his annoyance at that order in the FIA press conference and appeared to have ignored it on track when he tried to pass his championship-leading teammate. It will make for an uncomfortable team dinner.
All up it was an eventful Silverstone weekend. It’s just a pity none of it was on the track.
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