A dominant performance from Mercedes.. but a penalty looms for Valteri

An overcast Silverstone provided the backdrop for a dominant performance by the two Mercedes boys. Valteri Bottas picked up from where he left off by topping both Friday sessions with a 1:29:106, whilst Lewis was less than a tenth further back. Although Valteri set the quickest time, there is more to come from Lewis; he set his quickest time on the slower soft tyre in FP2 which was again less than a tenth away from his team-mate. During his quali-run on the supersoft tyres, he got a little too greedy on the exit of Becketts leading on to Hangar, riding the sausage kerb and losing the Brit around 7 tenths.

“He’s probably the guy going into tonight who is looking favourite so far,” said Sky F1’s Paul di Resta. “Mercedes certainly look like they’ve got the best package compared to Ferrari.”

More importantly to point out is that at the moment, the Mercedes has a clear pace advantage over the Ferraris. Lewis’ long run pace was 2 tenths quicker than his team-mate with the Ferraris further back. Red Bull have shown enough to give them hope that they can capitalise on the struggling Ferraris after finishing 3rd and 4th in FP1, although the Ferraris did respond by gaining these spots back in FP2. The prancing horses may well be currently disappointed; it was rumoured they were bringing an upgraded engine to Silverstone. Maybe they are keeping their cards close to their chests before qualifying? I wouldn’t have imagined so; it was a more a case of the cool conditions making it harder for the two Ferrari drivers to keep their SF70H under control. With the weather expected to stay relatively the same, it may well be an uphill battle for the Ferraris to bounce back.

Having said that, their job may have been made easier after developments on Friday evening. Similar to Austria, Mercedes have had no choice but to change one of their cars gearboxes for the remainder of the weekend. Whilst it was Hamilton who was on the receiving end of the accompanying penalty, it is now the turn of Valteri to take a 5 place grid drop. The Finn will be hoping he can take pole in tomorrows qualifying session in order to minimise the impact of the penalty and give him the best chance of getting back onto the podium.

Outside the front three, Antonio Giovinazzi made an appearance in the Haas, in the place of Kevin Magnussen during FP1. The Italian set a respectable time of 1:32:031, putting him in P16. The Italian needs to keep making the most of the sessions he partakes in with strong rumours that he maybe touted to replace the ever faltering Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.

The Silverstone Grand Prix weekend is one that the Mclaren team usually see as a special one in the F1 calendar. That probably won’t have changed, but it is difficult for the Woking based outfit to put on a show for the British fans with the Honda engine in the back of their car. It’s the same old story really; after Alonso again outperformed the poor engine by securing P9 in FP2, the Spaniard, along with his team-mate, will be hit with fresh engine penalties after changing an energy recovery system part, forcing him to the back of the grid.

Another notable standout performer was Nico Hulkenberg. Progress was made for the German from FP1, eventually securing best of the rest in P7, with a time of 1:29:936. Nico will be hoping he can maintain the solid pace shown on Friday and secure a place in the top 10, somewhat a rarity for Hulkenberg this year.

Elsewhere…

Sebastian Vettel headshield
Sebastian Vettel trials out a new headshield design, Courtesy of Sky F1
With plans pushing forward on head safety after the tragic loss of Jules Bianchi following the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel trialled a new head protection concept. The headshield, pioneered by Italian company Isoclima, was being tested during FP1 as a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to the Halo concept.
The problem is, Sebastian wasn’t a massive fan of the concept after running the headshield for only one lap. Here are some of his thoughts:

“I got a bit dizzy,” the championship leader told Sky Sports F1.

“Forward vision is not very good. I think it’s because of the curvature, you get quite a bit of distortion, plus you get quite a bit of downwash down the straights pushing the helmet forwards. We had a run planned with it, but I didn’t like it so we took it off.”

On top of this, the headshield makes it increasingly difficult for the driver to get out of the car. Whilst it isn’t too much of a problem getting in, imagine if the driver has a serious incident, resulting in the car being upside down with the headshield dug into the ground. It will make it much harder for the drivers to get out of harms way. Having said that, it is inevitable that there will be some sort of head protection in coming years and the headshield is the better option of the ones we’ve seen upto now. What is now needed is a little refinement in order to remove the curvatures and make it easier for the drivers to adapt to.

Onto Saturday…

JrT

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