Martin Brundle on how special Silverstone keeps delivering for F1
Why the British GP is such a critical event in the F1 calendar, whether the radio rules can be maintained, and what next in the title battle...
Last Updated: 11/07/16 9:17pm
Rain or shine, the British GP is always a special event on the F1 calendar.
What struck me this weekend is how everyone in the sport absorbs the energy of the Silverstone crowd and the motivation it generates.
We have impressive global TV audiences but when you see so many passionate and committed fans in the grandstands it's almost as if you can hear them saying 'right, we're here, entertain us' and it permeates a sense of responsibility to do just that.
For the drivers, the high-speed circuit is a reminder of why they wanted to be in Formula 1 in the first place and all these ingredients come together in such a way that it almost doesn't matter if it rains or not - and rain can also spice up the action, of course.
Safety Car starts are always frustrating for everybody and l asked in commentary 'what is the point in us transporting wet tyres around the world if we aren't going to use them to go racing?' I spoke to Charlie Whiting, the FIA race director, afterwards and he was open and clear that the decision was his alone, and that there were a lot of radio calls from drivers that we didn't hear on TV, such as Lewis asking to drop back from the Safety Car because he couldn't see. It became evident to me that Charlie is listening to all of those calls and he is taking a median view of what is coming back to him, especially when they start talking about intermediate tyres.
I have a lot of respect for Charlie and always listen closely to what he has to say. My own view was that it was right to start behind the Safety Car but that it should have been called in at least two laps before it was. Even after speaking to Charlie l still hold by that view - but then I'm not the person who will have questions to answer if a race starts in the wet and a car ends up on the other side of the barriers. Rightly or wrongly, and definitely frustratingly, safety dominates that call and caution prevails.
It was to be over three hours after the chequered flag before the race result was confirmed as the stewards ruled that Mercedes had broken the radio rules and imposed a 10-second penalty on Nico Rosberg, relegating him to third.
It's the second time in a week when fans will have left the circuit still unsure about the final result. What we absolutely have to avoid is fans waking up on a Monday morning and being confused about what they thought they'd actually witnessed.
Are these type of delays good for Formula 1? They can't be, but F1 is a complex, competitive, and expensive business and we have to have rules, and those rules have to be applied.
I like to imagine situations in an extreme case to help me reach conclusions and Damon Hill made a very good point in our post-race show on Sky F1 when he asked how bad it would be if this was the final race of a championship shoot-out which all hung on the stewards' verdict of the intricacies of a team radio call.
These cars are hugely complex to drive but in a racing environment what l want to know is who is the fastest and best driver, and not who can best memorise a multi-page manual on which dial to turn on his steering wheel.
Racing isn't about homework but core car control skills, and we should be able to filter those radio calls out without jeopordising the reliability and safety of the car. We need cars in the race, not in a cloud of smoke beside the track.
Nico sounded initially a little naïve in his radio request about not using seventh gear, but it may have been the case that he must not pass beyond sixth gear to avoid blowing the gearbox to pieces for example.
I also sense the teams are beginning to push against this rule because they don't like it and they don't think it is workable. A precedent has now been set around the radio crackdown, and if a team thinks it can gain more than 10 seconds with a 'helpful' radio message, then go for it.
The same also goes for Nico's reprimand in Austria - that is, get to the finish line on the last lap no matter what is hanging off your car and take the penalty because it's better than stopping.
Max Verstappen was my driver of the day. In challenging conditions he gave Mercedes a run for their money. He's so remarkably mature for his age, it's as if he's 28 and not 18. His race craft, his pit-stop choices and his wheel-to-wheel combat were outstanding. I still think the team should have given him fresh tyres to make a charge at Mercedes over the last few laps and prevent Hamilton from babysitting his engine. They had nothing to lose.
On Saturday we also saw Max out-qualify Daniel Ricciardo for the first time. Daniel has a challenge on his hands, but it's a challenge which I believe he is more than up to. He has all the tools he needs for a fight with Max, and that will mean more fireworks for us to enjoy.
I've always felt that on sheer pace over a single lap, and for race craft, Hamilton has a slight edge over Rosberg - and Nico has to be inventive and find different way to beat Lewis. Nothing l saw on Sunday made me think any differently. From our karting filming on Wednesday evening to our final SkyF1 interview on Sunday evening, I only saw a calm and confident Lewis.
With two races remaining before the summer break Lewis now has a head of steam. His only problem is the hangover from those early-season engine malfunctions. He will now have to wrap his current unit up in cotton wool and try to take it as far as possible into the season in the hope he only has to take one hit before Abu Dhabi.
I think the Silverstone crowd were levelling a few scores after 'their' man was booed in Austria when Nico was given similar treatment on the podium this Sunday. In the past some fans have scolded me - 'we will cheer when we want to and boo when we want to, thanks very much'.
My own view is an echo of what Lewis remarked - we are better than that. Nico fronted up and faced the music all weekend, from Thursday night's live F1 Show to the post-race party on Sunday evening. He deserves respect for that.