June 28, 2013

Playing to the home crowd

The packed grandstands only got to watch cars sat in garages for the majority of FP1 © Getty Images

Silverstone is everybody’s home grand prix. As the first venue to host a round of the Formula One World Championship, you could – if you were so inclined – argue somewhat tenuously that it is the home of F1.

But even if you’re not comfortable stretching the argument quite that far, every F1 fan and their dog knows that most of the teams come from the Silverstone area, and that pretty much every driver in the history of ever has lived in the neighbourhood as they’ve made their way up through the ranks.

And then you have the passionate British fans, who root for all sorts but whose enthusiasm is said to power the homegrown drivers as they lap (and lap and lap) the track.

Silverstone is a special place, full of special people.

“This is the one I’ve been waiting for,”
Max Chilton said. “To be in front of the home crowd; all the Union Jacks around the circuit. It’s going to be a moment not to forget.”

“You want to repay the fans for all their support,”
Jenson Button said. “They’re not just fans in the good times, they’re fans in the tough times as well. That’s really nice to see. Hopefully we’ll have a full house of Union Jacks here and I promise we’ll do the best we can.”

Sadly, on Friday morning the drivers’ “best” stretched to half the grid setting timed laps in FP1, after more than an hour in which a few installation laps were completed, seemingly all of them by Daniel Ricciardo.

Great way to repay the fans for their tireless dedication in the face of tiresome weather, expensive tickets, and below average sales.

And while the drivers are not to blame for the limited running, comparing the media-friendly quotes handed out on a Thursday afternoon with the frankly insulting lack of track action on offer on Friday morning left a sour taste in my mouth.

Which is why it is very good news indeed that from 2014 onwards, extra tyres will be given to the teams specifically for use in the first half hour of FP1. The World Motor Sport Council decreed it on Friday morning, so it has become (future) law:

“Each driver will be provided with one extra set of tyres for use only during the first 30 minutes of the first practice session on Friday, to encourage teams to take to the track at that time without having to worry about using valuable tyre wear.”

This simple solution to a long-term problem has been too long in coming, but it is heartening to see that – in one area at least – the teams have been able to agree on a change to the rules that will benefit both paddock and public.

Is this progress at last?


Posted by Chris Ruch on 29/06/2013

Only 30 Minutes? With an install lap and then garage time. That seems like a very small amount of time for laps on that "special rubber". Perhaps 45 minutes? Or just hand them in at the end of session. But I doubt those tires will have the desired effect only using them for the 1st 30 minutes.

Posted by Dave on 28/06/2013

Kate, I think the problem is that F1 is too over-regulated and that the powers can't admit to themselves that interfering less (not more) is the way to fix it.

Any limiting of tyre set numbers should be for the two competitive sessions only (or for the whole of Saturday and Sunday) with free choice from the four compounds, and the same for the sealed engines and gearboxes. If the Friday sessions were not so ridiculously hobbled by the engine and gearbox usage requirements, there would be more will from the teams to make better use of those sessions.

The restrictions on engines are another example. There is no need to impose an engine type (like the current 90° V8) when you could just limit the displacement or copy the old Group C rules where the amount of fuel was fixed and the engine choice was free - with a MotoGP-style claiming rule to keep costs down.

Posted by Misio on 28/06/2013

Sorry to disappoint you, but the new rule would not change a thing today - they didn't run because it was too wet, not because they didn't have tyres.

So the new law to encourage running should be:
If a car is not running during each 30-minute part of both free practice 1 and 2, it is handed a 3-place qualifying penalty for each 30-minute part missing. Force majeure (like a crash) is individually taken into consideration by the stewards.

A car is deemed running during a 30-minute period only if it sets a timed lap within 107% of the best lap of this period.

Posted by Dave on 28/06/2013

30min. No its not progress. Its appeasement. They can do better and must. After the silly tire saga with Mercedes flouting the rules, Im losing the taste of the 'pinnacle' of motorsport.
Life is too short to applaud 30min. All of practice should not be tire limited. The fans have earned and more than pay for it. Also should help the young drivers hoping to gain seat time.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'. Kate Walker