Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Incurable Romantic (2015 British Grand Prix)
At the start of the British Grand Prix, Felipe Massa and Valttteri Bottas rocketed into the lead past the two Mercedes (which were of course on pole). Then Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes caught Bottas, who radioed his team to have Massa let him by. This has happened to Massa once before, when he was leading a Grand Prix. He was told to let his teammate by, and he followed orders. Some say that took as much out of his motivation as his earlier serious injury or his loss of the championship in 2008 by one point. Clearly, when he went to Williams, Massa's motivational tank was refilled. At Williams, Bottas has often--but not always--been faster than Massa.
Silence for a lap or more. Then Williams radioed back to Bottas "It must be a clean pass." In other words, don't stuff it up into Felipe's line, but if you can get by, fine. They raced without change of position until the first pit stops. Bottas couldn't get past Massa and Hamilton couldn't get past Bottas.
Williams didn't manage their pit stops and tires as well as Mercedes and Ferrari, and the Williams cars didn't perform as well in dirty air as the Mercedes. The finishing order was Mercedes-Mercedes-Ferrari-Williams-Williams. The Williams Facebook page says they've received a lot of intensely emotional fan comment about the decision to not enforce "team orders," both pro and con. During the race, the NBC commentators said that the team's decision may have cost it a victory. And wins are hard to come by in these days of Mercedes domination.
My vote is Two Thumbs Up for Claire Williams and her team for letting the boys race. If Williams had managed its pit stops and tires better, one or both drivers might have finished higher. Or not. Williams does not have a Designated Number One driver (and I'm glad they don't). Bottas never got by Massa, and Massa never blocked him. Let's hear it for old-fashioned sportsmanship.
Amazing factoid: with his win at Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton beat Jackie Stewart's record of leading 18 consecutive Grands Prix. Fangio didn't do that. Or Clark or Fittipaldi or Lauda. Nor, in the modern era (with far more races on the calendar), Prost or Senna or Mansell or Schumacher. Who knew? Jackie Stewart was even more dominant than he seemed at the time.