The second of the two press conferences held at a Formula One race weekend tends to be the drier. With the glamour boys going first on Thursday, Friday heralds the team principals and chief engineers.
Prospective tyre wear, obscure technical regulations and the significance or otherwise of the addition of a new vane to the front wing are often the order of the day. They are issues that are crucial to the coming race but the whole affair is usually done and dusted in under 30 minutes. Friday’s, however, was quite the show and, half an hour in, was still going strong, including the priceless moment when the Force India owner, Vijay Mallya, insisted Bernie Ecclestone’s new task for the sport was to “uncrap it”.
The process had begun with questioning over the strategy group’s announcement of potential changes to the rules to improve the show. So far so expected for a Friday, but then it moved on to the intriguing subject of what each participant would change if they had a chance. Mallya and Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn understandably plumped for a spot of financial parity but Claire Williams, the Williams deputy team principal, was eager for the sport to show more positivity amid the criticism it has recently attracted.
The subject of tyres inevitably resurfaced but that issue of negativity would not go away. The McLaren team chief, Éric Boullier, passed it off as part of the transition period the sport is going through but the Lotus CEO, Matthew Carter, chose to point the finger at the press. When it was pointed out to him that at the last race in Austria, Ecclestone had, entirely unprompted, blamed the engineers for giving him a “crap product to sell” he refused to change tack. “The negativity about what we achieve and what we are as a sport tends to come from the press. I don’t think you do enough of picking up on what we do achieve; it is easy to look at the negatives,” he said.
Positive answers were suggested to forthcoming questions but it is hard to put off the press when they have a spot of negativity and an Ecclestone faux pas to toy with. Asked what they would do if the chief executive of their companies described their product as crap, Boullier was blunt. “I would tell him to sort out his house,” he said. Mallya was blunter: “Considering that he sells the product that he calls crap and makes billions out of it, he needs to work with the participants to uncrap it.” Which is about as close to a killer punchline as a Friday afternoon in the paddock is likely to throw up. Perhaps F1 should listen to Vijay on the financial parity issue, too.
Nico Rosberg, who won in Austria and now trails his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, by just 10 points in the drivers standings, topped both the practice sessions on Friday at Silverstone.
Running in fine, sunny conditions, Rosberg recovered from a problem in the morning session, when a loss of hydraulic pressure caused his car to stop after only six laps, before it was returned to the pits. Hamilton promptly went quickest, running the hard tyres and appeared to be on track to secure the top spot. However, Rosberg returned to put in three very fast circuits. The penultimate lap put him one-hundredth quicker than his team-mate, who had lasted for 26 laps compared with Rosberg’s 12, and on the final run he went seven-hundredths clear.
The Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz also enjoyed good runs in third and fifth respectively, while Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in Ferraris were fourth and sixth. Susie Wolff, the Williams test driver was 13th, sixth-tenths back from her team-mate Massa but a full second clear of the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, who struggled again, completing only 22 laps between them.
Rosberg again led the afternoon session, putting in 1min 34.155sec on the quicker medium tyres, over four-tenths clear of Hamilton, who finished in fourth place after he made an error on his final run on low fuel. The British driver had not been happy with his set-up during the session and was separated from his championship rival by Raikkonen and Vettel. The Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth, while the top-placed Williams, who have taken two podiums in the past two races and are expected to show good form here, was Felipe Massa’s 10th, although the team have largely this season been looking for race-pace set-up rather than raw pace on a Friday.
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