In a week’s time the challenge between Mercedes and Ferrari will come alive once more with Red Bull the third inconvenient player. We are coming to the turning point of the season on a track, Silverstone, that traditionally favours Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, but Ferrari is a reality and it came out very well from the Austrian confrontation.
The weather will certainly be an important factor, but we are witnessing an exciting five sided battle on the edge of hundredths of a second between Hamilton-Bottas-Vettel-Raikkonen-Ricciardo, as they showed in the sequence of fastest lap times that they set during the last ten laps at the Red Bull Ring.
Outside the qualifying in which everyone has their secrets (just look at the double overboost set up at Brackley), in the race proper we have a levelling out of the forces in the field, even if the W08 is still the car to beat. If last year Hamilton or Rosberg could afford to start the race back in the grid and still be able to reach the podium, this year the job is harder. In Austria the British driver, springing into action from the fourth row, had to be content with fourth place behind a battle hardened Ricciardo who reached his fifth consecutive podium finish.
Silverstone is a fascinating circuit with an exceptional public which will be sure give Hamilton a lift with its support as he will be called to react to the defeat in Austria by trying to repeat last season’s success. Currently Vettel has a twenty point lead and will try to avenge the 2016 debacle when he did not mange to go beyond ninth place (fifth Kimi Raikonnen). In comparison to a year ago the situation at Maranello is decidedly different and Ferrari will bring a development of the Power Unit to oppose the German battleship which is showing some cracks on the reliability front. It is a very fact track and we will see the umpteenth lowering of times in both qualifying and the race. On the tyre front, Pirelli will bring Medium, Soft and SuperSoft mixes. It is a choice that plays in favour of Mercedes.
Silverstone gave the Minardi Team a number of satisfactions. The most important was surely labelled 1989 when with “Piero” Martini and Luis Perez Sala we won an un-hoped for fifth and sixth places, saving the fate of the team and leaving us in the first ten places of the constructors ladder (essential for the division of the television rights). In those years only the first six placed teams fell within the points zone. It was certainly a great satisfaction, even because in the first lap Piero came into the pits with an overheating engine. In desperation I decided to send him back out on the track. Luckily the overheating had been caused by a bubble that was reabsorbed, thus allowing him to cross the finishing line.
Gian Carlo Minardi