Sunday, 24 August 2014

Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying

How much have I missed F1? I am overjoyed that it is back in all its crazy, controversial, glorious technicolour. And not only is it back, but it is back at The Best Track in the entire calendar, Spa-Francorchamps. I have waxed lyrical about this stunning circuit so many times that I will resist doing so again this time. But as always Spa will do the talking for itself.

The normally interminable summer break has actually gone by really fast – it seems like no time since the Hungarian Grand Prix (and blogging that rather marvellous race while cruising down the Bay of Biscay to Bilbao). But rather unexpectedly this summer I was able to obtain my F1 fix elsewhere.

It is not every day (or year) you go on holiday and discover one of the most important, influential, knowledgeable and legendary figures in Formula 1 happens to be by the most wonderful of coincidences staying at the same place. According to my husband he has never seen me so genuinely shocked and lost for words (including even when he proposed!) as when he told me who he had just been chatting to. Rather amusingly, the husband was wearing his James Hunt t-shirt when Charlie Whiting (just before we realised it was THE Charlie Whiting) asked him if he was a big fan of James. And yes, it was the real Charlie Whiting not the fake one although we *might* have asked him what it was like to meet a fake version of yourself. Fairly surreal apparently!

To be fair its a cool t-shirt

We were very fortunate to have many fascinating conversations with Charlie about Formula 1. I have to admit we would have loved to have spoken non stop about F1 with Charlie and, while he was enormously willing to share his thoughts and insights, he was on his holiday just like us and entitled to some down-time!

Of course we had to ask about favourite races and while my mind was flitting between great Schumacher races and great Senna races and recent classics such as Canada 2011 and Interlagos 2012, Charlie put forward the European Grand Prix of 1999, won by Johnny Herbert. Just a brilliant shout – there was a delayed start, an aborted start, barrel roll crashes, a sequence of heartbreaking retirements from race leaders including title contenders and Fisichella in what would have been his first race win. It was the only race ever won by the Stewart Grand Prix team - and Barrichello made it the perfect day for Stewart by finishing 3rd (behind Trulli in the Prost). To see highlights of that epic race, click here. And yes, Johnny Herbert really is an all round top bloke.

Anyway thanks Charlie – it was an absolute pleasure!

Yours truly and Charlie W
The other guy is the husband!

And so the curtain lifts on Act Two of the 2014 season. Qualifying, here we come.

Good old Spa, the morning of qualifying had already seen torrential rain and hailstorms. But qualifying got underway under glorious blue skies and a wet but drying track, However, more rain was expected within the hour. Should drivers be pushing for their best time right from the start? Spa probably more than any other race is where the team principals and strategists really earn their money.

Dumped out at the Q1 stage were Maldonaldo (Lotus), Hulkenberg (Force India), Chilton (Marussia), Gutierrez (Sauber), Lotterer (Caterham) and Ericsson (Caterham).

Andre Lotterer, making his F1 debut at the age of 32. Sometimes dreams do come true!
(please no one crash into him on the first lap!)

It is quite unusual to only get one pair of cars in the bottom six. Well done to Grosjean, Perez, Sutil and particularly Jules Bianchi (who set the 14th fastest time in his Marussia) all of whom succeeded where their team-mates failed. I would stake a trillion pounds that Bianchi ends up at Ferrari in the next 2 or 3 years. But what happened in Q1 to the Hulk? He is normally so good in the rain.

There's a Ferrari in there somewhere

Depending on who you believe, it was either now raining again or it wouldl be raining again very shortly. Some race engineers were telling their drivers that this run (ie. the first of Q2) could be the fastest one of this session. Blogging Spa qualifying is always a bit of a crazy mindbending experience where you cling on for dear life and enjoy the ride.

It was looking a whole lot like we were going to get yet another Mercedes front row lock out. The next cars (currently Alonso and Bottas) were around a second behind. Unless they were all holding something back in reserve. But unlikely. Or not enough anyway to alarm anyone on the Mercedes pitwall.

Button was teetering on the edge of the dropzone along with Vettel. Interestingly the Red Bulls weren’t exactly storming around Spa and hearteningly the Ferrari's seemed to be much improved from the underperforming and quite frankly dire cars (and if that sounds harsh you have to measure Ferrari by the standards they themselves expect) we saw in the first part of the season. Both Button and Vettel squeaked into Q3 by the narrowest of margins.

Missing the cut for the top ten shoot-out were: 11) Daniil Kvyat 12) Jean-Eric Vergne 13) Sergio Perez 14) Adrian Sutil 15) Romain Grosjean 16) Jules Bianchi. All in all no real shocks there.

So which of Hamilton and Rosberg would take first blood and grab pole in Spa? Its not the kind of track where taking pole is imperative but in the context of the title battle and it being the first race since the summer break, it would be a huge psychological boost especially I feel to Hamilton who must be desperate to break Rosberg’s hegemony in qualifying.

Nico Rosberg - taking on all challengers and the Spa weather

With 5 minutes to go, Rosberg was sitting pretty on provisional pole, with Hamilton just behind him and then Vettel a whopping 1.8 seconds down the order in 3rd spot. To give Vettel his due, he was still much closer than anyone else to the Mercedes pair. 

Really Spa is like manna from heaven for racing photographers. Endless dizzying images of sleek, gleaming cars emerging from the mist and rain through the Ardennes forest. But please remind me never ever ever to book a holiday in Belgium in the summer. Unless of course it is to attend the Belgian Grand Prix!

Track perfection

And Lewis was chucking everything at his final flying lap to grab pole back from Nico. He was ragged beyond belief considering the treacherous conditions and incredibly was a few hundredths of a second ahead but at the death he couldn’t quite pull it off.

Nico Rosberg took pole to make it now four consecutive pole positions (the last time Lewis started on pole was amazingly at the Spanish Grand Prix in mid May) and Lewis will start in second place. But only 6 of the last 14 pole-sitters have gone on to win at Spa. I wouldn’t bet against anyone in a silver car (although it would be turn up for the books if Button or Magnussen were to clinch a sensational win!!).

The top 3 in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix

The top 10 will line up as follows:
  1. Rosberg – Fewest mistakes. Fastest lap. Job done.
  2. Hamilton – Who said “being second is to be the first of the ones who lose”? Ah yes the incomparable Ayrton Senna. Lets see who finishes where at the end of 44 laps.
  3.  Vettel – Is this a rejuvenated Seb? Strange to say about a 4 time world champion!
  4. Alonso – Great to see Fernando higher up to the grid and hope he has one of his electric starts.
  5. Ricciardo – Unusually behind his team-mate but one to watch.
  6. Bottas – A smidge disappointed not to see Williams higher. Claire Williams said before the race that ironically for once they weren’t wishing for rain and looks like she was right.
  7. Magnussen – A good result in tricky conditions.
  8. Raikkonen – Promised much more in the earlier stages of qualifying. Oh Kimi.
  9. Massa – Really just not convinced by Massa at Williams.
  10. Button – Can’t help but think (and I love Jenson) he might have been slightly higher up a couple of years ago. The sands of time and all that.

The stage is set and in around 30 minutes time battle will be rejoined. 44 laps of craziness coming up.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Hungarian Grand Prix - The Race

Hungary is a lot like Monaco. It may not throw up an exciting race very often but when it does, they are truly magnificent spectacles. I warmed up for Sunday's race by watching (and therefore making the poor husband watch as well but he owes me big time for the entire month of televisual viewing of the World Cup) the awesome Hungarian Grand Prix of 1998 (one of my favourite races of all time) which I stumbled across while channel-hopping late last Saturday night. Rock 'n' roll baby.

Unusually we watched the race (as if live) in the evening after a frantic and fraught (and possibly another f-word) day in Bluewater getting last minute stuff for our holiday. We are now on the open seas heading towards Bilbao in the most heavenly weather. Without question this is the most gorgeous setting that I have ever blogged from (to be fair the other venues are my kitchen, Center Parcs and rainy Ireland so not much to beat). Usually it is around this point on our holiday that we realise some crucial thing has been forgotten or we have booked accommodation for the wrong dates but for now I'm in a happy place, especially when I think back to last Sunday's race. Quite simply the Hungarian Grand Prix of 2014 joins the pantheon of great F1 races. IMHO the best race of the season so far (and this deceptively excellent season has offered up some fantastic races so far).

Before I delve into #MartinsGridwalk, its eat-my-hat time - I have to say how well I think Simon Lazenby has grown into his role as frontman/presenter. Back in his first season (which was also Sky's first season - important to remember) I was very unsure he was the right man for the job (and at times I'll admit I was a bit critical, okay quite scathing) but credit where it's due he has improved leaps and bounds and is building up a great rapport with the rest of the presenter team. 

So what did Le Brundle have for us? First up it was Paul Hembery (head honcho at Pirelli). You may remember Paul as dead man walking last year when all the tyres were disintegrating after 5 laps (greatly vexing the likes of Christian Horner). These days Paul is a new man full of joie de vivre while Christian Horner is dating Geri Halliwell. Funny how fortunes can change so much in a year. Anyhow, the heavens had literally just opened all over the Hungaroring and Paul thought it was a 50/50 call between inter conditions and wets. The cars were still going round and round trying to decide with a mere 20 minutes until the start of the race. Nervous times.

Martin then tried to make his way over to Sebastian Vettel who was having A Very Serious Chat with his engineer and instead ended up getting a curt brush off from David Coulthard (who does a good line in curt). The lovely Tanja from German Sky TV who was wafting past was much friendlier to Martin. The F1 equivalent of Dawn and Tim from the Office (yes, I've been drinking!). Martin had a very quick chat with Jenson Button and Danil Kvyat both of whom said it was wet and interesting out there (certainly a prescient comment by Kvyat who ended up stuck on the grid during the formation lap). So folks, show time!

Lights out and Go Go Go! A very surreal start to a F1 race seeing the cars racing flat out along the first long straight to turn 1. A numbers of cars were wobbling out on track. Lewis was reporting problems with his front right brakes and Alonso's Ferrari was twitching all over the place. After things settled down, the front order early doors shook out as follows: 1. Rosberg, 2. Bottas, 3. Vettel, 4. Alonso, 5. Button and 6. Ricciardo. But the Weather Monitor of Doom predicted rain within 5 minutes. Rosberg and Hamilton (rapidly climbing up through the field) were looking very raggedy and Bottas was driving brilliantly to keep Vettel at bay. To recap, a Williams was holding off a Red Bull. How quickly the F1 landscape can change!

Safety Car Klaxon!!! Ericsson was the culprit with a monumental smash on lap 9. Most of the cars all bolted into the pits to whack on some slicks except Jenson Button who went onto inters. That's a mighty big gamble by McLaren. It takes some doing to crash under safety car conditions but Grosjean was the man to rise to the challenge so having just been called in, the safety car was told to stay out. Rosberg was complaining of 'something in the brakes'. Meanwhile the 20 million dollar question (especially for Jenson Button) was when is the rain coming?!

Lap 14 and racing in anger resumed once again. Button almost immediately passed Ricciardo to take the LEAD of the race and was then told that rain was looking a lot less likely. Bugger. Not McLaren's finest hour ever. Poor old Jenson. Hamilton was now doing a Senna-esque charge through the field and managed to take FOUR PLACES in one sector to move up to 9th. We were told it was clearly now Hammertime - a phrase that has been recently adopted by the media which irrationally irritates me. In a contrast of Mercedes fortunes, Rosberg was going backwards. Having tried and failed to take Magnussen, he was passed by Vergne and now found himself in a 3 way battle with Vettel and Hamilton (now up to 7th) for 5th place. Not where he would have wanted to be AT ALL. Even more calamitous was Jenson's race - after that suicidal pitstop decision, he dived into the pits on lap 16 to get the slicks he should have had put on 5 laps earlier. Bugger.

Ah a Maldonado crash (into Bianchi). Another tick on the F1 race bingo. Quite amazingly the fastest laps were now being set by Fernando Alonso. We hadn't seen that from a Ferrari for a very long time. The leading cars were now 1. Ricciardo, 2. Massa, 3. Alonso and 4. Vergne. Yes, Vergne was miraculously STILL ahead of Rosberg. 'Curiouser and curiouser' said Alice. Actually the real Alice was actually saying on loop "I want the red car to win". Ah those were the days. Or did she know something I didn't?!

Yet another Safety Car Klaxon (for the second time in this race) after a mahoosive crash by Perez. Cue pitstops galore and the main point I noted (not necessarily the key point but the only one I noted!) was that Hamilton was now sandwiched between the two Red Bulls. Given his race started in the pit lane in LAST place this represented stunning progress. Vergne was STILL defying all the odds and keeping the Silver Arrows of Rosberg firmly in his rear mirrors. Vergne's brilliant defensive driving was holding up a train of cars allowing Fernando Alonso to increase his narrow and precious lead lap by lap. Eventually on lap 33, Rosberg pitted from 3rd and to compound his bad luck had a slow stop before rejoining back in 13th. 

Hamilton (unlike his team-mate it has to be said) wasted no time in passing Vergne in a brilliantly clinical move on lap 34 and so at the halfway point, the top order was 1. Alonso, 2. Hamilton, 3. Ricciardo (going very nicely on fresh tyres), 4. Massa and 5. Kimi. Alonso was now getting all sorts of radio messages in different languages - always a sign that things are afoot at Ferrari! After the next round of pitstops, Ricciardo was leading the race on lap 45 and fragments of seconds split Alonso, Hamilton (who was now complaining of a hot seat...ouch!) and Rosberg. Well game bloody on.

Grandstand finish here we come and best of all we had the prospect of a mouthwatering Ros v Ham duel for the first time in a good few races. In a baffling intervention from Mercedes over the radio, Hamilton was told not to hold Rosberg up. Hamilton's response? "I'm not slowing down for Nico". Cue much complaining from Nico. Well a few points here in Hamilton's defence (please take note - you know who you are!):

1. Rosberg was no way near close enough (ie. not even in DRS range!) to Hamilton to warrant the imposition of team orders.
2. Rosberg still had to pit again (with all the variables that another pitstop brings) and Hamilton couldn't be totally sure that he himself wouldn't need to pit.
3. Ricciardo probably also had to pit so Lewis could not afford to give away 2 seconds in slowing for his team-mate. Oh and Alonso (still in front of Lewis and eminently catch-able in an inferior Ferrari) was not going to pit again so every second was vital.

Slam dunk as they say.

And sure enough on lap 55, Ricciardo came into the pits (as did Rosberg just two laps later). Alonso was now leading the Hungarian Grand Prix. How long has it been since Ferrari were in with a real shout of winning a F1 race? With an agonising 8 laps to go (if you were sat in the the Ferrari/Mercedes/Red Bull garage or in my house!), the first three cars (Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo) were separated by just hundredths of seconds. You simply could not call it and for good measure Rosberg had decided to join the party by putting in some blistering laps to slash the gap between himself and the leading three.

With a couple of laps to go, it was Ricciardo who seized the opportunity to go for glory by passing Hamilton and then Alonso (who had been clinging onto the lead for the last few laps by deploying every ounce of his tremendous racecraft) to take the LEAD of the race and then serenely pull away from the chasing pack. We were then treated to a stunningly exciting final lap as Alonso heroically battled to keep the mighty Silver Arrows at bay, ultimately succeeding to bring a very average Ferrari home in a truly magnificent second place behind race-winner, Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton took 3rd spot (ahead of Rosberg) which was simply a phenomenal performance of immense skill and tenacity given that he started last. Oddly he seemed dejected after the race. Lewis needs to learn how to be kinder to himself. He came home ahead of his team-mate (the pole sitter) after the aberration of qualifying which is more than he could possibly have hoped for (and Nico would definitely have to consider Hungary as 13 points lost). The remaining points were taken by Massa in 5th, Kimi in 6th, Vettel in 7th, Bottas in 8th, Vergne in 9th and Button in 10th.

Hamilton is now just eleven points behind Rosberg in the championship race which sets us up for a thrilling second half of the season. But first we have the summer break which almost cruelly interrupts the ferocious battle at the top of the championship just as it reached fever-pitch once again. But we can all draw breath, go on holiday (we have literally just disembarked in Bilbao and the 7 year old is already planning his visit to the Nou Camp once we make our way across to Catalunya!) and prepare ourselves for the return of hostilities at the Greatest Track in F1, the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Could the opening of Act II have a more befitting and majestic stage?!

Happy holidays everyone.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

British Grand Prix – The Race

Lewis Hamilton triumphant at the British Grand Prix!

Sorry for kind of skipping over the Austrian Grand Prix. I missed most of the race live and then the World Cup, Wimbledon and kids stuff took over. Anyway it was another Mercedes one-two. Plus ca change.

But we are now at the home of Formula 1 in Silverstone and blogging will most definitely be resumed!

Silverstone hosted the first World Championship Formula 1 race back in 1950 and its still going strong!

If the race is anywhere half as exciting, frantic and stunning as the qualifying session, then we are in for a roller-coaster ride at the British Grand Prix today. To recap BOTH Ferraris and BOTH Williams were dumped out of Quali after Q1. Then in the final session Lewis Hamilton, when on provisional pole, inexplicably decided to abort his final flying lap only to watch on with horror as 5 drivers all set faster times and worst of all, his bitter rival, team-mate and no-longer-friend-and-now-nemesis, Nico Rosberg ended up as the man on pole. As days at the office go, this one was a total, abject disaster.

Nico Rosberg - on pole position for the British Grand Prix

So on the front row of the grid its Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel (will his shocking luck so far this season finally turn in the British Grand Prix?). Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg line up on the second row – a pairing no one would have predicted for the second row but how fantastic to see them so high up especially on a weekend where lovely tributes are being paid to Jenson’s late father, John Button. Jenson himself is sporting this fantabulous helmet for the race.

Pink for Papa

Time for #MartinsGridWalk and I am steeling myself for an appearance by the soon-to-be Mrs Christian Horner, La Halliwell. Thankfully first up its Eric ‘total petrolhead and occasional guitarist’ Clapton. He pointed out that Felipe is cracking on the start and predicted a top 5 finish for him. Maybe Eric should get back to strumming his guitar. Bless.

Ooooh breaking news from Ted - apparently there is an issue on Lewis’s car. There is an overheating right-rear brake and all the mechanics and tech bods are pouring over it. Lewis has reported that he could see smoke and even fire coming from it. Still its not like the race is due to begin soon or anything...oh.

Prince Harry is on the grid but he is Not Talking to the Media today. Zara wasn’t too posh to have a chat with Martin was she (back in Monza I think?). Could he really not manage a 30 second chat with lovely Martin Brundle? Whilst he is a very skilled interviewer, Martin was hardly going to rip him to shreds by interrogating him about technical stuff. Lets face it he has interviewed Geri Halliwell on the grid a few times. Bit disappointed with Harry there to be honest.

Prince Harry - alas his thoughts on F1 will remain an enigma to us all

Still moving on and its the demi-god that is Nigel Mansell! He isn’t too posh to speak to the public. Although he quite amusingly got temporarily distracted from the interview with Martin to give Bernie a bear hug and begin a very friendly and private conversation with Bernie. After reminding both of them they were on air, Bernie plumped for Nico and Nigel opted for Lewis as eventual winners.

Here we go then. Its time for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 red lights and they’re out. Its Go Go Go at the British Grand Prix. Nico cruises off smoothly and Vettel just goes backwards, first passed by Jenson, and then Magnussen before Hamilton squeezes past after a friendly nudge to the Red Bull.

The fast and frantic start to the British Grand Prix

And DRAMARAMA as we see replays of a huge shunt at the back of the field involving Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Numerous replays (much needed as the overhead camera appears to be located somewhere on Mars) show that Kimi lost control of his car, left the track, rejoined it and clipped a bump before hurtling at speed into the armco barriers. Massa deserves enormous credit for taking lightning fast evasive action to avoid a head-on crash but still got caught up in the melee.

The aftermath of Raikkonen's horrific crash

The race has been red-flagged and stopped. Kimi Raikkonen is clearly limping as he is taken to the medical car and poor Felipe Massa is out of the race as his car cannot be repaired in time. How desperately unlucky for Felipe in his 200th Grand Prix. Sport is cruel.

Apparently the armco has to be replaced so there’ll be no action for some time yet. I always find it totally fascinating observing the drivers in these interludes. Those who take themselves off to do a Garbo (ie. Want To Be Alone), those who take the chance to munch on a few snacks and those who spend the time endlessly debating and chatting over tactics and strategy with engineers. I'm with Nico Rosberg - give me potatoes in a fast food container!

When we do resume – the pack will be as you were – no standing restart but they will be led out behind the safety car in this order: 1. Rosberg, 2. Button, 3. Magnussen, 4. Hamilton, 5. Vettel, 6. Hulk, 7. Ricciardo, 8. Kvyat (and quite incredibly) 9. Bottas.

The surreal restart of the British Grand Prix behind a safety car

And at 2:05pm (one hour since the red flags) the cars are back on track, albeit under a safety car. The impact speed was measured at 47G and miraculously Kimi’s injuries aren’t too severe. His left ankle is heavily bruised but no broken bones. Fingers crossed he will be back for Hockenheim.

Right and we’re off again – wheels are turning in anger already as Bottas takes Kvyat AND Ricciardo, and meanwhile Hamilton has passed Magnusson. We have a fascinating top 3 of Rosberg, Button and Hamilton. Nope sorry spoke too soon as Hamilton easily takes Button to move into second place with a 5 second gap to race leader and no-longer-friend-and-now-nemesis, Nico Rosberg.

Bottas is now in 6th place and the husband has already invoked the memory of Gilles Villeneuve saying in a not-at-all OTT way “this could be one of THE greatest drives of all time”. And talking of great overtaking moves, Alonso executed an inch perfect move around the outside of Ricciardo to move himself up to 8th place after qualifying in 19th place (two places behind Bottas). Maybe he is another candidate for one of the greatest drives of all time (hey might as well join in the general hysteria). And Alonso is still ploughing through the field – he is now up to 7th place. The Hulk is really struggling for lack of pace and has now been passed by Ricciardo.

And its hasta la vista to Gutierrez who launched Maldonado airborne before then veering off into the gravel. As Martin Brundle observed you could pretty much apportion blame in that incident as 100% to Gutierrez. Not always Maldonado’s fault then. #justsaying

Maldonado literally flying around Silverstone

More misfortune for the Caterhams as Eriksson retires in what the husband described as ‘not very safe looking car’. The stewards have given Alonso a 5 second penalty for not being in the correct position at the restart. Big Fat Boo. The new Gilles Villeneuve (yes, apparently Bottas!) is now in FOURTH place. Even I have to admit he is having a very impressive race so far!

Holy cow – its only lap 14. My nerves are pretty much shredded already.

Next up in Alonso’s sights is the surely soon-to-be-passed Magnussen. Meanwhile Rosberg is getting all sorts of warnings about conserving fuel. Oooo-er. Honestly this is not Bottas-Watch but he is now in THIRD place having just scorched past Jenson Button. Unfortunately for all Bottas fans the Mercedes are several country miles ahead of the rest of the pack so there might not be much more overtaking for a while.

Remember that bit where Rosberg’s engineers told him to watch fuel. Well scrap that. He’s now been told to floor the car and really start hammering. Primarily because Lewis Hamilton is becoming an increasingly visible sight in his mirrors. And as we predicted, Rosberg has now been brought into the pits and Lewis is told over the radio that its 'Hammer Time’. I love Crofty but he must wonder where this strange phase that has made it into popular parlance has come from. Who’dve thought MC Hammer would have enriched the masses so meaningfully.

The wordsmith of our age that is MC Hammer

And on lap 25, the race leader, Lewis Hamilton, pits to whack on some hard tyres and looks like it was a fairly slow stop – could be crucial in a race where every second counts. Vettel meanwhile has taken advantage of a casual open door left by Magnussen to grab 6th place.

So at the half-way point (yes amazingly it is only the half-way point which is testament to how stupendous this race is!), this is how things look:

1.     Rosberg
2.     Hamilton
3.     Bottas
4.     Button
5.     Alonso
6.     Vettel
7.     Magnussen
8.     Ricciardo
9.     Hulkenberg
10.  Kvyat

Now Hamilton has just set a fastest lap on the ‘slow’ hard tyres. This absolutely never ever happens. A Fastest Lap on Hard Tyres! Lewis Hamilton is channelling the spirit of Our Nige big time.

And SENSATIONAL SCENES (Murray Walker style). You really could not make this up. Nico Rosberg has major gearbox problems and Lewis Hamilton has blitzed past to take the lead of the British Grand Prix. Nico’s race is clearly over – what chronically awful luck. Although he desperately tried to reboot his car, nothing was doing and you can’t help but feel robbed at the titanic battle for the lead that should have been. So Hamilton now leads with Bottas in an incredible 2nd place. All we need is for a replica gearbox problem to strike down the other Mercedes and the husband shall spin off into orbit.

Gearbox failure for Nico Rosberg

A fantastic battle is unfolding between Vettel and Alonso for 5th place culminating in a stunning move by Alonso to retake position. How much overtaking has there been today?! Formula 1 at its absolute finest. Battle is resumed on lap 37 as Vettel takes Alonso but yet again the Ferrari muscles its way back past. Vettel is straight on the radio to complain that Alonso cut him off and was over-aggressive. Dear Sebastian, given the chief steward is Nigel Mansell, you’re going to get no joy from him in complaining about aggressive driving! So STFU and drive. 

Lap 42 – Lewis pits for the final time and its hard to see what is going to stop him now. Alonso is putting on a masterclass out there – somehow managing to keep Vettel at bay causing Seb once again to freak out over the radio that Fernando didn’t leave him enough space. Duh. Its called racing. And its bloody brilliant!

The titanic duel between Alonso and Vettel

And on lap 48, Vettel has another go on Alonso and this time after some electrifying wheel to wheel action finally manages to get past the Ferrari. But, Sebastian, why should Alonso make it easy? Now Alonso is freaking out over the radio. Dudes, Nigel Mansell is the chief steward. Honestly just give it up!

And all of a sudden it is the final lap. Take a bow Nigel Mansell, you called it spot on by predicting a win for Lewis Hamilton. The crowd go wild in scenes reminiscent of Nigel Mansell’s win in 1992. Yes he rode his luck but still a fantastic comeback after the disaster of yesterday’s qualifying. Coming in 2nd place is Valtteri Bottas after a stupendous drive from 17th on the grid and Ricciardo just pips Button to the final place on the podium.

Three fantastic drivers on the podium - surely they deserved better than those pieces of red tat!?

Here are the results from a dizzyingly exciting British Grand Prix:

Hamilton – A weekend of contrasting fortunes but sealed the deal when it counted. Vital shot in the arm of the title race meaning Lewis is now just 4 points behind Nico.
Bottas – A truly Mansell-esque performace to finish 2nd (from 17th on the grid). There is no greater praise!
Ricciardo – A quietly efficient and impressive performance and yet again finished ahead of his illustrious four time champion team-mate.
Button – An excellent 4th place and came heart-breakingly close to his first podium in his home Grand Prix.
The intense duel between these two drivers in this race is one of the stand-out highlights for me this season. Utterly compelling stuff. Though much more kudos owed to Alonso who started in 19th than Vettel who was on the front row

So that was the British Grand Prix and what an absorbing and action-packed spectacle it was. And after a pretty rubbish summer for British sport it was a great result in front of an adoring home crowd. Next up, its Nico Rosberg's home race at the wonderful Hockenheim and battle will be rejoined again. 

But for now, the man of the moment (and indeed the only shining star in British sport!) is Lewis Hamilton