So it turns out a triple-header is great for Formula 1.
Forgetting the negatives to the logistical nightmare that came with moving the F1 paddock from Paul Ricard to the Red Bull Ring to Silverstone on consecutive weekends, and the toll that took on the teams and team members, it delivered a great spectacle.
The British Grand Prix was the final round of the three, and the first time F1 teams had experienced such a demanding run of races. Many were tired, stressed, and a little bit low. And as a result, it all kicked off under a scorching summer sun on Sunday.
The sideshows were in F2, where Santino Ferrucci got banned for four races and his team extraordinarily sided against him on Twitter, and at Toro Rosso, where Pierre Gasly called his five-second time penalty “bulls***” after losing the final point to Sergio Perez.
But the main event was between Mercedes and Ferrari, and initially Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
I don’t think there was anything deliberate in Raikkonen’s error at Turn 3. Hamilton got a poor start, was already down to third and out of position through Turn 1, and Raikkonen had a fair run and the whole inside opening up for him to overtake. Hamilton braked late on the grippier racing line, Raikkonen locked up, and contact followed.
Hamilton had a further 53 laps to deliver an excellent comeback drive – one that could prove crucial in the title race – and also to compose himself. But his comment on the podium that Ferrari was using some “interesting tactics” sparked all sorts of controversy in the paddock.
It wasn’t the smartest thing for Hamilton to say, and he apologized for it on Instagram on Monday morning, but there is at least some defense in the fact that he had just gotten out of the car at the end of a dramatic race that went to the wire. From the high of qualifying – where he was physically shaking after snatching pole position – to the disappointment of seeing his main title rival win Hamilton’s home race played a part.
But the less acceptable comment came from Hamilton’s boss. And at this stage I would like to point you to Hamilton’s comment on Instagram that “we win and lose together”.
Speaking to Sky Sports immediately after the race, Toto Wolff was acting as spokesperson for Mercedes and was asked if he felt the collision with Raikkonen was a racing incident.
“Yes, a racing incident,” came the reply. “Unfortunate, because at Le Castellet the first time we got taken out, and now it is the second time we got taken out. It is a lot of constructors’ points… James Allison’s words were: ‘Do you think it was deliberate or incompetence?’. This is where it leaves us with the judgement.”
Great for headline writers, but an error on Wolff’s part.
Instead of standing up and saying he personally felt there was a chance it was a deliberate move by Raikkonen – or not bringing up the idea at all, given that it wasn’t even suggested in the question in the first place – Wolff outed a team member for a private comment within the team.
Allison is not broadcast on team radio, and was not making a comment to the driver in the car, so there was no way for what he said – assuming he said it – to be made public without Wolff doing so.
How ironic it is that this is the same James Allison whom the FIA named as playing a role in raising a question about the Ferrari power unit controversy in Monaco, something Wolff was deeply unhappy about.
And it was Allison’s former boss Maurizio Arrivabene who was soon similarly angry when he was informed of the comments, saying Allison “should be ashamed of himself” for making such a suggestion after having worked at Maranello from 2000-2005, and again from 2013-2016.
However, it’s far from Ferrari’s place to take the high ground. Arrivabene says Allison needs to learn how to lose after seeing Mercedes beaten in its home race, but Ferrari will do well to follow the Italian’s Ron Burgundy-esque advice to “stay classy” in defeat, given the way the toys have come out of its pram in the past.
On this occasion, Arrivabene is right to be unhappy at the comments, but if anyone needs to apologize, it’s Wolff.
Just one week after James Vowles was made to publicly take the blame for a strategic error in Austria – described by Christian Horner as Vowles throwing himself under the bus – another senior Mercedes team member is coming under fire for a comment that really should have stayed in-house.
“It’s not the way I operate,” Horner said of the Mercedes approach after the Austrian Grand Prix. “My view in my role as team principal of this team is that you are here to protect your workforce, to make sure they are represented in the best possible way – and that’s on the good days and the bad days.”
Hamilton apologized for his comments on Monday, and while Wolff might not take a similar approach, he should certainly heed Horner’s remarks and do so privately to Allison. He should also probably remember Arrivabene’s quotes from Sunday night to see how Ferrari reacts in a similar situation.
Don’t let the fallout from Silverstone fool you, though. This is exactly how Formula 1 should be. Two of the biggest brands in the sport in the most iconic cars battled for victory in the closing laps on a classic track. The image of Bottas desperately defending from Vettel, with Hamilton and Raikkonen in formation behind, and tension throughout, is great for F1.
That tension spilling over to the bosses of each team and mistakes being made both on and off the track? That’s even better.
This title battle is really heating up. Do we really have to wait a whole two weeks for the next installment?