• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

The Bulls vs the Prancing Horses

Karun Chandhok July 12, 2012
Red Bull and Ferrari were the teams to beat in Silverstone © Sutton Images
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The British Grand Prix showed Mark Webber at his best - a gritty, fighting drive coming from behind to take victory after a great overtaking move around the outside of Fernando Alonso. The Aussie and the Red Bull Racing squad made their strategy work perfectly well to secure his second win of the season and slightly close the gap on Fernando in the battle for the world championship.

Once again this weekend came down to tyres, but for a change the difference between the prime and option tyre in terms of ultimate pace wasn't as much as before. If anything, it became clear that through the high-speed, high-lateral-load corners at Silverstone, the harder tyre was the preferred choice in the race. Ferrari and Red Bull went for opposite strategies, with Fernando starting on the harder tyre and then swapping to the softer one for the final stint, while Red Bull went for the softer one to get off the line and then swap to the harder one at the end. There didn't seem to be much in it in terms of pure lap time but Ferrari perhaps blinked a bit too early in that opening stint. Webber came in on lap 14 for his first stop, when some 4s behind leader Alonso. The surprise was that Alonso came straight in on lap 15, rather than stay out for a few laps and thus postpone the first and second stops and therefore limit the running on the softs at the end. In hindsight, this proved to be crucial but with only one session of dry running before the race, it's hard to be too critical on the Scuderia.

It was clear coming away from the weekend that Red Bull and Ferrari have pulled away from McLaren in the 2012 battle at the front. The Woking squad have slipped backward since Valencia and will need to really hope that their big upgrade due in Germany will work enough to bring them back in contention. Jenson Button's troubles seem to continue and while he managed to salvage a point, in the end the reality is that he went from 16th to 10th while Romain Grosjean went from last to sixth after his first lap clash, but more on that later. Lewis Hamilton looked good in wet conditions until Q3 where he seemed to really struggle for grip on his intermediates. In the dry, he started the race on the harder tyre which meant that he was going to be on the defensive on the opening lap and McLaren tried an unorthodox seven-lap middle stint on the softer tyre which didn't really work out for them. In the end, they thought they were racing Romain for sixth, but in reality their relative lack of pace especially in the final part of the race when the track temperature went up and the fuel load came down meant that they were actually racing for eighth.

Lotus are closing on a victory after outpacing McLaren at Silverstone © Sutton Images
Lotus will have to look at Silverstone as another "what-if" weekend. Romain went off at the end of Q2 and Kimi had a KERS problem in qualifying, both of which left them on the back foot. On pace, the cars from Enstone were just as quick as the RB8s and the Ferraris but once again circumstances left them out of the battle for victory. You really get the feeling that nine races in, Lotus should have had at least a couple of wins under their belt, with a car that clearly has very good pace on a variety of circuits. Their development path has been just as impressive as anyone else and if they can keep this up then that victory will come, but they need to maybe look at some strategic gambles like Williams did in Barcelona to try and secure that first win. With every weekend that passes you get the feeling that the season is settling down into a Red Bull vs Ferrari battle with McLaren and Lotus playing cameos and unless they can get their act together quickly, it could be the Bulls vs the Prancing Horses for the championship.

Williams and Sauber once again showed good pace and Mercedes once again were sort of there or thereabouts but not really quick enough to be in podium territory. The high-speed flowing nature of Silverstone was never going to suit the Mercs in the same way that Shanghai or Monaco did and I'm sure the team will now be working to improve that to show that they weren't just a one race wonder.

Off to Germany next and the Hockenheimring this year. The circuit puts a lot of emphasis on a good front end in the slow and medium speed corners and also good traction on the way out of the tight hairpins and long radius corners. With plenty of German drivers to cheer for and with the stadium providing a great amphitheatre, it's always a good atmosphere and should once again provide afternoon of twists and intrigue in this already ultra-complex world championship battle.