The F1 circus has arrived in Northamptonshire and the crowds are already in good voice and merry spirit for the 2013 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The teams and the drivers are gearing up for what is often labelled the best event on the calendar – despite the weather – and forumula1.com’s Hugh Podmore is looking at the big stories in the paddock this evening.
1) Mark Webber’s retirement
Today the Australian Red Bull Racing star announced his forthcoming retirement from F1, to pursue his love of endurance racing with Porsche. Webber’s career had its zenith at his current team, in whose cars he took all nine of his F1 wins, but he has driven for some of the biggest names in motorsport, including Jaguar and Williams. History will see him at the top of his game as the occasional thorn in Vettel’s side, perhaps unfairly. As his friend Fernando Alonso put it today, Webber has been nothing but a gentleman.
2) The concomitant vacancy at Red Bull
No one is talking about anything else. The big name in the frame is Kimi Raikkonen, but speculation abounds over the exact nature of his relationship with Red Bull as a brand. There is also the Red Bull tradition of keeping it in-house, and so Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are the obvious contenders. For my money neither of those guys is quite ready, and so Raikkonen on a two-year contract would seem to be a sensible option. But there’s Vettel. For all his protestations to the contrary, the boy will have a sizeable say in who partners him next season – and despite other protestations to the contrary, he would obviously prefer someone less of a threat.
3) Mercedes and their interesting tyres
The Grand Tribunal has ruled, as in some banana republic, that Mercedes should not be unduly punished for tyre testing in Barcelona. Well, yes. As soon as the boys from Stuttgart and their QCs produced evidence that the FIA had ratified and endorsed the test, the trial was null and void. Cock up from the FIA, there. Have Mercedes gained something? Probably, yes. Will it show at Silverstone? Maybe – it will be a good test to see how much progress they’ve made with these sensitive Pirellis.
4) Tips for the race…
Red Bull must be favourites, given they have the fastest car at the moment. With inclement weather Ferrari and Mercedes stand more of a chance. As Jenson Button says, a miracle will be needed for a McLaren win.