F1: British Grand Prix liveblog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, June 21st, 2009

 
 

The grandstands are fast filling up at Silverstone for what could be any or none of the following: the last F1 race at Silverstone; the last British Grand Prix; the last race under the Formula One banner.

We just don’t know.

But today the fans don’t care about that. They’ve come to watch the racing and the politics can go hang. Although scratch the surface just a little, as some journalists have been reporting, and you might find some rather angry people.

Nevertheless the party atmosphere is brewing – spoiled only a little by Jenson Button’s third-row start and Lewis Hamilton’s abrupt exit from the first qualifying session, which leaves him 19th on the grid.

Button’s pretty much written off his chances of a win, but did say this morning: “I just can’t get the tyres working and they’re out of the operating range. That is the reason why I’m struggling, so I’m looking for a hotter race day.

“Hopefully we’ll have it seven or eight degrees hotter on track, which would help me enormously. If the temperatures aren’t good, I don’t think we’ll ever get into a working range.”

Start doing the sun dance, boys and girls.

Down at McLaren, meanwhile, they’re reportedly close to throwing the car in the bin and starting again with an eye to 2010, but it’s hard to see exactly how they can do even that much until they have an agreed set of regulations.

In the absence of thrills from the home players, Red Bull have stepped into the breach with the promise of some glorious racing. And Rubens Barrichello has signalled that he won’t be taking the challenge lying down.

Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima qualified an amazing fifth – higher than Jense – but it’s certain that the oxygen at those altitudes and the fisticuffs off the start line will be way too much for him and he may be off before his first glimpse of Becketts.

We’ll see. We’ll be here following every minute so stick with us — and don’t forget to keep hitting refresh to make sure you’re looking at the latest updates, beside this widget that will allow you to get live telemetry from the McLaren cars (choose menu >> drivers >> Lewis/Heikki). Not that the McLaren cars are exactly the focus of this weekend. But still.

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Post-race: DC is saying that, for drivers, winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone has almost the kudos of Monaco. Vettel has not helped his own legend by producing a Schumi-like podium jump. Newey, interviewed afterwards, is extremely cautious. Looks like his aeon-defining battle with Ross Brawn is back on.

Vettel a bit weepy on the podium. Last time he won there was a mistake and they rolled out our National Anthem instead of the Austrian one due to the quite understandable belief that a team based in Milton Keynes was actually British.

Red Bull is sending Adrian Newey onto the podium. Can hardly be a stranger to it, but it has been a year or two. Webber and Vettel disappointing the commentators by being civil to each other. Williams overtakes McLaren in the constructors’. Trying not to choke as the German national anthem plays – and could someone please see their way clear to pushing Peter Hain off the edge?

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Lap 60: Vettel has started his final lap – has been quickest through every sector at Silverstone. He’s very nearly led from pole to flag, with a small exception during the second pitstops. The crowd is on its feet to congratulate him. Webber through second, Barrichello third. Behind them are Massa, Rosberg and Button fourth, fifth and sixth. Final points go to Trulli and Raikkonen. Force India scores a top-10 finish. Nakajima in 11th having not really made the most of his fifth-place grid slot. Poor old Hamilton was 16th – he made up a couple of places, then.

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Lap 59: Biggest gainer is Massa, off seven places in fourth. Compare and contrast with that early surge and then fading challenge from Kimi Raikkonen. Jense has a big slide in the middle of Becketts but hangs on to it. That should put the tin hat on things.

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Lap 58: Brundle says new aero regs have failed to make it any easier for cars to overtake, despite fact cars can get closer. From that you will deduce that Jense is probably not going to take fifth place off Rosberg. “What Jense cannot afford to do is throw it in the hedge.”

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Lap 57: First hint all season of Brawn mismanaging their tyres. Good tyre management responsible for many of their victories so far. Taking risks to try to get something out of today?

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Lap 56: Crowd on its feet to cheer Jense on in his quest to get past Rosberg.

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Lap 55: Button’s challenge to Rosberg still on, but he’s not taking quite so much time out of him – scratch that, his next lap cut a second and a half off the Williams driver’s lead.

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Lap 54: Harder tyres are punishing Rosberg and both Ferraris. As a result, Glock and Fisi are catching Raikkonen.

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Lap 53: Piquet is the first lapped driver in that list. Button gained more than a second on Rosberg in that last lap. What the hell can he do in seven laps, however?

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Lap 51: Button currently sixth ahead of Trulli and Raikkonen. Order at the front is Vettel clear of Webber by 18 seconds, then Barrichello, Massa, Rosberg, Button, Trulli, Raikkonen (for the last point), Glock, Fisi, Nakajima, Piquet, Kubica, Alonso, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Sutil, Buemi.

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Lap 50: Ten laps left to go and there’s not much reason for anything to change. Button pits. Kovy interviewed and says Hamilton able to go past due to warm tyres and lighter fuel load. Button out in 6.3 to occupy sixth place. Bourdais going on about Kovy “changing lanes” which we hadn’t personally noticed on the Silverstone track, but there you go.

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Lap 49: Glock pits and clears it in 5.2 seconds, which is impressive. Comes out in ninth, leapfroggging Fisichella. The Italian can’t get the place back.

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Lap 48: Button is the actual third-placed driver but is in reality fighting with Trulli for seventh and two points. His car seems to have finally come together a bit.

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Lap 47: Gap between Webber and Barrichello is 23 seconds. Jense, with a stop still to make, is fourth. Webber comes in and Vettel resumes lead. Straightforward pitstop and he rejoins in second. Barrichello dives in for his crucial pitstop. 6.5 seconds and he rejoins with a surprisingly comfortable net third. That’s probably it for Massa now.

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Lap 46: Now we need to find out what Barrichello can do before he pits. Fisi pits from eighth. Massa has taken Rosberg in the pitstops which could mean Brawn off the podium. It’s all down to Rubens’ pit strategy now.

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Lap 45: Replay shows Hamilton spun from nowhere. Looks like the right-hand tyres caught the grass and launched the car – quite close to the remnants of Bourdais’ nose. Massa is right on the back of Barrichello but then ducks into the pits.

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Lap 44: Button says: “It’s so frustrating, I can’t go through turn one, the car’s hitting the ground.” Rosberg pits from fourth, uncorking Massa. Very quick stop and we’re prevented to see where he comes out as the camera switches to Hamilton taking a huge excursion between Vale and Club. He appears to just have gone straight across the lot. His next move is to pit for new tyres.

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Lap 43: Vettel’s lead is 17.8 seconds. Raikkonen pits and launches the second round of pitstops.

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Lap 42: Raikkonen’s challenge has faded. Very interesting to see if Barrichello can hold off the Massa/Rosberg axis and, if not, which of those two will triumph. Trulli and Raikkonen sixth and seventh, Trulli nowhere close to Massa.

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Lap 41: Now Nakajima is threatening Button. Bourdais has also retired.

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Lap 40: Kovy retires, the car back in the garage. Obviously it has more damage than was immediately obvious. Meanwhile, it is being subtly indicated that the race between the two Red Bulls is over and Webber needs to play rear gunner until the end.

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Lap 39: Order is Vettel, Webber, Barichello, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Raikkonen, Button, Nakajima, Fisichella, Glock, Kubica, Alonso, Piquet, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Buemi, Sutil, Kovalainen, Bourdais.

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Lap 38: Brundle: “I don’t want to be cruel but [Hamilton] is fighting a car that wants to throw itself off the track.”

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Lap 36: DC says Bourdais had messed up at Stowe and would have been off regardless of Kovalainen.

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Lap 35: Kovy comes out of pits in front of Hamilton but he is, like Piquet, extremely co-operative in the overtake. His reward? To be slammed in the rear by Bourdais. Toro Rosso driver: My car has no nose. How does it smell? Team radio: In need of a new driver. Bourdais in for a front wing, Kovy has lost a tyre and both have to get round the entire circuit to reach the pit lane.

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Lap 34: Alonso has been uncorked, having got clear of Piquet and Hamilton, and is now on the leaders’ pace. Speculation that Piquet did not put up much of a fight for that position swap. Kovy finally pits.

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Lap 33: There is a mere 1.4 seconds between Rosberg and Barrichello as the latter struggles for pace. Hard tyres seem to be working better for Williams than for Brawn. Meanwhile, Massa is lurking behind them, waiting.

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Lap 32: All this McLaren/Renault stuff going on as Vettel coming through to lap them. Now he has two Renaults in front of him, so obviously that didn’t stick. Brundle points to a total lack of downforce on the car.

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Lap 31: Hamilton passes Alonso – halfway point in the race. Difficult because Piquet’s floating about in the mix. Brundle has been watching too much Blackadder: “He’s slower than a slow thing.” Piquet is all over the shop trying to keep Hamilton behind him.

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Lap 30: DC says (and he should know) that Red Bull is mentioning tyres as a super-sekrit code word for “You’re going to win so calm down and take it easy.”

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Lap 29: You know thngs are quiet when the telly is showing gratuitious shots of celebs in garages of drivers that aren’t even in.

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Lap 28: Vettel lapping in 1:22s – definitely has his foot off the pedal a bit.

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Lap 27: Button’s tyre problem is so bad that he is weaving about on certain bits of the circuit as you see on the formation lap trying to get some heat into them. Vettel has slowed down and is being told to save his tyres. Webber is lapping as fast if not faster than Vettel.

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Lap 26: Button reporting major understeer on hard tyres and it’s a fair while before the new pitstops and a chance to sort that out. Same problem presumably affecting Barrichello who is slipping backwards into the clutches of Rosberg.

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Lap 25: Order is Vettel, Webber, Barrichello, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli, Raikkonen, Button, Nakajima, Fisichella, Glock, Kubica, Piquet, Bourdais, Sutil, Kovalainen, Alonso, Hamilton, Heidfeld and Buemi. Kubica through to Kovalainen unpitted. Vettel’s lead is 21.5 seconds over Webber. Looking at an unruffled Red Bull 1-2.

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Lap 24: Massa pits from second and comes out fifth.

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Lap 23: Hamilton is currently dead last as Heidfeld comes flying out of the pits. Very sharp elbows allow him to just keep the place.

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Lap 22: Order currently Vettel who has stopped and come out in front, the unpitted Massa and Fisi behind him.

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Lap 21: Webber has taken second place by inches off Barrichello in the pitstops. The pair are fourth and fifth. Barrichello is right on the back of him but unmistakeably behind. Hamilton has made his scheduled stop after begging the team to be allowed in early and turned down flat.

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Lap 20: Button and Trulli pit together and emerge on either side of Raikkonen. Brawn strategy unable to do anything to get their driver past the Toyota. Next man down the road is Nakajima.

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Lap 19: Brundle: “Button needs some of his best laps of the year right now.” But in the meantime, while Brawn hunts down the back of the sofa, Vettel has put in some of his fastest laps.

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Lap 18: Raikkonen appears to have taken Nakajima in the pitstops. Mark Webber’s engineers furiously trying to come up with a strategy that gets him past Rubinho. Will try to keep Webber out long. Hamilton on radio saying he doesn’t have the grip to pass Kubica.

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Lap 17: Raikkonen pits. Button is falling back from Trulli and the pair are on a similar strategy. 9.4 seconds, soft tyres.

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Lap 16: “Concentrate!” Rob Smedley gets on the radio to tell Massa. He says Button expected to pit in four to five laps. Massa going longer. Nakajima comes in for a 9.1 sec stop.

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Lap 15: Alonso getting reckless on the Hangar Straight trying to get past Heidfeld. Still no luck. Williams pit crew is out but both drivers whizzed straight past the pit entrance.

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Lap 14: As you were.

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Lap 13: Order is Vettel, Barrichello, Webber, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Trulli, Button, Massa, Glock, Fisi, Heidfeld, Alonso, Kubica, Hamilton, Piquet, Bourdais, Buemi, Kovy, Sutil. No retirements and not that much action either.

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Lap 12: Vettel’s lead is now 12 seconds. He’s gone. But Webber is being dropped at 1.5 secs per lap due to the Brawn between them.

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Lap 11: It’s all pretty quiet – we always regret typing these words but you might safely put the kettle on. Only real battles are the damaged Heidfeld, Alonso struggling to pass him, and the Hamilton/Kubica battle coming up on the tail of them. Trulli has managed to put some clear air between himself and Button.

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Lap 10: Button 1.6 seconds ahead of Massa but he’s the first passenger in the Trulli train. Alonso *still* pinned up behind Heidfeld.

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Lap 9: Commentators are pointing out that both Renault and Beemer have done for their KERS. McLaren running without it too.

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Lap 8: Vettel up to 7.2 secs, still building a second a lap. Drivers forming a train at the moment, no-one really trying for overtakes. Heidfeld still has an increasingly agitated Alonso trapped.

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Lap 7: Vettel’s lead is 6.1 secs. Webber on the back of Barrichello.

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Lap 6: Hamilton trying to get his place back off Kubica – commentators observe that it seems quite unlikely that we’re watching these two fighting over 14th place. Biggest gainer from start is Raikkonen having made it up to fifth. Vettel’s lead is 5.2 secs over Barrichello who doesn’t have any breathing space from Webber. Nakajima hanging on in fourth. Hamilton tries to take Kubica and can’t.

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Lap 5: Vettel’s lead growing by a second a lap. Webber seven tenths down on Barrichello. Long radio discussions about Heidfeld’s aero. Team begging him to come in for a new wing (or wing setting) and he flatly refuses. Looks like the wing is damaged and Heidfeld starting to back people up. Alonso the man struggling to get past, great defensive driving from Nick.
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Lap 4: Vettel has a second on Barrichello at the front. Jense at least eight seconds down on the leaders. Legard on the Ferrari start: “Almost on the A43, I should think…”

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Lap 3: Kubica is past Hamilton as if he wasn’t there. Hamilton takes a long excursion on the grass to avoid an errant Piquet, losing his speed. Button is up behind Trulli. There goes his race, then.

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Lap 2: Hamilton up to 15th, Kovy in 19th. How did that happen? Wait – yellow flag. Don’t know why yet. Renault side by side with a Beemer and Fisi slips through on the inside past both. Alonso seems to be straggling. That yellow flag doesn’t seem to have meant much. As you were at the front.

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Lap 1: And they’re off! Great start for Vettel who’s cut straight in front of Barrichello. Webber’s done nothing, Raikkonen has had the sort of start we haven’t seen from him for months. Button is barely in the top 10 – a classic cold tyre thing. Rosberg past Trulli who is down to seventh. Massa eighth. First three unchanged, Nakajima fourth after Trulli went backwards. Button taking any line he can to get past Massa.

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Parade lap: Adrian Sutil is starting from pit lane in a rebuilt car after his crash yesterday. James Allen reports that he has problems with fuel pressure. Everyone else away safely. Most people starting on soft tyres so they will warm up more quickly. Vettel backing the field right up.

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On the grid: Brundle: “Kimi’s shaking his head before we’ve even got there.” We think this whole thing works better when he rounds up DC to help.

“There will be a British Grand Prix for sure. Whether it’s here depends on whether Donington can get its act together or not.” He tells Brundle: “Don’t worry.” Brundle says: “I am worried.”

Jense is hiding in the toilets. Brundle avoids Mosley, tries to find Flavio Briatore, fails and pitches up at an uncommunicative Adrian Newey. Flavio, looming, says: “Maybe I am but I have beenb in this business for a long time and if that makes me a lunatic, fine.” He says he is absolutely behind a new championship (we bet) with all the teams that make Formula One what it is. He confirms that he loves Bernie.

Who the f*** is that? Oh, Nakajima. Right, sorry. “Keep it pointing in the right direction,” says Brundle.

Mark Webber still complaining about Kimi Raikkonen but “all is not lost.” Tell that to Jense three slots behind you. He says his job is to dispose of Barrichello straight off the line “or Sebastian will have a boring race and so will you guys.”

Pre-race: Mosley joins Hill and Humphrey. He has a pink shirt. Tries to talk up the divisions between FOTA members. “Howett tends to be on the extreme wing… the only thing separating us is someone sitting down and agreeing the actual mechanisms of resource restrictions, or whatever you want to call it.” He seems to be claiming that compromise is a mere few inches away. Perhaps he *won’t* be filing writs on Monday morning then.

Damon Hill is being interviewed: “It shows how much feeling there is for this sport in this country.” He said he was a bit surprised by Bernie’s statement yesterday, but “things are in flux.” He says the BRDC has great plans for Silverstone and remains optimistic about the future. “We hope that sense will prevail. If we get the investment that is needed… everyone could benefit.”

Howett accuses Max outright of “improper governance for the past two or three years” and says FOTA has no argument with the FIA per se. Adds that Toyota committed until 2012 but wants a proper regulatory framework to stay in.

John Howett live on the BBC – saying teams went as far as they felt they could in terms of concessions and when that wasn’t accepted – split. “We have nothing more to say… overwhelming public support for our position… there needs to be significant movement from the Federation and commercial rights-holder.” He says it’s not about power or personalities but about “stopping this kind of mess happening in the future.”

Virgin has chosen this propitious time to announce that it doesn’t want to play with nasty F1 any more and is pulling the plug on Brawn GP. Branson has reportedly said: “We got in when it was very cheap and it’s been great for us with global coverage, but I suspect next year the price will be astronomical and we may have to look somewhere else with a smaller team. We at Virgin have most likely got the mileage we needed from it.

“Their value has gone from next to nothing to £50 million a year and we’re delighted for them and we’ll have had a fantastic year with them.” Stay classy, Sir Richard, stay classy.

Heads up – Simon Gillett has noticed that the tide is not flowing particularly in his direction right now and has reacted accordingly. He says: “There are elements that certain things have to arrive on my grid, and if they don’t I can have a discussion with Bernie.” By which he apparently means teams like McLaren and Ferrari.

He also told BBC Radio that his funding plans will not be announced until next month, and that the sale of tickets has been postponed until August. Most significantly, he said the current situation was causing “a little bit of a slowdown” in his search for funding. Can something going that slowly actually get any slower? Just asking…

Latest weather report for the circuit here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/weather/forecast/5000?count=10

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