When you think about the British, a number of stereotypes will most probably come to mind. As MotorSportsTalk’s resident Brit, I can probably set a few of them straight.
No, we don’t all drink tea – although my friends do think it strange I prefer coffee.
Yes, we are overly polite and say ‘sorry’ far too often. We then apologize for apologizing.
However, the biggest thing that we are known for having is a ‘stiff upper lip,’ defined as “remaining resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity”.
And in the case of Formula 1, the British mentality was much-needed over the past weekend.
There is a great deal of doom and gloom in F1 at the moment, as perfectly exemplified in Friday’s FIA press conference when Force India owner Vijay Mallya coined the term “uncrap” and Lotus CEO Matthew Carter blamed the media for being too negative about the sport.
F1 is by no means perfect at the moment. The financial crisis rages on, and the on-track action has left much to be desired. However, you should have tried telling that to the 140,000 fans that packed out Silverstone on Sunday for the grand prix.
And boy, did they get a reward for their passion and support.
The British Grand Prix was perhaps the best of the season so far. I noted after the race that it was an ‘average result, but a far from average race’ – it was one that captured the imagination of the watching public and really left you on the edge of your seat.
It was totally different to the grands prix that we have seen of late. Although they have been entertaining in places, few have had much of a fight at the front of the field. It has ordinarily been left to either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg to dominate proceedings and the rest to fight over the scraps.
At Silverstone though, we were treated to a brilliant four-way fight for the win as Williams got in the mix. The British team once again opted to play it safe, not splitting Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas’ strategies, which ultimately left them fourth and fifth at the flag after queuing in the pits late on.
It was a terribly British affair, even right down to the weather. I wrote in my preview earlier this week that Britain was in the midst of a heatwave. Having spent Tuesday baking in the sun in London and most of Wednesday complaining about my sunburn, I expected the heat to transfer to Silverstone for the race and play into Ferrari’s hands.
Ironically, it was a rain shower that actually worked for Ferrari by giving Sebastian Vettel his first podium finish since the Monaco Grand Prix. “In the end, that’s England for you,” he said after the podium. “[A] couple of minutes later you have sunshine.”
The rain did spice up the race, undoubtedly. Without it, Hamilton would most probably have eased home, leaving Massa, Bottas and Rosberg to fight over P2, P3 and P4.
However, the shower made the Briton work for his victory, bringing out the best of him both as a driver and as a strategist. The brilliance of his call to pit for intermediates cannot be underestimated.
Will the race go down as an all-time classic? It’s unlikely. However, it will go down as an important one in Lewis Hamilton’s career, and in the context of the 2015 season, it brought some joy to F1.
Because if you believed that all was discussed with regards to F1 was negative, 140,000 fans would not have flocked to Silverstone on race day. Perhaps the more impressive fact is that 110,000 ventured to the remote Northamptonshire circuit for qualifying. These are big numbers that few other circuits can even get close to.
What must be accepted is that occasionally a grand prix won’t feature dozens of overtakes or a big crash or anything of note. Some races are akin to the 0-0 draw in soccer. That is the nature of sport.
In soccer though, you aren’t restricted to just 19 games per season – 380 Premier League matches alone in 2014/2015 – showing how F1 has far less of a opportunity to get it right.
And the fans that went to Silverstone on Sunday knew that it could easily have been a dull affair. Few would have begrudged Hamilton a dreary win, such is his support at his home race, but the neutral in the stands may have questioned whether spending £300 on a grandstand ticket was a wise investment.
That is the nature of the British fan, though. A passion and fervor exists that makes Silverstone a race like few others – in my eyes, Austin and Montreal are the only ones that compares in terms of atmosphere – and it was exactly what F1 needed. In a time of dwindling track attendances, the British Grand Prix swam against the stream.
What is required in F1 at the moment is a little more acceptance. Times do get tough. Races will sometimes be a little tedious.
But when you get a weekend like this, with 140,000 fans sticking it out in the pouring rain to cheer on an enthralling on-track spectacle, you remember just why F1 is dubbed the pinnacle of motorsport.
F1 could perhaps stand to be a little more British in its approach. Get the stiff upper lip and get through the tough times instead of pointing the finger and making knee-jerk changes, because it isn’t all bad.
Even through the rain of Silverstone, the sun can shine.