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.
Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence is a proud Texan who hates to lose. But if there’s one person Torrence likely doesn’t mind seeing win if he can’t reach the winner’s circle – particularly if it’s on home turf – it’s father Billy.
Steve was cheering his father on as the latter boosted his own championship hopes Sunday by winning the Top Fuel category in the final eliminations of the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in the Dallas suburb of Ennis, Texas.
Billy Torrence (3.775 seconds at 319.67 mph) defeated Jordan Vandergriff (4.299 seconds, 246.03 mph in his first career final round) for his fourth win of the season, including his second win in the first four races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. With the fifth Top Fuel triumph of his career, the elder Torrence moved into fourth in the Top Fuel standings, just 71 points behind his son with two races remaining in the Countdown.
Even though Billy’s son lost in the opening round Sunday, he still leads the Top Fuel standings, holding a 33-point lead over second-ranked Doug Kalitta and a 46-point lead over third-ranked and the weekend’s No. 1 qualifier, Brittany Force.
Sunday marked the third consecutive win in this year’s playoffs for the father-son combo and their second straight triumph at Dallas (Steve won there last year as part of an unprecedented sweep of the six-race Countdown en route to the championship).
“It’s home turf and we love to race here,” Billy Torrence said after visiting the winner’s circle. “We’ve raced here our whole career and we have a lot of fans here. There’s no better place to race than Dallas, Texas, and we did have the best car today.
“It has been very humbling, and we’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success we’ve had. We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars and our success is just a testament to the work these guys do. I think that we’re probably the second-best car in the country, with Steve having the best. We’ve had a stellar season.”
In Funny Car: Matt Hagan (3.909 seconds at 327.59 mph) roared to his third win of the season – as well as his third at the Motorplex – and the 32nd victory of his career, defeating Bob Tasca (3.928 seconds at 323.12 mph). Hagan also moved up to fourth in the standings.
“We had a great race car today,” Hagan said. “Qualifying was pretty tough, but to turn on four win lights was pretty huge. (Tasca) is a great driver and those guys are good, so I’m glad things turned out the way they did.
“We’re just trying to keep some momentum going, keep doing our job and control what we can control. It was a pretty special weekend. We’ve just got to keep digging and keep working. I love this sport and it’s been a big part of my life for 10 years. I knew (crew chief Dickie Venables) was tuned in and you could see he was confident, and that builds confidence in me.”
Robert Hight continues to lead the Funny Car standings, followed by Jack Beckman (70 points back) and No. 1 qualifier John Force (74 points back).
In Pro Stock: Greg Anderson (6.609 seconds at 209.75 mph) defeated longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.610 seconds at 207.56 mph) to earn his third win of the season, fifth of his career at the Motorplex and 94th of his overall Pro Stock career.
It was the 102nd time Anderson and Coughlin, who qualified No. 1 for the weekend, have met each other in a race, including the 21st time in the final round.
“We’ve had so many titanic clashes with so much on the line, and I knew it would be close,” said Anderson, who is seventh in points. “It’s a total team effort and that’s what it takes to win a national event in Pro Stock right now. You’ve got to have perfection every time out there.
“We made a lot of changes this week and we hit on it. It showed it on Saturday and I knew coming into today we had a chance. Now it’s a matter of if I can drive the car well enough. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing because everybody right now can beat everybody else.”
Erica Enders held on to her lead in the category, but saw the margin over second-ranked Matt Hartford drop to only 28 points. Coughlin is third (-65 points) and Anderson is seventh (-99 points).
In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Jerry “Alligator Farmer” Savoie (6.881 seconds at 195.90 mph) took a big step towards potentially earning his second PSM championship in the last three seasons, defeating three-time champion Eddie Krawiec (6.901 seconds at 195.62 mph).
It was Savoie’s third win of the season and 12th of his career. It’s also his second win in the first four playoff races and fifth straight appearance in the final round at the Motorplex. He’s now third in the PSM standings, 94 points behind five-time champion Andrew Hines.
“It was a great day and we knew we had a good bike coming in,” Savoie said. “We said if we held our composure we could win this thing. For the most part, tracks favor certain riders and we’ve been blessed here. It’s a great place and today was great.
“Bottom line, I want a championship just as bad as anybody else, so whoever is in my way I’m going to do everything I can to try and beat them. I felt good and we’ve got a great team. To me, this win gives you more hope and means a lot. This gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again.”
NOTES: Only two races remain this season: Las Vegas in two weeks (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3) and Pomona, California four weeks from now (Nov. 14 – 17).
TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Jordan Vandergriff; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Austin Prock; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Antron Brown; 7. Shawn Reed; 8. Lee Callaway; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Terry McMillen; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12. Kebin Kinsley; 13. Mike Salinas; 14. Cameron Ferre; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Richie Crampton.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. John Force; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Blake Alexander; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Jonnie Lindberg.
PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Deric Kramer; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Chris McGaha; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Jason Line; 10. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 11. Val Smeland; 12. Kenny Delco; 13. Shane Tucker; 14. Fernando Cuadra; 15. Alex Laughlin; 16. Richie Stevens.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Angelle Sampey; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Matt Smith; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Hector Arana Jr; 13. Kelly Clontz; 14. Michael Ray; 15. Jianna Salinas.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,437; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,367; 3. John Force, 2,363; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,325; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,315; 6. Ron Capps, 2,302; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,274; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,243; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,239; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,188.
PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, 2,395; 2. Matt Hartford, 2,367; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2,330; 4. Jason Line, 2,327; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,323; 6. Bo Butner, 2,321; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,296; 8. Alex Laughlin, 2,239; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,217; 10. Val Smeland, 2,124.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,464; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,383; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,370; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,365; 5. Matt Smith, 2,297; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,274; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,248; 8. Angie Smith, 2,181; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,159; 10. Hector Arana, 2,128.