In the paddock, it has turned personal. McLaren boss Zak Brown labelled Racing Point’s proclamation that they have only used photographs to copy other parts of the car as “BS.”
Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer retorted: “To Zak Brown it’s BS because he’s not an engineer. He’s got no idea what he’s talking about. Zero. I’m surprised at how little he knows about the rules of F1. It seems to me he knows more about historic racing than he does about F1.” Ouch…
Whatever the rights and wrongs, other team bosses are angered at the brass neck Racing Point has displayed in going quite as far as it has. But ironically, half the paddock would love to see Nico Hülkenberg finish on the podium, provided his neck holds out.
Even Max Verstappen, fourth quickest, is supportive: “I’m very happy for Nico. He should already be on the grid. I hope it gives him a seat for next year.” And, as one paddock wag put it, referring to Hulkenberg’s undeserved and unenviable record of 177 F1 starts without ever standing on the rostrum, “the poor lad has started more races without a podium than anyone since Dick Dastardly…”
Daniel Ricciardo’s smile is in full beam this weekend. With a more co-operative rear end on the Renault, which is also feeling more comfortable on the medium tyre, he shocked with third quickest time in P3 on Friday and backed it up with fifth place on the grid.
Lance Stroll managed sixth but 0.34sec behind Hulkenberg. Which will serve only to prompt more pondering about how quickly the pink car might go with Sebastian Vettel in it, although not necessarily at Silverstone, where Vettel has a six-seven qualifying deficit to his team mates over his F1 career.
Pierre Gasly, fabulous for Alpha Tauri last weekend, excelled even more this time, qualifying seventh, in direct contrast to team mate Daniil Kvyat, who had a time deleted and went out in Q1.
Charles Leclerc could not match last weekend’s heroics in the Ferrari and qualified only eighth. “Strategy might be a thing,” he said, “but we are seeing more degradation and having more trouble managing the tyres. We shouldn’t expect a podium. This time, I think, is a more realistic picture,” he offered, candid as ever. Vettel, the best part of four-tenths away in Q2 and starting 12th, no doubt concurred.
Alex Albon lines up ninth, the best part of half a second shy of team-mate Verstappen. He was happy with his sixth quickest Q2 lap on mediums but was grimacing after Q3. “It was tricky. You go out and it’s always something different. I couldn’t improve on new softs versus old mediums.”
For the first time in 2020 McLaren failed to get two cars into Q3. Lando Norris starts 10th and Carlos Sainz, a couple of tenths away in Q2 after a prep lap that wasn’t ideal, lines up 13th.
It might be the same stage and the same actors as one week ago, but tomorrow’s performance promises to be different. And whatever the paddock commotion, I can’t help but wish for a starring role for The Hulk.
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2020 F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix qualifying results
|1||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1min 25.154sec|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1min 25.217sec|
|3||Nico Hülkenberg||Racing Point||1min 26.082sec|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1min 26.176sec|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||1min 26.297sec|
|6||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||1min 26.428sec|
|7||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1min 26.534sec|
|8||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1min 26.614sec|
|9||Alex Albon||Red Bull||1min 26.669sec|
|10||Lando Norris||McLaren||1min 26.778sec|
|11||Esteban Ocon||Renault||1min 27.011sec*|
|12||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1min 27.078sec|
|13||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||1min 27.083sec|
|14||Romain Grosjean||Haas||1min 27.254sec|
|15||George Russell||Williams||1min 27.455sec|
|16||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri||1min 27.882sec|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1min 28.236sec|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1min 28.430sec|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1min 28.433sec|
|20||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||1min 28.493sec|
*Driver will move back three places due to a penalty