Formula 1 World Championship - British Grand Prix
I always find it amazing that apart from the United States only the Brits know how to give value for money at major sporting events. Indianapolis, as we all know is a major festival with lots of pomp, ceremony where the racing is just part of the whole thing, albeit the most important part.
It is the same at Silverstone. People start arriving on Monday to stake their claims to favourite locations within the campsites. They walk, talk, meet new friends, share a beer or three, throw a few steaks on the barbeque all in all they have a great time. The teams arrive on Wednesday and start giving endless interviews to the world's media.
This year there was a story which was blown ski high-the row between Damon Hill and his boss Tom Walkinshaw. I don't know if this sort of thing is commonplace in the United States or not but I have never ever heard of a team manager humiliating his No 1 driver, the current world champion 72 hours before their home race. Well, I certainly have now!
"Wake up Damon, you are sitting on your laurels" was the message and to give Hill credit he did deliver on the day. Admittedly he was lucky to have little Shinji Nakano drop out just before the end but that is motor racing and it did enable the 1996 champion to grab his first championship point at the 9th race of the season!! This time last year he was leading the championship by a mile.
Anyway, the Brits were deliriously happy that their hero finally came good. In the rather public debate they were all on Hill's side and there were plenty of messages round the track with "Give him a decent car Tom" to mention one of the more polite ones. Schumacher was taking his retirement quite well: "It is normal in a mechanical sport for things to go wrong, it was our turn," he said. They were certainly competitive until his Ferrari's wheel bearing and Irvine's half-shaft gave up the ghost. As his manager said afterwards-rather here than in Germany in two weeks time.
Villeneuve's victory certainly made the championship more interesting; he is only four points behind Schumacher with several races to come. The reason for saying several is because one or two may not take place; for instance the Portuguese is very much in doubt.
There was a major milestone at Silverston; this was the Williams' team 100th Grand Prix victory. It was at Silverstone in 1979 that Clay Regazzoni clinched the very first, since than Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg, Riccardo Patrese, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Thierry Boutsen, Alain Prost, David Coulthard, Damon Hill, Heinz- Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve have all made their contributions by winning for the team.
Nigel Mansell made far and away the greatest contribution to this wonderful achievement; he won no fewer than 28 races in Frank Williams' cars. Damon Hill is not far behind with 21 victories. The sad thing is that just before the British Grand Prix the designer of the brilliant Renault engine Monsieur Dudot told reporters that is his opinion Hill would be leading the championship now had he not been sacked by his boss. And so say all of us..
Goodyear also did a super job at Silverstone. The Akron based tyre giant had a few frights during the season, Bridgestone have been coming up with excellent new designs but the Americans fought back and claimed the first five places in the race. The fact that they have won every race this year is not really surprising as all the major teams run on their tyres so whether it was Schumacher's turn to win or Villeneuve's was not really relevant. The crunch will come at the end of the season when teams will have an opportunity to change. In view of Goodyear's tremendous pedigree-they supplied Henry Ford's racing tyres in 1901(!) I think the majors-Williams, Ferrari, Benetton and McLaren will stay with them. After the race there was a pop concert where-amongst others- Damon Hill played the guitar and a wonderful time was had by all. It amazes me that none of the Europeans are capable of putting on a similar kind of show. In Spain the race finishes and everybody just drifts off and it is very much the same everywhere else.
Except, mercifully, at Silverstone.
Long may it continue!