Yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix was about fighting back, in more ways than one. For Lewis Hamilton, it was about making the most of a pit-lane start after a crash in qualifying. For Daniel Ricciardo, it was about overcoming a poor start and a grid penalty, and for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, it was about reminding everyone that they are still competitive.

Vettel had lined up second on the grid, behind the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, with the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen behind them. Would Bottas (who took the third pole of his career) be able to convert his excellent qualifying performance into victory? Well, that opportunity took a blow into the first corner, with Vettel getting a better start and diving down the inside of turn 1 to take the lead. Behind the leaders, a little bit of chaos erupted.

First, Ricciardo took a spin when tagged by the errant McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, who had been hit by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Ricciardo was able to keep going but both Magnussen and Vandoorne were out. Further up the road, the second Haas of Romain Grosjean took out the Force India of Esteban Ocon; a spot of clumsy driving from Grosjean saw him bump into the side of Ocon and give his fellow Frenchman not one but two punctures. Grosjean would earn a 10-second penalty and two penalty points for the incident.

The first incident triggered an early safety car spell, allowing Hamilton to close up on the pack and giving Ricciardo a chance to pit and get his car checked for damage. Once the race resumed, both men would start to charge up the order. Hamilton was aided by a new engine, allowing him to turn up the power and really push. Ricciardo, with a somewhat temperamental Renault engine, had to be more careful, but this didn’t stop him from pulling off a few trademark late braking moves into turn 1.

Up front, Vettel eked out a small gap over Bottas, who in turn was keeping ahead of Raikkonen. Behind them was Verstappen, who lacked the power to threaten for a podium, whilst further back, Felipe Massa, enjoying his final home grand prix, was frustrating Fernando Alonso. With superior Mercedes power, the Williams was keeping the McLaren at bay, despite struggling with the super-soft tyres as the pit stop window approached. With that window approaching, Bottas began to slowly reel Vettel back in, then Mercedes pulled the trigger on the stops, swapping the super-softs for the softs and sending Bottas out, hoping to make the undercut work. It nearly did, with Vettel only just coming out ahead after his own stop, but it wasn’t quite enough. On the soft tyre the Ferrari looked stronger, and Vettel began to pull away again.

For Hamilton and Ricciardo, their strategy was inverted – long stints on the soft tyre with the faster super-soft tyre coming later. This enabled Hamilton to briefly lead the race, then end up in fourth, with the chance to chase down Raikkonen for a podium. Ricciardo ended up fifth but with a faster Verstappen on his tail, and it wasn’t long before Ricciardo let his teammate through. Massa was continuing to hold up Alonso, with Sergio Perez in the Force India closing in to join in the fun. The McLaren worked well through the winding corners of the middle sector but couldn’t live with the Mercedes-powered Williams elsewhere, allowing Massa to just about stay ahead, even with Alonso picking up DRS. Whereas last season Massa’s ‘final’ Brazilian race saw him crash out, this time he would hold on to pick up seventh place and do himself proud. Alonso had to settle for eighth, fending off Perez. Nico Hulkenberg picked up tenth and the final point for Renault, albeit a lap behind the rest.

Hamilton, despite a late charge, wasn’t quite able to challenge Raikkonen for third, whilst Bottas wasn’t able to threaten Vettel for the win. The result was a much-needed tonic for Ferrari, after a dismal spell, especially in Asia, completely ended their title hopes. For Vettel too, the win was much needed, his fifth of the season and a reminder to everyone of his quality. He will now want to build upon that going into F1’s final race in Abu Dhabi.

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The drivers’ championship and constructors’ championship are both settled, but there is still plenty to fight for as Formula arrives at its penultimate destination, Interlagos in Brazil.

Firstly, there’s pride. Ferrari imploded once they arrived in Asia, but they will want to lay down markers in the final two rounds of the season. Red Bull will also want to maintain their recent strong form. Mercedes will want to remind everyone why they are top dogs. For drivers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the two will want to emphasise their skills and motivation, despite their title battle being resolved.

For other teams, there is still a lot to play for. The top four are settled – Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Force India have locked in those places – further back, the battle for fifth, and the important prize money it represents, is still very much on. Williams currently occupy that spot on 76 points, putting them comfortably clear of Toro Rosso, who are on 53 points. However, one good race for Toro Rosso could see that gap reduced ahead of the final race, whilst Renault (48 points) and Haas (47 points) won’t have given up the fight either. They are all vying for position, so we could see some juicy scraps before the season concludes.

Brazil will offer a passionate test. The atmosphere is usually incredible, the weather is not consistent and the track combines some raw power with dramatic curves and turns that can out-fox even the most experienced racers. Diving downhill into the Senna Ss and snapping out onto Reta Oposta is one of the most exciting portions of any circuit anywhere in the world, with turn 4 being a surprisingly tight affair – it is all too easy to run wide here. The sequence from 6-12 is going to suit the Red Bulls, with a combo of slow and medium speed corners that just keep on coming. It’s a good track that has seen some high drama (including the controversial title decider in 2012, with Vettel winning his third title that year), and the two nerve-wracking deciders in 2007 and 2008.

Finally, this will be Felipe Massa’s final Brazilian Grand Prix. It was meant to be last year, and Massa actually had quite the emotional send off then, but he stayed on an extra year at the request of Williams. This time though, looks set to actually be his final Brazilian race. It would be fitting if he could get on the podium, though it seems unlikely.

Would the hot, thin-air environment of Mexico City provide the backdrop to the F1 title decider, or would the world championship journey onward one more round?

In qualifying, the Red Bull of Max Verstappen offered up a possible wildcard, top of Q1 and Q2, yet it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who took pole with a huge lap in Q3, just piping the young Dutchman to the front. Directly behind Vettel was his title rival Lewis Hamilton, parking his Mercedes in third. With seven world titles plus one highly rated young man starting in the top three, the stage was set for a feisty opening lap, which was duly delivered.

At the start Hamilton exploited the slipstream of Vettel’s Ferrari, who initially got clear of Verstappen, who then also attempted to use the slipstream of Vettel, tucking in right behind the Ferrari, with Hamilton going out wide, the three of them almost abreast heading into turn 1. Verstappen dove into the first corner with Vettel immediately to his right, squeezing hard but fair, however Verstappen was equally as aggressive, and Vettel ended up clipping his front wing on the rear-right tyre of the Red Bull. Hamilton attempted to surge past his title rival and Vettel, struggling in the wake of that initial contact with Verstappen, did more damage to his front wing on the rear-right tyre of Hamilton’s car.

Whereas Verstappen escaped without any problems, Hamilton suffered a puncture, effectively ruining any hope he had of competing at the front. He limped back to the pits, but so did Vettel, who had no choice but to replace his mangled front wing. This meant the two title contenders were reduced to the back of the pack! Up ahead, Verstappen was starting to pull away from the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel and Hamilton would start to climb back up the order, though Vettel had an easier time of it, with Hamilton asking on the radio if his car had damage, as he was finding it difficult to get close enough to attack anyone. Both of them had their quest to rise up the field aided by a number of problems for Renault-powered cars, with Daniel Ricciardo suffering engine failure (with a brand new engine no less) in his Red Bull, Nico Hulkenberg retiring his Renault following a battery pack issue (that required him to exit the car very carefully, lest he get a shock), newcomer Brendon Hartley forced to pull out over when his Toro Rosso started billowing smoke, and Carlos Sainz withdrawing his Renault from proceedings at the urging of the team.

Hartley’s exit from the race triggered a virtual safety car, under which Hamilton pitted, exchanging his soft tyres for super-softs. At this point his race changed, and he was able to start gradually climbing past some of the cars in front. The title would still be his unless Vettel could somehow reach second place, which was looking more and more unlikely. Bottas was some 30 seconds clear of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, and by the time Vettel had made it to fourth, he was some 30 seconds behind Raikkonen with only a few laps to go.

Both Hamilton and Vettel enjoyed some battles as they moved up the field. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was quite happy to try and hold them up as best they could and briefly succeeded, before the stark lack of power in the Honda engine was exposed. Succumbing to Hamilton didn’t mean a complete disaster for Alonso – he finished tenth and in doing so, took a point, something of a rarity for himself and the team.

At the front, Verstappen was serene and supreme. Despite being asked by Red Bull to take it easy, he kept setting faster lap times, opening up a 20-second advantage on Bottas. He was dominant, taking his second win of 2017 and his third overall. With second place Bottas shrunk the gap between himself and Vettel, whose fourth place was not enough to extend the world championship fight for another round – Lewis Hamilton, despite only managing ninth, joined Vettel on four world titles.

The magnitude of that achievement cannot be overstated. Hamilton can now say he is, without question, the most successful British F1 driver of all time. He is now joint third on the list of champions, alongside Vettel and Alain Prost, with Juan Manuel Fangio (five) and Michael Schumacher (seven) still to be caught. To claim the title with a ninth place finish is unusual, but Formula 1 is often quite unusual!

The day itself though, belonged to Max Verstappen, who put in a powerful, controlled performance to win by a very clear margin over Bottas. It was in some ways reminiscent of the dominant drives Vettel enjoyed for Red Bull, and possibly a mark of what’s to come. On a day where an established F1 great won the world championship, it was a potential challenger to the throne who asserted his authority, right from the start. It makes for an intriguing 2018, even as the 2017 is yet to end.

It’s a short hop from Texas to Mexico City, for the 18th round of the F1 World Championship, where the title could be wrapped up, quite comfortably, by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. He need only finish fifth, even if chief rival Sebastian Vettel wins, to claim his fourth championship.

Sounds easy right? Well, it may not be so simple. Despite the seemingly fast nature of the track, the high elevation and thin air at the circuit means cars will run in high downforce trim. This means Ferrari and perhaps even Red Bull could go faster than Mercedes, leaving open the possibility that Hamilton will have to wait one more round for title number four. On the other hand, there might be enough grunt in that Mercedes engine, over those long straights, to see it through, and Mercedes won here in both 2015 and 2016, so it’s hardly a certainty that the Silver Arrows will struggle.

The track itself is a somewhat sedate version of the track that previously hosted races into the early 90s. The run to turn 1 will provide overtaking opportunities and it was the run into turn 4 that saw some feisty battles between Vettel and Max Verstappen last year. Part of the track runs through the grandstands, providing an absorbing atmosphere, and local boy Sergio Perez is likely to get roared on every on every time he runs through there.

So, will Hamilton win the title on Sunday? Or will there be a twist to the tale?

The Formula 1 train pulled into Austin with Mercedes on the brink of their fourth consecutive constructor’s championship, and Lewis Hamilton on the edge of his fourth driver’s championship. It also saw Carlos Sainz make his Renault debut, New Zealander Brendon Hartley made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso, and Daniil Kvyat briefly returned to Formula 1, also with Toro Rosso, standing in for a weekend amidst a complicated arrangement involving new drivers and transfers.

It was a typically scinitilating performance from Hamilton over the entire weekend, with the Briton top of P1, P2 and P3, and also top throughout qualifying, nailing his 11th pole of the season. Following an excited American boxing-style introduction for the drivers (which, to be honest, does not suit the sport at all) it was time to go racing, with Hamilton joined on the front row by title rival Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari man actually got the better start, squeezing into the lead at turn 1, whilst behind the leading pair Valtteri Bottas would almost immediately come under pressure from the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen a little further back in the second Ferrari. Initially Vettel would begin to open up a small gap to Hamilton, but within a few laps Hamilton was reeling Vettel back in, and on lap six, pounced aVt the end of the DRS run into turn 12. Vettel tried to fight back but lacked the pace, leaving Hamilton to open up a gap of his own.

Behind them, Bottas appeared to be struggling but Ricciardo was unable to get by him – the Mercedes had too much power on the straights for even one of the trademark late lunges Ricciardo is so fond of, and the ultra-soft tyres on Ricciardo’s car were getting chewed up in the dirty air behind Bottas. It seemed that the Finn would hold on to third place, at least for the immediate future. Behind all that, Max Verstappen (who had started 16th due to grid penalties) was making his way up the order and a another potential battle was looming between the Force India pair of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire early on for Renault, as was Pascal Wehrlein for Sauber. Shortly after his first stop, Daniel Ricciardo joined them.

His engine conked out – leaving him to pull over and park up. It was a disappointing and early end to a race that might have seen him battle for a podium, but it simply wasn’t to be. Car trouble also led to Fernando Alonso – on course to score points for McLaren – retiring as well.

We were treated to a reminder of Sainz’ talent when he came up to the back of Perez. The Force India driver was stuck behind his teammate Ocon, who was in turn being held up by the Williams of Felipe Massa. Perez was in a typically aggressive move, wanting Ocon to move out the way, but his team refused to impose orders. When Massa eventually pitted (leaving it quite late), Ocon was released but Sainz was able to use DRS into turn 12 to pounce on Perez, with the pair racing hard but fair around turns 13 through 19 before Sainz made the move stick. Sainz would take off after Ocon, whilst elsewhere, Verstappen was starting to get dicey with the Ferraris and Bottas. In fact, Verstappen would force Ferrari into a second set of stops, after he himself pitted for the super-soft compound. This promoted Bottas to second, but on softs, so it wasn’t long before he had Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen closing in. In fact, Vettel swept between Bottas and a lapped Vandoorne on the exit of turn 1 to retake second place, a move that looked quite good on camera!

Raikkonen also managed to take Bottas off guard a few laps later, leaving Verstappen to trail the Mercedes. It was with a handful of laps to go that Bottas pitted, with the soft tyre unable to generate the desired performance. This released Verstappen to chase after Raikkonen and a possible podium.

Chase he did. Despite the Ferrari having more power, Verstappen was swiftly gaining upon Raikonnen, and soon the two were battling for position, with Verstappen only having a narrow window to make a move and make it stick. That moment would come on the very final lap, through the sweeps and curves near the end of the lap, with Verstappen proving to be very happy with a podium, as anyone would be after starting 16th!

There was however, a sting to the tale. In making his move all four tyres had left the track, which left the stewards with a decision – they gave the young Dutchman a five second time penalty, demoting him back to fourth. It was gutting for Verstappen, who has since hs feelings very clear.

Up front, Hamilton was able to make a one-stop strategy work, closing out a straight forward win that doesn’t quite assure him of title no.4, but puts him on the brink of it. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 66 points with a maximum of 75 remaining. Should that advantage be more than 50 points come the end of the next race, Hamilton will be world champion. His team, Mercedes, did clinch the constructor’s championship, for the fourth year in a row, continuing their dominance of the turbo hybrid era. What will it take to stop them?

Formula 1 returns to Austin, Texas, for the sixth time, and for the second time the venue could see Lewis Hamilton crowned F1 champion – if results go his way.

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When the Circuit of the Americas was designed, inspiration was drawn from several other venues, including Silverstone’s famous Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence, the Senna Ss at Interlagos, and some of Hockenheim’s big bends. The track also features a big uphill charge to the first corner, and turn 1 is a big, beefy left-hander, on one of F1’s rarities – a counter-clockwise circuit.

Since the inaugural event here in 2012, the US Grand Prix has enjoyed something of a boon in popularity, which is good for Formula 1. F1 has traditionally struggled to crack the US market, despite at one stage hosting races at the spiritual home of US motorsport, Indianapolis. The on-going success of the Austin venue might finally mean that F1 can look forward to a long-term presence State-side.

The British are Coming

Lewis Hamilton has won at COTA four out of five times, including the opening race in 2012. The only other winner here is Sebastian Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2013. Hamilton’s dominance of the venue saw him claim the title here in 2015, following an exciting and dramatic semi-wet grand prix, which including a very bullish push past Nico Rosberg into turn 1, and a late spin from Rosberg to hand Hamilton the win and the title. From 2017’s perspective, a Hamilton win would leave Vettel needing to finish no lower than fifth to keep the title fight alive for another round, whilst if Hamilton were second, Vettel could afford to finish no lower than eighth. Should Hamilton finish third or lower, the title race would definitely rumble on to Mexico.

Wet Weather

It’s entirely possible for rain to impact the race on Sunday. If that happens, it could bring the Red Bulls into play, whilst it could make things more interesting between the Mercs and Ferraris. Rain might also inspire McLaren to a points finish, whereas dry weather, with some of the powerful straights, could hinder them.

Opportunities

The pit straight is a DRS zone, so expect overtakes, or least attempts, into turn 1. If a driver can stay close through the bendy section (turns 3-9), there could be chances at turn 11, whilst turn 12 comes at the end of another DRS zone, so there will be more opportunities there. This could be a good race for overtakes and battles.

I am not a lover of early starts, but I am prepared to put myself through it for Formula 1, so I was up at 5.40am, for a 6am race start in Suzuka. Could I have stayed in bed and spared myself a potentially dull race? Well, in hindsight, maybe I should have, for it wasn’t riveting to watch, even if Japan might prove the decisive blow in the world championship race. The key moment happened arguably before the race even began (as was the case in Malaysia last Sunday) when Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari developed a problem with a spark plug. Despite frantic efforts to fix the problem and despite starting the race, Vettel would be down on power and retiring after a few laps.

To add to the disappointment, Vettel had started second on the grid (bumped up after Valtteri Bottas took a five-place grid penalty), and might have been a threaten to Lewis Hamilton at some stage during the race. Instead, Vettel had to watch from the sidelines and hope that someone could take points off Hamilton. That person was most likely to be Max Verstappen, who moved up to second as Vettel dropped back.

The race became somewhat pedestrian, with only a handful of incidents to provide talking points. Carlos Sainz, in his final race for Toro Rosso (before he replaces Joylen Palmer at Renault) crashed out on the opening lap, whilst Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber joined him not too long after. Lance Stroll had a fairly dramatic late exit from the race when his tyre popped on the fast ‘Ss’ section of the track, nearly collecting Daniel Ricciardo in the process.

Ferrari suffered, not only with Vettel’s exit but a bit of first-lap hijinks between Kimi Raikkonen and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who stuck to the inside line around the Spoon and thus left Raikkonen with no choice but to run wide. Raikkonen (who had also taken a five-place grid penalty, and like Bottas, this was due to a gearbox change) did climb up the field quite swiftly, highlighting the good pace of the Ferrari, and for the third race in a row, leaving them to wonder what might have been. Up front, the tyre stops (switching from supersofts to softs in most cases) yielded better performances from Verstappen, who began to chip away at Hamilton’s lead. Hamilton was reporting problems with his rear tyres and later on, vibrations (not a driver’s best friend) in the car. Could Verstappen claim a second consecutive win?

Down the field there were a couple of potential duels between teammates that didn’t quite bear fruit, which would have come as a relief for Force India (Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have had a couple of accidents and with both cars in the points, the team didn’t want to risk another collision, denying Perez the opportunity to attack Ocon), and a similar situation developed as the Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean trailed Felipe Massa’s Williams. In the end Massa, struggling with his tyres, slipped wide and got messy into turn 1, and both Haas were able to force their way through.

The biggest moment of excitement (from Hamilton’s point of view) came very late on, as Verstappen began to creep toward DRS range and the pair came across a battling Massa and Fernando Alonso. Alonso was seeking to put his McLaren into the last points position but his charge to get past Massa was interrupted by Hamilton lapping him, and Alonso in turn disrupted Verstappen’s chase of Hamilton. It was enough for Hamilton to stay clear and win, an outcome that sees him put one hand on the championship.

He is now 59 points clear with only 100 remaining. Unless he has two or three very poor races, it is highly likely Hamilton will become the first British driver to win four world championships, and he could even make this happen next time out, in Austin, USA.

wpid-wp-1421964661354.pngFormula 1 returns to the land of the Rising Sun to a venue that has provided many a dramatic race and many a title decider. I’ve written before about the occasions this fast Suzuka circuit has seen – from 1987-1991 (among other times) the title was settled here, including all three of Ayrton Senna’s titles. A track tinged with tragedy too (Forza Jules), Suzuka is famous for being fast. The sequence from turns 3 through 6 is a testing set of snappy left-right curves that drivers enjoy, not least of all because they require the racers to hang on at high speed through them. With the faster cars of 2017 we should expect to see some very quick drives through this section.

Some parts of the track are deceptive – turn 13 for example, is slower than it appears, and turn 14, whilst being pretty high speed, might still prompt a gentle application of the brakes. Another variable here is the weather – it is not uncommon for rain to add a new dimension to the race.

In fact, for 2nd practice for this year’s Grand Prix, it did rain, enough to lead most drivers – whose supplies of wet weather tyres are limited – to not go out. In those circumstances Hamilton’s Mercedes was fastest – but in dry conditions in FP1, it was Sebastian Vettel who was narrowly quicker than Lewis. This was unexpected – the general belief was that Mercedes would be quicker around here.

What this adds up to are the conditions for a fascinating race. Vettel must win to keep his title hopes alive, and ideally he’d want Raikkonen to slot into second and help him out. If Vettel were to win all the remaining races he’d win the title regardless, but it’s bold to assume he’d win them all, therefore he must maximise every opportunity, starting here.

For the last time in the foreseeable future, F1 has graced the Sepang circuit in Malaysia with its presence, producing a race with some initially unexpected results, and a case of shooting one’s self in the foot. For the second race in succession, Ferrari had the initiative, and for the second time in a row they squandered it.

Whereas in Singapore driver error was to blame, here it was due to technical reasons. After Vettel had looked very quick in practice, a transmission problem conspired to rule him out of qualifying completely, forcing him to start last. This was bad luck for the German and it could not have come at a worse time – on a track where things had expected to be close, Ferrari actually looked to have an advantage on Mercedes. It was up to Raikkonen to hold up Hamilton’s title charge, but trouble developed for the Finn as the cars sat on the grid – he was wheeled off, with the bope of starting from the pit lane, but that hope would fade. 

So this left Hamilton (who had narrowly beaten Raikkonen to pole) to start with Verstappen and Ricciardo’s Red Bulls begins him. After a strong start from Valtteri Bottas to steal third, soon both Mercedes would come under pressure from the Red Bulls – Verstappen would take Hamilton for the lead within a few laps, whilst Ricciardo would get by Bottas a few laps later. The Red Bulls had looked pretty good in their own right during practice, and now one of them led a race, on merit, for the first time since 2013. Verstappen began to edge clear of Hamilton, who in turn kept clear of Ricciardo, who was in turn easing away from a disappointing Bottas. 

Meanwhile Vettel would begin to scythe his way through the field. The slower cars offered little resistance, though old rival Fernando Alonso did make a nuisance of himself for a few laps, despite, as ever, lacking power in his McLaren. Whereas virtually everyone was starting on supersoft tyres, Vettel started on softs, inverting the strategy, yet despite being on the slower tyre he was able to resume climbing up the field once he cleared Alonso. At the front, Verstappen continued to pull away.

For the top three things would remain fairly static for the most part, without much intrigue or excitement. However Ricciardo would have a brief tangle with Vettel, who had managed to climb to fourth, including dispatching Bottas without too much difficulty. By this stage Vettel was on the quicker supersoft tyre and Ricciardo was on the slower soft compound, but the supersofts are more fragile, and Ricciardo (at one point aided a little by a lapped Alonso, who didn’t leap immediately out of Vettel’s way) was able to fend off the one and only meaningful attack Vettel made. From there, Vettel’s tyres gave up, leaving the top three to remain as they were.

Hamilton could do nothing about Verstappen, but after practice had suggested Vettel might claw back a decent chunk of the gap, instead his championship lead increased to 34 points with five races to go. Vettel’s performance was exemplary, and an excellent piece of damage limitation, but for the second race in a row big opportunities have been missed. Meanwhile, Red Bull scored a rare double podium, and Verstappen’s comfortable, mature win, serves as a reminder of the young man’s talent. Married to a better engine, it’s clear the Red Bull drivers would be in the title race. 

Next up is Japan, a track that should favour Mercedes, but then again, Malaysia should have. As we bid goodbye to the nation, Ferrari are left to wonder what might have been.

It’s home Grand Prix time! And as it normal for the UK, the elements would play a role. The practice sessions took place in dry conditions but the Met Office was forecasting a 90% chance of rain come the start of the race – without rain during practice runs it was guesswork as to setup and tyre performance. It was also a gamble as to whether to start on inters or full wets – what would the weather do?! A brief opportunity did arise to do testing but the erratic performance of the precipitation rendered the information more or less pointless. It was, for me at least, a case of trusting my gut. With the forecast changing and hinting at prolonged rain, I went for full wets on both cars.

The choice proved correct. The rain fell for a considerable length of time, saturating the track. I opted for a two-stop strategy for both drivers and away we went.

From the beginning it became clear this was a three-tier race – those who had not run any wet weather practice, nor attempted a wet weather setup, languished behind everyone else, not aided by being on inters (which the game defaults to). Then came a second group – which my cars were attached to, along with the Drivezalot boys and one other. Then we had the leaders, who peeled away quickly. Once Drivezalot’s Morales had gotten ahead of a car in front of him he too began to pull away – leaving the rest of us to scrap for the lower points places. At one stage I had both cars in the points (yes, Taylor was keeping a reasonable pace for once), there was to be a new variable late on, and a miscalculation.

With only a few laps remaining the rain suddenly stopped, which would work in Thompson’s favour as he would gain a few places by sticking to wet tyres as others pitted. Thompson would claim 7th place – not a bad effort. Taylor was running in the points but I had underfuelled him; a last lap stop dropped him to 12th. Still, a third consecutive points finish keeps me hitting targets and staying comfortably clear of relegation.

In the title race, a Black Arrows 1-2 provided a lift to them at a time where other teams had been threatening. However, it was J Smith and not Thompson who won. J Hill of Mopar completed the podium. Those who kept on wet tyres were the ones who benefited here.