David Croft Writes for Silverstone

The Sunday night after the British Grand Prix is always a quiet affair. Quite frankly it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open for any longer than a few seconds after I slump into the sofa, such has been the hectic nature of the past few days. I’m sure, if you were present at the home of the Formula 1 World Championship this year, your Sunday night was fairly similar.

 

It’s a Festival week, a chance to catch up with old friends, meet some new friends and enjoy the best drivers tackle one of the toughest challenges on one of the greatest tracks in the world. As ever I stayed on one of the campsites, although my Empire RV was pretty luxurious compared to the tens of thousands of tents that were pitched for the weekend. A little footnote about the RV, despite what my Sky colleague Simon Lazenby may have tweeted on Friday evening, there wasn’t a party at 3.30am and I’m glad to say that those on the Whittlebury Park Campsite with me didn’t decide to come along in the middle of the night. I’ll get him back next year on that :))

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

So what a day it was. A glorious Silverstone day really complete with sunshine and showers. Let’s face it, a day watching F1 cars at the home of the World Championship is never complete without the full cycle of British weather!

But a week last Friday, it was just fantastic to be part of Williams’ 40th Anniversary celebrations and how wonderful it was too, to see so many people turn out to join in the celebrations. If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, if you weren’t, I’m sorry you couldn’t make it, but let me just say that the sight of the FW14B, back on a racetrack, where it belongs, not only made the hairs stand on the back of my neck, but brought a little tear to the eye as well.

The great and good of Williams past and present came along, chatted and shared stories from the past, mingled with the fans and every single one of them loved every single minute. And why shouldn’t they? This was a day where the love for one of the great teams of F1 history, was totally in evidence. Where it was right to celebrate the past and Williams’ key part in the sport over the last four decades.

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

It was hot in Baku over the weekend, humid too. The kind of place where even with a fresh breeze blowing in off the sea, it was difficult to keep your cool. Drivers struggled to keep their cars on the track, tempers flared over team radio and we had so much debris flying off the cars that the race had to be stopped to clear it all up.

It needed some restraint out there. But a while after Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez had rather lost it with Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon for the crashes that ruined their race, and shortly before Lewis Hamilton had the issues with his head restraint that cost him the win, Sebastian Vettel completely lost his head and provided us all with one of the biggest talking points in the sport for a long while.

 

To see a four-time world champion steer into another competitor or, if we’re being as generous as we possibly could be, not take any action to avoid steering into another competitor, was just wrong, whichever way you looked at it.

In the words of Hamilton, “Seb disgraced himself”. He’s right to say it – and, judging by the reaction I saw from the fans, plenty agreed. Although there were some that thought that Seb didn’t do anything wrong and that he’d actually been brake tested by the Mercedes driver in the first place.

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

All the talk, as we went into the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, was of the two title contenders and how the latest instalment of their Championship battle would play out. In the end, it was Valtteri Bottas who stole the headlines and very much forced his way into the fight. If it really was a two horse race before, then the Finn produced a timely reminder not to count him out.

As it was in Sochi when he picked up his maiden win, Bottas had to survive a late charge from Sebastian Vettel, and once again, he showed that he’s a man who doesn’t crack easily.

His start was excellent, lightening reactions that were rightly questioned but proved to be totally fair and above board. I’ve had a fair few tweets on the subject, some of you it seems have been playing the start back over and over again and think that Valtteri did move before the lights went out. But to me, it was only when Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo raised the question of a jump start over the team radio that there was any doubts of his getaway.

 

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

Two topics of conversation dominated the #AskCrofty tweets following the Monaco Grand Prix.

  1. Was Kimi robbed of the win or just too slow?
  2. Is it time for Formula 1 to say goodbye to Monte Carlo?

On the first point, it could be a little of both. Certainly at the time it looked to both Martin Brundle and myself that Sebastian Vettel had been given the preferential strategy on his way to victory. But you could argue too that Kimi’s pace in the lead up to the pit stops wasn’t fast enough. After he pitted, the fact that he was caught up in traffic slowed him down sufficiently for Sebastian to leap frog him at the stop and take the lead.

Seb had put in a series of strong laps and you can’t take anything away from his performance. But on a day when it was widely predicted that the ‘overcut’ would be the best way to go on strategy it was interesting, to say the least, that Ferrari played that strategy out to the extent that one team mate took the win from the other.

They could, for instance, have brought Sebastian in a lap earlier than they did, which would have kept Kimi in front, and then let them scrap it out for the win. Surely, that would have been fairer given that Kimi had taken pole and led the early stages, normally the prerequisite for the optimum strategy between team mate.

There’s also a suspicion that Kimi was required to turn his engine down for whatever reason following the pit stops. Not confirmed by Ferrari of course, but certainly one explanation as to why, when running in 2nd place, he was lapping a second a lap slower.

There’s nothing like a good conspiracy theory in F1 and it should be noted that even if there were team orders, Ferrari did nothing wrong in executing them. To many, Sebastian winning the race is what Ferrari should have been aiming for, given that he is ahead in the Championship and consistent enough for the Scuderia to be backing that particular prancing horse for the title. To others Kimi was entitled to a little bit more support from his team, after all he was the man who had won pole on the Saturday and it was only the 6th race of the season after all.

Personally, I don’t like team orders, never have, especially when they alter the winner of a race. But they happen and sometimes for good reason. Formula 1 is a team sport after all and the interests of the team should come first. But in this case, Kimi’s pace wasn’t putting the Ferrari win in jeopardy, and to our knowledge he wasn’t asked to comply with a win for his team mate. His reaction on the podium suggested that whatever had been agreed pre-race, had played out to a different tune during the 78 laps. If Kimi was robbed, he wasn’t an accessory to it and how that affects him during the rest of the season will be fascinating to watch.

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

What a race that was then! From crying Ferrari fans, to wheel to wheel contact, to a terrific scrap for the lead and ultimately a driver at the top of his game, expertly backed up by his team, taking a hard fought victory. The 2017 Spanish Grand Prix had a little bit of everything and what a joy it was to be a part of.

It was a weekend of surprises, such a contrast to the Spanish Grands Prix once upon a time where the order the cars crossed the line at the end of the first lap invariably didn’t change up to the Chequered Flag. I’ve talked over some dull races at this track let me tell you.

But from the outset this felt like a different weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya. The wind of change in the sport at the moment, felt like it had blown through and was starting to make a difference. Yes, we had the cold wind and heavy rain on Thursday, not the best surprise, and certainly not what I wanted as I’d left my coat back in the UK. It never rains in Spain – unless you’re standing on some plain somewhere – does it?

Well, it did, I got soaked and I’ve had a cold ever since. Apologies for the croaky voice on Sunday afternoon but, to be fair, I’d had plenty to get excited about by the time Lewis Hamilton crossed the line.

When the fans arrived on Friday they found a whole new Fanzone to entertain. Zip lines, giant transformers, an alternative podium that you could stand on and have your picture taken, just a few of the new initiatives for the paying public. At Silverstone, you guys are well catered for. The circuit does whatever it can to provide a festival atmosphere that you can all enjoy, and it was timely that a few of the Silverstone team were in Barcelona to check out what was on offer and see if they can have it in place for the British Grand Prix in July.

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

So Valtteri Bottas became the 107th different driver to win a Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix on Sunday. The 5th from Finland, which is pretty astounding since we’ve only ever had 8 Finnish drivers race in the sport, and the first time we’ve had two Finns on the podium since Heiki Kovalainen won in Hungary in 2008.

I do like a good stat as you may know by now, but I also like to see good guys do well, so behind the stats the mere fact that Valtteri was stood on the top step of the podium was more than enough to put a smile on my face in Sochi on Sunday afternoon.

“If I didn’t think I could beat Lewis then I should stay at home” the race winner had told Ted Kravitz in a feature we broadcast on Sky F1 in our pre-race build up. It was a lovely feature too, where Valtteri took Ted back to his home town, showed him where he first went Karting, his school, the restaurant where they serve up the Bottas Burger, and also where our intrepid Paddock Reporter ended up in a frozen lake, all in the line of duty.

Crofty's Tracks 2017

Ride The Night Away - Little Steven

He’s back and out brings a tear to the eye to think that this is his first album in 20 years. Little Steven - Springsteen’s right hand man, activist, pioneer of the Jersey Shore sound, actor, producer, writer and without doubt the coolest man on the planet - has finally remembered that he can sing, and boy can he play!

Soulfire is the album, without doubt a contender for album of the year, proper R&B, boisterous, brassy, bold and bloody brilliant. Ride The Night Away was originally recorded by Jimmy Barnes, later featured on Southside Johnny’s album Better Days and now reunited with it’s owner. You’ll be hooked after the first listen, horns meet classic rock and roll guitars and the result is truly outstanding.

 

Crofty's Tracks 2017

We Don’t Know - The Strumberellas

More top music from Canada, this time from Ontario six-piece The Strumberellas. We Don’t Know is the bands favourite track from their last album ‘Hope’ and it’s easy to see why. It’s catchy sing-along chorus should have you hooked pretty quickly, I know it did me, from the first time I came across the track. The song made the Top 20 of the US Alternative Chart when it was released last Autumn, such a shame it didn’t get more airplay in the UK. Why it didn’t, I certainly Don’t Know?

 

David Croft Writes for Silverstone

So, here’s your starter for ten this week. Is it just me or are we falling in love with Fratelli d’Italia once again? You don’t know the song? Trust me you do. It goes something like this Da da da daaa, da da da daaa, da da da daaa, da da da daaa. You’ve got it, it’s the national anthem, one of the most jolly happy national anthems you could ever wish for and one that, for the 226th time in Formula 1 history, was played out in Bahrain on Sunday night.

After the fireworks had left their red stains on the night sky, Sebastian Vettel stepped out, dancing his way onto the podium – note to Seb here, the Egyptian Walk isn’t really a local dance in this part of the Middle East, but it was a nice try. The trophy he said, “is really special here, one of the best of the season”, and he should know, it’s the third time he’s held it aloft.

But it’s the first time he’s done so as a Ferrari driver and you can tell that it means so much to him. The Scuderia is back, ladies and gentlemen, and all is right with the world. After a long period of expectation, followed by exasperation, the most famous team of them all has appeared on the track in 2017, taken two of the first three races, backed up their winter testing form and look like genuine championship contenders.

Now, come on Crofty you say, there’s a long way to go this season and anything could happen. Which is true, it could, but that’s not the point. The point is that they look like contenders rather than flattering to deceive, and after three years where Mercedes have lead the way to the extent that you felt they could have beaten the rest with one wheel tied behind their backs, isn’t it great not only to see a challenger emerge, but for that challenger to be Ferrari.