A season of simmering intensity
So another Mercedes win, this time for Lewis, in home-town-hero fashion. A commanding victory, on a breezy afternoon in Northamptonshire that could so easily have seen another 2014 silver one-two. They make it look easy, don't they, this Mercedes super-team?
Yet only a degree away from the smiles, the high-fives, the 'thanks to the family, the team, God' and every other party involved in creating this winning machine, there's a sub-plot of competitive intensity to the 2014 season that's as hot as any in living memory.
Let's look at Ferrari, by way of example. Already the sub-par-but-not-awful F14 T has cost the Scuderia a team principal. Now, we learn, (see F1 Insider p16) that engine chief Luca Marmorini is another casualty of poor performance. And others seem certain to follow. Perhaps even Alonso himself, a warrior again at Silverstone, but a man whose top-line career is not blessed with years to waste. Rumours placing him in a Honda-driven McLaren for 2015 refuse to die, however unlikely that may seem after the rancour of 2007.
Then Williams, returning to the head of the field with welcome verve, after too long in the wilderness. But how close they skirted disaster before securing that bold P2 thanks to emerging superstar Valtteri Bottas. The margins between success and failure seem oh-so-finely drawn this tense year.
Red Bull, too, are a team operating at their limit. Our cover star this month, Daniel Ricciardo, is doing a truly remarkable job of repeatedly trouncing his quadruple-champion team-mate Seb Vettel (see p38), and the intensity of his push for success is causing knock-on grief not only for the guy on the other side of the garage, but also for Red Bull's partner engine supplier, Renault. Jean-Michel Jalinier, president of Renault Sport, has been expelled like a pip from a squeezed lemon into retirement, with former Caterham F1 boss, Cyril Abiteboul, a one-time Renault management graduate trainee, taking his place. Will the younger man be better equipped to cope with the pressure? We shall see...
In Abiteboul's wake lies a further tale of dreams shattered by the relentless demands of this sometimes cruel sport. Tony Fernandes parachuted into F1 with fine ideas about how team ownership might drive the growth of his airline. Alas, like so many before him, he has discovered that cut-price F1 is a road that leads only to failure and ruptured bank accounts. He has now exited, leaving the remnants of ambition to be picked up by a mixed-bag investment consortium.
It's enough to make any participant want to stop and pause for breath. Except that's not possible in F1. This flat-out year will be a sprint finish. Two more races in July, the briefest August interlude to prevent serial nervous breakdowns, then eight races in 14 weeks as we haul from Monza to Abu Dhabi. Just four points separate Hamilton and Rosberg as we stand atop the mid-season fulcrum, while behind them all hell breaks loose in the brawl to be best of the rest.
This one's a classic, don't doubt it - and don't miss a single second.