Formula One: A pain in the rain at Silverstone
So, can Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button deliver the goods for the faithful but sodden fans who are turning out in their droves this weekend to cheer them on to victory in the British Grand Prix?
The honest answer is that neither of them really knows after the changeable weather completely disrupted the first two practice sessions at Silverstone yesterday.
Their frustration echoed that of all of the drivers up and down the pitlane, because despite the dismal forecasts they had all come here hoping for at least some dry road running so they could discover whether their places in the pecking order really had changed because of the new technical rules.
“It's a shame today was so wet, because I really wanted to put on a good show for all the fans,” Hamilton said after setting the eighth and fourth fastest times.
“They had to brave some pretty cold and damp conditions all day, so I'm pleased that it looks like the weather will improve for the rest of the weekend. Fingers crossed.
“Despite the lack of running, today was actually quite encouraging; we tested a couple of things and I managed to pick up quite a decent feeling for the car.”
He might have gone faster in the second session, but encountered a slower car at a crucial moment. “It's going to be interesting tomorrow if it's dry,” he continued, “because I think our car is looking quite good.
“The new rear wing also felt quite positive, but we've still got to decide whether we carry it over into tomorrow and the race itself.”
Hamilton resumed his record of visiting the race stewards, after avoiding them recently in Valencia, but only because he wanted to be sure of the correct usage of the drag-reducing DRS rear wing in wet conditions.
“The rules don't clearly state whether you can use it on slicks in wet conditions, which is what we did this morning,” he explained. “They just wanted to understand so that they could tighten the wording of the regulations for the next race. I also suggested a couple of tweaks to make the regulations clearer and safer, so it was quite a useful visit.”
Button admitted that he ended the day feeling extremely frustrated, mainly because so many questions went unanswered because of the conditions.
“We thought we'd get some good running under our belts this afternoon, but the rain meant that didn't happen, and we didn't really get a chance to evaluate everything,” he said.
“We don't really know if our new rear wing is an improvement over the older version. It has a different downforce level, but I'm still not sure what we're going to run for the rest of the weekend.”
He took one positive vibe from the day, however. “The new facilities here at Silverstone are great — the only problem is that, at our end of the pitlane, we can't see the fans and they can't see us! Still, it's a fantastic effort from everybody involved.”
Despite his little spat with Christian Horner over the issue of the new rules governing the blown diffusers, team boss Martin Whitmarsh sounded optimistic.
“From an engineering perspective, today was quite frustrating because the constantly changing weather and track conditions made it difficult to gather any meaningful comparative data on the new components and new engine modes we'd brought to this race,” he admitted.
“Nonetheless, we were able to conduct some useful running, and the onus is now on the engineers to devise a good direction for the rest of the weekend, which looks set to be more predictable than today's wet weather.”