The Formula One paddock has been rocked by the death of popular and ever-present superfan Charaf-Eddin Ait-Tales.
The partially-blind Frenchman, who was a fixture on the F1 circuit for more than a decade and loved by drivers for his positive attitude, lost his battle with cancer last weekend.
Australian star Daniel Ricciardo was among a host of big names to pay tribute, tweeting: “Charaf sadly passed on the weekend. Loved when he was at the track, laughing and joking about something, mainly my terrible French. I’ll remember him for just getting on with it with a smile regardless of the cards he was dealt through his life. Thank you for being a bright light.”
Charaf sadly passed on the weekend. Loved when he was at the track, laughing and joking about something, mainly my terrible French. I’ll remember him for just getting on with it with a smile regardless of the cards he was dealt through his life. Thank you for being a bright light pic.twitter.com/mMJLBuqgiY
Charaf was such an amazing person. You always had a huge smile on your face every time we spoke together. Always so positive and always using the right words whenever I was feeling down. I’ll miss you, and the whole paddock will miss you. Rest In Peace my friend ❤️ pic.twitter.com/P1fAp7D7Qb
One of the most passionate fans of our sport I ever met! @charafeddinF1 you will be so missed! I watched the YT piece of you getting a ride in the 2-seater @F1 car. It made me so happy to see your joy. Another reminder of the importance to enjoy the moment & special experiences. pic.twitter.com/AoVCsUdKA6
“I’m so sorry to hear this!” added Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. “My good friend RIP, F1 community will always miss you and will never forget you. My thoughts with your family, I’ll keep our good times with myself forever.
F1 presenter Will Buxton was shattered. “I’m utterly cut up and so desperately sad to hear the news of the passing of our dear sweet, passionate, wonderful friend Charaf,” he tweeted. “One of life’s truly genuine people and the most beautiful soul. Everyone loved him. I’ll miss him awfully.”
Former drivers Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg also offered their condolences.
“Very sad news. Charaf was a true F1 lover with a unique feeling for it. Always smiling and friendly. The paddock will miss him,” Grosjean wrote.
Rosberg: “I’m so sorry to read this. My deepest condolences to the entire family. Charaf was such a special person always putting a smile on everyone’s face. We will miss you – Rest in Peace my friend!”
Charaf was a diehard Michael Schumacher who started losing his sight when the seven-time world champion broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999.
A physio who used to close his business on Thursdays on Grand Prix weekends so he could follow every moment of a race, Charaf took inspiration from the German superstar’s successful recovery.
His death was announced by his brother on Thursday. “It’s with my deepest sorrow that I have to inform you of the death of my beloved brother Charaf,” a statement read.
“As you may know, he was fighting against a cancer. He passed away surrounded by loved ones. Thank you to all ppl who showed support and love to him during his last fight.”
In a new twist, Formula 1 expert Martin Brundle has revealed Red Bull believes it has the data to prove Lewis Hamilton entered Copse corner on the first lap faster than any other during the Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Verstappen had to retire from the race while Hamilton went on to win, slashing the Dutchman’s lead in the championship from 33 points to just eight.
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“Red Bull felt it was a professional foul, an intentional accident from Hamilton,” Brundle wrote in his post-race Sky Sports F1 column.
“They were incandescent, their potential world champion was bruised, their car expensively wrecked in this new cost cap era, and with possible grid penalties to come from any engine and ancillary damage.
“They would score zero points from the race and both championship leads would be seriously eroded. I am told by Red Bull there is data to prove Lewis was significantly faster into Copse than at any other time and he would not have made the corner without running wide, and inevitably contacting Max.
“Presumably, that will be made publicly available and if Red Bull feel they have ‘new evidence’ they may well make an appeal to the FIA as to their perceived degree of fault and leniency regarding Hamilton.”
Mercedes, meanwhile, insisted Lewis Hamilton’s controversial first-lap move on world championship rival Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix was “absolutely in line with the overtaking guide”.
“As far as we are concerned, the manoeuvre that took place, the manoeuvre that Lewis did, was absolutely in line with the FIA’s overtaking guide,” said Mercedes technical chief James Allison.
Hamilton was penalised 10 seconds for the incident.
“Lewis definitely was substantially alongside. He had his front axle well beyond the midpoint of Verstappen’s car,” added Allison.
“It requires you are substantially alongside and it requires that you must be able to make the corner. By make the corner it means go round the corner and not leave the track or lose control of the car. Those are the things you need to satisfy.
“If you can go round the corner, if you are substantially alongside the other car then the corner is yours.” He added: “I did feel that it was harsh to get the penalty.
“This is about what are the rules to do with overtaking and I didn’t see that Lewis did anything wrong with respect to those rules.”
Lewis Hamilton was the victim of “multiple instances of racist abuse on social media” during and after his controversial win in the British Grand Prix, according to a joint statement by Formula One, the FIA and his Mercedes team.
The seven-time world champion was involved early on in an incident that saw championship leader Max Verstappen plough his Red Bull into a wall and out of the race.
Hamilton was hit by a 10 second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap in the title race to just eight points.
“During, and after, yesterday’s British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was subjected to multiple instances of racist abuse on social media following an in-race collision,” they said in a joint statement condemning the behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”.
“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.
“Formula 1, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
Daniel Ricciardo also hit out at the racism Hamilton has received in light of the incident, saying: “I’ve seen some of the remarks aimed at Lewis after yesterday. No matter what happens on track there is absolutely zero place for racism and hate. We have to be better than this.”
Verstappen, who was taken to hospital for checks after the race, later accused Hamilton of “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour”.
A public supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton gave his support a week ago to the England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho who were also abused after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.
“I hope this opens a conversation around acceptance,” he wrote on Instagram at the time.
“We must work towards a society that doesn’t require Black players to prove their value or place in society only through victory.”
It was always inevitable that there would be a major flashpoint between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this season, they have both been racing hard and fair and both have acknowledged the respect they have for the other for doing so.
But Horner’s tune has changed since a similar incident at the Spanish Grand Prix, when Hamilton moved where Verstappen held firm, and the Brit was able to carry on racing.
“Turn 1 was mega,” Horner said at the time. “I mean Max, that was full Max Verstappen – he was just going for it – and he positioned the car fantastically well.
“He tucked in, he got a little bit of a tow and a bit of momentum. And yeah he just braked later and ran the car wide. Thankfully Lewis had got out of it because otherwise he would have ended up in the fence.”
The last sentence of that is crucial. Verstappen’s driving is just as aggressive as Hamilton’s, maybe even more so – and Horner celebrated it, but Hamilton’s is more pragmatic. That’s why Hamilton ended up with 25 points and Verstappen went careering into the barriers.
There will be plenty more flashpoints ahead with just an eight-point difference at the top of the drivers championship now, but this could act as a key learning curve for Verstappen, one where he realises that you can lose the battle but still win the war.
Lando Norris has been brilliant, but Ricciardo’s failing have made him look even better as the Aussie’s inexperience in the car was clear for all to see.
But the British Grand Prix was a stable performance from Ricciardo, he qualified in seventh for the sprint race, where he finished sixth to qualify for Sunday’s ‘real’ race.
He went one better there, finishing fifth, but more impressively managed to hold off Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, which was always less than one second behind him in his rear-view mirror.
“Happy with my first top five of the year,” Ricciardo said. “Took a while, better late than never. Yeah, happy with that.
“When I saw Carlos coming in that second stint he caught me so fast.
“I was obviously ready for the fight and the defence but the pace he caught me I thought maybe — if I was a betting man or if I was watching from the outside, I guess he was the betting favourite (to overtake).
“But I certainly backed myself and I wasn’t going to go out without a fight.
“I think actually pushing to defend allowed me to stay on the limit a bit more and get a bit more comfortable with the car on the edge.
“I learned a bit more from that actually so we’ll keep going.
“I definitely need to have a few (good results) in a row. I need to have that consistency now to kind of have a bit more faith in saying that.
“I want to say that and I do feel better but there’s still certainly some time on the table that I need to find and get comfortable with the car.
“But overall, a good weekend. Yeah, let’s go.”
He has the Hungarian Grand Prix next up in a fortnight’s time before the mid-season break comes into effect, giving Ricciardo and McLaren more time to strengthen that bond. Expect to see a Ricciardo more familiar to us all come the season resumption in Spa at the end of August.
Hamilton made a habit of being picked up by television cameras casually making his way to the garage on his push scooter with 20 minutes of a Friday practice session already passed. A lot of teams even use a reserve driver or a junior driver to give them experience in a F1 car, such is the lack of importance they place on a Friday in the grand scheme of the weekend.
Yet at Silverstone, while we were treated to the traditional Q1, Q2 and Q3 format, we had the added bonus of a 17-lap race as a mouth-waterer for the 52-lap main course on the Sunday. All that was lost was a non-competitive hour – previously an hour and a half – of practice sessions.
There were plenty of changes in the top 10 for the race from the sprint race, negating any fears that drivers would take it easy to avoid crashing.
But it doesn’t give us that down-to-the-wire finish that we usually get from qualifying, with pole decided on the opening lap followed by 30 minutes of what was essentially a practice session as teams got data to inform them of real race scenarios that they would experience the following day.
“For me personally qualifying is where you should get pole position, and of course Lewis was ahead there, but you jump out of the car and it actually doesn‘t… well, it does mean something,” Verstappen said.
“There‘s not the real hype of, you know, I nailed the lap and I put it on pole or whatever. So yeah, when I crossed the line today after this race and they were like, ’yeah, great job, pole position’, it feels a bit like, ’yeah, I did a kind of like one third of the race distance’ and then to hear you did pole position for tomorrow it’s a bit odd but yeah, we’ll go through it and I guess everyone has their own opinion about things.”
However, Ricciardo was more upbeat: “Qualifying is fun. It is intense and there is a lot of pressure, but for me Sunday has always been my favourite day. This is like having two Sundays, and having two chances for a race start and this level of intensity and competition two times, is fun.”
But it’s generated debate, intrigue and more eyes on the screen across the three days of racing, meaning that it is likely here to stay.
FERRARI ‘50% HAPPY, 50% FRUSTRATED’
For a while it looked like the stars had aligned and Ferrari would win at Silverstone on the 70th anniversary of its first ever F1 victory in 1951.
That was until Charles Leclerc was passed by Hamilton with just three laps to go leaving him on the second step of the podium.
Having started in P4, Leclerc jumped Valtteri Bottas before the crash between Hamilton and Verstappen left him in the lead of the pack.
He held onto the lead during the race restart despite engine issues and heavy pressure from behind until he finally succumbed with three laps remaining as the Mercedes couldn’t be contained any longer.
“[I’m feeling] 50% frustration, 50% happiness,” Leclerc said afterwards. “Obviously going into this weekend there was absolutely no hope of fighting for a win here at Silverstone. So this shows how great a job we are doing as a team. It’s not an easy situation for the team, but the team is working extremely well.
“We have shown that today with this second place and we’ve got to keep on working because that’s what we want to do consistently – fight for the win.”
It’s a positive sign for Ferrari, who are desperately working to get back into the championship debate after falling off so dramatically last year and for Leclerc himself, as he is able to show off his abilities again, despite competition from a very talented teammate in Sainz.
DOUBLE CHAMP’S QUIET RESURGENCE
There was a lot of excitement about Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 this season, especially in a Renault that Ricciardo was showing could absolutely challenge for podiums regularly if in the right hands.
However, a slow start reduced him to a side show, as Alonso was racing another former multi-time champion – and former teammate – in Sebastian Vettel, but at the wrong end of the field.
However, a seventh-place finish at Silverstone has made it five consecutive points finishes for the Spaniard, compared to just two in the previous five.
And despite it not being Alpine’s best result, Alonso insisted that it still felt like it was, suggesting there is still plenty more to come this season.
“Our best result was Baku, P6, but it was a strange race – so today P7 was probably our strongest weekend on race pace,” reflected the Spaniard. “And happy for that. Difficult race for tyre management with blister concerns, and yes, we managed quite well and we delivered a good result, I think.”
Alonso was also the star performer in the inaugural F1 Sprint as he jumped from P11 to P5 in a stunning opening lap. There’s still some life in the old dog yet.