Four key themes of the British Grand Prix
Hot on the heels of the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, it’s time this weekend for the British Grand Prix, as Formula 1 returns to Silverstone – and one of the annual highlights of any season. This isn’t just the biggest week of the year for British motorsport, but thanks to the always electric atmosphere and the fact seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK, it’s a big one for the sport as a whole.
As ever, there’s plenty to look forward to – and inevitably potential big stories rumbling away in the background. Here’s a snapshot of what to expect this year from British GP week.
Hamilton goes for six
The world championship leader will be aiming to break a significant record at Silverstone. If he wins this weekend, it will be his sixth British GP victory, eclipsing the record of five he currently shares with Jim Clark and Alain Prost. The big numbers are only one element that make Lewis Hamilton special, but for any driver a home race is important and to achieve such a feat would surely have real meaning for him. And the fan response, if it happens, will once again be rapturous.
Last time out at altitude in the Austrian mountains, Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas were uncharacteristically just off the ultimate pace. At Silverstone, expect normal service to be resumed, although Ferrari’s straight-line speed should open up the possibility of a proper battle between the red and silver cars. On Silverstone’s flat-out blasts and fast sweeps, we could be in for another epic.
Third time lucky for Leclerc?
Twice this year Charles Leclerc has been in touching distance of his first grand prix win. A loss of power robbed him in Bahrain, while fresher tyres and Max Verstappen’s natural aggression got the better of the Monaco driver at the Red Bull Ring. Could Silverstone be the venue where everything finally falls into place for the 21-year-old?
Leclerc has been one of the major stories of the F1 season so far, but not simply because of his youth and clear potential. It’s also the effect he’s had on his four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
The German seems troubled these days compared to the upbeat winning machine we remember from his Red Bull title days, and the extra pressure from a youthful, hungry team-mate surely isn’t helping. Vettel remains a great racing driver and should be well placed to repeat his victory here from 2018. Right now, he really needs to put a big performance together, and after being overshadowed by Leclerc in Austria, re-establish his position as the main man at Ferrari – especially if there’s any truth to rumours that are beginning to swirl that seats for next year are not necessarily as secure as they might seem…
Norris to give fans someone else to cheer
This weekend won’t necessarily just be about a Hamilton love-in for Silverstone’s partisan masses. Lando Norris is giving every indication that he’s a future British GP home hero, and there’s every chance McLaren’s rookie will be a contender for a decent points score this weekend.
Norris has qualified fifth for the past two races in France and Austria, indicating not only McLaren’s progress after recent misery but also how quickly the 19-year-old has got to grips with the business of being a grand prix driver. Four points finishes in nine races so far is a decent return for any newcomer, but there’s an extra buzz around Norris.
This could be a memorable weekend for the young man – and for the British fans who will surely take him to their hearts.
Silverstone puts it all on black…
One theme that Silverstone will be hoping won’t be a point of contention this weekend is the circuit itself. Last year the 3.66-mile grand prix track was resurfaced for the first time in more than 20 years – and it turned into a disaster.
The black-top was criticised for being bumpy by F1 drivers at the 2018 British GP, but at least it didn’t rain. At the MotoGP later in the summer, torrential downpours showed up how poorly the new surface drained away standing water – and the race had to be cancelled.
The nightmare for Silverstone should now be over, following a second resurfacing that was completed just a couple of weeks ago and in just 16 days. Circuit managing director Stuart Pringle promises that the track is now perfectly smooth, with an asphalt mix that’s at least as good as that found on Heathrow’s runways. Let’s hope he’s right.
Spare a thought for him and the whole team involved in the resurfacing when F1 cars roll out on to Silverstone for first practice on Friday morning.
Photography courtesy of Motorsport Images