Will Lewis Hamilton continue to reign supreme at Silverstone?
The British Grand Prix is one of, if not the most iconic race on the Formula One calendar. After all, it is where the sport was birthed back in 1950. And it's also fair to say that British drivers have all faired well on the classic airfield circuit over the last 69 years. - Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell, David Coulthard, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and James Hunt to name a few. But since his debut in 2007, Lewis Hamilton has had unrivalled success, scoring five victories and multiple podiums to reign supreme at Silverstone.
And with 2019 going swimmingly well for the 79-time Grand Prix winner, you can be sure that Hamilton will be gunning for a record breaking sixth win on home soil this weekend. But after the dramatic and quite frankly splendid Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago, where Red Bull and Ferrari demoted Mercedes to having the third fastest car of the weekend, can Silverstone throw up another surprise in this season's championship after early dominance by the Brackley based squad?
So who can challenge Hamilton?
So far, Lewis' nearest rival in 2019 has been his team mate Valtteri Bottas, such is the performance of the W10. Bottas has shown glimpses of championship challenging material, but has really curtailed his performances since his masterfully defensive victory in Baku. Formula One needs the "Bottas 2.0" version that won the opening Grand Prix in Australia at a canter to show up sometime soon, otherwise Hamilton will gallop away without remorse. Esteban Ocon is watching somewhere with a rye smile, that I'm sure of.
After their impressive Austrian Grand Prix, Red Bull are now in full swing. Christian Horner has even quoted Max Verstappen being the best driver in the world at the moment, and to be honest, it's hard to argue with him. Lewis is leading the charge, and extracting the most out of that Mercedes, but it has to be said that Verstappen's performances over the last 12 months have been mature, consistent and blindly fast. The Dutchman is in the form of his life, and the already experienced 21-year old will be a force to be reckoned with again this weekend.
Max Verstappen scored Honda's first win as an engine supplier since Jenson Button's Hungarian GP win in 2006.
One must not forget that Ferrari were also very fast in Austria, with both Leclerc and Vettel showing strong pace all through the weekend. Of course, some will say it's track specific with Austria's high altitude and extreme temperatures causing the Mercedes downfall, but Ferrari have shown enough promise to be a factor again at Silverstone - much like in 2018. Vettel's win there last year was a sensational showing of driver skill and speed, as he pulled off one of the overtakes of the season on Valtteri Bottas into the sweeping left of Brooklands at the end of the Wellington straight with just a few laps remaining. The German must make a comeback from a dogged start to 2019, with rumours swirling of possible retirement from the sport come season's end. As for Leclerc, a win is surely just around the corner for the young Monegasque driver. The pace shown this season has been more than a match with his illustrious team mate, and wins taken away from him in Bahrain and Austria will only make him hungrier. After his altercation with Verstappen last time out in Spielberg, the Ferrari youngster now knows the rules of engagement, so he will almost certainly be a factor this weekend.
And what about the young British hopefuls?
The two British rookies couldn't have had any more opposing debut seasons in Formula 1. Reigning F2 champion George Russell has had his progress masked by a highly underperforming Williams car, arguably the worst car they've ever produced. The 21-year old from King's Lynn has by and large outperformed his team mate Robert Kubica, which is impressive whichever way you cut it. Claire Williams will do well to keep hold of his services for 2020, as it's no secret that Toto Wolff is eyeing up Russell for a potential replacement to either Valtteri Bottas or Lewis Hamilton in the near future. In terms of what he may achieve this weekend, the Brit scored two podiums last season in F2, as well as a win in GP3 during his championship year in 2017. Don't bet against him hauling that Williams closer and closer to the midfield battle sooner rather than later, and what better place to start that trend than his home race?
On the other end of the spectrum is Lando Norris. The 19-year old from Bristol is having somewhat of a standout year for McLaren, so much so that the Woking based team have retained him and Carlos Sainz for 2020. The duo have a great synergy, and are bringing the absolute best from each other. McLaren sit fourth in the constructors' standings and it's all down to the new atmosphere in the camp, with Lando having a lot to do with that. The 2017 Formula 3 champion has a great record at Silverstone, with a podium scored last season in Formula 2, as well as scoring a win at the opening round of his championship winning season in F3. The kid is on fire at the moment, with strong races in Austria and France - Lando Norris and McLaren will be a factor for decent points once again in Britain.
Can Lewis get that elusive sixth British GP crown?
Back in 2008, Lewis Hamilton started a love affair with the Silverstone circuit that has seen the Stevenage-born racer come alive whenever he races on it. Complete dominance in the hybrid era has led to an almost impenetrable force field that is the British public. On race day, 130,000 fans often flock the Silverstone circuit to witness yet more magic from their champion. And since 2014, they've only been let down once.
There's no doubting that Hamilton will find a few extra tenths on Saturday when it comes to chasing the stopwatch. And if the weather radar is correct, and there's a bit of moisture in the air during qualifying, then you can be sure that Lewis will take full advantage of such conditions. When the track is wet, the 5-time World Champion doesn't need a second invitation to show his abilities.
If he wins on Sunday, he overtakes Jim Clark and Alain Prost as the most Grand Prix driver at Silverstone, and that will be quite the feather in the cap. He's won many races, claimed many pole positions and lifted many World Championships - but a sixth British Grand Prix victory will be one of his greatest achievements.