Attention shifts this weekend from the uncertainty surrounding the future of Silverstone, albeit temporarily, to the exciting prospect of the 10th round of the 2017 Formula 1 season as the season reaches halfway at the home of motorsport in Northamptonshire. The race for the championship this season has become more open than ever between homeboy, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
However, the decision of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, owners of Silverstone, to activate a break clause in their contract earlier in the week represents a warning signal that unless a new contract is signed, 2019 will be the final year the British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone. That is one depressing prospect many formula 1 fans around the globe loathe.
In contrast, the exciting prospect of the battle between the leading Silver Arrow and Prancing Horse drivers taking another dimension this weekend offers a brief reprieve. It is a home race for Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes’ driver could equal the record for most consecutive wins in a home race at this weekend’s British Grand Prix. The 32-year old Brit has won the last three races at Silverstone.
If he takes a fourth on Sunday he will match the achievements of Juan Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark, who won their home races in Argentina and Britain four times in a row.
In effect, the Sunday’s race at Silverstone means more than just a record chasing race for Lewis Hamilton, it is one race that could have a profound effect on his charge for fourth championship win. If the Stevenage born driver had a very good race he could overtake Sebastian Vettel and become the championship leader, he could also be easily overtaken by teammate Valtteri Bottas if he had a very bad race.
Technically, for teams’ engineers and principals, the focus this weekend will be on gaining high-speed stability on a Silverstone circuit that places little or extremely low emphasis on braking energy. Downforce levels are medium: a compromise between ensuring enough aerodynamic grip to negotiate the fast corners as quickly as possible and eliminating drag on the straights. Pirelli’s decision to take its super-soft tyre compound to Silverstone this weekend presents huge challenge for the teams as many parts of the asphalt at Silverstone are new, with the new asphalt less bumpy and abrasive than the older sections. Abrasive asphalt increases grip, but also adds to levels of wear and degradation.
With Silverstone being among the most demanding tracks for tyres of the entire season, the decision by Pirelli to drop its hard tyre compound in favour of super-soft has come under criticism within the formula 1 paddock since the decision was made after the Spanish Grand Prix in May. However, Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola has explained that the decision was taken in order to ‘’open up extra possibilities for different strategies and push teams towards more than one pit-stop.’’
British Grand Prix in Brief
Track: The Silverstone Circuit
Track length: 5.891 km
Tyre allocation: Medium (white), Supersoft (red) and soft (yellow)
Lap record: Mark Webber – 1:33.401 (Red Bull; 2013)
Number of times: 71 (first held in 1926)
Most wins (drivers): Jim Clark (5 wins); Alain Prost (5 wins)
Most wins (constructors): Ferrari (15 wins)
Last Race (2016)
Pole: Lewis Hamilton- Mercedes – 1:29.287
Podium: Lewis Hamilton- Mercedes – 1:34:55.831; Max Verstapen – Red Bull – +8.250s; Nico Rosberg – Mercedes- +16.911s
Fastest lap: Nico Rosberg – Mercedes- 1:35.548
Last Five Winners
2016: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2015: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2013: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2012: Mark Webber (Red Bull)
In Rich Vein of Form
Despite Mercedes being quick enough to take pole position for the last three races in a row before the British Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has increased his championship lead over Hamilton in the last two of them. Vettel’s only win at Silverstone to date was the third of his career, back in 2009, since when he has won another 42 races.
As it stands, Valtteri Bottas is the man of the moment especially on the back of a commanding drive last weekend in Spielberg to secure only the second win of his formula 1 career. Agreed, his triumphs this year have come when his Mercedes’ teammate Lewis Hamilton has faltered but this should take nothing away from the Finn’s superb form. It is certainly a no brainer to think that Mercedes will allow the 27-year old Finnish to steal the title ahead of Lewis Hamilton, but the fact that he is even being mentioned in world championship contention is a reflection of how well he has performed in his first year at Mercedes.
Another driver that has continued his amazing run of form is Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who took his fifth podium in a row on the weekend Red Bull was left wondering what might have been had it qualified better on Saturday. The Australian has racked up more points than anyone bar Vettel, who has also collected 85 in the last five races.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel got himself into this sector with his second place performance in Austria; the German is in his best form since joining Ferrari.
Struggling with Form
It has been a frustrating few races for Max Verstapen due to technical problems and, as on Sunday, first-lap contact. He has not scored a point in the last three races and slipped to seventh in the championship behind Force India’s Sergio Perez.
It is the belief of many pundits within the formula 1 paddock that the young Dutch has got what it takes to win the drivers’ championship in the nearest future, but he needs to be more matured in his approach to races. If anything, driving maturity has been his bane in the last few races, as he has been responsible for more crashes this season.
The pressure has mounted on Max Verstapen to turn the table as quick as possible considering the incredible form of his teammate in the same Red Bull’s RB13 car.
Big Look Out
Force India arrive at their home race following a largely positive season. Despite clear missed opportunities in Baku and Canada chiefly due to problems with their drivers, the team approaches the mid-point of the season in a very strong fourth place in the championship.
However the other home driver this weekend, Renault’s Jolyon’s Palmer, is still looking for his first point of the year. He has come close, with three 11th places in the last four races, but with rumors abounding he could lose his seat he badly needs to break into the top ten.
Last year’s British Grand Prix, but weather forecast for tomorrow’s race suggests no repeat of last year’s Silverstone wet race is expected.
With this forecast, it simply means for the umpteenth time this season weather would not play any critical role in deciding who emerges winner in Sunday’s race.
In Austria, I stuck my neck out for a winner other than Hamilton or Vettel and I was right, especially with my audacious decision to pick either Bottas or Ricciardo over Vettel and Hamilton. This is surely a make or mar race for Lewis Hamilton especially after storming to another pole position ahead of Ferrari’s duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in qualifying earlier on Saturday.
With Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas taking 5-place grid penalty for his unscheduled gearbox change after damaging his gearbox in Austria, Hamilton is well on course for his fourth consecutive wins in Silverstone.
British Grand Prix Start Time
The race starts at 1pm Nigerian time on Sunday, 16th July 2017.
Writer: Soliu Adeyemo
Soliu is a renowned Formula 1 Expert. Follow him @SolihuF1 on Twitter and Instagram for more updates and analysis.