The British Grand Prix starts off this weekend with the bad news that Silverstone has triggered the break clause in their F1 contract, which means that they will host their last British Grand Prix in 2019. The BRDC who own the circuit is hoping that by cancelling the contract, they will be able to come to a fresh agreement with F1’s new owner, Liberty Media. A risky move, but one the BRDC feel they are forced to make due to the unsustainable high costs of hosting a F1 race these days.
Hopefully they will be able to stay on the calendar because the race is a popular one with the fans, teams and drivers. It’s a high-speed track with fast flowing corners that challenge the drivers like no other. Only Spa (Belgium) and Suzuka (Japan) get higher praise on the F1 calendar.
It’s of course home to most of the teams and one of the few races that the race crew gets to go home and sleep in their own bed at the end of each day. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but in the context of a busy season- living out of a suitcase- it’s a welcome change for them.
It’s also home to a certain Lewis Hamilton, who is enjoying Nigel Mansell levels of support from his home fans. With the championship fight being so close, I’d expect even more voracious support this weekend. Like Mansell, Hamilton also seems to be invigorated by that support, and with him dropping 20 points behind the championship leader Sebastian Vettel in Austria last week, he’ll certainly need it.
The momentum certainly seems to have swung back in Vettel’s favour as he has outscored his English rival in the last two races. I’ve even seen some articles questioning if Hamilton has lost the edge in this year’s title fight. I actually think Hamilton is looking pretty good, he’s driving at a track he’s always fast and that should suit the Mercedes.
This year in general we have seen the Mercedes slightly quicker in qualifying with Ferrari more consistent in the race. I still think the Silver Arrows has a slightly better power unit with Ferrari, and a slightly better and more consistent chassis. What will make the difference for me here in Silverstone is that Hamilton has put in huge performances here in the past. It’s a track he seems to enjoy very much (winning it four times in 2008, ’14, ’15, ’16), like Canada and Hungry.
In the fight for the title, its going to be more interesting to see how the other drivers effect their battle. Bottas is by no means out of the fight too and if Hamilton and Vettel keep their attention only on each other, perhaps the Finnish driver can sneak in some more gains. His win in Austria- especially the first half of the race- was of the highest order.
Don’t discount Raikkonen either. He is due a race where he gets it all together for the whole weekend. The pace is still there although he is still looking for that consistency over the whole race.
I’m also interested to see how the Red Bulls do. They have been lonely as the third fastest team this year, but over the last two races I’ve seen performance gains by them. I actually think we could see the most competitive performance by them of the year: pace wise that is.