Great Britain Preview - fans hoping for British glory 08 Jul 2010
Red Bull will be very strong at a revised Silverstone this weekend, but many fans will want to see the two McLaren drivers - Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, currently first and second in drivers table - fight it out for home victory in the British Grand Prix.
Both men are pinning their hopes not just on the MP4-25s famed F-duct, but also a series of new upgrades which include a blown diffuser similar to Red Bulls, and to those introduced in Valencia by Ferrari and Renault. And doubtless each would be happy to makes amends for their nations recent sporting disappointments in the form of Englands World Cup squad and Andy Murrays defeat at Wimbledon.
I dont feel under pressure going into my home race - I feel very relaxed, and Lewis is the same, Button says. Itll be a lovely atmosphere. Weve both been here and had a rubbish result, yet you still get the support. For us its a case of going there and looking forward to it, more than feeling under pressure. Winning at home, you celebrate with your home crowd. Ive never even been on the podium here, and Im going to change that this year.
Button knows, however, that he must improve his qualifying form after a couple of disappointing showings on a Saturday afternoon. The last few races have been frustrating in qualifying; in Canada I wasnt quick enough, basically, and in Valencia I made a mistake in the last corner. I was very happy with our race pace, but Ive got to perform better in qualifying if I want to fight for the championship.
Hamilton has the advantage of having won at home already, but that means he is just as determined to do it again, especially after finishing only 16th last year. "Every year we come here it's a mega experience with the support you have," he says. "I really just hope it will be an incredible experience again, that the upgrades we will have on the car work, and we're able to demolish the field. I'm sure Jenson wants to win, but it doesn't mean he wants it more than me, so we'll have to wait and see. Although I've won the race before, I'd love to win it again, but if he does a better job than me, so be it. But he has to do a better job than me.
We'll race fairly, and the fastest guy will win, hopefully a one-two, which would be real special. Clearly expectation is high, more than anywhere else because everyone is here wearing the flag for you. But this is not the deciding race of the year. If it was then you would feel the weight of the world. Instead, for me, rather than being dragged down, I just get this incredible boost of energy from everyone."
Button doesnt disguise how excited he is about racing at the revised Silverstone. Its a great Grand Prix, the atmosphere is always electric. It should be a full house, the weather should be good, and the new layout is flowing and should work well. We should have a competitive car, so hopefully well have a great weekend. Itd be great for the British public to have two British drivers fighting for the win. Whether well be competitive with Red Bull I dont know, but if our updates work as well as expected then we should be competing with them up front.
Of course, Red Bull should never be underestimated. People think they are very competitive at circuits such as Silverstone, Button points out, but this year they are quick everywhere. Theyve sorted their mechanical grip and their blown diffuser works very well, but I dont think they will make a big step forward here because they have gone very well everywhere.
Sebastian Vettel is the bookies favourite after winning here last year, while Mark Webber, fully recovered from his back flip in Valencia, has Vettels old chassis (since repaired) in place of the one he damaged in Spain.
Ferrari, too, should not be discounted and could have had much stronger results in Canada and Valencia with only a small slice of better fortune. Their blown diffuser works well, suggesting they too will be strong.
"It is a crucial moment in the season, with three races coming up in the space of four weeks," Ferraris Fernando Alonso said recently. "We are ready, both on the technical front and physically. In Valencia, we introduced significant updates on the F10 and there will be more in Silverstone and the races after that. The development programme is intensive and I think we will see it produce results. We have also prepared very carefully from the physical point of view, given that the next events are all very close and one needs to be at a hundred percent all the time. The track seems reasonably similar to the way it was, with a lot of very fast corners, which will not suit us that much. However, it's a fact that the configuration of the F10 seen in Valencia should give us a boost in these quick corners, so it is best to wait and see where we will be. I remain optimistic.
Dont overlook Robert Kubica in the revised Renault, either, or the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, though they still seem to be suffering from the same sort of tyre temperature generation problems that beset Button here with the Brawn last year.
On other levels, Scotsman Paul di Resta will be out in a Force India on Friday morning, as will Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy in one of the Lotus T127s which bring the marques iconic green and yellow colour scheme back to the track at a Grand Prix for the first time since Jim Clark won here in 1967. Virgin hope that they will offer Lotus much stronger competition in their home race, courtesy of the VR-01s first major design upgrade since its fuel tank was made large enough to go a race distance.
The changes to the track have been widely praised, though the MotoGP riders complained about bumps. It seems that teams might have to use more downforce than in the past for the new Village complex, and Bridgestone will have done a lot of computation after all the lessons its engineers learned here at the recent MotoGP event.
The Japanese company will be bringing their hard and soft compound tyres. At 5.891 kilometres the track is now the third longest on the calendar and is expected to be one of the fastest. The high speeds and high lateral forces caused by the circuit layout and the abrasion from the track surface will present a great new challenge to drivers, engineers and tyre supplier alike.