An all-British Mercedes line-up and Leclerc on the attack – 5 storylines we’re excited about ahead of the 2022 British GP
From a Montreal venue that hasn’t been on the calendar since 2019 to one that was a regular host of races throughout the pandemic, here are some of the topics we’re looking forward to as the paddock heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.
1. Leclerc on the attack
It hasn’t been the easiest time to be a Ferrari fan, as Charles Leclerc has seen a number of potential victories slip away through reliability and strategic issues. But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s an exciting prospect heading to the British Grand Prix.
While his recovery through the field in Canada to finish fifth was impressive, he was never likely to be in the mix at the sharp end after starting 19th, and it was a race where damage limitation was the name of the game.
Moving forward, though, Leclerc is in a much better position. He now has a fresh power unit that he can push a little bit harder over the next few races, and no grid penalties to worry about this weekend at Silverstone.
It’s a track he has gone well at in the past, nearly winning in 2021 before finishing second, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Leclerc was in position to win each of the three races before Canada. It was his team mate Carlos Sainz who actually had the quickest car in Montreal, so Ferrari’s form is still good, even if the results haven’t reflected their potential in recent weeks.
2. The promise of a stronger Mercedes
The optimism of the Spanish Grand Prix seems a long time ago for Mercedes, but there were some very positive signs in Canada, where Lewis Hamilton was a strong third and George Russell right behind him in fourth place.
It seemed like Mercedes had learned from the difficulties of Baku and made a step forward, which can only bode well heading to Silverstone, where the similarities to Barcelona in terms of track smoothness and high-speed corners suggest they should be even more competitive than they were in Montreal.
There are likely to be upgrades, too, and that will be music to the ears of the two drivers who will want to put on a show for their home crowd. The British dream team line-up of Hamilton and Russell has only recently been matched by McLaren’s pairing of Hamilton and Jenson Button, but they last ran together in 2012 so it has been a decade since the home fans have been able to cheer an all-British line-up.
Team Principal Toto Wolff has been keen not to allow expectations to get too high, but whether or not they can take the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari, at the very least Silverstone has the potential to provide Mercedes with their most competitive weekend of the season to date.
3. Teams getting technical with the FIA
Mercedes did have an off-track distraction to worry about in Canada, though, after the FIA issued a Technical Directive aimed at setting a threshold for acceptable levels of bouncing. The catalyst was the safety of the drivers, but rival teams claimed it was a move that was aimed more at curing Mercedes’ issues than anything else.
It was a topic that was regularly discussed in the Montreal paddock and is unlikely to be resolved by the time teams get down to work at Silverstone, even if there are further meetings and talks planned in between the two races.
The sticking point could be how any changes are enforced, because a Technical Directive is not meant to be used to change the existing regulations. The British Grand Prix is where teams are likely to talk about the latest developments – and it’s rare that they would all find common ground on such a topic quickly…
4. McLaren vs Alpine
Fernando Alonso’s stunning qualifying performance in Canada really caught the imagination, with so many fans arriving at the track on Sunday morning excited to see what the Spaniard could do from the front row.
Sadly it didn’t quite go to plan, as a power unit issue around Lap 20 saw Alonso lose performance and slip back through the field, eventually classified ninth after a late penalty for changing direction in a straight line more than once when defending from Valtteri Bottas on the final lap.
But that shouldn’t detract from the potential Alpine showed and the results they have picked up in recent races. Seventh and tenth in Baku was followed by Alonso’s two points and a sixth position for Esteban Ocon in Montreal, while McLaren failed to score.
That has closed the gap between the two teams in the fight for fourth in the constructors’ championship to just eight points, and Alpine are confident they have a more consistent car than McLaren, which might see them outperform Andreas Seidl’s team once again at Silverstone.
5. A special track and crowd
McLaren enjoy big support at their home race but the Silverstone crowd tends to have the capacity to get behind all teams and drivers. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise given the fact that it is often one of the best-attended races of the year, and this season is set to be no different, with another sell-out crowd at the historic venue.
A great atmosphere is guaranteed, but we might also get the race to match as the high-speed circuit – featuring sweeping changes of direction that always show off the spectacular performance of a Formula 1 machine – is perfectly suited to the new generation of car.
The kerbs at Silverstone are not overly harsh for drivers to be able to attack, and the number of fast corners will really allow the ground effect cars to be pushed to their limits. Barcelona also suggested it is easier to follow even in those quick sections this year, which means this weekend has all the ingredients needed to be a cracker.
Oh, and Britain being Britain, there’s every chance of some changeable weather to spice things up even more, too!