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Great Britain preview - Hamilton eyes home advantage

02 Jul 2015

A cracking Grand Prix is in prospect this weekend at Silverstone, with the resumption of the tantalising intra-team fight at Mercedes and Force India’s long-awaited upgraded car the major talking points as the world championship nears the halfway stage.

At the Silver Arrows, it is Nico Rosberg who arrives in Britain hotfoot from a great victory last time out in Austria. Lewis Hamilton, last year’s victor, has the advantage of home soil, of course, and is intent on doing his huge fanbase proud - but he’ll need to reverse what was a genuine deficit to Rosberg in Spielberg.

“I don't feel like I ever really reached my peak in Austria," says Hamilton, whose championship lead stands at just 10 points, the lowest it has been all year. “It wasn't the smoothest of weekends for me - so to come away with P2 wasn't a disaster in the circumstances.

“Silverstone, though... that's different. I can't describe the feeling I had last year - lifting that trophy again in front of the sea of fans on pit straight after so many years and after a tough start to the weekend too. It's something that will always stay with me and nothing less than the same again will do.

"I'm lucky enough to have fans all around the world, but winning in front of your home crowd is something else. We have a fantastic car this year - even better than in 2014 - and it should suit this track, so I'll be going all out to make the most of it. The guys back at the factories deserve to see a big home result and I want to see Silverstone absolutely rocking at the chequered flag!"

"My week in Austria could not have come together much better," Rosberg says. "Apart from the mistake in quali, I felt right on top of things from the start and it was great to get another win.

“With the extra day in the car on Wednesday also, helping the team prepare for Silverstone, I feel ready to go full attack at a circuit I really enjoy. It should suit our car nicely with the focus on downforce and we learned some useful things during the test, so I'm sure we'll be strong once again.

"The crowds are really incredible at this race and it's always a great atmosphere. Of course, I know they have their favourite! But hopefully we can have a good fight and keep the fans on their feet!”

In terms of carrying the fight to Mercedes, Ferrari head to Britain under pressure to get the best from their recent and substantial aerodynamic and engine upgrades. In their favour, the nature of Silverstone should play to the strengths of the SF15-T.

Williams and Red Bull, meanwhile, have their own upgrades to focus on. Williams unveiled theirs in Austria and, having met with a podium at the first attempt, will be determined to keep the pressure on the Scuderia. And Red Bull hope their own updates can finally give the RB11 the wings it needs to lift their season.

It is in the midfield, however, that arguably the biggest change arrives, in the form of Force India’s upgraded VJM08. The team have already tried parts of the upgrade in recent races, and the finished package in the post-race Austria test, but their new charge has aroused great expectations within the team given that it is the first product of a new aerodynamic philosophy and wind tunnel.

Force India too have big targets - after moving up to fifth place overall following a strong weekend in Austria, they have their sights set firmly on overhauling Red Bull before the end of the year.

Another local team, Lotus, will be looking to exploit their recent updates and to continue scoring points, although Romain Grosjean will once again potentially start on the back foot as he makes way for Briton Jolyon Palmer in FP1 on Friday.

Circumstances conspired against Carlos Sainz in Austria, but Toro Rosso are confident they will fare well on Silverstone’s sweeps, while Sauber also come into the weekend with renewed optimism after apparently getting to the bottom of the brake temperature and electronic problems which respectively hampered Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson in Spielberg.

The same isn’t quite so true across at McLaren, for whom Silverstone could be an absolutely crucial weekend.

A big upgrade is planned for the MP4-30, which should also suit the Silverstone circuit - even if it doesn’t favour the Honda V6 power units. But a cloud still looms as Fernando Alonso may have to switch to an old power unit, after damage to his Austrian engine in the shunt with Kimi Raikkonen. Button, meanwhile, has the threat of a sensor problem hanging over him for his home race - where he is still yet to stand on the podium...

"Who doesn't love Silverstone?" Button says. "The high-speed nature of the track makes it a brilliant challenge for the drivers, and the fans are something else - so knowledgeable and passionate. I've always loved my home race and I'll savour every moment again this year.

"It's a real privilege to be able to race in front of my home fans. No matter what happens during a race weekend, the fan support always makes the whole event extra special: even though this will be my 16th outing at the British Grand Prix, seeing the Union Jacks out in the grandstands and the roar of the crowd still gives me goose bumps every time - it really is a magical feeling. Seeing the fans decked out in pink last year in honour of my dad was incredibly moving and something I'll never forget, too.

"We're still struggling to achieve consistent reliability, so we're working really hard to find solutions to the issues we've been facing, [so] it was great that Fernando and Stoffel [Vandoorne] were able to do some positive running in Austria during the test. We've firmly put the disappointments of race day behind us and I'm really looking forward to arriving in Silverstone. I can't wait to get out there on Friday and make the most of the incredible atmosphere at my home Grand Prix."

In terms of the circuit’s characteristics, a very grippy surface, and a number of trademark fast and sweeping corners, means the tyres are subjected too high lateral and vertical forces. Wear rates and degradation are thus high, especially if the ambient temperature is also high, which looks certain with the benign weather forecast - and for that reason Pirelli have brought their two hardest compounds, the orange-marked hard and white-marked medium.

"Silverstone is one of the few circuits where the drivers say that they can actually hear the crowd as they are driving along,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery says. “As was the case last year, we're bringing our two hardest tyres in the range, because Silverstone gives us the highest lateral energy loads of the season. These place heavy demands on both the tyre compound and structure. So we should be seeing between one and two pit stops, especially if the weather is warm, which is expected to be the case.

“Having said that, warm weather has been the forecast for a number of years previously - and we've still often ended up with a dose of more traditional British weather instead! So the teams will have to be prepared for everything and think about how to get the maximum out of their tyres during the weekend as a whole, rather than just session-by-session. Silverstone is one of those circuits that really rewards absolute bravery and commitment, so we should be in for a great race."

The circuit itself is unchanged from last year, though a new experimental negative kerb has been added on the exit of Becketts which then blends in the apex kerb at Chapel Curve. As last year, two DRS zones will be in place - the first on Wellington Straight (with the detection point ahead of Aintree corner) and the second on the Hangar Straight (with the detection point at Maggotts).

The weather looks good for the weekend as a hot spell continues. It should be warm and sunny throughout, with ambient temperatures highs of 25 degrees Celsius today, 28 on Friday, 27 on Saturday and 23 on race day. There may be the odd thunderstorm in the evenings, however.

The race itself will run over 52 laps of the 5.891 kilometre (3.660 mile) circuit, or 306.747 kilometres (190.606 miles), and will start at 1300 hours local time (1200 GMT). At 1200 hours local time on Friday there will be a national minute of silence in honour of the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia.