Ferrari’s return to form could not have come at a worse time for the rookie championship leader. The growing expectations of his prodigious talent, his appetite for success and the hopes of a nation could be a recipe for a sublime debut home win – or a bitter defeat.
Will Hamilton win his maiden home race? Or are Ferrari unstoppable? Read our British Grand Prix preview and predict the podium below.
Despite numerous revisions and tweaks over the years the Silverstone configuration still clings to its heritage as a high-speed venue. Copse, Becketts, Stowe and Bridge are some of the best quick corners in F1 and among the finest places to see F1 cars in action on the calendar.
The unfortunate side effect of that is that there are few places where modern cars can get close enough to pass. Last year’s race provided ample proof of that: Michael Schumacher was unable to pass Kimi Raikkonen until the pit stops; Juan Pablo Montoya was the only leading driver to make a pass – and that came after a safety car restart when he mugged a dozing Rubens Barrichello.
As with Sunday’s French Grand Prix, wet weather is expected, and if it comes it could turn the entire race on its head.
But there was no disguising the fact that Ferrari had struck a vital blow against McLaren, and behind Hamilton’s bolkd claims that he will lead a fight back at Silverstone, the Woking team may in fact be looking at damage limitation.
The pressure on Hamilton to extend his astonishing run of podium finishes at home will be gigantic. But as he showed in GP2 last year, he thrives on the cheers of the crowd.
Renault’s claims of a breakthrough in performance were not much in evidence at Magny-Cours. Admittedly Heikki Kovalainen was taken out through no fault of his own, but the Renaults did not look like challenging BMW in the race.
There’s relief at Maranello having halted McLaren’s three race run of one-two finishes. The surprise at Magny-Cours was that Raikkonen was allowed to pass Felipe Massa via the pit stops, suggesting that – for the first time in 12 years – both Ferrari drivers are being allowed to fight for the championship.
It’s great to see and the Scuderia are to be applauded for it. But if Raikkonen wants to haul in that gap to Hamilton, he needs to start scoring big against the Briton. Striking a blow at Hamilton’s home race would be a good start.
Breakthrough! Honda promised an improved car at France, they delivered, and Jenson Button converted it into their first point – just in time for his home race. We could see a repeat of 2005 when the team started poorly but rallied magnificently in the second half of the year.
Clearly Robert Kubica suffered no ill-effects from his Montreal crash – he rocked up at Magny-Cours and set his best ever qualifying position.
The delicious battle between he and team mate Nick Heidfeld (still waiting for an ’08 contract) may now resume. Heidfeld needs to assert his advantage from the first quarter of the season to guarantee his indispensability for next year.
Toyota have targeted a points finish at Silverstone but they’re struggling as their midfield rivals move forward. Honda are now a threat as well as Red Bull and Williams. But as ever, there’s no promise of imminent progress.
The difficulties of passing at Silverstone gives Jarno Trulli a credible chance of converting his typically above-average qualifying into a couple of points, however.
Two-time British Grand Prix winner David Coulthard can count on the support of the crowd to give him a boost – but even as he closes on a contract extension for 2008 he knows he must maintain the pressure on Mark Webber.
Magny-Cours may have set a few alarm bells off at Williams. The team were out of the points on a day when a Renault and a Toyota were compromised. And Alexander Wurz once again failed to get past the first part of qualifying. A continuation of the trend at Silverstone could mean they’re in for a barren summer.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Another race, another double DNF. Vitantonio Liuzzi was blameless in his crash, however. Scott Speed pulled up with a failure in the seamless-shift gearbox that has given Red Bull headaches. Reliability at Silverstone may be the limit of their aspirations.
Too far behind any other car on the grid to mount much of a fight, Spyker can only hope to maintain some dignity. Christijan Albers blew those hopes to smithereens when he left the Magny-Cours pit lane with the fuel rig still attached.
The Dutchman is under increased pressure as his performances relative to rookie Adrian Sutil have not been good enough.
An inauspicious race for Anthony Davidson ahead of his first home F1 Grand Prix – running Liuzzi off at turn one. He badly needs a result as he hasn’t shown up as well against team mate Takuma Sato as many expected him to this year.
Who will win at Silverstone? Predict the podium for the British Grand Prix – leave your comments below.
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