British Grand Prix 2010: Preview


British Formula 1 fans have been spoilt in recent years. These islands boast the two most recent championship-winning drivers; they are home to the majority of the teams on the grid, and now Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are teammates in a British team, and head into their home race first and second in the standings.

Silverstone, like the British fans, has also got something to celebrate this weekend. This time last year, there was a farewell party at the Northamptonshire circuit. The British Grand Prix looked to be heading to Donnington Park and away from what many consider its natural home.

But then the recession happened, and Donnington failed to get the money together to host the race. The British Racing Drivers' Club, who own the Silverstone circuit, struck a 17-year deal with Bernie Ecclestone to host the race, and secured the long term future of the British Grand Prix. This prompted a new wave of investment which has resulted in a new track layout (more on that later) and a new pit and paddock complex which will be ready for next season.

So there will be a celebratory mood this weekend then around the old airfield. McLaren will be looking for their fourth one-two finish of the season, and the majority of the spectators attending the event will also be hopeful of that result.

Lewis Hamilton, who won this race with a supreme drive in atrocious conditions in 2008, has had the upper hand at McLaren in recent races, coming second in Valencia and winning in Canada and Turkey. If a Brit is going to walk away with 25 points on Sunday, then on current form Hamilton looks the most likely.

Jenson Button has never won his home race. This time last year, he had won six of the last seven races, with Great Britain round eight on the 2009 calendar. But it was Sebastian Vettel who stood atop the podium while Button came home a distant sixth.

Much of the build-up this week has centred on the McLaren duo, which is completely understandable. This does however ignore the fact that they are not necessarily the best equipped to take the victory this weekend.

Sebastian Vettel produced a business-like drive in Valencia to claim his second victory of the season, and the RB6 is thought to suit the high-speed corners of Silverstone better than McLaren's MP4-25. The German sits third in the driver's standings, just twelve points off leader Hamilton. A good result this weekend will launch him right back into contention for the 2010 title.

Mark Webber will use a chassis previously driven by Vettel this weekend. Unsurprisingly, the one that gave him wings in Valencia was written off, and he must borrow another from his teammate while Red Bull manufactures him a replacement. The Aussie escaped the massive accident in the last race with nothing more than a few bruises, and will be eager to get back in the car and put his collision with Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus behind him.

Fernando Alonso will also be looking to spoil the British party. He has the potential for a double celebration on Sunday, what with his country contesting the FIFA World Cup final against Holland later in the evening. Like Vettel and Hamilton, the Spaniard also has one British Grand Prix victory on his CV. Rubens Barrichello also won this race in 2003.

Michael Schumacher, of course, has the most Silverstone victories out of the current field. The German has three in total, all behind the wheel of a Ferrari, with the last in 2004. It was also the venue where he broke his leg, forcing him to miss six races of the 1999 championship. Schumacher's performances have been way below par in the last couple of races, and even claiming his first podium of the season looks an unlikely prospect.

In a surprise move, Hispania have dropped Bruno Senna for this weekend, instead opting for Sakon Yamamoto to drive. At time of writing no reasons have been given, but Colin Kolles is expected to give more details on Friday morning. Yamamoto has competed in fourteen grand prix, driving for Spyker and Super Aguri in 2006 and 2007. The Japanese driver failed to score any points.

Away from the usual intrigue surrounding the drivers and teams in the build up to a race weekend, there is also interest in the track. Silverstone now has a new layout, lengthening the lap by 800 metres and adding about four seconds to last year's lap time. It is thought that the new arena section, which runs from Abbey to Brooklands, will increase overtaking opportunities while retaining the same high-speed character for which the circuit is famous.

Anthony Davidson, former F1 driver and now BBC Radio 5 Live pundit, is a fan of this new layout. Speaking in The Times today, the ex-Super Aguri driver said the arena section should improve the spectacle for the fans while giving the drivers something else to think about.

“I really like the new Silverstone because it has a technical section that it never had before,” said Davidson. “The circuit is about half-a-mile longer and with more to think about but it is going to be as fast and furious as it ever was with plenty of chances to overtake.”

For those lucky enough to be going this weekend enjoy the fine weather that is forecast and the great racing that should be in store. If you have a General Admission ticket, see if you can get a spot at Copse for qualifying, and cheer the Brits over the line as they grab front row grid slots (or not as the case may be).

Anyone who is unable to make it to Northamptonshire can follow free practice on the BBC Red Button service at 10:00 and 13:00 on Friday and 10:00 on Saturday (all times BST). Qualifying is on BBC One at 13:00 on Saturday (coverage starts at 12:10) and the race is 13:00 on Sunday (coverage again starts at 12:10). Reports and reaction can be found throughout the weekend here on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.