The approach to television coverage for the British Grand Prix has always seemed strange. Both Sky and the BBC are likely to dedicate more airtime to this race than any other, yet it is the one race that a significant proportion of their audience will be watching it live, and not from their armchairs.
Furthermore, to those who cannot or will not make the journey to Silverstone, and do watch it on TV, the fact that the race is happening a hundred-odd miles does not matter one jot. To them, it is no different from the other 18, and could be taking place in Singapore for all they care.
In fact, there is a huge downside to watching the British Grand Prix on television: it is the one race where you must put up with the gaggle of gurning fools who, having inexplicably landed themselves paddock passes, stand behind television pundits in full view of the cameras, making complete idiots of themselves. It should be you!
TV viewers will also have to watch an interview with Bernie Ecclestone, where he will explain how Silverstone is essentially a country fair, is by far the worst race on the calendar, and should be more like Abu Dhabi.
And finally somebody will win the race, and they will not be British, and you assess the whole weekend as a damp squib. Roll on Germany!
Yet despite this, the British Grand Prix will be the race that, apart from maybe Monaco, will get the most media coverage of any other this season, at least in the UK.
However, this year we should have an extra narrative. The F1 circus heads to ‘the home of British motorsport’ off the back of the ‘Testgate’ ruling, in which the FIA Independent Tribunal punished Mercedes (and Pirelli) for conducting an illegal test after the Spanish Grand Prix.
Despite this seemingly damning verdict, Mercedes were given what many judged as a light punishment. There were no points deductions, no bans, no fines even. Instead, the team will miss the Young Drivers’ Test (poor Sam Bird), and get a reprimand.
This ruling was a bit of an anti-climax considering the hype and anticipation surrounding the build-up to the trail and the hearing itself, but most sane and level headed people will not get too worked up about the punishment given that the evidence presented on Thursday seemed to reflect badly on everybody involved.
Some of the other teams may still be a bit unhappy though. Red Bull, in particular, are said to be a tad annoyed by the verdict. This is likely to spill over into the early part of the weekend, where Christian Horner and Sebastian Vettel will no doubt sulk in interviews, and Ross Brawn, Lewis Hamilton et al. will try to convince everybody that a three-day young driver test on a track with ten other teams in changeable conditions is much more valuable than a private test session in a hot country with race drivers.
Once that drama has played out, and the racing gets underway, we could still be in for a good show. Those in the crowd, and those watching on TV glad to be out of the (possible) rain, will be hoping that Hamilton – probably the best placed Brit – can defeat the strong Ferrari and Red Bull challenge and deliver his first Silverstone win since 2008.
Mercedes do not seem to have got on top of their performance issues though, despite that illicit 1000km of running in Spain. Vettel or Fernando Alonso are likely to be the bookies’ favourites for the win on Sunday with perhaps Mark Webber, the Silverstone specialist, a dark horse?
Paul di Resta will be hoping that his good form continues into his home race, and perhaps Max Chilton can get the better of the impressive Jules Bianchi at Marussia at his first British Grand Prix. Jenson Button would probably be grateful for points given the woeful performance of his McLaren in recent races, with his dream of a first Silverstone podium likely to be out of reach this weekend.
Spare a thought for Williams too. They are unlikely to be pushing for wins or podiums this weekend, but the legendary team will celebrate its 600th grand prix on Sunday. Valtteri Bottas impressed in Canada when he secured his third place on the Montreal grid – maybe the Finn can work his magic again at Silverstone.
Don’t forget, there are still tickets left for this weekend. You can buy them on the gate! It may be very wet, you may have to watch Vettel extend his championship lead, and it will probably take you several hours to get away from the track on Sunday evening, but at least you will not have to watch the extended coverage of people standing behind Damon Hill waving to their mothers!
|2013 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX|
|Timetable (all times BST)|
|Friday 28th June|
|Free Practice 1||10:00|
|Free Practice 2||14:00|
|Saturday 29th June|
|Free Practice 3||10:00|
|Sunday 30th June|
|Live: Sky Sports F1 HD, BBC One; Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra|