Silverstone has always been the spiritual home of Formula One – and low ticket sales ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix will do little to dampen fans spirits when British teams and drivers take to the grid on Sunday.
Despite record-breaking crowds in 2011 (numbering some 315,000 people over the 3-day event), the relatively poor performances of both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have been blamed for the first non-sell out British Grand Prix since 2003; although high ticket prices have themselves been cited by many as the reason for the slump.
Regardless, 2013 has been a season of intrigue and compelling action so far, and it can surely only reach new heights as the classic summer ‘European’ season kicks off in style at the Buckinghamshire circuit.
You could be forgiven for forgetting Sebastian Vettel is comfortably leading the World Championship and seemingly on course for his 4th consecutive global triumph; after all, the German has kept a relatively low profile despite his crushing victories in Malaysia, Bahrain and Canada just three weeks ago leaving his nearest rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen trailing in his wake.
“Apart from the unpredictable English weather, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is a highlight of the season and one of my favourite tracks. It’s located only 30km from our factory in Milton Keynes and the circuit’s a real challenge. Even after the paddock and pit lane conversion, it remains a tough track. Only Suzuka can be compared to Silverstone – no other track on the calendar has such a sequence of superfast corners like Silverstone does.” says Vettel.
McLaren have experienced something of a nightmare in 2013 thus far; Canada last time out finally brought to an end a points scoring streak that began in March 2010. Despite aero tests and another upgrade package being added to the MP4/28 this weekend, the Woking-based team have denied they have significant expectations for Silverstone:
“Although the race in Montreal was disappointing, I still feel that it wasn’t a fully accurate reflection of where we are as a team – on a smoother track like Silverstone, I’m optimistic that we’ll fare better.” said Jenson Button.
“Of course, I don’t want to raise everyone’s expectations: I think the fans know what to expect. For me, my goal will be to get the maximum from the package and to race as hard as I can – that’ll be a satisfactory outcome for me next weekend.”
The British Grand Prix has been something of a happy hunting ground for Mark Webber in recent seasons, with the UK’s resident Aussie bagging truly magnificent victories in both 2010 and 2012. However, the 2013 event will be his last after announcing his retirement from the sport at the end of the season.
“It’s the home race for a lot of the team and it’s my second home race, as I live in the UK. The fans here are right up there with the Italian Tifosi; Formula One has been an integral part of UK motorsport for such a long time. The Silverstone GP is a brilliant weekend, it’s such a prestigious event and that’s why it’s so nice to get a great result there. I think the 2010 victory was pretty special – it was my first British GP win.”
On his impending F1 departure in favour of Porsche sportscar’s new assault on the famed Le Mans 24 Hours, the Australian added:
“Porsche has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding performance and technology at the highest level. I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
Force India will field two British drivers in FP1 after it was announced test and reserve driver James Rossiter will take over German Adrian Sutil’s car to evaluate correlation between the simulator and the real VJM06, rather than grooming the 29-year old for a future race role. Nevertheless, Rossiter was happy to hear the news.
“This is an amazing opportunity and I’m really looking forward to taking part in an official practice session during a Grand Prix weekend. The fact that Silverstone is my home race makes the news even sweeter.”
“The main reason for driving the car is to help progress the team’s simulator programme, which I’ve been working on for almost 12 months. I drove the car during winter testing in February, but it’s valuable to have another opportunity to experience the real car and make sure it’s in harmony with the simulator.”
After ‘that’ court ruling last week, Mercedes escaped with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist and will count their lucky stars that they will be allowed to compete in Silverstone. Lewis Hamilton has cast a pall of doubt over his motivation and intentions after commenting earlier this week that he would relish the opportunity of driving for rivals Ferrari after just 3 months in his new job. The Briton has also been criticised for his distinct lifestyle choices, including his new pet bulldog ‘Roscoe’ and told to ‘ditch the dog and concentrate on driving’ by ex-F1 driver John Watson.
One man who is totally focused is Marussia’s Max Chilton – Britain’s youngest F1 driver will participate in his first home race this weekend.
“The British Grand Prix is really special, and for so many reasons, so to be able to call it my home Grand Prix is pretty incredible and without doubt it will be the highlight of my debut season so far. It is also the Team’s home race and Silverstone is just 18 miles from our base in Banbury, so we’re racing in our own backyard with fantastic support from our fans, our Team and our Partners right here on our doorstep. It doesn’t get much better than that, apart from bringing home a great result of course, which is what we’ll all be pushing for.”