Formula One is back this weekend to start another three-weekend extravaganza of racing, with the first of two Grand Prix at Silverstone. The British Grand Prix will kick things off for triple-header #2 of 2020, before the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at the same circuit one week later.
Of course, Silverstone is where it all began, with the first official Formula One race being held there in 1950. But I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time for the TV coverage to go over all that next week at the aforementioned Anniversary GP. As for present times, though, the Northamptonshire track has become a stomping ground for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. With how 2020 has transpired thus far, I’m doubtful things will change this weekend.
The big news that broke on Thursday ahead of the race though is that Racing Point driver Sergio Perez will not be present. The Mexican, whose future continues to be in doubt with Vettel being considered for his seat, failed a Covid-19 test. Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne are the likely replacements but at the time of writing, neither driver has been confirmed to drive the for the pink team.
Silverstone served up a barnstorming race in 2019, with all three top teams fighting for the lead positions. Valtteri Bottas stole pole position from his teammate by just 0.006s. The tight gap between them on Saturday continued into Sunday with Hamilton pressuring the Finn throughout the early laps and briefly getting the lead before Bottas regained the position. Behind the two Merc’s, the sport’s future shone brightly as Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc resumed their intense rivalry from their Austrian Grand Prix clash and gave each other no quarter as they fought hard for third place. Max won a pit stop battle, but it was Leclerc who managed to re-pass on track.
Antonio Giovinazzi suffered the only mechanical failure of the Grand Prix, and the resulting safety car changed the course of the race. With Bottas having already stopped, Hamilton had a cheap tire-change with the field running slower and emerged in first place. A position he would keep until the end. With his early staunch defense, Bottas could feel hard done by, yet he had no answer following the safety car with Hamilton finishing 25s ahead by the end of the race.
The big talking point was Sebastian Vettel’s woeful attempt at re-taking the position he lost to Verstappen on the Hangar Straight. The German locked his brakes after losing downforce behind the Dutchman going into Vale corner, and both drivers found themselves with damaged cars in the gravel. Amazingly, both drivers not only crawled back to the track but neither retired. Vettel received a 10-second penalty and required a new front wing, punting him down to 16th. Verstappen crossed the line in 5th.
What to look out for
If people thought that the opening two rounds at Spielberg would’ve given Red Bull a slight advantage over Mercedes, then two races at Silverstone are undoubtedly a massive benefit to Lewis Hamilton over, well, everyone. As will be the case for most of the season, it falls on Valterri Bottas to be the man to stop him. If it weren’t for the unfortunately timed safety car last year, Bottas might have won the race by virtue of pole position. I’d say Valtteri will need to repeat his qualifying feat once more to stand a chance of victory this year.
At the other end of the field, Williams have promised an upgrade for both drivers this weekend. Although the team has much to be encouraged by with their qualifying performances this year, no points are won on Saturdays. In race pace, they still are behind Haas and Alfa Romeo. If the team wants to finish anywhere but last in the constructor’s championship this year, this upgrade needs to get them nearer to their closest rivals on Sundays too.
Also, keep one eye on Alex Albon this weekend. Albon should feel comfortable at Silverstone, having won the feature race in both GP3 and Formula 2, demonstrating his familiarity and speed at the circuit. As George Russell loyally suggested in Hungary two weeks ago, Albon is “being made to look like an idiot” by Red Bull. It isn’t easy to know if that’s the case with Verstappen as the benchmark. Either he’s just that much slower than the Dutch lion, or the team are supporting Verstappen at the expense of Albon. If two more weekends behind his teammate’s pace unfold at another track Albon has won in junior series, expect further questions about what is going on inside Red Bull.
Oh, and look out for the helmet of Lando Norris too!
Virtually every F1 outfit will have some staff or personnel from the UK. The country has an abundant talent pool for motorsport engineers. But officially, only three constructors would have the British national anthem play if they won; Williams, McLaren, and Racing Point, and all three are enjoying promising seasons. In particular, Racing Point, who must fancy their chances for a podium at one of the two Grand Prix that the circuit next door to their factory is hosting.
Of the drivers, the British Grand Prix will be the closest thing to a home race for Alex Albon. But it’s George Russell and Lando Norris who will once again race Silverstone under the British flag alongside championship leader Hamilton.
Valterri Bottas is the man who has the fastest time around the track with his 1:25.093 from last year’s qualifying. Officially though, Lewis Hamilton holds the track record from the final lap of 2019’s race.
Along with Monza, Silverstone is one of the highest speed races on the calendar. Full of history, famous fast corners, and a wide track that promotes overtaking, Silverstone is often praised by the drivers as one of the top circuits they drive. The long Hangar Straight and the Wellington Straight are DRS zones that allow for close racing and passing.
Circuit length: 5.891 km / 3.661 miles
Race length: 306.198 km / 190.263 miles
Lap Record: 1:27.369 (Lewis Hamilton, 2019)
Originally published at For The Love of Cars ( www.fortloc.com)