Friday, 4 July 2008

British Grand Prix: Preview

With McLaren-Mercedes licking their wounds after two mallings in two consecutive races, first at the hands of BMW and then by Ferrari, they will be seeing their 'home' Grand Prix as the perfect opportunity to fight back. Young Brit Lewis Hamilton has lost vital ground in the driver's championship, and the McLaren team has fallen massively off the pace in the constructor's standings. They need to win, and they need to win big in front of their home fans if they are to get their title aspirations back on track.

Ferrari meanwhile have cruised to the top of both standings after their near faultless 1-2 finish in the French Grand Prix last time out. Massa will be strong favourite to emerge from Silverstone with his championship lead intact, and it would take a near miracle for BMW to overhaul Ferrari's advantage in the constructor's championship. Kimi Raikkonen will take an engine swap after his exhaust failure in the closing stages of the French GP, but will avoid a 10 place penalty after the added clemency this year's rules provide with regards to engine changes. Every body gets one free swap per season, so Kimi will not risk taking any chances with the engine that took such a pounding in Magny-Cours.

Much of the media spotlight inevitably has fallen upon Lewis Hamilton after two fairly disastrous races in a row, but even more so here as this is his home Grand Prix. With David Coulthard in a midfield Red Bull and Jenson Button in a catatonicly slow Honda, all British hopes lie with the McLaren driver with the possibility of being the first Englishman to win here since Johnny Herbert back in 1995. He showed very well in testing here last week, just to raise hopes that little bit further. There's no denying he has the talent to win here, and he may well have the car to win. A nation expects. No pressure then kiddo!

Of course, McLaren aren't the only British based team on the grid. Williams, Red Bull, Renault, Honda and Force India all run their F1 operations out of the UK. Indeed, Force India's factory is a mere stone's throw away from the Silverstone pit lane. With most of the staff of these teams present at the circuit on race day to cheer their drivers on, and combined with the rich history of the event, it is one of the races that the teams would dearly love to win.

Few of these teams have a chance unfortunately. However, the real fairy tale ending on Sunday would be for Red Bull's David Coulthard to win his third British Grand Prix. On Thursday he announced that he would be retiring at the end of this season. You couldn't imagine a better way for him to bow out of the sport than by winning his last ever home Grand Prix.

While the chances of that are clearly rather slim, one factor that could make it a slight possibility is the prospect of rain. The British "summertime" is in full swing in early July so, naturally, cool temperatures and intermittent heavy rain have been predicted all weekend long. It should be noted that rain was predicted for the past two races, and it never really came. But if it's going to happen anywhere it's most likely to be in the changeable climes of Great Britain! It could really mix things up come race day, and in qualifying too, so the potential for a shock result or two is definitely there.

So, will this be the start of a great McLaren fightback? Or will this be the weekend that Ferrari really started to engrave their name into both trophies again?


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