The F1 Grand Prix world tour pitches up in Northamptonshire this weekend as Silverstone plays host to the 72nd British Grand Prix.
With seven of the sport’s ten teams based in the UK, the British Grand Prix is a special one in the calendar with the event understandably generating a sense of ‘homecoming’. One of the seven GB-based teams, Mercedes, currently leads the constructors’ standings and will be keen to consolidate that position on home turf.
Standing in their way is a rejuvenated and fired-up Ferrari team, who in the drivers’ championship are leading the way in the form of a focussed and ruthless Sebastian Vettel. The German currently leads the way on 171 points with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on 151, just 15 points ahead of his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas.
The quiet Finn however – in many ways the antithesis of his flamboyant and heart-on-sleeve team-mate, Hamilton – is in fine fettle and, courtesy of a narrow win in Austria last Sunday, is very much on an upward curve. So instead of just contemplating how he intends to catch the German, Hamilton now has to contend with a flying Finn who is breathing down his neck.
Hamilton’s demeanour in Austria last Sunday, following a fourth place courtesy of a gearbox penalty, smacked of someone under pressure and it’s clear he needs a successful Silverstone weekend to reignite his charge for the 2017 world championship. But he retains an inherent self-belief – one that has seen him already win three world championships – and believes if he can re-focus and continue driving the way he has been of late his luck will turn.
And if he wins on Sunday, Hamilton will equal the record for most consecutive wins in a home Grand Prix. He’s won his last three races at Silverstone and if makes it four at the weekend he’ll match the achievements of Juan Manuel Fangio and Jim Clark, both of whom won their home races – in Argentina and Britain – on four consecutive occasions.
There are others record in Hamilton’s sights too. Victory on Sunday would be his fifth on British shores and if he earns pole in Saturday’s qualifying he will equal the record for most British Grand Prix pole positions by one driver. That Mercedes have taken pole position for the last four races at Silverstone stands him in good stead.
For his part, Vettel will be smarting from missing out in Austria – he was closing on Bottas but ran out of laps – but will be buoyed by the Ferrari team giving his car an engine upgrade ahead of Silverstone. Intriguingly, one of many sub-plots that will unfold at the weekend will be Vettel’s relationship with the Silverstone crowd, particularly bearing in mind the German’s unsportsmanlike and reckless antics in Baku.
In the past Vettel has spoken of the fairness and knowledge of the British crowd but one wonders if they’ll be quite so reasonable and understanding at the weekend. While Hamilton has not always endeared himself to the British public – sometimes through fault of his own, other times through a lack of communication – they will unquestionably unite behind him this weekend, mindful of the game of 100mph Russian Roulette played by the German in Azerbajan.
British F1 GP history
While the British fans may not be bracing themselves for a Vettel love-in, they will be hopeful of seeing a British victory, partly because it’s something they have become very familiar with. No less than 24 times in the race’s long history have they witnessed a home win, these wins achieved by twelve different drivers. If Hamilton can continue this tradition any indiscretions on his part will be quickly forgotten.
The British Grand Prix is one of only two races on the F1 circuit that has appeared in every round of the world championship since it began in 1950, the other being the Italian Grand Prix. Interestingly the Italian race – now held in Monza – has only seen a home winner four times.
Sadly for the Silverstone faithful the British GP may not be held there beyond 2019; the race organisers having indicated they intend to trigger a break clause in their contract. Unless a new deal can be agreed the race may head elsewhere in the British Isles, possibly on the streets of London.
Best of the Rest
Aside from Hamilton, who has dominated the race in recent years, Fernando Alonso has won the British Grand Prix twice, while Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen have taken one victory apiece; the latter still in one of the fastest cars – in the form of the Ferrari – and still capable of getting among the main protagonists.
In 2016, Max Verstappen roared to second place with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and both will be keen to go one, two or even three places better this time round in their fast but – in the case of Verstappen in particular – unreliable Red Bulls. Team manager Christian Horner will be hopeful of a successful weekend.
Force India, on their home track, will also be worthy of keeping an eye on and if Sergio Perez and his car can find some consistency they could be looking at a top six slot.
Lewis Hamilton clearly needs to rediscover his mojo, not least to get his title charge back on track, but it’s a brave person who’ll bet against him winning his fourth in a row. Home advantage will be a factor; so too a crowd who will let Vettel feel the heat.
The German however is a formidable competitor and will relish taking on not only Hamilton but also the Silverstone crowd, and at 11/4 (with Betfred) he looks decent value for those wishing to almost triple their money.
Equally, Hamilton’s a master at Silverstone and for those not keen on his short price for the win (10/11) may be instead tempted to back him to pull off the weekend’s hat-trick – the pole position, the win and the fastest lap – currently available at 5/2.
If you fancy a long shot then the prospect of the planets aligning for Max Verstappen is not out of the question, particularly after last season’s second place. He may need some luck, and if Hamilton and Vettel were to take each other out (not beyond the realms) that would certainly open up the field for him, but armed with a reliable car he could be a dangerous competitor on Sunday. At 14/1 a small wager shouldn’t be out of the question.
Vettel, in addition to being 11/4 for the win, is a very decent 9/2 to take the pole and a very short 2/7 to finish on the podium, which is probably best avoided.
Bottas meanwhile is 9/2 for the win, more than reasonable given his win in Austria, 100/30 to take pole and 8/15 for a place on the Silverstone podium, while Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Räikkönen is a whopping 25/1 for the win, 10/1 for the fastest lap and 11/4 for a podium finish.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate, Ricciardo can be backed at 16/1 to be drinking from his shoe from the top step of the podium but looks even better value to be the fastest qualifier at 25/1; Verstappen at an only slightly less attractive 22/1 to grab the fastest lap. In terms of a podium finish, Ricciardo is a very reasonable 5/2, while Verstappen is slightly shorter at 9/4.
Worthy of consideration when considering putting the name ‘Ricciardo’ on your betting slips is that he has now finished on the podium five times in a row, during which time has collected more points than anyone with the exception of Vettel, who has also collected 85 in that time. All of a sudden that 5/2 for a podium finish looks that little bit more attractive.
The Red Bull theme is also difficult to ignore when looking at the market for the constructors winner at Silverstone. While Mercedes and Ferrari are fairly unattractive at 4/9 and 11/5 respectively, the Red Bull odds of 7/1 stand out.
Another interesting bet is Sergio Perez, in his Force India, making it onto the podium. Given that Silverstone is home to the team and the circuit is one that’s very familiar to Perez, at 12/1 this looks every bit as much value as the 14/1 for Verstappen to win the race. Again, unworthy of mega bucks but worth a small wager.
Race winner: Sebastian Vettel – 11/4
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton – 11/10
Podium finish: Daniel Ricciardo: 5/2