Silverstone ready to write a new Formula One chapter – with two fights in the offing
Formula One stops off at home this weekend with two goals to achieve. While the sport’s supremo Bernie Ecclestone sets about taking the circus to as much of the globe as humanly – and financially – possible, Silverstone and the British Grand Prix continue to sparkle; the circuit’s resplendent new facilities rejuvenating an event that deserved better than last year’s fiasco with the weather.
Which neatly brings aim one: to make sure 2013 is worth the watch. Tickets are available on the gate at Silverstone for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race – something unheard of in recent years. The circuit claims Sebastian Vettel’s dominance has cost them sell-out status.
Flooded car parks 12 months ago and turning fans away who had already bought tickets costing a small fortune are reasons closer to the mark.
Silverstone has recovered from such issues in the past, and will do so again. But what about the British sporting challenge. Can it deliver a rival for the British Lions and Wimbledon?
Not since 2008 has the British crowd had home success to shout about, with Lewis Hamilton and McLaren on the podium’s top step. Now the two are parted, only Hamilton appears a contender – victory would be his first in a Mercedes and probably too sweet for his moody mind to contemplate.
Oh how McLaren would love to be in such a position. Their gamble on bringing a new car for the new season, rather than evolving last year’s, has not only backfired. It continues to backfire.
A team of McLaren’s size and tradition should have turned things around by now. The only hope is that in a bizarre twist of logic, Jenson Button gets good luck at Silverstone in a bad car – rather than the usual way round.
Force India could deliver better for Paul di Resta. His car looks consistently quick, doesn’t fight its tyres and is primed for a podium. The Scot is cutting a confident figure – which may be tied in with Silverstone’s second aim: rejuvenating the season.
Mark Webber’s confirmed retirement at the end of the season means F1 will lose one of its favourite characters. It’s a major loss. But he has also kicked off a second fight for 2013 – the one to replace him at Red Bull.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen would clearly like it – although Vettel was more non-committal than you’d expect on the subject on Thursday. But the key is Red Bull haven’t decided yet, meaning this weekend signals the starting gun for a host of guys to secure the most coveted seat on the grid.
Drivers’ philosophies as they are, plenty will line up for Sunday’s lights out aiming to put their name in the hat to prove they too are not bad for a number two driver.
But as one battle prepares to kick off, Silverstone could yet see the fat lady gargling as the main fight draws to an frighteningly early conclusion.
Visiting Germany seven days later means Silverstone is the first of back-to-back weekends that could take Vettel to the verge of a remarkable fourth title.
Fernando Alonso likes Silverstone and tends to deliver here, while Raikkonen’s title challenge may well be over if he can’t pick up big points.
They are the season-long scripts now being written – with Silverstone just the latest chapter.
But what a chapter it could be.