Norfolk’s slice of the British Grand Prix

It is one of the biggest dates on the UK sporting calendar and a sport at the peak of its power – with a little piece of Norfolk taking its place on the grid.

It is one of the biggest dates on the UK sporting calendar and a sport at the peak of its power – with a little piece of Norfolk taking its place on the grid.

Sunday's British Grand Prix alone is expected to see 150,000 F1 fans flock through Silverstone's gates. Much more than double that number will have taken in the action at some point since Thursday set-up.

The main draw, as always, comes at the front. Defending champion Sebastian Vettel has quite simply blown everyone else away so far this season. Two second places only look like blots on his copy book because he has won the other six races.

Last year's race winner and the German's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber is desperate to beat his opposite number. McLaren's British pairing of 2008 drivers' champion Lewis Hamilton and his successor in 2009, Jenson Button, will rightly earn every breath of support from the home crowd – as will Scottish rookie, Paul di Resta, who confessed the race is the biggest moment of his career to date.


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And a few rows further back will sit the yellow and green machines of Hingham's Team Lotus.

For the Anglo-Malaysian team, in reality Silverstone represents one of two home races. While the pre-season hopes to challenge the paddock's more established constructors have proven beyond them so far in the second season on the grid, you won't hear Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen complain. Even for a man that usually comes across as a contented figure, this year's British Grand Prix weekend was clearly to his liking.

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'I'm happy to be back here,' said the former McLaren man. 'I used to live in Northampton and this was the perfect place. Obviously it's a little bit different in facilities from back then, which feels unusual, but at least we are in good shape.

'The race track is good – I don't like the new section so much but the other two sectors are always good to drive and the first one is probably the best around. I always enjoy coming back here.'

Despite being behind his team-mate in the drivers' standings on countback, the season has been a tougher affair on Jarno Trulli – left to bemoan the T128's power steering issues since winter testing. Yet even the Italian veteran was in a smiling mood – if only before treacherous conditions during Friday's free practice sessions that perfectly exemplified why he has no special love for a weekend at Silverstone.

'I've never been a big fan of this track to be honest, really because of the weather and the wind,' said Trulli. 'As an Italian coming from the south, every year I come here – and I live in England – the weather is the most difficult thing to adapt to. It's always windy and the weather changes from hour to hour.

'It might mix it up for the race, but I think the weekend is going to be nice – so we will enjoy a bit of sunshine and it is going to be good for the spectators, because in the UK it is always a big event.'

Really, it was the fans who paid the price for Friday's wash-out, with teams limiting their running in such wet conditions.

Things should be different from Saturday, with better weather in the pipeline for Sunday especially – as well as high hopes at Norfolk's second team, Group Lotus Renault.

The Oxfordshire outfit – backed to the tune of �100m by Hethel's sports car manufacturer – will hope Silverstone's high speed corners can bring a return to form.

Two podiums from the opening two races have been followed by a best of just one fifth place since, as Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov struggle to sustain the early momentum of the black and gold R31. But German star Heidfeld is already looking forward to a favourite of his.

'Everything came together on those early occasions and since then we've not maximised our potential – that's just the way it is,' admitted Heidfeld.

'The team is going through some changes and we have learned some lessons, and I'm still optimistic we will move forward.

'Here the relations between Germans and English is not always perfect – but I enjoy it at Silverstone, the fact that on the race weekends I feel the fans really care for the sport and have a lot of knowledge.

'Other countries it's more they are fans of Ferrari, or a team or driver. Here they might support the English drivers and teams more, but they have a lot of respect for the rest and it makes it a very nice race.'

Add a dash of entertainment to that 'very nice' race, and those fans – plus a global television audience of millions – will be very happy indeed.

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