LONDON • Fresh from two dominant triumphs, Lewis Hamilton will seek to complete an early-season hat-trick and extend his home wins record to seven without his usual impassioned supporters in "super weird" circumstances at this weekend's British Grand Prix.
The drivers' leader has always drawn energy from the big crowds that supported him at Silverstone, but this year's event will be run behind closed doors.
"The British Grand Prix is the best and that's particularly because of the fans - thousands and thousands always turn up to create a great spectacle," said the Briton. "So, it is going to be super weird to be there without them."
For the six-time world champion, that means no crowd-surfing celebrations and keeping his feet on the ground as he bids to add to his wins from the Steiermark and Hungarian Grands Prix as the coronavirus-delayed season continues.
This Sunday's race will be the 71st British Grand Prix and 54th at Silverstone and is followed one week later by a race at the same venue to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the inaugural world championship event in 1950.
After his recent victories, and given his record at Silverstone, Hamilton will start as favourite, but can expect a strong challenge from his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who won the Austrian Grand Prix season-opener.
Already the two drivers have demonstrated the clear supremacy of their unbeaten W11 cars, dubbed "the fastest F1 cars ever" by team chief Toto Wolff this week.
He said: "We will miss our fans at Silverstone - but we know that they will be rooting for us from home so we are determined to show our gratitude by putting on a great show.
"These are the fastest F1 cars ever built. They have broken the track records at both Spielberg and Budapest and it will be thrilling to see them on the iconic Silverstone circuit."
The high-speed track's demanding and fast corners are expected to suit Mercedes, but Wolff said he is taking nothing for granted.
"We resolved the issues that troubled us on the first weekend, won three out of three races and scored a good amount of points, but they highlighted a crucial factor - the importance of reliability in this shortened season," he said.
"We're one of only two teams that have finished all the races with both cars this year and we know how quickly a DNF (did not finish) can make a points lead disappear."
Arriving at Silverstone, Hamilton (63 points) leads Bottas by five with Max Verstappen of Red Bull third (33), but hoping to close the gap.
The Racing Point base is only a few hundred metres from the circuit entrance and, after demonstrating their speed and potential in Austria and Hungary, they too hope to be in a scrap with Red Bull to secure a podium finish before Renault lodge another expected protest at the integrity of their "pink Mercedes" car.
Ferrari, the only team to have interrupted Mercedes' supremacy at Silverstone when Sebastian Vettel triumphed in 2018, are likely to continue their struggle for competitive form after a lacklustre start.
"We know that from a pure competitiveness point of view it will be difficult, but we need to focus on acquiring the best information possible so that we can develop our car in the right direction," said its sporting director Laurent Mekies.
F1 BRITISH GRAND PRIX
Practice 1 (5.55pm) & 2 (9.55pm) - Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208.