'Milder' British GP a boon for Mercedes

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton can keep the cheers going at Silverstone this weekend by winning his home British Grand Prix for a record sixth time in front of the biggest crowd since the days of "Mansell Mania" in 1992.

The fans already have plenty to celebrate after Wednesday's announcement that Formula One is staying at the circuit for the next five years, and five-time world champion Hamilton aims to provide the icing on the cake.

"It has become the most anticipated event of the year for me and the one I enjoy the most," said the Briton, who is looking to notch his seventh win in 10 races on Sunday.

Championship leader Hamilton, on 197 points and 31 clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas, has won four of the last five races at Silverstone, losing out only last year to Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel of Germany after starting on pole position.

With Mercedes winning all but one race this year, a run that was ended in Austria last month by Red Bull's Max Verstappen, they will again start as favourites.

And team boss Toto Wolff feels normal service will resume at the milder Silverstone as Spielberg was an aberration owing to the high temperatures.

"Austria exposed the biggest vulnerability of our car and it meant we couldn't challenge for the win at any point of the weekend," the Austrian said. "Fortunately, the English summer is known for more moderate temperatures, so cooling should not be a major issue for us in Silverstone.

"We've had some of our best performances this year on tracks with a wide range of corner speeds so, on paper, we should be in relatively good form."

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto also believes the Scuderia, who have yet to get on the winner's podium this term, will again have to play second fiddle to their rivals.

"We do not expect Silverstone to suit our car particularly well but, at every race, we have seen that the balance of power can change, often unexpectedly," he said.

However, Milton Keynes-based Red Bull will be fired up after getting their first win this campaign, with Dutchman Verstappen a big fan of the high-speed corners.

McLaren, with British teenager Lando Norris catching the eye this season, are also hoping to give their home fans something to cheer.

The track itself adds a new element into the mix, with the circuit resurfaced for the second time in two years due to drainage issues that contributed to the cancellation of last year's rain-swept MotoGP race. With forecasts predicting a sunny Sunday, the race-day attendance is set to be a sell-out exceeding 140,500 attendees, the biggest crowd of any race last year.

"It will be a record crowd by our estimation, because this goes back before our computer records," said Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle. "This is the largest crowd since (Nigel) Mansell last brought them here in their droves in 1992 (the year he won the title in a Williams). It's the first time that we've come off sale on general admission tickets in many, many years."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline ''Milder' British GP a boon for Mercedes'. Print Edition | Subscribe