This is it. This weekend the greatest show on Earth returns to its birthplace at the historic circuit of Silverstone in the rolling English countryside for round nine of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship.
A fortnight ago Fernando Alonso became the first repeat winner of the season, but he may have his work cut out to take a third victory in the notoriously action-packed race that Silverstone usually delivers.
Up to a quarter of a million people are expected through the gates over the weekend as the fanatical British fans flock to the temple of speed to cheer on Brit heroes Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Paul Di Resta.
In 2011 Alonso exploited a last-minute rule change to claim his and Ferrari’s only triumph of the season ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber on the dominant Red Bull machines. This year however Vettel and Red Bull are the clear favourites to take the title of victors at Silverstone. Having retired from a superb lead last time out in Valencia, it is clear Red Bull have made significant steps forward with their RB8 car relative to their rivals that have allowed them to establish a performance deficit to Mclaren, Ferrari and Lotus.
Few in the know expect anything other than a Red Bull whitewash when the cars take to the track on Friday morning. Nevertheless their rivals, including a pumped Lewis Hamilton, will be doing everything in their power to ensure a decent weekend of competitive racing for the loyal British fans that flock to the track in the hundreds of thousands every year.
Mclaren will inevitably have the majority of support at Silverstone and return to their home country with just two victories so far this year despite having the fastest car for the opening phase of the season. Button and Hamilton will inevitably be buoyed by the support they draw on from the packed stands and a British home victory cannot be discounted.
Ferrari are riding high on the back of Alonso’s incredible form that claimed wins in Malaysia and Europe and are confident that he can repeat their 2011 triumph at the British GP. Rob Smedley, Felipe Massa’s race engineer and proud Brit, explains. “Our chances are good, even if it’s no secret we still need to develop and have a quicker car,” he said. “Our car has always been particularly suited to high-speed corners and Silverstone has high-speed turns for almost two-thirds of the track.”
Red Bull won the British Grand Prix in 2009 and 2010 by considerable margins and without team orders imposed on Mark Webber they may have claimed a third straight win in 2011. With Sebastian Vettel in the middle of a summer season charge after an off-par start to the year, Silverstone is firmly in his sights for another victory.
Of all the top teams Mercedes GP stake their claim as Silverstone residents being based in nearby Brackley, although the German-branded squad remain uncertain of their hopes around the sweeping high-speed turns of Silverstone. Likewise Lotus who have made significant progress this season but are frustrated by the elusive win they have been seeking.
Force India have been on the up in recent events and Scot Paul Di Resta is one of the dark horses for a solid result, “I think we arrive at Silverstone feeling positive. The performance level we showed in Valencia was a boost for the team and if we can build on that ahead of Silverstone I’m optimistic we can continue to put on a strong show. The guys back at the factory are working hard to give us some developments in time for the weekend so hopefully we can find a bit more performance.”
With Button struggling and Hamilton failing to deliver, Di Resta could be the highest placed Brit come the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon. Time for a flutter!