All eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton for the world champion’s home race this weekend.
Can he take a record-breaking sixth win, and fifth in a row? Will he commit to another season of Formula 1 – or more – next year? And where is Britain’s next Hamilton going to come from?
Here are the talking points for this weekend’s race.
Can Hamilton win five in a row?
The reigning world champion has made a stronghold of his home circuit in recent seasons. Last year he won as he pleased on a day when team mate Valtteri Bottas was delayed by a penalty and Ferrari over-stressed their tyres. The signs are Hamilton’s return to Silverstone will offer every opportunity to take a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix win and fifth consecutive home triumph.
Silverstone should be right in Mercedes’ sweet spot, with the same combination of new asphalt and quick corners that the W09 thrived on at the Circuit de Catalunya and Paul Ricard. Plus, of course, the thinner Pirelli tyres which Hamilton wanted them to bring to the last race.
But could the unusually warm British summer play against Mercedes? The team struggled with tyres blistering in Austria, particularly once Hamilton dropped into traffic. Temperatures are forecast to be high over the weekend.
Hamilton’s home race would also be an obvious place for him to make a long-awaited announcement about his future. Mercedes has recently hinted his new deal was ready to be announced.
But how long does he want to keep racing for? He’s had two three-year deals at Mercedes so far. Hamilton’s interest in pursuing careers in music and fashion is well-known, and he recently made his studio record debut.
He is unquestionably the biggest name in the sport today. F1’s new owners will be hoping he plans to stick around at least long enough to experience their revamped post-2020 F1. And his decision will have implications for Silverstone too.
Will Silverstone extend its deal?
Last year Silverstone activated a clause in its contract allowing it to pull out of holding the British Grand Prix after 2019. Along with many other race promoters, the BRDC is seeking more favourable terms with F1’s new commercial rights holder Liberty Media.
With the future of Britain’s megastar F1 driver uncertain, no other British drivers on the grid and significant questions marks over Liberty’s plans for post-2020, the race organisers have plenty of reasons to hold out another 12 months before putting pen to paper.
Britain’s dwindling roster
Only one British driver started last year’s race because Jolyon Palmer’s Renault broke down on the formation lap. But 12 years on only one British driver is on the entry list at Silverstone.
In the junior categories, however, there is an abundance of talent suggesting Britain’s F1 future is in good hands. McLaren-backed Lando Norris landed in Formula Two under an avalanche of mostly-justified hype. But Mercedes junior George Russell is showing him the way at the moment and took the championship lead off his rival last weekend.
Two other Formula 1 teams are backing young British talent: Renault has already given Jack Aitken a run in its F1 car and Ferrari’s Callum Ilott is leading GP3. Any if not all of these look like potential F1 drivers of the future.
McLaren change course
McLaren has finally accepted the seriousness of its 2018 plight. Racing director Eric Boullier has parted company with the team and a new organisational structure has been put in place.
This is not going to transform the team’s fortunes overnight. But it signals a realisation that its problems ran far deeper than merely not having a sufficiently competitive power unit for the past three seasons.
Third week blues?
For the first time ever the teams arrive at a race weekend having also been racing the two previous weekends. Energy levels will be sapped and parts stocks may be low – particularly for the likes of McLaren and Toro Rosso, who got through a lot of front wings at the Red Bull Ring.
But while the strain may show behind the scenes, expect the teams to keep the show on the road. Whether they’ll accept going through it again next year is another matter.
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