Lewis Hamilton is always in a buoyant mood at the British Grand Prix and as he saluted the thousands of fans on Thursday evening on the home straight, it’s hard not to agree with him that Silverstone is the best destination Formula 1 goes to.
It’s one of the most attended Grand Prix of 2023 with 460,000 people expected during the event and the track is a thing of beauty that elevates racing.
High speed corners are just fun to drive and if you are lucky enough to stand at Maggotts and Becketts, you will see why. It will take your breath away as the drivers pin the throttle through the left, right, dab the brakes for the next left, shift a couple gears down for the right and get back hard on the loud pedal through Chapel and onto the Hangar Straight.
Forget the F1 championship situation for a little bit and just enjoy the spectacle that is the 2023 British GP.
Can Hamilton stun Red Bull?
Hamilton has won the British GP a record eight times and he usually has a little extra up his sleeve at his home event.
Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas rarely got close to the seven-time world champion, who seems to just take that little bit more speed into the corners than all his teammates from over the years.
Mercedes have a new front wing on their car which won’t bridge their deficit to Red Bull, but it might put them in a position to capitalise on any setbacks for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Hamilton says he remembers the crowd noise when he took pole position for the 2007 British GP, revealing it’s the only time he’s heard the spectators above his car engine.
“The crowd just lifts you and the whole team up,” Hamilton explained. “There’s this kind of feeling of floating when you come here on that positive energy that everyone brings, and just seeing so many flags, so many caps and people supporting us.
“It really just helps spur you along. And when you’re in the car as well, when you see them, you can see them through so many of the corners on the outside of the circuit and it’s really just really encouraging.
“I always remember my first win here [in 2008], just continuously being encouraged by the crowd on the outside of Abbey.”
Another top five for Norris?
From one British driver to another – Lando Norris goes into Silverstone on the back of his best result of the season with fourth place at the Austrian GP.
He had the upgraded McLaren package in Spielberg, which Oscar Piastri will run for the first time this weekend, and the developments definitely paid off.
“I’m hoping for something similar,” said Norris. “I don’t expect it really to be any better, but I think that’s still me remaining positive. I’m still looking forward to it.
“We definitely took a step forward, we caught up with some of the competition, we overtook a lot of the competition – but Austria has always been our best race of the season by quite a way.
“I think we can try to maintain that pace this weekend – that’s our aim – doing any better than that is a bit of a stretch but we’re definitely getting there. A couple of little things on the car this weekend that we can add to it.
“If we can just start to consolidate these positions, or this area that we’re racing in, then I’ll be happy. But it’s close. If we can race against Mercedes and Aston Martin this weekend, I’ll still be happy.”
Ferrari to fall back?
Charles Leclerc ended Verstappen‘s leading lap streak on Sunday in Spielberg as he took second place after withstanding an early attack from teammate Carlos Sainz.
The real test for Ferrari comes at Silverstone though as it has similar characteristics to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where they really struggled with race pace.
“I think since Barcelona really, the feeling is going in the right direction,” said Leclerc. “We couldn’t really prove it at any other tracks since Barcelona, but in Austria, the feeling was good, and the pace was a bit better than what we had for the first part of the season. So that was good.
“It shows that there were some steps forward made. However, we shouldn’t get carried away. I mean, Red Bull is still a lot in front.
“I think this track this weekend will expose a bit more our weaknesses. So we might struggle a bit more than what we’ve seen in Austria. But it’s clear that the feeling and the pace is a step better.”
New tyre specification could change pecking order
Silverstone marks the first race where Pirelli‘s new tyre specification will be used. Now, tyres might be a dull topic to some of you but it’s very important.
Any mid-season regulation change can have a big effect. In 2013, Pirelli brought new tyres halfway through the season following multiple punctures, coincidentally, at the British GP.
Sebastian Vettel went on to win 10 out of the 11 Grand Prix and nine consecutive races for Red Bull, while Ferrari‘s title challenge faded away.
Pirelli say the changes are necessary for this season due to the increased performance of the cars compared to their pre-season simulations.
The new rubber has extra resistance and shouldn’t have any affect on the tyre behaviour. However, Sergio Perez thinks some teams will benefit from the changes.
“I think this tyre construction is done to favour a few teams, so I think someone is going to make it better,” said Perez.
“I don’t know if it’s us or another team but certainly there is a characteristic change in the tyre and especially in the highest speed, we feel. So it will be interesting to see what happens also with the degradation because we haven’t done much work on that.”
Leclerc added: “I think, again, during the free practices it’s going to be very important to assess that, to see how much of a difference it is in terms of tyre degradation, if we need to fine tune the car to these new constructions. And then we’ll see. But we don’t know yet whether it’s going to be a benefit or a weakness.”
Rain on the way
It wouldn’t be a British GP weekend without some wet weather around. There is a high chance of rain during qualifying on Saturday with the possibility of mixed conditions on Sunday too.
This might be Hamilton‘s best bet to do something special and rewind the clock to his famous 2008 Silverstone win in the rain.
After all, Red Bull haven’t won the British GP since 2012, so maybe some proper British sporting drama may stop Verstappen on Sunday…