By Neil Leverett
- Formula 1 returns to Silverstone this weekend for the British Grand Prix
- Max Verstappen leads World Drivers’ Championship by 32 points after a triple of back-to-back wins
- Round 10 will see Friday qualifying for new Sprint format on Saturday, with the race to follow Sunday
SILVERSTONE, UK – As Formula 1 kicks back into gear this weekend, Silverstone is set to break new ground as Sprint qualifying makes its debut.
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After a fortnight’s hiatus, Formula 1 kicks back into action this weekend, for Round 10 and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
As the crowds return to the stands of the historic circuit in Northamptonshire, a near-full capacity of 150,000 fans are set to flock to the jewel in the crown of many a British sporting summer.
But this particular British GP will be just a little a bit different. Not only because of Red Bull’s current stance of dominance, but also the introduction of new a week race weekend format, which should add further fuel to the 2021 season fire.
Hamilton desperate for home revival
Lewis Hamilton will be starting to starting to feel an element of helplessness, as the Mercedes man goes in search of the magic eighth World Drivers’ Championship this season.
Indeed, after winning three of the first four races this campaign, all has not been going to plan with Red Bull having asserted a Mercedes-like grip at the top of the standings.
With the Milton Keynes outfit now on a run of five race wins on the bounce, Hamilton will be desperate to revive his chances, now with a deficit to Max Verstappen of 32 points – the Dutchman having won three-in-a-row.
A far of from irreversible tally of course, but which makes a rare venture back to home shores all the more vital for the Stevenage driver.
Looking rather out of sorts and most importantly pace in amongst the battle with Red Bull, Hamilton however, can look to history for potential favours this weekend.
Having won at Silverstone on no less than seven occasions, the Briton has taken the chequered flag in the British GP every year since 2014, except to Sebastian Vettel three years ago.
Hamilton clearly revels on home tarmac. If you then add the likely partisan home support and those statistics mentioned, both Hamilton and Mercedes will be glancing at this weekend with hope.
Barren hunting ground for Red Bull
As if to point to the stars perhaps aligning once for Hamilton and co, Mercedes tally of seven wins from nine at Silverstone since 2013, is almost completely unopposed by their current superior rivals.
Though Verstappen took victory in last season’s 70 Anniversary GP, before then, not since 2012 had Red Bull mustered a win at Silverstone, then achieved by Marc Webber at a sodden edition of the British GP nine years ago.
This of course is a very different Red Bull team, but boss Christian Horner will know the riposte from Hamilton is overdue, and may be bracing for a reaction this weekend.
Norris welcoming fan ‘feeling’
It has not been a good week for Lando Norris.
Not only did the McLaren man see England lose on penalties to Italy in last Sunday’s Euro 2020 final, the 23-year-old was subsequently mugged as he left Wembley after the game.
With preparations for just his third home GP having taken a decided hit, just what the Bristolian can bring to the table this weekend remains in sizeable doubt.
It rather goes against what has been a superb campaign for Norris thus far, having climbed to P4 in the standings and picking up his third podium of the season in Austria two weeks ago.
After the incident of last weekend however, Norris could be forgiven for being more than a little shaken – as an official McLaren press release stated earlier this week.
Speaking to F1.com, Norris’ revelations of problems sleeping in the days that have passed would affirm that, but he remains hopeful the return of fans can help him move on from a difficult experience.
Though he adds his mental performance could be affected at Silverstone, Norris believes that the mere distraction of racing could be enough this weekend.
“I’ve been better, I can say that. I’m not in perfect condition, I’m not going to lie, some work to do mentally. Of course I talk about that a lot, mental health. Mental strength is very important. I’ve not been sleeping that great and so on. So it’s not ideal and I’m feeling a bit a sore.
“I think one of the best things has been being able to come to Silverstone and get my mind off it and focus on a different job. I’m sure I’ll be alright tomorrow.
“Already [the fans] have been pretty awesome. I did some laps earlier in a car and the grandstands were already full, like on the start-finish straight, chanting and so on, so it was nice to get that feeling back – we’ve missed that for such a long time.”
Silverstone rings in the changes
Not only will the British GP see the return of fans to the stands around Silverstone, but also, the introduction of a brand new concept that will see its maiden outing this weekend.
For the first time in F1, initial qualifying will take place on Friday for the first-ever Sprint race on Saturday. Classification in that will then determine the grid for Sunday’s race proper.
The sprint part of the weekend will see a 100 km, 17-lap race, decide the starting order for Sunday, whilst additionally, awarding points to the top-three finishers.
With two more similar race weekends to follow later this campaign, it remains to be seen if the format – criticised in some quarters – will become a regular fixture in the future or not.
But in the midst of a season that is proving the most captivating in some time, the latest attempt to shake up the foundations of F1, could be here to stay.
The 2021 Formula 1 Pirelli British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone this weekend.
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