May 22 2013 Latest news:
Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Thursday, July 5, 2012
While the tennis at Wimbledon usually provides the ideal opportunity for British jingoism, there should also be a modicum allowed on the racing track too – after all, this is British Grand Prix week.
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Following a few close calls in recent years, Silverstone will be in better shape than ever for the 2012 race – with two new grandstands now open and room for 125,000 fans on race day with only 5,000 tickets still to be sold this time last month.
Last year’s race weekend welcomed record crowds of 315,000. This year is expected to bust that mark.
And given the season we are currently enjoying, whose to say the hordes won’t be seeing a union flag wielded around on a celebration lap come 3pm on Sunday?
There will be plenty of hungry Brits ready to oblige too.
• GW – Caterham: Hingham boys have Toro Rosso in their sights this week; The Brits: The big build-up for Lewis, Jenson, Paul and co – and here’s hoping next week is even better.
• BW – Marussia: Nothing is routine in Formula One – even a straight-line test. Get well soon Maria; Bernie Ecclestone: The murky corruption case involving a German banker refuses to go away. So in all reality, a good week to get London whimsical.
Paul di Resta’s markedly improving Force India looks in decent shape after a slow getaway earlier in the season – and there are few doubts over the Scot’s ability to turn promise into pace.
His qualifying was electric at Silverstone last year, until his team’s botched pit stop effectively ended his race. As he continues to impress, Di Resta is arguably still awaiting a defining performance with Force India – but judging on recent weeks, he’s not far off.
And then there is the McLaren pair, where the hunger to succeed at Silverstone will be felt greatest of all – not that those at Woking will have felt anything else at their home grand prix. Ever.
But when you consider where their two drivers are at present, it’s hard to imagine things not being ramped up a little more than usual.
Firstly Jenson Button, where the speed and form of 2011 seems to have been left in the MP4-26.
The Brit had something of a recovery in Valencia last time out, but it was fuelled by copying the set-up of Lewis Hamilton – the sort of thing that wouldn’t normally be on Jenson’s must-try-out list.
The guy needs a pick-me-up. And given his own slice of pit stop misfortune in the UK last July – remember the wheel that wasn’t fitted properly? – it would be fantastic, if a little random, should Jenson out-perform his rivals. No doubt the McLaren is good enough to do it.
And then there is Hamilton. The man who is driving better than ever, but has lost enough points through bad luck and ‘helping hands’ from his team to last a lifetime.
Even after Pastor Maldonado’s ridiculous impatience ended both his and Lewis’ hopes for points in Valencia, the Brit was still questioned over his own stubbornness and aggression – met with a prickly response at times in the last 10 days too.
Not only will that make Hamilton hungrier than ever for a home race to shout about – he is also the best placed to do so.
If only that actually counted for something in Formula One this year.
• Stepping away from the reasons or timings of the event, there is no denying it worked – clearly a Formula One grand prix around central London would be a spectacular one.
If you haven’t seen it, check out the video at the top of this page to see a lap of the circuit on the simulator – including a night backdrop of Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and London Eye.
Given we are in a computer game generation, from that aspect it ticks every box.
Now initially, there seems no way this race would ever happen.
The track would take more than a week to set up, let alone getting the road surfaces sorted. Even simply closing central London on a Friday for free practice sounds like pie in the sky stuff.
But fair play to those involved – they believe they can get around the almost certain logistical nightmares and turn barmy theory into reality.
The race would supposedly be in addition to Silverstone, rather than instead – not quite sure how that works on an existing 20-race calendar, but close enough at least for most teams to get to easily.
It would apparently cost £35m to host but rake in £100m as a result – that sounds like healthy Bernie-conomics to me.
The lap itself feels fairly bland – quick, but bland. The last thing anyone needs is another Singapore, which would look spectacular whether anyone was actually driving the track or not. Even London mayor Boris Johnson gave the race – described by Jenson Button as “hypothetical” – cautious backing.
And as for Santander spokesman Nav Sidhu – the British Grand Prix sponsors who came up with the whole idea: “Putting a temporary Formula One circuit into a city like London would involve serious challenges, but every single one has been met.”
It almost sounds like all the pieces are in place – so what could possibly stop the 2017 dream becoming a bona fide grand prix? Put it like this, as good as it looks, I’ll believe it when I see it.