Five key talking points for the British Grand Prix
Formula 1 is rapidly approaching the midway point of the 2019 season with the British Grand Prix the next stop on the calendar. Motorsport Week takes a look at some of the key talking points. ˚
Can Hamilton make it six?
Mercedes was off the pace in Austria as the track layout did not play to the strengths of its W10, which was accentuated by the excessively hot weather conditions that required the team to focus on cooling. Neither of those detracting elements should be an issue this weekend. And when it comes to Silverstone there is only one driver who springs to mind: Lewis Hamilton. The Briton has five victories at the venue and last year put in a stunning recovery to surge from last – after first-lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen – to second. His only other non-podium at the event with Mercedes came in 2013, when a puncture delayed his progress and he still wound up fourth. Hamilton now stands on the brink of history; he already has the most podiums and poles at the British Grand Prix and a sixth win would put him above Jim Clark and Alain Prost.
Will McLaren maintain its momentum?
McLaren reached its lowest ebb in 2018 as the split from Honda identified intrinsic weaknesses that were previously masked. Senior hierarchy set about enacting changes and at the mid-point of 2019 the green shoots of recovery are very much evident. The MCL34 has been improved hugely since pre-season testing and the upgrade package brought to Barcelona was an extremely positive step, with the new components understood and extracted more in France and Austria. Carlos Sainz Jr. has embraced his position as the experienced team member and has put in some sublime displays, while Lando Norris belies his rookie status with his on-track displays and off-track approach. He has already come on leaps and bounds. McLaren still faces a chasm to the leading teams but this is as good as it could have hoped for by this stage of its recovery; if it can maintain this momentum across the next events then the midfield battle will be beneath the outfit.
Can Gasly use 2016 as inspiration?
It was only three years ago that Pierre Gasly’s wait for a single-seater victory had reached an aching 1,000 days. Just when his fortunes seemingly couldn’t deteriorate he threw the car in the gravel in Austria and was then involved in a road traffic accident en route to Silverstone that left him with a back injury and hospitalised his mother. Gasly was under pressure but responded with an emphatic and long overdue maiden win that kick-started his successful title bid. In 2019 he could dearly do with a repeat response to halt his current predicament. A set-up change was deemed the fault behind his woeful pace in France but, having been ahead of Max Verstappen on the opening lap in Austria, Gasly made little in-roads on his rivals and was lapped by his victorious team-mate. Gasly should be sixth, at worst, each race, but even that is being missed. He needs a result – and fast.
Can struggling midfielders find home form?
For most Formula 1 teams Silverstone is a home race but Racing Point can make the strongest claim on account of its factory being located opposite the entrance to the venue. The team has outlined its long-term vision under new ownership but it has endured a difficult couple of months on-track, with midfield rivals having pulled clear as it awaits an update package, currently planned for Germany. It has scored just two points in five races and while its drivers maintain the race pace is strong that has been masked by ongoing struggles over one lap. Haas, meanwhile, has several homes, one of which is its primary base in nearby Banbury. Last year’s fifth-best team has slumped to ninth with its VF-19, a perplexing car capable of leading the midfield in qualifying before lapping woefully off the pace in race trim. Its 2019 season is in danger of slipping into a mystifying oblivion.
Will Silverstone deliver again?
Formula 1 is still in the process of formalising its future direction and regulations, with recent events highlighting just how dramatically the perception can change. The sport was heavily criticised after a yawn-inducing French Grand Prix while the diametrically opposite Austrian Grand Prix was lauded by observers. What will this weekend offer? Silverstone’s redesign post-2010 split opinion, with some lamenting the demise of the Bridge complex, but the tweaked layout has undoubtedly assisted the quality of racing. The threat of wet weather aids Silverstone’s cause but each event this decade has had an engrossing talking point, with last year’s encounter boiling down to a late shootout between the leading participants. Such a repeat would certainly leave a capacity crowd heading home satisfied, especially so with the knowledge that the event will continue through at least 2024.