Cape Town - With 20 points separating Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, and 15 between the Brit and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, the Formula One title race has just become a three-driver tussle.
After the drama of Baku, during which Vettel and Hamilton clashed on the track, last weekend’s Grand Prix in Austria was an anticlimax.
Instead of fisticuffs, retaliations, or paint swapping, Vettel and Hamilton didn’t come close to each other on the track as the Mercedes driver suffered a gearbox penalty and started P8. He finished fourth to Vettel’s runner-up result.
That paved the way for Bottas to enter the fray and record his second F1 victory.
While this weekend’s British GP is by no means a title decider, a bad result for any of the three could alter the dynamics – as could a good result.
Hamilton will be vying for his fifth Silverstone win, his fourth in succession.
He has been the dominant force at the Northamptonshire circuit in recent years, winning every British GP.
Throw in Nico Rosberg’s 2013 win and Mercedes are aiming for their fifth on the trot ... not a bad record.
The Brackley squad have been up and down of late, with issues such as Hamilton’s headrest problem in Baku and the gearbox in Austria. They’ve also struggled with tyres, with the W08 not always able to get the most out of the Pirelli rubber.
That doesn’t seem to affect Bottas, though, with the Finn racing to victory in Austria – leading from lights to flag. He’ll want more of the same as he looks to upset Hamilton’s homecoming today.
While Silverstone may have belonged to Mercedes in recent times, this year’s championship has already shown that yesterday’s results don’t dictate today’s pace, as Ferrari have returned to the front.
The Scuderia last won in England back in 2011, when Fernando Alonso took the chequered flag ahead of Vettel. With 15 British P1s on the board, Ferrari may be the most successful team at Silverstone, but it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground with just two wins in the past decade.
With the home crowd firmly behind Hamilton, Vettel could face a hostile greeting today. He has, however, downplayed that, saying he expects a “fair crowd” and one that “appreciates” good results – even if they aren’t in favour of their own driver.
Over at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo is chasing a sixth successive podium finish, while Max Verstappen just wants to finish. Such has been the Dutchman’s bad luck that he has been overhauled by Force India’s Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings. While the Mexican is having the best season of his career, Verstappen – linked to a move to rivals Ferrari – feels he is having one of the worst.
It can’t get worse than McLaren, where Alonso faces further grid penalties as Honda have once again changed elements in his engine. At a high-speed, fast-paced Silverstone, points may be a horsepower or two too far away for McLaren.
But one of the big questions is if Jolyon Palmer can get it right at home. The master of P11, he needs to attain a top-10 result to even consider a future in F1 – and even then it may be too little too late for the Brit. – TEAMtalk Media