Lewis Hamilton is gearing up for his favourite weekend of the year as he sets his sights on a record sixth British Grand Prix victory.
Hamilton will move one triumph clear of Jim Clark and Alain Prost if he masters Formula One’s oldest race and wins for the sixth time in front of what is expected to be a record 140,000-strong crowd at Silverstone on Sunday.
The five-time world champion has started the year in impressive fashion, winning six of the opening nine rounds as he chases the championship that would move him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul.
Indeed, the Briton holds a 31-point lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas with Mercedes bossing the new campaign, although the team endured a rare off weekend last time out in Austria as their cars struggled in the extreme heat.
But with cooler temperatures forecast for this weekend, and Hamilton winning four of the last five grands prix staged at Silverstone, the 34-year-old will start as the favourite to take the chequered flag again.
“Having the support from your country and seeing it there, all concentrated into one weekend event, really makes for the most incredible few days that you get in the whole year,” said Hamilton, who has spent the build-up to his home race in Los Angeles.
“It is difficult to put a number on what you gain from the positivity. Everyone’s energy is priceless.
“I approach it the same as every other weekend, but I put more emphasis on the grand prix, knowing how important it is to everyone. I do come with more energy as it feels more important because there is so much great support.”
Hamilton has wiped the floor with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel over the past two-and-a-half seasons.
It is approaching a year since Vettel last won a race, and the German is already a staggering 76 points behind Hamilton in the championship.
Despite Ferrari’s impressive pre-season form, it was Max Verstappen who delivered the first non-Mercedes victory of the campaign with a remarkable comeback drive at the Red Bull Ring.
The 21-year-old has arguably been the leading performer this season, with his win in Austria moving him above Vettel in the championship.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the Dutchman is a better driver than Hamilton.
“As the driver in the form of his life, arguably over the past 12 months, Max has been the best in the world,” said Horner.
“How do I substantiate that? He’s not in the best car. But when you look at the results he has got out of that car since Montreal last year, he has made virtually zero mistakes.
“Lewis has got the benefit of experience. He’s still extremely quick, he’s in the best car, in a very well-oiled machine. But Max is the coming man. This sport is crying out for more drivers like Max Verstappen.”
The future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is set to be rubber-stamped before this weekend’s action.
Hamilton concluded: “This is a grand prix we can never lose. If Formula One loses this race, it loses so much of its essence.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
British teenager Lando Norris has been rewarded for the fine start to his Formula One career with a long-term McLaren deal.
McLaren have activated a clause in Norris’ rookie contract which is understood to see the 19-year-old remain with them for at least a further three years.
It is believed Norris will not get a pay hike on his current wage, worth up to £400,000-a-season, for next year.
“It’s good to see McLaren have faith in me, and back up what they’ve said in that I have been doing a good job so far,” Norris told PA.
“I wasn’t pushing for it. I wasn’t saying I want the deal done by Silverstone. It was out of the blue last week. It doesn’t change too much because I wasn’t thinking about it, or worried about it, but it gives me a bit more confidence.
“As for the dollar, the kerching, I can’t even remember what I have got in my contract. It is not something I am worried about. It is under control.”
McLaren made the announcement on the eve of Norris’ home race at Silverstone on Sunday following their driver’s impressive displays, and to deter interest from rival teams.
Indeed, Britain’s youngest F1 driver ever has not been fazed by the grand prix circus. He has finished in the points in four of his opening nine races, and heads to the British Grand Prix following a career-best sixth in Austria last time out.
The Somerset teenager, who admits to still taking his clothes home to be washed by his mother, Cisca, has been a match for his more experienced team-mate, too – the Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who has 90 races under his belt.
Norris added: “I don’t want to sound arrogant and say my results speak for themselves, but for what McLaren say – and that’s the best way for me to know what I am doing given the people they have seen come and go over the years – they feel I am doing a good job.
“The only thing that kind of annoys me, is that I walked into my local shop recently, and finally the guy figured out who I was. But that was mainly because I parked my McLaren road car outside.
“I like how it is at the moment, or how it has been. I don’t want it to change. I don’t want people to be friendly to me because of what I do rather than who I am.”
Norris has recorded the best results by a British debutant since Lewis Hamilton starred for McLaren a dozen years ago.
Hamilton, whose latest deal is worth £40million-a-year, challenged for the championship in his remarkable rookie campaign.
Although McLaren are enjoying a resurgence this season after years of turmoil, they remain some way off the sport’s big three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
“Lando is in a good place, so as he gets more successful, and we get more successful, we all win together,” said McLaren’s chief executive Zak Brown.
“Given how well Lando and Carlos are doing, it was in our best interest that as silly season ramps up, we have our head down, we know what we’re doing next year, and this announcement is to end speculation or potential activity.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
A deal confirming that the British Grand Prix has been saved could be announced on Wednesday.
PA understands that Formula One and Silverstone are putting together the finishing touches on a new contract which would guarantee the future of the sport’s oldest race.
As it stands Sunday’s round at Silverstone is set to be the last staged at the Northamptonshire track unless a fresh deal is agreed.
Sources close to the negotiations have said that the financial side of a new agreement have now been settled, and although the contract has yet to be signed off, both parties are working together to iron out the final terms.
While Silverstone remains hopeful of getting the deal over the line before this weekend, they will not be rushed into an agreement unless all of the details are to their suiting.
The future of the British Grand Prix has hung in the balance for two years after Silverstone triggered its release clause in the hope of brokering a better deal.
Their current contract, struck with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, includes a five per cent annual increase which would have escalated the hosting fee to £26million by 2026.
While the race at Silverstone attracts 350,000 spectators over the weekend – with a record crowd in excess of 140,000 expected through the turnstiles on Sunday – the staging fee was making the event untenable.
The track hosted the inaugural Formula One world championship race in 1950 and has been the British Grand Prix’s permanent home since 1987.
McLaren driver Lando Norris, ahead of his maiden home race, told the BBC on Monday: “A lot of people would be hugely disappointed if there wasn’t a British Grand Prix, especially at Silverstone.
“It is such an iconic track with so much history. For a lot of drivers, Silverstone would be their number one circuit. It would be a shame if we didn’t race there again.”
Lewis Hamilton will be bidding to win his home race for a record sixth time on Sunday.
The world champion holds a 31-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as he bids to secure a sixth title.
Provided by Press Association Sport