Hamilton goes for gold at Silverstone

Sunday 6 July will see the most exciting event in the British motor-racing calendar, the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone in Northamptonshire.
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Tens of thousands of spectators will be willing Lewis Hamilton to win on home ground, and reduce his 29 points deficit to Mercedes team mate and current world championship leader Nico Rosberg. Hamilton won the championship in 2008. No doubt Hamilton’s fellow Brit, Jensen Button, will also enjoy local support – not least from race sponsor Santander. The bank also sponsors his McLaren team, and the 2009 world champion appears regularly in adverts for the bank’s credit card and current account products.

Lapping it up

Rosberg took the crown at Silverstone last year, and has beaten Hamilton in the last three races, so Hamilton will be desperate to do everything he can to finish ahead of the German this weekend. Hamilton last won at Silverstone in 2008, when he lapped everyone up to third place. He said: “That has to be one of the best moments of my career. I loved raising that gold trophy in front of the home crowds and I’m determined to get my hands on it again this year.”

Silver service

Only 12 different British drivers have won their home race since the very first world championship Grand Prix was held at Silverstone in 1950.
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The track’s racing history began after the Second World War when a surplus airfield near to the village of Silverstone was earmarked as a suitable site for a racing track. An ex-farmer, James Wilson Brown, was employed by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) which had arranged a one year lease of the airfield with the Air Ministry, and given the job of turning the airfield into a racetrack. In just two months, Brown succeeded and on October 2, 1948, around 100,000 people turned up to see Luigi Villoresi beat 22 other competitors in his Maserati.

Royal approval

Two years later, the track played host to King George VI, the first and only time a reigning monarch has attended a British motor race. In 1951, the British Racing Drivers’ Club took over the lease of Silverstone from the RAC. The track was made into a more permanent fixture and stands were created, giving spectators a much better view. Major improvements were made to the track the mid-1970s, which resulted in the Woodcote corner becoming the fastest in Formula 1. The track was overhauled in 1991 and again in 1994, following the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger at that year’s San Marino grand prix in Italy. The ambition was to make the course safer without drivers having to reduce speed.

British standard

The first British winner at Silverstone was Peter Collins, who won in 1958. Tragically, he lost his life just two weeks later in the German Grand Prix. This was the year that Mike Hawthorn, a close friend of Collins and his Ferrari team-make became Britain’s first world champion. Perhaps one of the most memorable British wins at Silverstone was when reigning Formula 1 World champion and crowd favourite James Hunt won in 1977 in his Marlboro McLaren-Ford M26 (remember tobacco sponsorship?).

Massa warrior

Hamilton may be hoping for an equally memorable win this year but he faces stiff competition not only from his team-mate Rosberg, but also the Williams team. Not only is this a home race for them as well, but Felipe Massa will be making his 200th Grand Prix start and will be keen to achieve a memorable result.
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The race is of particular importance to Jenson Button too, who will be sporting a pink race helmet for the weekend in memory of his father John, who died in January and used to wear a 'lucky' pink shirt on race days.

Corners and curves

Competitors will race 52 times around the 5.891km circuit and will have to negotiate high-speed corners including Abbey and Copse and the Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel curves. The forecast for the weekend is looking good, so drivers won’t have to contend with a wet track. Hamilton however, may be hoping for rain. Back in 2008, many drivers struggled to keep their cars on the road thanks to torrential downpours – Ferrari’s Felipe Massa spun five times while Vetter, Button and Kubica all spun off too, leaving Hamilton to promende to victory. Whoever wins on Sunday, it’s bound to be a thrilling competition.

Circuit training

The race itself isn’t the only entertainment for visitors to Silverstone this weekend. There’s plenty to see off the track too, including a special 50th Grand Prix parade of previous winning Formula 1 cars, live music and air displays. Racing legends including Sir Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Alain Prost – who between them have claimed 11 Formula One victories at Silverstone – will all drive over the weekend.
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