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British GP: Normality to return for Mercedes?

An inability to control extreme temperatures was what Mercedes put down as their cause of struggle in Austria, this forced the cars to race with restricted power.

It was the first Grand Prix in 2019 which saw Mercedes struggle and ultimately get beat, yet this weekend Formula One returns to Silverstone, a track which Lewis Hamilton can be untouchable around.

Already with five wins in Silverstone, the reigning world champion has shown in the past that he can gain another level that no other driver can at the track. This was evident in 2008 when he drove a masterful performance in the wet, winning by over a minute to Nick Heidfeld in second.

One more win and he sets the outright record for most victories in Silverstone – currently tied with Alain Prost and Jim Clark.

Therefore, with relatively controllable temperatures in England, don’t expect the problems from Austria to linger for another race weekend in the Mercedes garage, considering the exceptional form they have shown at Silverstone in the recent past.

Up until Sebastian Vettel’s victory in 2018, Mercedes had won five consecutive races in Silverstone – 4 for Hamilton and 1 for Nico Rosberg – and had it not been for Kimi Raikkonen colliding with Hamilton on lap one, then it could well have been six consecutive victories for the Silver Arrows.

Despite the spin, Hamilton recovered brilliantly to finish second, but ultimately could have had more following his pole position.

But maybe, just maybe, Austria signified a change about to happen in 2019. A change that will see closer racing and not just Mercedes battling for victory.

Although Hamilton arrives as the favourite, Ferrari have shown recently in Canada and Austria that the gap is now potentially reducing, but will they continue form from the Red Bull Ring into Silverstone?

However, it was Max Verstappen and his Red Bull that ended the Silver Arrow’s run of victories, so there is not just Ferrari to concentrate on for Mercedes, but consistency is always the problem for Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton arrives with a 31-point lead in the championship ahead of team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, with pressure mostly on the Fin to cut the deficit at the five-time world champion’s “home race”.

Another victory impending for Verstappen?

What a drive it was from Max Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring, perhaps the best of his career which is something special when races like Brazil 2016 come to mind.

It has subsequently surfaced the question of who is the best driver within Formula One, Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen?

But whilst Mercedes struggled to adapt to the extreme temperatures of Austria, Verstappen and his Red Bull coped perfectly and despite his stall at the start, he recovered faultlessly to hunt down Leclerc and win the race with only 3 laps to go.

However, this has always been a problem with Red Bull as of recent years, one race they will perform a master class to win and then experience trauma soon after.

For example, when Verstappen won around Austria in 2018, he then finished P15 at Silverstone the next weekend, but will it be different this time around?

Now with the Honda engine, Red Bull seemingly have a much more reliable car than they did 12 months ago with Renault and it is unlikely a repeat will occur for the Dutchman.

Pierre Gasly, however, is a different matter.

But with Verstappen arriving after such a sensational victory, there is now the pedigree for Red Bull and Honda to keep developing their performance and potentially challenge for a podium, optimistically a victory in Silverstone.

After so many faultless drives in 2019, Verstappen was finally rewarded to the maximum with his victory as the woes continue for his team-mate, Pierre Gasly.

Perhaps a challenge for victory is again in line, but another podium for the Dutchman will be a terrific weekend for him and his team.

What about the other Brits?

Arriving at the British Grand Prix, it isn’t just Lewis Hamilton that is approaching his “home race”.

Lando Norris and George Russell, too, are racing in their home country and will experience a “home race” for the first time in their Formula One careers.

But what are the expectations this weekend for the two rookies?

Unfortunately for Russell, driving for Williams means he will still be at the back of the grid with the once great team still far adrift from the rest of the pack.

However, Russell does have the upper hand on his team-mate, Robert Kubica, leading 8-1 head-to-head on race results.

So whilst it’ll be another weekend of driving at the back, he is consistently beating Kubica and will likely do so again in Silverstone which highlights his promise for the future.

Meanwhile, it’s quite different for Norris who has drove further up field this season, with McLaren producing a much-improved car than what it was in 2018.

To show such development, Norris started P5 on the grid in Austria and even battled with Lewis Hamilton for a little time at the start for third, before the Mercedes ultimately showed its superiority on the McLaren.

Therefore, McLaren have established themselves as the best team in the midfield, leaving Norris with huge optimism heading into Silverstone, he could even finish above Gasly this weekend, like he has done various times this season.

Whether that’s due to Gasly’s poor form or McLaren’s much improved car is a grey area.

 

 

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