THE gladiators of the motor racing world will descend on Silverstone this weekend for the ninth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship, write Colin and James Beckett.
Despite it being Olympic year, the British Grand Prix remains one of undoubted British sporting highlights of 2012.
The race has enjoyed a place on the FIA F1 World Championship calendar since the modern era of the category began in 1950, and this year’s F1 season that has seen seven winners from eight races.
Fernando Alonso, winner last year, arrives at Silverstone as leader of the World Championship.
The Spaniard scored a sensational victory around the streets of Valencia two weeks ago to cement his position at the top of the points standings for Scuderia Ferrari.
Ahead of the race, Alonso said: “I really like Silverstone. It is one of the world’s classic Grand Prix tracks and I believe we are in good shape entering the weekend.
“The one thing we are unable to predict is the weather and I believe that will play an important part throughout the weekend.”
Mark Webber, who lives no more than 20 miles from the circuit, is second in the points table and added: “I love Silverstone.
“It is a great place with so much history. The track has changed over the years but its challenge is still the same. I will be gunning for a win that is for sure.”
Meanwhile, the capacity crowd will be hopeful of a home victory with Lewis Hamilton, third in the points table, and Jenson Button Britain’s best hopes.
Hamilton said: “Silverstone is the biggest race of the season for both Jenson and I.
“We want to do well for the team but most importantly the British fans who attend the race and wave their Union Flags at us every lap. It will be tough for us, but we will be doing our best.”
Paul di Resta will also enjoy the support from his home crowd as the highly-rated Scot drives for the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team.
He said: “Racing in your home Grand Prix is very special. I am looking forward to it and I would like to think I have a good chance of finishing in the top six this weekend.”
Leading the local Advertiser & Review challenge at Silverstone will be the Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas team and their drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix earlier in the season, while Schumacher took a well-deserved third in the last race at Valencia.
Seven-time world champion Schumacher said: “I love Silverstone and I would like to give the team something to cheer in this race that is so close the factory in Brackley.”
Nico Hulkenberg will drive the second Silverstone-based Force India car.
Points standings (prior to the British Grand Prix):1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 111; 2. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 91; 3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 88; 4. Sebatian Vettel (Red Bull) 85; 5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 75; 6. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 73.