Lewis Hamilton will be aiming to join an exclusive club of drivers when the British Grand Prix takes place this weekend, but the race has been overshadowed by increasing uncertainty over Silverstone’s future as an F1 host.
Earlier this week news broke that the British Racing Drivers’ Club, owners of Silverstone Circuit, formally triggered the break clause in its contract with Formula 1, now owned and managed by Liberty Media.
This means that unless a new contract can be negotiated with Liberty, the local track will no longer host the British GP from 2019.
John Grant, chairman of the BRDC, said: “This decision has been taken because it is not financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract. We sustained losses of £2.8m in 2015 and £4.8m in 2016, and we expect to lose a similar amount this year.
“We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It’d not only risk the future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.”
That news has somewhat dampened the usually upbeat mood ahead of Sunday’s 2017 version, although it’s still expected to be an exciting spectacle with Hamilton chasing his fifth win at his home circuit.
Winner of the last three Grand Prix at Silverstone, Hamilton is keen to add another gold cup to his impressive tally of F1 victories.
“Winning at Silverstone for the British fans is something I really want to achieve,” said the 32-year-old. “Silverstone is very special and the fans are amazing.
“The track has a great atmosphere on race day and from the moment you see the Red Arrows in the sky above you know that something pretty awesome is about to happen.”
Silverstone held its first Grand Prix event in 1948, and 60 years later Hamilton roared to his first track success in a McLaren-Mercedes in 2008, before waiting until 2014 for his next British victory. Further wins in 2015 and last year’s nail-biting tussle has placed him joint-second on the all-time British Grand Prix winners list alongside Nigel Mansell. Only Jim Clark and Alain Prost have won the British Grand Prix five times.
He added: “Breaking records is not what it is about, but I am pleased to be in such great company. The British Grand Prix is a great race and I will be doing everything I can to win on Sunday.”
The three-time world champion arrives at Silverstone second in the standings with 151 points which is 20 in arrears of the current leader, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
“The championship battle is very tight and we have potentially three drivers chasing the top spot, although others are capable of winning races along the way,” continued the Stevenage-born racer.
“I think I have a great car, the guys in the factory are doing a great job and I will keep pushing at every race for the best result possible.”
Of course, Mercedes are not the only team returning home this weekend with Silverstone’s very own Force India outfit hoping to continue their successful season, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon sixth and eighth in the standings.
Qualifying for the Silverstone GP takes place at 1pm tomorrow, Saturday, with the race itself 24 hours later.