British GP has a special place on the F1 calendar as Hamilton-Piquet racism row rumbles on

Sunday’s 10th round of the championship takes place a handful of miles from the headquarters of seven of the sport’s 10 teams. For many in Formula One, it’s their home race

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

On paper the British Grand Prix is just another race. But the reality is very different.

Sunday’s 10th round of the championship takes place a handful of miles from the headquarters of seven of the sport’s 10 teams. For many in Formula One, it’s their home race.

Most of those working in the paddock will have friends or family in the stands - which is close to half a million over three days.

A small city of tents and caravans for fans and workers springs up, plus a fairground and a rock concert venue to boot.

There are so many VIP flights the 1999 event holds the record as the world’s busiest ‘airport’ with 4,200 documented aircraft movements in a day.

The site is so big it has room for an exclusive new 14-acre plot at the track’s edge with 60 residences (something this exclusive couldn’t be called just a ‘house’ could it) costing between £750,000 and £2.2 million. Half have supposedly already sold.

It doesn’t have the panache of Abu Dhabi's Yas Island but it does have size and history, having been involved in F1 since its inception 72 years ago. And a passionate fan base nearby.

The vast acreage makes it the perfect venue for a sporting goliath such as a Grand Prix.

The track follows the contours of a Second World War air base, it’s runways and fringe supply roads. Unlike the nip and tuck of Azerbaijan and Monaco 81 per cent of every Silverstone lap is taken at full speed and that means around 210mph and up.

The lateral forces make it the toughest on tyres and cornering speeds are so vicious a driver’s neck will have to cope with head and helmet weight which increases sevenfold to 35kg.

Few have as much at stake this weekend as Mercedes and Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc desperately needs to get back to his winning ways or a season that started with a runaway domination will be beyond him.

He has had just one podium in the last six races and two early retirements. Title-rival Max Verstappen has capitalised, winning five of those to take a 46-point lead in the drivers' championship.

Meanwhile, Silverstone’s ultra-smooth surface makes it the best chance yet for eight-time winner Lewis Hamilton to rise above his paralysing technical problems.

Despite a couple of hard fought third-place finishes, Hamilton is on the worst run of results of his F1 career, but there’s every chance he could be challenging Ferrari and Red Bull if Mercedes overcome their bouncing issues.

The set-up issues are so complex he and George Russell head in two different directions at the start of every race weekend, scrabbling around like blind men in the dark, looking for the car’s elusive set-up sweet spot.

The majority of the development work has fallen, obviously, to veteran Hamilton because of his vast experience of the car’s ancestry, it’s progenitors developed over the last seven years to his specific likes and dislikes.

But he has pleaded with his bosses not to make him the guinea pig for this one race - his favourite - which may come back to bite him in the long run.

Hamilton is also in the news after hitting back at retired triple champion Nelson Piquet for using a racial slur towards F1's only black driver.

Nelson Piquet, Grand Prix of Hungary, Hungaroring, 09 August 1987. (Photo by Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images)

I was Piquet’s public relations guy when he switched to Lotus as world champion in 1988.

Of course a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then but the guy I knew had the capacity for great generosity and was a relentless practical joker.

I witnessed him climbing on top of teammate Saturo Nakajima and, pretending to be his masseur in front of several team members, gave the prone Japanese racer an agonisingly tough massage including extensive ear-pulling.

He would do anything to get a laugh.

But I also saw the crass and boorish side of the man and his ability to be deeply offensive.

He insulted rival Nigel Mansell’s wife as “ugly” and propagated rumours about fellow Brazilian Ayrton Senna’s sexuality.

The man I knew would carelessly make offensive remarks and titter to himself like a child. Hamilton was bang on when he said “these archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport”.

Piquet, who won the world title in 1981, 1983 and 1987, was discussing an accident between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the first lap of last year's British Grand Prix when he used the offensive term towards Hamilton.

On Wednesday he apologised "wholeheartedly" to Hamilton, claiming his words had been misinterpreted.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 6:31 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL