Lewis Hamilton jumps into the fans at Silverstone

Ben's British GP preview

By Ben Edwards
C4F1 commentator

The British Grand Prix is a cause for celebration for all sorts of reasons. Being part of the Channel 4 team at the event is particularly special as we look forward to LIVE coverage from the start of free practice on Friday, to the post-race socially- distanced celebrations in the pit lane.

Arriving for race day on Sunday will no doubt feel very strange. Normally there would be thousands of vehicles peeling off to car parks and groups of excited fans walking towards the main entrance carrying Union Jacks and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with their heroes’ names.

This time it will be eerily quiet in the grandstands, but the tension will be ramping up in the pit lane as normal.

Brit Pack

There are three British drivers - Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris and George Russell - plus Alex Albon, who grew up immersed in British motorsport, who will be feeling a special sense of anticipation as they prepare to race on a circuit that has played a key part in their careers.

If Hamilton achieves his target of winning it will be his seventh victory at his home grand prix, eclipsing Alain Prost who won his home French race on six occasions.

Michael Schumacher won nine times in Germany, but in that era there were races at both Hockenheim and at the Nurburgring under different titles. He was a four-time winner of the German Grand Prix, and five times he won the so-called European Grand Prix. 

Norris has some good memories of racing around the historic Silverstone circuit. He was only 15 years old when he secured a podium finish in the Ginetta Junior Championship race at Silverstone in 2014, and backed that up with a victory on the track in his first year in single-seaters less than twelve months later.

He’s won here in other categories as well, most notably the season opener in the prestigious FIA Formula 3 championship in 2017, a success that paved the way to winning the title at the end of the season.

Taking a win in a McLaren might be pushing the boundaries but Norris has enjoyed two exceptional races this year, finishing third and then fifth in Austria and he currently sits a well-deserved fourth in the standings.

Summer Spotlight

Russell also took a key victory at Silverstone in Formula 3 in 2015 when he surged off the line, dealt with Antonio Giovinazzi on the opening lap and went on to beat Charles Leclerc by a couple of seconds.

If only he had the equipment to do likewise in F1. 

But we have seen a big step up in car performance from the Williams team in qualifying this year, so there’s a chance he could show us what he’s made of.

Having contested 24 grands prix Russell is yet to score a single point, so just imagine what it would mean for him to do that at Silverstone.

Albon races under a Thai flag, but was born in London and his father raced Porsches and British Touring Cars before Alex entered the UK karting scene and began his climb through the ranks.

He finished sixth in that F3 race won by Russell, but it's in even-numbered years that Silverstone has been his hotspot. In 2016 he won the GP3 race from pole position with fastest lap and in 2018 he won the F2 Feature race, beating Russell into second.

Turnaround Time?

We may be in another even year but 2020 has not seen a perfect start for Albon. He was definitely on target for his first podium in the opening Austrian race until contact with Hamilton put him out of the running, and the second race on the Red Bull Ring did not come together in the same way.

Hungary saw an error by the team in qualifying that put him 13th on the grid, but he fought back effectively and finished fifth.

So far this season he has been unable to get within three tenths of a second of Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen in qualifying, but Silverstone could provide the opportunity to string together a good weekend.

It’s still going to be tough to challenge Mercedes, but the high-speed, flowing nature of the circuit should allow Albon to find his rhythm.

And it’s important that he does. Formula 1 is a fickle business and with the likes of Sebastian Vettel or Sergio Perez waiting in the wings as potential replacements for 2021, the 24-year-old needs to establish his position as Verstappen’s right-hand man as well as chasing his own dreams of success.

I firmly believe that Albon has the talent to do just that, and I’m hoping that these next two races at Silverstone give him the chance to shine, come hell or high water.

After all, it is the British summer...

Join the C4F1 team for LIVE coverage of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone beginning with first practice from 10.55am on Friday 31st July with second practice at 2.55pm.

Final practice airs on Channel 4 at 10.55am on Saturday ahead of qualifying at 1pm. 

The C4F1 team bring you the big race coverage from 1pm on Sunday 2nd August with all the race reaction from 4:15pm.