EIGHT things to look out for at the British Grand Prix

Fans call on Red Bull to speak out on Nelson Piquet race row, the FIA look to clamp down on Lewis Hamilton with controversial jewellery ban… and then there is the actual race! EIGHT things to look out for at the British Grand Prix

  • The run-up to the British Grand Prix has been dominated by events off the track
  • Lewis Hamilton is at the forefront as victim of racist language from Nelson Piquet
  • But Brit is also the target in FIA attempt to crack down on drivers with jewellery
  • Meanwhile, Red Bull look to pull further ahead in the world championship 

It’s been a build up to the British Grand Prix like no other with talk ahead of the race focused on highly charged events happening off the track.

Lewis Hamilton is the subject of both having been the victim of racist comments by Nelson Piquet, but also being targeted by the FIA in their clampdown on drivers wearing jewellery on the track.

But there is a motor race to be held at Silverstone too as Red Bull and Max Verstappen look to continue their stranglehold on the championship as Sportsmail looks at the eight things to watch out for at the British Grand Prix. 

Lewis Hamilton has been a large part of the focus in the build up towards the British Grand Prix

Will Red Bull speak out on Lewis/Piquet race row?

The race week got off to an extraordinary start when quotes from three-time Formula One champion Nelson Piquet were unearthed from a podcast where discussing Hamilton’s crash with Verstappen at Silverstone last year he referred to the Brit as a ‘Neguinho’, which translates as ‘little n*****’.

Despite offering his apologies, Piquet has since been banned for life from attending any F1 event, and there was much support for Hamilton on social media from his team, F1, the FIA and even rivals Ferrari and Charles Leclerc.

However, many fans on Twitter especially were left frustrated by Red Bull’s apparent silence over the matter.

While Red Bull have no direct involvement with the row, Verstappen is dating Piquet’s daughter Kelly, who dumped petrol on the blazing inferno of a story by then liking a post defending her father’s comments.

Red Bull remain quiet on an issue that is unlikely to disappear quickly even though they released a statement on Tuesday stating that ‘the team do not condone any form of racism’ following a separate race row that led to the dismissal of Formula Two driver Juri Vips.

Fans though have demanded something more directly related to the Hamilton case and the team as well as Verstappen are likely to face direct questions on the matter at Silverstone.

Three-time champion Nelson Piquet has been banned for life from attending any F1 event 

Piquet’s daughter Kelly, pictured after the Abi Dhabi GP last year, is dating Max Verstappen

But Lewis is also at loggerheads with the FIA

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem insists the jewellery rule is an important safety issue

Remember the jewellery row that has been lingering in recent weeks? Well after kicking the can down the road, it’s either time for action… or to kick that can a little further.

New FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem is keen to stress that the unenforced rule of not being able to race with jewellery is now properly policed, and a grace period for drivers expires on Thursday just three days before the British Grand Prix.

Hamilton though has no intention of removing his jewellery and retains a contentious nose stud.

It should make for a highly political stand off before Hamilton’s home race. At the most extreme level, Hamilton could be banned from competing this weekend by the FIA where many fans are attending to catch the seven-time world champion in action, while he could also be heavily fined.

Neither Hamilton nor the FIA will back down on the issue but either way a compromise or a concession will have to be given before the grand prix.

Hamilton could be banned from the British GP due to the row over wearing jewellery in the car

Seventh heaven for Red Bull

Let’s not forget there is an actual grand prix to be held this weekend and one year on from a bitter defeat at Silverstone, Red Bull could leave Britain with a total command of the world championship.

In fairness they already have close to that, with their drivers one and two in the title fight as Verstappen leads Sergio Perez, with Charles Leclerc back in third 49 points behind the Dutchman.

Verstappen’s last British Grand Prix ended with him crashing at high speed into the barrier at Copse following a highly controversial collision with title rival Hamilton and him having to go to hospital to treat minor injuries.

Now though he has a chance to hit 200 points after just 10 races of the season while recording a seventh win in a row for the Red Bull team stretching back to Imola. Verstappen would have taken six of them if he secures a first British GP win – although he has previously won at Silverstone in 2020’s 70th Anniversary GP.

After winning in Canada, Red Bull are chasing a seventh straight win at Silverstone

Lucky break for Leclerc 

Since taking a 34-point lead in the championship following the third round of the season in Australia, form has deserted Ferrari’s main challenger and he has since incredibly only been on the podium once at the Miami Grand Prix.

It’s not all his fault – in fact the Monegasque’s luck has completely deserted him in the six races since. Admittedly he binned a podium at Imola after a clumsy spin, but since then he has retired from potential race winning positions in Spain and Azerbaijan due to mechanical failures.

That follows up on a fourth place in Monaco where a bungled Ferrari pit-stop strategy saw Leclerc drop from first place in his home race to off the podium altogether, while his Baku mechanical gremlins forced him to have to start from the back and battle up to a highly credible fifth in Canada.

It’s time for some positive luck to head Leclerc’s way especially at a race he led for long periods last year in a very poor Ferrari before being passed late on by Hamilton for victory. Not only does Leclerc need a bit of fortune to finally fall his way but so does a title battle that is starting to become heavily one-sided in favour of world champion Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc has suffered from incredibly bad luck in the previous six Formula One races

Sainz sights Silverstone to break winning duck 

Carlos Sainz has come close, very close, to winning his first grand prix this season, yet the Spaniard continues to be left frustrated after a mixed opening to the campaign.

Should he fail to win this weekend, it will be his 150th start in F1 without reaching the top step of the podium placing him sixth on the all-time list behind Martin Brundle, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Heidfeld and record holder Andrea De Cesaris with 208 starts.

Never had he looked closer to winning than last time out at Canada though when with just a few laps with fresher tyres he was heavily attacking Verstappen but unable to find a way past the Dutchman in Montreal.

He could have won in Monaco too if Ferrari had improved on their pit-stop strategy, but two second places in three races (with the other seeing a mechanical retirement in Azerbaijan) indicates a return to form for Sainz who had been out of sorts in early parts of the season.

If Ferrari have the pace to challenge Red Bull this weekend, he might finally have a chance to finally land that elusive win following five podiums in the first nine races.

Carlos Sainz could not find a way past Verstappen last time out at the Canadian Grand Prix

Brits battle for the podium

With three British drivers, ideally for partisan fans Sunday’s podium would consist of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell as well as McLaren star Lando Norris.

You would be a brave punter so stick some money on that though and it is likely that the best British fans can hope for this weekend is one of their drivers joining two drivers from Red Bull and/or Ferrari on the podium – such has been the case in three of the last four grands prix.

But who is likely to get it? Lando Norris sadly is unlikely to be in contention having just one podium all year at Imola and his McLaren having little answer to the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes and their six drivers.

However down at Mercedes there is little to choose it appears between Hamilton and Russell who passively contested for the podium spot in Canada last time out.

With a chance to grab a third spot in front of home fans at least potentially up for grabs, it will be interesting to see if the Mercedes team-mates are willing to get along for the sake of their team with high personal interest at stake. The ingredients are there for a first serious test of team-mate relations since Russell joined his seven-time world champion compatriot at the Silver Arrows this term.

Hamilton saw off a fight from Russell to take the final podium spot in Montreal at the last race

A jumbled grid?

Who doesn’t like the prospect of drivers being out of position at the start of a grand prix?

A jumbled grid can see the best drivers have to make their way through traffic on race day, and it’s an element that properly tests the skills of any star and identifies the best. By contrast it gives other drivers a chance to start nearer the front and be in the hunt for a rare clutch of points.

And what’s the easiest way to get a jumbled grid? Of course it’s by having a rain hit qualifying session.

Where are you most likely to see rain? In the middle of a British summer of course.

As it happens showers are forecast throughout Saturday during qualifying, meaning jumbled grid or not, qualifying may make for epic viewing ahead of Sunday’s main event.

Canada produced a wet qualifying session and saw veteran star Fernando Alonso (right) grab an unlikely front row slot for the highly unfancied Alpine team in Montreal

The start of the European run

So far this season, six of the nine races have been held on street circuits including the last three.

Notably the races held on purpose built race circuits this term have tended to see Ferrari have the upper hand over Red Bull on pace for at least parts of the weekend including at Imola but especially in Bahrain and Spain, with Leclerc winning the season opener in Sakhir and retiring from a dominant position out in front in Catalunya.

Silverstone makes the first of seven races in a row held in the heart of the European season at purpose built race tracks and it’s a run of races that will likely shape the nature of the championship or potentially even defacto decide it if Red Bull maintain the status quo of extending their winning run.

The British Grand Prix could therefore be an early indicator of what to expect for the rest of the summer – or even the season – whether it’s Red Bull rampage, a Ferrari fight back or even a return to form for Mercedes. 

The British Grand Prix could shape the rest of the European summer in the F1 calendar


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