Some pre-race reading. First, Giles Richards on the dark events of the previous week – and Hamilton’s commendable response to them:
The week that was: Nelson Piquet uses a racial slur about Lewis Hamilton. Former Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez – a friend of Vladimir Putin and a major conservative donor – is facing charges of forgery before the criminal court in Luxembourg. And Bernie Eccleston says he would “take a bullet” for Putin, that the war in Ukraine is “unintentional” and that Hamilton could have “dismissed” Piquet’s remarks. Sporty, huh?
After a few deeply appalling days, so it was nice to return to the drama of a more pantomime variety yesterday at Silverstone, where the presence of Max Verstappen – nemesis of local hero Hamilton – was greeted by a hearty chorus of jeers from a hostile crowd who still did not forget Abu Dhabi. This kind of juvenile nonsense, I think we can all agree, is really the benefit of great sport.
Not that our Max saw it that way. “If they want to boo they do that, they all have their own opinions, I don’t care,” he huffed, not entirely convincingly, perhaps after being told by a minion that the crowd was actually shouting “Red Booooo-ull”.
But Verstappen had other reasons to sulk, including the fact that pole position was wrested from him by the brilliant Carlos Sainz on a thrilling final lap in the Northamptonshire drizzle, doing the trick in 0.072 seconds. The Spaniard pushed Verstappen to his limits in Montreal last week and his top spot today presents another tricky hurdle for the title favourite, who is currently 46 points clear in the drivers’ standings.
If it feels like a good old distance, well, that’s exactly how far Charles Leclerc was ahead of Verstappen after the first three races of the season. The Monegasque – now behind Verstappen and Perez in the standings – will be desperate to reassert his league titles today after enduring a defeat to nothing last week, when he finished fifth after starting from behind due to grid penalties.
As for the local golden boy, things are finally picking up after a tough start to the season. Hamilton fought for the front row for much of yesterday’s qualifying, with recent improvements from Mercedes appearing to have helped. “Oh man, I was having so much fun there,” he then beamed. Perhaps only the most optimistic fans could hope for a victory from Hamilton today – but a podium finish would certainly be a treat at Silverstone. Either way, it should be fun.
The lights go out at 3:00 p.m. BST.