The biggest event of the British motor racing calendar is this weekend as the Formula One world championship arrives at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.
Heading into the eighth round of the season, Sebastian Vettel has built up a useful 36-point lead over closest rival Fernando Alonso. But with a maximum of 300 points still up for grabs there’s still everything to play for.
Vettel’s victory in Canada two weeks ago was his third of the season. Alonso climbed from sixth to second but was left to once again rue his Ferrari’s limitation in qualifying which has kept him from getting on terms with his rival.
The F138 flies in race trim but in the last three races Alonso has started from the third row which makes it difficult for him to get on terms with Vettel. The Red Bull driver has usually been in contention for pole position along with the Mercedes duo.
Silverstone is one of the quickest circuits on the calendar so Pirelli are bringing their most durable tyre to the race. As we all know the British summer weather can let us down but at the moment dry weather is expected for Saturday’s crucial qualifying session and the race itself.
Expect the battle for pole position to be between the Red Bulls and Mercedes. Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg all have odds of 3.75 or lower at the moment so you’ll have to look elsewhere for a worthwhile qualifying punt. Mark Webber is a possibility at 9.0, having qualified on the front row in four of the last five races here.
But even more interesting is Kimi Raikkonen at a rather long 18.0. The Lotus driver was on the front row at Shanghai this year, another track which has several quick corners and long straights. His E21 will also benefit from a substantial upgrade package for this weekend.
The critical question of tyres will decide who is in contention for victory on Sunday. The Red Bull produces superior downforce which will make it blisteringly quick around Silverstone’s high-speed turns. But that can also cause it to extract too much from its tyres too soon, which was its downfall at the Circuit de Catalunya – another track with long, fast corners.
Lotus and Ferrari have been best at taking care of their tyres so far. I would pick Alonso as my pre-race favourite but he has the second-shortest odds after Vettel on 3.75.
Raikkonen, who won this race in 2007 and set the race’s fastest lap in four of his last six appearances at Silverstone, is on a more promising 8.0.
McLaren are pinning their hopes on an upgraded car for their home race. They will have some new parts on the MP4-28 but you’d have to be an optimist to back Jenson Button at 55.0 to score their first win of 2013 when they haven’t even been on the podium yet.
While Vettel and Alonso have the shortest odds in the championship right now, those playing a long game will have a look at their rivals’ odds.
Raikkonen is on a promising 12.0 despite being just eight points behind Alonso with more than half of the season remaining.
This is an important weekend for Mercedes too. If they’ve found a way to make their tyres last on high-speed circuits they can expect a more competitive second half of the championship. Hamilton is a long way adrift at the moment, trailing Vettel by 55 points, but if you have faith in him you could be well rewarded with odds of 18.0.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One Blog F1 Fanatic