Lewis Homing-in On British GP Success

Rob CockerillCorrespondent IJune 29, 2008

After the dominance of Ferrari at Magny-Cours last weekend, it would be easy to think that the same could be expected at the British Grand Prix in a week’s time.

Despite the cracked exhaust suffered by Kimi Raikkonen on lap 30, Ferrari still savoured an assertive one-two as Felipe Massa cruised across the finish line to take the lead in the Drivers Championship.

At the similarly sweeping circuit of the British Grand Prix, with its long back straights and high-speed corners, it would perhaps be foolish not to favour Ferrari again. Testing at Silverstone this week however, Lewis Hamilton clearly hasn’t read the script.

McLaren and Hamilton in particular, looked to have the perfect set-up as the chrome-silver arrows raced around the track with ease and toppled the time-sheets.

On Tuesday’s day one of testing, Massa had taken his race-winning form into the UK with the fastest lap of they day at 1min 20.1secs - a lap that would prove to be the quickest of day two also.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen followed closely behind and immediately sent out the message that the Woking-based team would be in good shape at its home circuit.

It wasn’t until day three (Thursday) however, that this signal of intent was well and truly hammered home.

Lewis Hamilton, keen to end his barren points haul of the past two races, demonstrated his talent and slick driving style as he thundered around the 5.1km circuit with lightning pace.

The adventurous, yet composed young Brit put in a series of low 1min 20sec laps and wowed the crowd with his impressive, faultless performances - before setting pulses racing with a blistering lap time of 1min 19.1secs.

Scintillated spectators and pit-lane pundits alike were bedazzled by the lap, which firmly put both Lewis in the ascendancy and Ferrari on the back foot.

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes of Hamilton had set the fastest pace of the three day test session with what appeared to be relative ease, comfortably beating Massa’s previously unbeaten effort with a full second to spare.

Raikkonen responded with a sustained few laps on track, pushing the ferocious Ferrari through Bridge and Priory, though not nearing the sheer speed of the McLaren and setting a lap of 1min 20.3ses - a highlight for the fearless Finn.

The deep, desirable roar of the prancing horse suggested more to come though, and may yet cause a few upsets through the race weekend in five or six days time.

Something of a troublesome few days was endured for the Renault’s of former double World Champion Fernando Alonso and young buck Nelson Piquet Jr., as the team overcame a series knocks.

Piquet had suffered what seemed an engine failure on day one, a ghost in the machine that appeared to haunt Alonso too - as the Spaniard’s engine experienced a setback on day three at the Hangar Straight and the Renault leaked oil over parts of the Silverstone circuit.

Despite eventually setting the fourth fastest time of the day, the strive for every tenth of a second saw Alonso twice leave the track, running wide at Priory and again having an off at the same place - this time burying the car in the gravel trap and bringing red flags out to temporarily pause the session.

Another team pushing for progression was that of the Honda F1 Team, desperate for any signs of advancement and completing a solid number of laps.

Jenson Button had completed 106 laps on day two (Wednesday) and Rubens Barrichello followed-up the trend on day three with quite a prominence on track - though still a little off the pace and gradually slipping down the time sheets.

Force India was also prevalent on day three, as Adrian Sutil tirelessly completed lap after lap and the team showed signs of moving forward. German Sutil had already racked-up 26 laps by mid-morning and continued to put in the hours while the team made the most of the bright, mild and pleasant, if not blustery, conditions.

Looking ahead to the Santander British Grand Prix next weekend, it appears as though the competition between McLaren and Ferrari will intensify and the BMW’s of Kubica Heidfield could yet enter the fray after a number of testing laps around the Northamptonshire track this week.

Perhaps on paper it should be another race dominated by the Ferraris, but a determined Hamilton may have something to say about that on his home circuit - and the equally resolute Alonso may look to create an upset too.