David Croft, Sky Sports F1 Commentator, guest writes for Silverstone, giving his views on the season so far
“I’ve had some great cars over the years”, said the man sporting a grin almost as wide as the rim of his Mercedes baseball cap, “but this is the one I definitely feel the most comfortable in.”
It’s a bold statement from a driver who’s had more than one or two decent cars since he first came into the sport, finishing on the podium in his first nine races - still a record for a rookie - before taking the world title a year later.
But, given his current winning streak, you can forgive him for putting the Mercedes F1 W05 at the top of his list. Even if he didn’t feel everything was 100% the way he wanted it during the Spanish Grand Prix, he still managed to chalk up his fourth win in a row and leapfrog his team mate to the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
To look at his demeanour after securing his fifth consecutive front row start, as he posed for the photographers, or to watch him drink Champagne from the winning trophy, gave me the impression that here is a man back where he believes his talents belong. No arrogance, just the satisfied smile that, together with a Mercedes team who more than appreciate what he brings in driver performance, Lewis has worked himself into a position where only Nico Rosberg can deny him the title this year and, as the races go by and Rosberg’s best efforts fall agonisingly short, even the good form of the German driver won’t derail the championship challenge.
Where once Lewis would chat with Sebastian Vettel and display envy over the car the four-time World Champion was driving, now the boot is on the other foot and it’s Hamilton who has the best machine.
If he saw this coming he hid it well from those that sought to ask why he would leave McLaren in 2012. If he didn’t realise how good this car was going to be when he spoke with Niki Lauda in that Singapore hotel way back when, he soon did when he arrived at Brackley for a first look. Because this was a car that was so advanced in its development, the signs that 2014 was going to be a massive year were there long before Mercedes’ rivals ramped up their own development.
Right place, right driver and - so far this season, bar the hiccup of a £1 rubber spark plug seal in Australia - right time too.
Talking of the right time, I just happened to be on the flight back from Barcelona with some of the Mercedes team and managed to nab the Winners’ trophy for a bit when their backs were turned! It’s not often I get the chance to pose for a photo looking like a winning Formula 1 driver, as anybody who has ever seen me get behind the wheel of a racing car would testify, so you have to take these opportunities when they come your way. And yes, that is Johnny Herbert photo bombing the selfie. He may have started something here and I vow to get him back in Monaco in a few days’ time.
So if Monaco is up next, that means the British Grand Prix, and the potential for a bit of Lewis Mania, isn’t far away either.
I hear that tickets sales are really picking up, which is brilliant to see, but let’s see if we can’t pack the place out and turn Silverstone into a sea of patriotic celebration for a Lewis win. Or, and I really hope for this, an upturn in the form of Jenson Button, who’s own talents deserve more than the car he’s been handed by McLaren this season. Despite picking up his 50th F1 Podium in Australia, there’s been little to smile about since. To go three races now without scoring a point for either car is massively disappointing for a team with the resources and budget of McLaren. Jenson says that the Barcelona test this week should be useful for them in two or three races time and we keep our fingers crossed that they find a solution or two to improve the car.
There will be one British Grand Prix winning McLaren at Silverstone over the British Grand Prix weekend though; Lewis Hamilton’s from 2008. It’s on show alongside Nigel Mansell’s 1987 BMP winning Williams. Watch out too for the track parade on each of the three days, celebrating the 50th Grand Prix at Silverstone, which will feature Sir Jackie Stewart driving his successful Matra from 1969, amongst others.
And don’t forget, if you have a three day ticket then the Pit Lane will be open for you on the Thursday to come and have a closer look at the cars…or maybe spot Natalie Pinkham and myself before we present the F1 Show live from the track. Plenty to do and see then, in between the racing.
Do you know it’s been nearly two years since a British driver lead the Formula 1 World Championship? I get the feeling that when we all gather at Silverstone, in the form he’s in, Lewis will still be the man out in front.comments powered by Disqus