Lewis Hamilton prepares for 'Olympics' at Silverstone
Lewis Hamilton slips behind the wheel of the simulator today to dial in to the unique demands of the Silverstone track for the first time in a Mercedes.
A week ago he was not certain the privilege would be his. But freed to race by a Formula One court that took a lenient view of Mercedes' unofficial Pirelli test, Hamilton brings a renewed enthusiasm to the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton has already parked his trailer in the VIP campsite with his British bulldog Roscoe on the door. There is no guitar this year. The sweet music will come on the track, he said. "This is our Olympics, where we get to represent our country in front of our home crowd. I'm looking forward to seeing what the car will do. I feel I have a better car this year so I think we should be more competitive."
Hamilton attended a team gathering at Drayton Manor last weekend to mark the start of a big fortnight for Mercedes, who contest back-to-back "home" grands prix at Silverstone on Sunday and a week hence at the Nürburgring. There might also have been a toast to the presiding panel who ruled Mercedes testing indiscretion a minor breach worthy only of exclusion from the forthcoming three-day young driver test.
"Ross [Brawn] kept me in the loop, an email here and there, but I was trying not to waste too much energy worrying about it. I had my own stuff to focus on so I didn't want to fill my mind with that. But when I saw the team it was a huge relief for everyone that we could start focusing on this race.
"Obviously, there are some negatives to come out of it. Losing the young drivers test is a blow because it's an important test. We had a lot of plans for upgrades during those three days and it is vital for simulator development with tyre information etc. But at least there are no distractions now. People will have their say, I'm sure, if we get a positive result this weekend, but we have had a tribunal, a lot of lawyers involved, and the result announced. I don't see there is anything else to talk about."
Hamilton lies fourth in the drivers' championship with 77 points from seven races. His third place in Canada behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso eased the discomfiture of the hammering he took at Monaco, where team-mate Nico Rosberg won from pole. Though Hamilton continues to wrestle with braking issues, he believes Silverstone might be kinder to his tyres. Even if they do smoke, he is nearer nirvana than he thought possible at the start of the year.
"There are longer straights after most corners here so that should help cool the tyres more. The guys have done a remarkable job, turning around a bad car to a competitive car shows how strong a team we have here. There are a lot of talented individuals who are massively hungry to win. We haven't won enough but we are pushing harder than ever.
"We just need the Red Bulls to be not so good. Ferrari, too, don't seem to have that many issues, particularly in the race. I have this feeling in my heart that they are lighter on fuel, because that can be worth three-tenths a lap. It is strange that our car can be so competitive. It is not like we lose downforce during the race. Hopefully, this weekend we will take a step. I'm going into the race optimistic and hoping we can challenge."