Motorsport: McLaren need miracle to get podium finish, admits Button
This time last year British Grand Prix organisers were pleading with fans to stay away from qualifying to give a sodden Silverstone time to recover from a Friday from hell.
Torrential rain, resulting in gridlock on the roads around the circuit, eventually cost Silverstone around £1m in refunds.
It spoke volumes, therefore, for the enthusiasm, and perhaps the masochism, of British Formula One fans that they were back in force for another soggy Friday yesterday; 80,000 of them, to be precise, which is more than most circuits get on a race day.
It was doubly impressive because there was virtually no running at all in the morning as teams opted to save their wet weather tyres – an embarrassment for the sport, which needs to find a way of providing value for money during these sessions.
And it was trebly impressive because the chances of a local winner this weekend appear to be remote. It has been five long years since Lewis Hamilton, then driving for McLaren, triumphed in another Silverstone deluge back in his title-winning season of 2008, and he remains Britain's best hope of victory tomorrow.
Nico Rosberg, Hamilton's team-mate, topped the time sheets yesterday afternoon, suggesting Mercedes at least have the raw pace to compete for pole. Their chances of beating Red Bull or Ferrari in the race itself will depend to a large degree on their ability to manage their tyre wear.
In Barcelona last month, at a similar high-speed circuit, Hamilton went backwards through the field on disintegrating rubber.
"On one lap the car is quick, so qualifying should be okay," said Hamilton, who was fifth fastest. "But the question mark is our race speed.
"We practised the race speed today and it felt decent. But it could be a completely different picture tomorrow as the weather should be a lot warmer, so we do not know where we are right now."
At least Hamilton has a chance of competing for the win. His erstwhile team-mate at McLaren, Jenson Button, who has never been on the podium in 13 attempts at his home Grand Prix, has written off his own chances.
"Its not going to happen," the 2009 world champion said. "We are not going to be on the podium. If we do it would be a miracle."
More worrying even than McLaren's desperate form is the possibility that it could be part of a deeper malaise. Button has been publicly supportive of his team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, as you would expect from a seasoned professional, but he must be looking covetously at that vacant seat at Red Bull for 2014. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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