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Updated: July 7, 2011 18:31 IST

Rivals seek Silverstone boost in Vettel chase

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Jenson Button can count on home support in the British Grand Prix.
AP Jenson Button can count on home support in the British Grand Prix.

Local heroes Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button can bank on passionate home support in their chase of runaway leader Sebastian Vettel when Formula One returns to the spiritual home of motorsport in Britain at the weekend.

But with eight teams based in Britain, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone will not be a home affair just for McLaren.

The British Grand Prix at the high—speed 5.891km track some 115km north—west of London is a high point of the season for most of the drivers.

“Silverstone is one of my favourite tracks and not just because it’s 30 kilometres from our factory in Milton Keynes,” said Red Bull’s Vettel who will be seeking a seventh win in the season’s ninth race.

“The fans in Britain are special. They support their own people of course, but they really know so much about our sport and are really fair when it’s about acknowledging performance and achievement.” Vettel, who won at Silverstone in 2009 but last year was seventh in a race won by team—mate Mark Webber, is looking unstoppable on 186 points, a 77—point lead over Webber and Button.

However Webber believes there is still a chance of catching the 24—year—old German.

“I think he’s on great roll at the moment and there is a great chance for him to close out the championship in the next five or six races,” the 34—year Australian told German Press Agency dpa.

“But you have to have to try to stop the momentum and that is up to all of us, not just myself, to try and have some different winners.” A regulation change restricting the use of “blown diffusers” — which use exhaust gases to increase downforce when the driver is off the throttle — comes into force at the British Grand Prix.

Red Bull is believed to have benefited most from the blown diffuser system, so the change offers a glimmer of hope to main rivals McLaren and Ferrari.

“It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the pecking order but I have to say the timing of this rule change is bizarre to say the least,” said Webber in a column for the BBC Sport website.

Changes to the lay—out of the Silverstone track also gives the teams a fresh challenge.

“We raced on the new layout last year, but this will be the first time we’ve experienced the new circuit as it’s really meant to be,” said Button.

“With a new startline, a new first corner and an all—new pit and paddock complex, the new facilities should be fantastic, and I think they’ll confirm Silverstone as one of the best circuits in the world.” Hamilton, on 97 points, 12 behind Button and Webber, says his win at Silverstone in 2008 was “one of the sweetest and most satisfying moments” of his Formula One career.

“For this year, of course, we head to a very new Silverstone — and while much has changed around the circuit and in the paddock, I’m sure that all those thousands of fans will be just as passionate as ever — it’s one of the greatest things about the British Grand Prix,” he said.

Ferrari meanwhile see Silverstone as a watershed. After a disappointing early part of the season, the team has been buoyed by two second—placed finishes for Fernando Alonso on the street circuits of Monaco and Valencia.

“The last three races were very important for all of and we had never been as competitive as that this season,” said Alonso, who is fifth in the standings on 87 points.

“Even if maybe the track characteristics could have given us a hand, it was important to be fighting for the podium places and even for the win, because it means we can tackle the coming races in good spirits.

“At Silverstone, we will find out where we are in terms of being competitive even at tracks which, on paper at least, do not suit us.”

Keywords: Formula One

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