It sounds reductive and simplistic, but at 49 points down on Max Verstappen on the championship table, he can’t worry about his deficit, his car’s chronic unreliability or anything else. He just has to win one race after another.
“Charles's last words [after the previous race] were, ‘We need to arrive in Silverstone and smash it’,” Ferrari senior performance engineer Jock Clear told the F1 Nation podcast ahead of the British Grand Prix. “I know that Charles will be competitive.”
There’s little to pick between Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, but on paper Silverstone should suit the Scuderia. Bulls boss Christian Horner is anticipating a more difficult weekend after a streak of six straight wins and seven victories from nine rounds.
“It could be more of a challenging circuit for us just due to the nature of its layout,” he said. “Silverstone could well be the most challenging yet.”
But what neither team is sure of is the status of Mercedes in the battle for victory.
The German marque made a breakthrough in Spain last month but has suffered for the run of street tracks since then. Now back on a smooth and fast permanent circuit, Mercedes is hoping its frontrunning pace returns to validate that it’s on the right development track.
“While we can be pleased with the flashes of speed that the W13 showed, there’s still a mountain to climb,” team boss Toto Wolff said. “A lot of work is needed to get to the front, but we have a clearer direction now. We’re focused on finding more and more performance as the season progresses."
“We know the top two teams have a considerable advantage. Our challenge is to close that gap. Silverstone has been good to us in the past. We have some improvements coming, and it’s a smoother track. We’re aiming to make another step forward.”
This is the first time in almost a decade Mercedes hasn’t been favourite to win the British Grand Prix. The team’s won eight of the last nine races at Silverstone, seven of which were at the hands of Lewis Hamilton.
“One thing you can be sure of is we will push as hard as we can,” said Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott. “We want to get back to winning. We want to win for the team. We definitely want to win.”
Ferrari needs to win. Mercedes wants to win. They can’t both get it done.
Charles Leclerc will come out firing this weekend, and assuming his engine remains fire free, I can’t see him being beaten to pole, from where he’ll be able to control the race. Based on his mid-race pace in Barcelona — a while ago now, but still — I think Hamilton could have what it takes to be properly in the mix and steal second.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author. Quotes have been obtained from team press conferences and issued press releases.