The spirit of Ferrari’s pioneering ‘Pampas Bull’ will be with Fernando Alonso when he takes on the Red Bulls at the British Grand Prix this weekend.
Two years ago the Spaniard marked the 60th anniversary of Ferrari’s first Formula One victory by driving winner Jose Froilan Gonzalez’s 1951 car around the same Silverstone circuit where the Argentine had triumphed.
Alonso went on to win the race that day and will try to repeat the feat on Sunday as his team again pay tribute to Gonzalez after his death in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, at the age of 90.
“For me, Alonso’s win at this track in 2011 was one of the greatest of my career,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali.
“It was a special race, because we were going through a difficult season and to win exactly when we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of Ferrari’s first ever F1 [victory] was like a sign of destiny.
“It is very sad that just a few days ago, Froilan Gonzalez, the man who gave Ferrari that first win in 1951, passed away and we will be remembering him during this weekend,” added the Italian.
Alonso needs a win to rein in Red Bull’s triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, now a healthy 36 points clear of the Spaniard, after seven of the season’s 19 races.
Ferrari have won in Britain, home of eight of the current 11 Formula One teams, more times than anyone (16 in all) and Alonso has every chance of adding to that tally.
“I wouldn’t say that Vettel is favourite for this race. I’d say it’s Alonso,” McLaren’s Jenson Button told reporters ahead of a home grand prix that has yet to reward the 2009 champion with a podium finish.
Alonso was on pole last year but Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who also won in 2010, beat the double champion into second place while Vettel – winner at Silverstone in 2009 – was third.
Webber, yet to win this season, could be a bigger threat than Vettel at what amounts to a home race for the pub-owning, countryside-loving Australian whose house is a short drive from the circuit.
“He’s always gone well at the circuit…I think he sees it almost as much of a home grand prix as Albert Park [in Melbourne],” said team principal Christian Horner.
Ferrari and Red Bull will not be the only ones fighting for the top step on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion for McLaren, makes his first home race appearance in Mercedes overalls with every hope of a competitive performance in a team that has had four pole positions so far and a win for Nico Rosberg in Monaco.
The tyres were a big problem in Spain, where the same hard and mediums will be used at Silverstone, but the team – who were reprimanded for a “secret” tyre test with Pirelli since that race – are confident they will be more competitive.
“I think we’ve made some small steps just with tyre cooling and brake cooling, I don’t think we’ve made a huge step but we’ve yet to find out really,” Hamilton told reporters on Tuesday.
“I definitely feel that we’ll be competitive throughout the weekend,” he added.
Lotus can also hope to be in the mix, with Kimi Raikkonen a winner at Silverstone for Ferrari in 2007 and currently third overall in the championship.
McLaren, who last won at home with Hamilton in 2008, has plenty of new bits to try out and hope to have clawed back some of the time they need to make up after a deeply disappointing start to the season.
“It would be great if the guys could get a podium out of it but I think on recent performance that could be quite challenging,” said McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale.
On current form, Force India’s Paul di Resta is Britain’s next best hope after Hamilton while Marussia’s Max Chilton will just be soaking up the atmosphere on his home debut.
Former champions Williams, a long way from their glory days of the late 1980s and mid 1990s, are still searching for their first point of the season, on what will be their 600th race weekend.
Formula 1 Statistics ahead of the British Grand Prix:
- Four different teams have won in seven races so far this year (Lotus, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes).
- Red Bull’s triple champion Sebastian Vettel is the only driver with three wins in 2013.
- Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has 32 career wins, Vettel 29, Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton 21, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15.
- Ferrari have won 221 races since the championship started in 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 37.
- Mercedes have been on pole four times in seven races.
- Vettel has 39 poles to his credit, putting him third in the all-time list (Michael Schumacher had 68 and Ayrton Senna 65). Hamilton has 27 and Alonso 22.
- Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after three seasons in Formula One.
- None of the five 2013 rookies has scored points so far.
- Kimi Raikkonen has now finished 24 successive races in the points for Lotus and can claim the outright record this weekend. He shares it currently with Michael Schumacher, although the scoring system has changed.
- Former champions Williams have yet to score a point this season and for eight races in a row – the worst start in their history.
- Silverstone hosted the first race in the Formula One world championship in 1950. The circuit has hosted every British Grand Prix since 1986 and this year will be the 47th race there.
- Red Bull have been on pole at Silverstone in three of the last four years (Webber 2011, Vettel 2010 and 2009) and won three of the last four.
- Historically, pole has not been a significant advantage. Only four times in the last 18 races has the quickest driver in qualifying gone on to win. However, since 2000 every winner has started from fourth or better.
- The race has never been won by anyone starting outside the top 10.
- Twelve British drivers have won their home race since 1950. The last was Hamilton in 2008. The last Briton to win from pole at home was Damon Hill in 1994.
- The last British one-two in Britain was in 1999 with David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine. In 1965, the top five were all British.
- McLaren’s Jenson Button, the most experienced driver on the starting grid, has never stood on the podium at his home race.
- Ferrari have won 16 times in Britain, McLaren 14 and Williams 10.
- Alonso and Webber are the most successful current drivers at Silverstone, with two wins each. Webber has been on the podium every year since 2009.
- Williams are marking their 600th grand prix this weekend.
- Next week will be the 60th anniversary of Britain’s first Formula One grand prix victory – Mike Hawthorn for Ferrari in France on July 5, 1953. (Reuters)