Motor Racing / Grand Prix Focus: Britons abroad relinquish right of home advantage

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The Independent Online
TWO of the five British drivers competing at Silverstone on Sunday will be 'foreigners' in their home race, victims of testing restrictions enforced this season, writes Derick Allsop.

Under the new regulations - introduced to limit expenditure - only teams of the host nation are allowed to test on a grand prix circuit before the event. So, while Damon Hill (Williams- Renault), Johnny Herbert (Lotus-Ford) and Derek Warwick (Footwork-Mugen) have all been at liberty to prepare on the Northamptonshire track, Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, partners in the French team, Ligier-Renault, arrive in the dark.

Brundle finds the predicament galling and frustrating. Third in last year's British Grand Prix, driving for Benetton-Ford, he dare not contemplate the prospect of repeating the performance this time.

He said: 'It's a very strange feeling coming here this year. Here we are, two British drivers, in our home race, both of us very keen to do well and yet we can't have much confidence because we haven't had the opportunity to test.

'Of course we were able to test at Magny-Cours before the French Grand Prix and since our team is based there it was obviously an advantage to a certain extent. But Silverstone is such a technical circuit that you need to have the car right and properly set up, otherwise you're scrambling all weekend to catch up.

'I felt my drive at Silverstone last year was the finest of my grand prix career. I had Ayrton Senna in my mirrors for most of the race yet managed to stay ahead of him. I'm certainly not as optimistic for Sunday. It's going to be a hard race for us.'

Brundle can at least draw comfort from his excellent form after a hapless start to the season. His fortunes changed in much the same way as last season, though he maintains the circumstances this year have been different. He explained: 'At the early races this season I wasn't as fit as I would have liked. I had one or two bugs, which got the better of me and interrupted my training schedules, and that really did affect my performances. This is now a very physical sport. It demands considerable strength, probably far more than the general public appreciate. There are a lot of fit young guys out there and unless you can match them for fitness you are going to struggle.'

Blundell's season has, by contrast, changed for the worse after a splendid opening burst, yet he remains undaunted and takes a positive view of the second half. 'Just as I knew Martin would be back to his real self, so I'm sure this is just one of those phases and that I'll start getting the results again,' he said. 'I can honestly say, that apart from Canada, the non-finishes have not been my fault. It isn't going to be easy for us at Silverstone, but if we hang on in there we could finish in the points.'

Such a finish would be welcomed by Herbert, whose season has taken a similar turn. He could scarcely contain his enthusiasm for this championship yet has had to endure a catalogue of disappointments after two early fourth places.

Herbert said: 'We just weren't able to get the car working as we thought we would, and it's been a case of trying to make up the ground. We've definitely made some improvements but we now need a lift and there will be no better place to get it than at Silverstone.

'I still believe we can finish the season in a strong position but it's time we started scoring again. You just have to keep working at it and believing you can get there.'