Forty years ago, at Silverstone, James Hunt first broke through to prominence on the Formula One stage, with a superb drive to fourth place in exalted company. On yesterday’s form, Paul di Resta may be poised for a similar performance after lapping his locally built Force India little more than half a second slower than Monaco winner Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button may be the partisan crowd’s primary heroes, but the quiet Scot – cousin of triple Indianapolis 500 winner and multiple Indycar champion Dario Franchitti – may be the best placed to deliver the strongest result. He has scored points in six of the seven grands prix held in 2013, overcoming misfortune in qualifying in Canada last time out to climb from 17th to seventh place after a drive which confirmed the promise he has shown since his Formula Three days when he beat Sebastian Vettel. Yesterday, the world champion was a tenth of a second off soon-to-depart Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, and just over a tenth faster than Di Resta.
Based literally across the road outside the track, Force India have arguably been the most consistent team of the season and are ready to break through for a podium finish. “Canada was obviously an excellent result,” Di Resta said. “I think everybody raised their game for Sunday and what we achieved was quite remarkable. This weekend, three more straightforward days I think will definitely be on the cards. I want to build upon that, to move forward and to finish in the points. We’ve managed to score on six occasions this year. If we can keep that up, and equally try and battle with McLaren, hopefully be in front of them, it makes a big difference to a team like us that’s battling in the midfield most of the year.
“Our car seems to be working well in all circumstances this year. It seems very consistent. I think this is a track where tyres are going to be a question. We’re normally on the healthier side of tyre wear and really the focus should be on qualifying because that’s the big result of the weekend, and then transfer that into the race where we will hopefully enjoy some great British support.”
Despite their speed, neither Rosberg nor Hamilton was happy with their Mercedes’ balance in Silverstone’s numerous high-speed corners. Hamilton, who tried a further revised braking system with a new master cylinder and pedal leverage in a bid to enhance the feel he wants under heavy retardation, said: “We had quite a challenging day today and definitely have more to learn tomorrow. I’m struggling a little with the balance of my car so there’s some work to do overnight to get us into shape for qualifying. I can’t remember the last time I felt so uncomfortable with the set-up.”
While Di Resta and Hamilton were fourth and fifth fastest, Button was 11th in a further modified McLaren, a second and a half off Rosberg’s pace but nearly half a second up on team-mate Sergio Perez. “The car doesn’t feel too bad out there, and the balance is reasonable – better than it was in Canada – but we’re still some way off the pace,” said Button.
New race bans: Twelve points and you’re out
Formula One drivers will be subject to a penalty-points system from next season. Once they rack up 12 points they will be banned from the subsequent grand prix.
There will be a tariff for various offences, such as three points for a dangerous collision and up to five for more serious indiscretions. The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said that points would stay on the driver’s licence for 12 months.
The FIA has also relaxed a ban on testing during the season, an issue that led to Mercedes and the tyre supplier Pirelli being summoned to a tribunal earlier this month after a “secret” test in Spain in May. The changes were agreed at a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council at Goodwood.