McLaren feel pressure over tyres

Failure to get to grips with Pirellis has worn away flying start to the season – now Silverstone looms for British pair

"Silverstone is more than just my home race," Lewis Hamilton says ahead of next week's British Grand Prix at the Northamptonshire venue, "it's a giant of a circuit, a real racer's track. Every year we go there it's a mega experience, with the support you get from the fans."

Naturally the spotlight will fall on the 2008 winner, and his McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button, as they carry the expectations of a nation bitterly disappointed by Euro 2012.

"Although I've won the race before, I'd love to win it again," Hamilton adds. "Expectations are always high, because everyone is there waving the flag for you. I get this incredible boost of energy from that."

On recent form, he is the more likely of the two to challenge for the win, something that isn't lost on Button, who has been struggling with tyre performance recently. "The British GP is a big gap in my trophy cabinet," Button admits. "It's the one I would love to win, the one that's missing. I've never been on the podium there."

Button was fifth in 2000 with Williams, 15th and 12th with Renault, eighth in 2003 with BAR Honda, fourth with them in 2004 and fifth again in 2005. With Honda he achieved only a 10th and two retirements, while troubles in qualifying restricted him to a 14th-place start in 2010 and another fourth-place finish. Last year he retired. Now he would like nothing better than to pull himself back into contention by regaining his form and scoring that elusive home win.

"Everyone wants to win their home grand prix, and Silverstone is so special to any British driver," he says. "All the spectators with their flags and rocket-red caps... The support that you get from them is unbelievable."

But how realistic a chance does either have of winning for the home fans? It was at this race last year that McLaren made the first of a series of pitstop mistakes that don't seem to be over yet. One of Button's front wheels was improperly fitted, forcing him to retire before he left the pitlane.

Then there was the error with fuel settings on Hamilton's Mercedes engine that obliged him to back out of the fight with the Red Bulls to conserve fuel. McLaren made immediate amends for that by giving him a winning car in Germany, but it will be in the back of their minds here that such errors cannot be tolerated.

There was yet another pitstop mistake for Hamilton in Valencia when a jack failed and he lost 12 seconds while his left front wheel was fitted on his second stop, but McLaren were bullish after their record standstill time of 2.6sec in his first.

The weather won't be as hot as it was in Valencia, when the ambient temperature on race day peaked at around 30C. The Red Bulls and the Lotuses love that, but Silverstone's 19C forecast should suit the McLarens more.

The team boss, Martin Whitmarsh, admits failure to get a handle on tyre performance was instrumental in front-row starter Hamilton's inability to challenge in Valencia, where Red Bull's latest updates to their car enabled the polesitter, Sebastian Vettel, to walk away from his opposition by up to a second a lap at times.

Hamilton expects a significant technical update to his car next weekend. "The guys are working as hard as they can and pushing as hard as we can to improve," he said. "We've not had the same size of upgrades as others potentially have. We've not really had an upgrade since Barcelona but we'll hopefully have something very soon – for the British Grand Prix, I'd have thought."

McLaren need that. They started the year clearly the fastest, then watched their fortunes ebb and flow like everyone else's as different teams found the elusive sweet spot of Pirelli's "made to degrade" tyres at different times.

Red Bull have now won twice, courtesy of Vettel in Bahrain and Mark Webber in Monaco; Ferrari have won twice, thanks to Fernando Alonso in Malaysia and again last weekend in Spain; and Hamilton's win in Canada prior to that made McLaren a double winner, after Button won the opening race in Australia.

But Red Bull's pace in Valencia, and the Ferrari's ability to cope with high temperatures without overtaxing their tyres, are signals that the update is needed, and fast.

If it arrives and is successful, and if Hamilton and Button work their tyres at the optimum, McLaren's form on fast tracks such as Montreal suggests that both can take the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari.

However, in a season in which Lotus, Mercedes, Sauber and Williams have also thrust themselves into the limelight, neither driver is taking anything for granted.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015