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.

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?