F1 2010 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has revealed his ambition to 'demolish the field' in next weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone to erase his miserable memory from the 2009 event – and he has warned McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Jenson Button that if he wishes to triumph on home turf, 'he has to do a better job than me'.
This time twelve months ago, Silverstone marked one of the unquestionable nadirs of what was a crushingly disappointing first half to the season for the then defending F1 World Champion, as with inarguably one of the worst cars McLaren has ever built, he qualified on the very back row of the grid and went on to finish a desultory and lapped 16th in front of his adoring partisan supporters from, whose unstinting adulation he always experiences such a lift.
Happily for Hamilton, the saying 'what a difference a year makes' could scarcely be more appropriate this time around, as he arrives back on home soil atop the title standings, with a car set to benefit from a substantial upgrade package and palpably fired-up to repeat the kind of dominant performance he put in at Silverstone in 2008 to regain the top step of the rostrum.
“Even though it's a tough week, I'm able to deal with it,” the 13-time grand prix-winner told The Associated Press, when asked about all the sponsorship commitments he will be expected to keep in the build-up to the race. “You have a lot of work going on and so you have to be very strict with how you sleep, eat, drink and all that stuff to ensure you arrive feeling perfect – but it's not such a problem for me, because this is just a good point of the year.
“To be leading the world championship going into my home race is a fantastic feeling. I know very well the effect of people-power around here – in 2007, when I got pole position, I vividly remember driving around on my slowing-down lap and I could hear the noise of the crowd over the engine, and in 2008, in those terrible wet conditions, nobody lost heart or faith and they kept waving their flags and banners for me on every single lap. When you see that kind of dedication, you know you've got to repay it, and that's why I go to Silverstone absolutely determined to get a great result – to make 100,000 people proud of our team and our country.
“Clearly expectation is high, more than anywhere else, but this is not the deciding race of the year. If it was, then you would feel the weight of the world. Instead, for me, rather than being dragged down, I just get this incredible boost of energy from everyone – every year we go there it's a mega experience with the support you have. The British Grand Prix is one of the best races of the year – it's going to be a brilliant weekend!
“Our whole team is really hungry for success. After spending most of 2009 out of the hunt, I can tell that everybody is really fired-up, particularly for this weekend, where we'll be performing in front of a home crowd and all our friends and families. It would be amazing to score another great result at our home race. We haven't raced on this Silverstone configuration before, [but] I've looked at the track map and I've seen some onboard footage and I like what I've seen. It still looks fast and sweeping – even the new corners look medium-to-high-speed, which is what you want around here.
“I really just hope it will be an incredible experience again, that the upgrades we have work, and [that] we're able to demolish the field. Our car is so good. It's just down to me and Jenson doing a solid job, without one or the other having problems – but it's going to be tough. We can't go into it thinking we're the favourites because the Red Bull, as it stands, is definitely the fastest car.”
Whether it is Hamilton or Button that makes the best use of the MP4-25 remains to be seen, but on past form, the odds looked to be stacked significantly in the former's favour, with his triumph at the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' two years ago contrasting starkly with the reigning world champion's failure to better fourth place there in ten previous starts. And the Stevenage-born ace advises his compatriot that if he wants to amend that record this time, he had better be on-form.