The 2009 British Grand Prix promises to be a memorable occasion, and not only for the fact that it could well witness another famous home victory - for the 22nd time in its 59-year history. It will also mark the final race to take place at Silverstone - for the time being at least.

The blue riband event on the UK motor racing calendar has been held every single year since the official inception of the F1 World Championship all the way back in 1950, and though Brands Hatch and Aintree have also played host during that period, with no fewer than 42 races, Silverstone remains its spiritual home. Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton have all thrilled the partisan crowds in triumphing around the popular Northants circuit, and now Jenson Button has the opportunity to inscribe his name in the record books too as Silverstone's final home-grown conqueror before the grand prix moves to Donington Park.

Though the Brawn GP star and runaway 2009 F1 World Championship leader will be firm favourite in most people's estimation to take the chequered flag in front - having already done so on six occasions out of seven this year to-date - the 29-year-old would do well to keep an eye out for team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who rates Silverstone as his favourite track and clearly feels a close affinity with it, having stormed to pole position, fastest lap and race victory there with Ferrari six years ago, and boasting four further podium finishes and another pole from 16 previous appearances to-boot. The experienced Brazilian is desperate to turn the tables on Button and erase some of his commanding 26-point advantage in the title standings - and this is arguably the S?o Paulista's perfect opportunity to do just that.

Also keen to spoil the fans' favourite's party are Red Bull Racing duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, whose Renault-powered RB5 should be in its element around Silverstone's high-speed turns. Though Brawn GP's closest challenger thus far this season, there is still a feeling that given the potential of its car, the Milton Keynes-based squad could somehow have achieved more than it has done over the opening seven races, Vettel's stunning Shanghai success notwithstanding. Team principal Christian Horner is adamant that everything is in-place to halt the ex-Honda F1 outfit's dominance and turn things around [see separate story - click here] - but it will need to be done soon if Button and Brawn are not to scamper home and dry.

Beyond the established leading two in 2009, Toyota seemed to have put their abject Monaco blip firmly behind them with a composed performance last time out in Istanbul that saw Jarno Trulli take fourth place, consolidating the Japanese manufacturer's third spot in the constructors' standings. They are being pushed hard, however, by a resurgent Ferrari, with the Scuderia finally appearing to be getting on top of its early-season woes that saw it suffer its worst start to a campaign in the top flight in almost three decades. It will be interesting to see which of the two teams emerges ahead this weekend.

Towards the lower end of the top ten, Williams and former engine partner Renault - a formidable combination barely a decade ago - have remained fairly static as their rivals have variously improved or regressed, with neither looking able to take the necessary step forward to haul themselves into podium contention. Williams are sure to receive a warm welcome as the gutsy British underdogs continue to bid to punch above their weight in taking on bigger-budgeted, manufacturer-backed adversaries, and in Nico Rosberg the former multiple world champions have a driver every bit capable of doing the business if only the machinery allows. For Renault, too, double title-winner Fernando Alonso is a warrior and has triumphed at Silverstone before, but whether his speed and determination will be enough to haul the R?gie's underperforming R29 sufficiently far up the starting grid this time around remains to be seen.

BMW-Sauber seemed to finally make some sensible progress with its unloved F1.09 thanks to the long-awaited arrival of the Bavarian concern's 'multi-level' diffuser in Turkey, and it will be interesting to see if that improvement can be maintained this weekend, but for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, there is likely to be only misery. Having produced one of the drives of his life to master the torrential conditions to perfection in last year's race for a famous victory, the 24-year-old has conceded that he has no chance of a repeat performance twelve months on, with the aerodynamic flaws of McLaren-Mercedes' MP4-24 likely to be cruelly exposed by Silverstone's fast and flowing nature. Indeed, scoring a point could almost be considered a result in itself for the nine-time grand prix-winner at the current stage of proceedings, and should he succeed in doing so, he will surely receive a hero's welcome. The majority of the plaudits, though, will assuredly be reserved for his compatriot Button - the man who looks increasingly like also usurping his crown.

Crash.net's Tip for the Top: Rubens Barrichello

Crash.net's One to Watch: Mark Webber

Comments

Loading Comments...