Bernie may not like the place, Max may slate it, but there's plenty to keep the fans enthused about the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, as Crash.net finds out.

British Beef

This year there's been a raft of changes and improvements to the facilities at Silverstone, but before he's even been there Bernie Ecclestone's been mouthing off about how Silverstone doesn't naturally deserve a place on the F1 calendar. This, understandably, has cheesed off the BRDC, owners of the circuit, and their Chairman, none other than three times world champion, Jackie Stewart.

Those attending the GP in person are sure to notice the improvements as they drive in, with a tree-lined dual-carriageway boulevard on the way in just one of the improvements on show. The weather could be crucial however, in 2000 the carparks flooded and the ensuing chaos kicked off the latest batch of British GP bashing from Ecclestone and co, and this year, once more, there's rain forecast...

Championship-wise it's all action with Michelin and Williams having staged a remarkable resurgence in the second half of the season. Ferrari and Bridgestone are hardly the types to give up without a fight and McLaren too are right up there.

Ferrari

Michael Schumacher once again put on a masterful display of why he is a five times world champion in the French Grand Prix, but his Silverstone record shows that he hasn't faired especially well at the circuit. His leg-breaking incident in 1999 plus the fact that he has only once won on the track (and once from the pitlane) make for a circuit that hasn't been kindest to Schumacher over the years.

Alongside Michael at Ferrari is Rubens Barrichello who hasn't really been having the best of years. After his usual bad luck at his home track early in the year he has continued to be outshone by Schumacher. Prior to last season this wouldn't have been notable, as every team-mate gets blitzed by the German, but last year Rubens really did get to terms with his team-mate and on more than one occasion out drive him. This season, however, that has not been the case; Rubens has only outqualified Michael once (only rookies Cristiano da Matta and Ralph Firman can claim to have only outqualified their team-mates this many times) and race-wise Rubens has only finished ahead of Michael once, in Malaysia.

Rubens does feel confident for Silverstone however. "Of all the tracks we race on, it is the one I know best from my Formula Lotus and Formula Three days,'' he confirmed, ''I know what to do there and I find it an exciting and challenging track - it is a chance for me to do well."

Crucially, if it's wet, Barrichello should have the ideal platform to show his talents for both he and the Bridgestones are a fine combination come wet weather. ''I have seen a lot of stories in the press along the lines of 'Rubens is not doing well this year' - but I disagree with them. I always try my best, I am not a sleeper. This year, the situation is tougher, and we have occasionally started a bit further back [than perhaps we should] so, for me, Silverstone represents the chance to do it just right. I like going there, I'm feeling good and it should be a good weekend for me and for the Scuderia," Rubens says.

McLaren-Mercedes

They could have won at the Nurburgring and they were pretty strong in France but the mantle of Michelin's premier charger has moved to the WilliamsF1 team. Pity the poor McLaren design team though, there's soon going to be three cars to think about - this year's (which is last year's), this year's (which is this year's but not being used) and next year's (which isn't last year's and probably won't be this year's but something between the two, probably). Confused?

David Coulthard will want to impress at home, and, if you're harsh, he hasn't impressed at so many places this year. DC has been at McLaren since names like Ligier, Forti, Tyrrell and even Martin Brundle were competing in F1 and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is only in his second year at the team, yet is the leading driver, so it's probably fair to be reasonably harsh on the Scot.

''This year will be the tenth time I have competed in the race which, over the years, has seen some of the most memorable moments in my career, with my back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000," Coulthard says about Silverstone. "As a Formula One driver, you always want to win your home grand prix, so those races were something pretty special - it would be fantastic to repeat the result this year.'' There's no reason why Coulthard and the McLaren shouldn't be in a shout for victory if the weather stays dry, but so far this season it's Kimi who's been the lead driver at the Woking team.

BMW WilliamsF1

Whatsup at WilliamsF1? Well they've found a new sponsor in Budweiser for starters, so the King of Beers can be added to the celebratory tipple should WilliamsF1-BMW make it a threesome with a win at Silverstone. It's Ralf who's taken the last two wins, the German, just like his car, proving that a poor start to the season is no guide to what might happen later on. Juan Pablo Montoya is still strong, however, though signs of the pole-meister of 2002 haven't been in evidence this season.

With Williams on a roll, the only thing that looks likely to stop them is the British weather. If it rains Ralf and Juan will suffer just like all the other Michelin runners, unless the French concern has managed a similar breakthrough with its wet tyres.

Renault F1

A double retirement for Renault didn't mark the best of races for the Renault concern at home in France. Despite this setback the team is continuing with its development of the car and for Silverstone the car moves from being the R23 to being the R23B. ''We will have a major bodywork update on the car, so we have decided to christen this R23B as it groups together a significant number of detail modifications into a single package, which had always been planned for Silverstone,'' explains the team's tech man, Mike Gascoyne.

He also reckons the British GP should be one that plays to the Renault's strengths. "Silverstone should suit us very well," says Mike. "The circuit most obviously akin to it is Barcelona and we ran very strongly there earlier this season, coming close to winning the race. Silverstone is a circuit which rewards strong aerodynamic performance, and we have further improvements in that area for this race. I think we can have a very competitive weekend, and take points off our direct competitors."

Both Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli have been putting in fine performances of late so, reliability issues aside another good showing from the French concern should be in evidence.

Sauber-Petronas

Sauber's season continues to disappoint; they have 2002 championship winning engine, rear suspension and tyres. Ferrari started this season with their car from last year and won, but Sauber continues to stay down the bottom reaches of the field. Tyres are likely to be a large part of this, the new Ferrari doesn't even look that quick compared to the Michelin runners. In France things didn't look good for the Swiss-based team but the testing continues and the team is considering using its C spec engine for the British GP.

Despite not having the best of seasons at Sauber this year Heinz-Harald Frentzen was able to offer a counter to Bernie's criticisms and endorse the British GP. ''The British fans are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and more balanced than fans anywhere else in the world - we get a lot of support from them,'' the veteran explained, ''They are quite open in their emotions, so I hope we can give them something good - especially after the way our car went in the pre-race test.'' As ever, both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld are likely to have solid races. Please Sauber, bring back Felipe Massa for some action; your sponsors will thank you.

Toyota

The Toyota continues to look strong, and Panis was in the points last time out. After his poor reliability at the start of the season Panis is hoping to continue in the points at Silverstone "There are many high-speed sections, which should suit our TF103 race car, so I am very positive in this respect. We have some new aero parts for this race, which we hope will enhance our performance. We are all determined to get some good points after we have made continuous improvements in recent race weekends.''

Everything about the Toyota package does point to good potential, there's just been too many problems over the course of the year so far. If it's dry the Toyotas on Michelins have every reason to feature strongly.

B.A.R-Honda

With the British bobby taking the place of the French Gendarme of last time out BAR and David Richards will be hoping for a more normal GP after the fun and excitement of their French excursion.

The team has been working hard on the chassis and is introducing a revised package incorporating aerodynamic, engine and mechanical developments. With Jenson Button standing with ten points to Jacques Villeneuve's three, and Button at home, the Englishman is certainly the man of the moment at the team and as the end of the season draws nearer what will happen to Jacques Villeneuve?

Bridgestone tyres at BAR, so expect good things if wet. Their factory is located in nearby Brackley, which is handy if Button and Villeneuve decide to have another war on front wings this weekend.

Jordan Ford

Ralph Firman has his first home Grand Prix and hopefully will be able to put on a good performance, The man he replaced, Takuma Sato, had a fantastic home Grand Prix last year, coming home in fifth place, and the pressure is still on Firman to put on a fine performance. The 2003 Jordan-Ford hasn't proved to be a great car, but it has suffered from being on Bridgestone rubber whilst Michelin have looked so strong this year.

Gary Anderson reckons the Jordan has a chance of doing better this weekend, ''Over the last couple of races, we seem to have lost our way a little bit, but, hopefully, we've got ourselves back together again and will improve over the weekend," explains the team director of race and test engineering. "On the basis of the testing we've done at Silverstone, the car hasn't been too bad. It seems to handle well, we have a few small updates and we have a good idea of which direction we should be going with set-up. I believe that Bridgestone will be advantageous here, which may give us a better opportunity, and also the changeable weather forecast might work in our favour.

Wet weather is certainly where Giancarlo Fisichella's hopes lie. ''I was disappointed with our weekend in France, so I've been focusing my energy on preparing for Silverstone,'' the Italian confirmed, ''I would be most happy if the weather turns and we have a wet race because, so far this year, my car has performed well in rainy conditions and I think it's our best chance of getting a decent result. However, this weekend I will be giving 100 per cent as always, because I know that my team are working extremely hard to provide me with a competitive car.''

Jaguar-Cosworth

Sixth place in the last two outings for Mark Webber confirms the strength of the Jaguar challenge this year. Despite being on Michelin rubber, Webber has proved to be pretty handy in the wet too, so good things could happen from that direction.

''A few more points in the bag from Magny-Cours helps keep the motivation high and lets us know that we are taking steps in the right direction," Webber said on his way to Silverstone. "My testing in Barcelona was productive and I suffered no issues with the car that, in turn, allowed us to generate a huge data bank. The tyres are working extremely well for us at the moment, but I know that Michelin, like us, will be hoping for good weather this weekend."

For Pizzonia Silverstone should represent his best chance this year to show what he can do, as he explains. "When we talk about home grands prix, I think I can easily include Silverstone,'' the Brazilian explains, ''Not only is it the home race for Jaguar, but this is the circuit where I feel most at home and have raced on more than any of the others on the grand prix calendar.

Minardi-Cosworth

Wet weather's a possibility, on a drying circuit could we see another Minardi pole? Can Wilson provide wonders at home? It could be difficult reckons the Brit. ''It'll be tough for us, we haven't tested at Silverstone, and it's also a high downforce circuit and that's not a Minardi strong point,'' Wilson explained, ''Nevertheless, Silverstone is a superb drivers' circuit, especially the tricky but mega-quick Becketts complex. It's really exhilarating, both for drivers and spectators!

If it's wet Jos Verstappen can perform wonders, and the Bridgestones are the tyres to be on, Minardi could surprise once more.

Tyre issues

Michelin certainly have the dry weather upper hand at the moment as almost anyone will tell you. Bridgestone shod Jenson Button, heading to his home Grand Prix, spells it out ''The Michelins have an advantage, and it is a big advantage at the moment. It's good for the championship - but it's not good for our championship!''

If it's wet, however, the tables turn as Bridgstone have the advantage. The most fun could be had with the weather differing from Saturday to Sunday - if one day is wet and the next is dry the whole grid will be mixed up nicely for some proper British GP excitement.

Track time

After Barcelona Silverstone is the most frequently used test venue by F1 teams, meaning that they have a fair amount of information to draw on when it comes to tackling the circuit.

The track sees engines at full throttle for 55% of a lap which means it can't be regarded as an engine breaker, it is however one of the fastest circuits on the F1 calendar.

''Silverstone is great fun to drive and spectate at, as you can get a real appreciation for the speed [at which we are travelling],'' says David Coulthard about the circuit. ''Sections that are particularly enjoyable include Copse, one of the fastest corners on the calendar, which we drive absolutely flat out with its speedy entry and short apex. You also have the famous Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel S-bends, where we push the cars to their limits and experience very high Gs, with the aerodynamics of the car playing a very important role through here. The track does have some odd bumps, but we have done so many laps at Silverstone over the years in theory they should not catch us out!''

Willy Rampf from Sauber explains what the engineers have to look for at the track. ''Setting up the car can be very tricky, because high-speed stability is essential," he explains. "You are looking for a set-up that will enable the car to change direction smoothly at very high speed, with minimal fuss. At the same time, though, you also need good traction and mechanical grip for the slow-speed infield corners such as Abbey, Luffield and Priory and the first part of Woodcote.

''[The track] is fast but quite complex. Copse corner is fast, and then there are some high-speed curves, particularly the flowing section comprising Maggotts, Becketts, and Chapel, which lead on to the Hangar Straight. The driver must be very accurate when placing his car here, and again on the entry and exit of Stowe. He must find the perfect line to achieve the optimum lap time. This is the critical sector of the track, together with Bridge corner.''

Predictions

Dry = WilliamsF1 win. Wet = Michael Schumacher.