SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — This weekend’s British Grand Prix offers Lewis Hamilton a chance to make a statement on and off the track after a build-up dominated by how Formula One deals with racism.
Hamilton's Mercedes team has struggled badly this season but has reason to hope for an improved performance this weekend at Silverstone, where the British driver is an eight-time winner. Unlike the recent races on street circuits, the British track has a smooth surface which could reduce the Mercedes car’s tendency to bounce up and down at speed, causing Hamilton back pain.
Hamilton said the team has done “phenomenal" work on upgrading the car for this week's race, where he will be looking for a second straight podium finish after coming third at the Canadian GP.
The seven-time F1 champion also spoke out this week about improving F1's record on diversity and inclusion, especially as drivers across F1 condemned former champion Nelson Piquet for comments in an interview describing Hamilton, the sport's only Black driver, with a racial term which drivers and teams widely condemned as offensive.
Standings leader Max Verstappen, who is in a relationship with Piquet's daughter Kelly, said Thursday that the man he calls his “father-in-law” had used a word that is “very, very offensive” but that he didn't consider Piquet to be a racist. He added that Piquet’s lifetime paddock access given to former F1 champions should not be revoked.
Hamilton has indicated a solution has been found in his standoff with the sport's governing body, the FIA, over his piercings.
The FIA has a longstanding rule barring piercings and jewelry on safety grounds but it hadn't been enforced for years. With a new FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and new race directors this season, the FIA said it would implement the rule.
Hamilton initially said he would keep wearing piercings — especially a nose stud which would be difficult to remove — but indicated Thursday he'd found a solution.
“We've got so much bigger fish to fry,” Hamilton said. “So I will work with Mohammed and with his team so that we can progress forwards.”
What would a British summer be without rain? The weather is set to be a factor throughout the British Grand Prix weekend, soaking the expected 400,000 spectators and potentially shaking up the grid.
Sergio Pérez in particular will seek to improve after a tough time in the rain at the last race in Canada. Pérez hit the wall in qualifying and made little impact from 13th on the grid before his gearbox broke in the race, while teammate Verstappen went on to win. Fernando Alonso qualified a surprise second in the tricky conditions for Alpine and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz challenged Verstappen for the win in Canada but was left still waiting for his first career F1 victory.
VETTEL REFRESHES F1 HISTORY
Sebastian Vettel is reaching into F1's past to present a glimpse of its possible future.
The four-time champion will drive a British racing classic before the race Sunday, demonstrating the Williams car driven by British driver Nigel Mansell when he won the 1992 title.
Vettel bought the car in 2018 in a nod to his memories of watching F1 as a child in the early 1990s — both he and Mansell won the title with the No. 5 — and has set it up to run on environmentally friendly fuel.
“I'm using the carbon-neutral fuels on Sunday to demonstrate that we can still hang on to our history and heritage and culture and motorsport, but do it in a more responsible way,” Vettel said Thursday, promising the new fuel mix won't change the sound of the V10 Renault engine.