• Silverstone practice has not gone well so far, say drivers
• Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel are faster in the heat
The message from the world champion Jenson Button today was: “It’s not all over yet.” But today was a desperately disappointing day for McLaren after their substantial upgrades failed to make any difference on the track.
In the slower, morning practice session, Lewis Hamilton managed second place behind Sebastian Vettel, with Button eighth. But when the heat turned up in the afternoon – the track temperature was 43 degrees throughout the second practice – so did the pace and the McLaren pair were well off it. Hamilton finished in eighth place and Button was 13th, two seconds behind fastest man Mark Webber in his Red Bull.
Practice sessions are not a reliable guide to how the race will go because so many teams experiment with different settings and fuel loads, but the McLaren team admitted that they struggled to come to terms with the upgrades which were expected to make their cars quicker than they had been in Valencia two weeks ago.
“It’s been a difficult day for us. We had a new package but we have a lot of work to do,” the team principal Martin Whitmarsh said after the second session. “We got a lot of information today but we’ve got to use that information to make the car faster tomorrow. Everybody is pushing hard and hopefully we will get it right tomorrow.”
Button, who is seeking his first podium position in a British grand prix, said: “Today’s been trickier than expected. It improved towards the end but we’re still not where we’d like to be. We haven’t got the balance right yet which is disappointing as so many people took days off today to see us. It was amazing to see all the caps – at first I thought they belonged to other teams.”
As well as the McLaren team the British crowd were cheering the fact that they were at Silverstone at all. A year ago race weekend here was billed as the last with the race due to switch to Donington, but the grand prix is now assured for 17 years and, as a result, drivers got their first drive on the remodelled circuit.
Button, aiming to be the sixth British winner of his home grand prix in the past 20 years, added: “On high fuel the car seems to work pretty well. On low fuel it’s trickier. It’s pretty bumpy here. It’s not terrible but the Red Bulls look very fast.
“The good thing is we’re quite close to home. We’ll all be working late into the night tonight – we’ve got so much information from today. We did so many different set-up changes – and we’ll see tomorrow where we are. Hopefully we can get it right because it’s a special weekend for the team. Last year, in Turkey, I really struggled on the Friday and won the race by 30 seconds so it’s not over yet. It hasn’t been perfect, that’s the truth. I wish it had been a bit easier for us but it hasn’t been.”
Hamilton sounded more philosophical. “It’s not really disappointing,” he said. “I was well excited this morning. The feeling in the car was positive first thing but the changes we made didn’t make it better and that happens sometimes. It’s not something you can just bolt on. We will improve it tonight. It was bumpy – probably a bit more bumpy with our car unfortunately – and the new section is still picking up grip. Through a couple of hairpins it is pretty slippery.
“I definitely feel we’ve made a step forward from Valencia. This is a track a bit like Barcelona where we saw a second gap to the Red Bulls. I don’t think we’ll be seeing that sort of gap tomorrow. I think it will be a lot closer.”