• Button fears Silverstone practice could be a damp squib
• Mixed messages from Lewis Hamilton over new contract
Jenson Button has warned Formula One fans, who are paying a minimum ground admission price of £155 for a weekend at Silverstone, that they will get short-changed in Friday’s practice sessions.
Button says McLaren will be saving their tyres for the more important qualifying session on Saturday and Sunday’s British Grand Prix because rain has been forecast for the event. “We are so limited on our tyre allocation that we are not going to run much,” said Button. “If it is torrential rain, we would normally run on an extreme wet but we need them for the race.
“The fans will be here and we are not really going to put on much of a show. We will do our best but there will not be much going on. If we think it is going to rain we won’t run in practice.”
Button, who is looking for his maiden Silverstone victory on Sunday and whose first race here in 2000 was an extremely wet experience, added: “I really feel for the fans because it has rained for about 300 years in England. It’s horrendous.
“They are rocking up here knowing they are going to pitch their tents in a metre of mud. But they are hard racing fans who love this sport. They are going to do anything to get here and, hopefully, Silverstone have done enough sponging the water out of the fields for our very special fans. I arrived and they had reversed my camper van into a position where it didn’t like it and the front wheels had sunk up all the way up to the axle but they have managed to get it out. There is a hole in the field but it is OK.”
But Button’s tyre concerns were contradicted by Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, who claimed the teams are afraid of crashing in the wet. He said on Thursday night that the drivers have plenty of rubber, with four sets of inters and three wets. “That is more than enough for three hours of practice and the race. The tyres are not a problem,” he said. “The truth is that teams will not want to run in seriously wet weather in case their cars crash. The visibility is the problem and safety becomes the issue. No one wants wet weather. It’s something we’ll just have to deal with.”
Meanwhile, the world championship leader Fernando Alonso has spoken about his sorrow for his compatriot Maria de Villota, the Marussia test driver who lost her right eye in an accident in her first outing in the car on Tuesday. He said: “Obviously we are very worried for this situation because we are still waiting for some more news. Sad days, for sure, completely shock when you hear the news and [wonder] how what happened was possible. It’s difficult to imagine how this can happen.”
Lewis Hamilton added: “I don’t know her personally but when I read about it I was absolutely devastated for her and for her family. I think it’s very tragic and myself and my team send our warmest wishes for her and hope that she has a speedy recovery.”
Later Hamilton, whose McLaren contract expires at the end of the season, hinted that he wanted to sign a new deal when he said: “I am ready to get it done.”
Still later, though, he confused the issue once more when he added: “I’m not there yet but at some point soon I would like to get something in place. I could end up waiting until the end of August or later in the season. I really don’t know. It will happen when it happens.”