By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton need fear no boos or whistles at Silverstone this weekend but the Formula One world champion cannot escape the fallout from Austria as he chases a fourth British Grand Prix victory.
The Mercedes driver was jeered after he won in Spielberg last Sunday following a last-lap collision with team mate Nico Rosberg, who limped home fourth with his overall lead cut to 11 points.
The abuse could be explained by the German presence in the crowd, with stewards punishing Rosberg for causing the collision as Hamilton attempted to seize the lead.
Silverstone is sure to be different, with many of the 140,000 at the old airfield being there to cheer on the home hero who has won for the past two years.
The threat of ‘team orders’ hangs over proceedings, however, with Mercedes bosses meeting to discuss what to do after two costly collisions in five races.
Even if they decide on nothing more than another warning, the drivers can expect their every move on the track — and body language off it — to be closely monitored and analyzed.
With the season approaching the halfway point, and a rush of three races before the summer break, passions are rising and the battle intensifying.
If the drivers are ordered to hold station at a certain point, then the crowd may feel robbed.
As Hamilton said after Spielberg: “My fans feel what I’m feeling and it’s why I have such a connection with them.
“Team orders is not something that should deprive them.
“Even if it’s the other way around and I’m racing and the other guy’s coming for me, that’s racing and why you turn up and you sit in the mud in the camper van in Silverstone and why you buy that cap because you’re with that passion and that fire.”
The solution, Hamilton suggested, is to give Rosberg as little chance as possible and he will aim to do that on Sunday at a circuit where last year the Briton won from pole position and set the fastest lap.
“As a competitor I’ve got to get on pole and lead the whole way,” he said. “That’s what I have to do for the fans, that’s my solution. It’s a lot of pressure but that’s my goal.”
“I’m massively driven,” added Hamilton. “I want it as much if not more than I’ve wanted my other world championships, and I actually love that it’s even harder to get because that makes you appreciate it more.”
Rosberg will see it equally as a chance to turn the tables. Denied a hat-trick of Austrian wins, he can end Hamilton’s bid for three in a row at home.
Both will have to watch out for Red Bull and Ferrari.
“The way the car has been working this year we should be pretty competitive at Silverstone,” said Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo. “I think it will be really close with Ferrari so I’m excited.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman)