Hamilton eclipses other British F1 winners

LONDON (Reuters) - While Lewis Hamilton focuses on winning next weekend’s British Grand Prix, Formula One compatriots Jenson Button and David Coulthard can hope for little more than leftovers.

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton gestures as he arrives in the pits for the third free practice session of the French Grand Prix at the Magny Cours circuit June 21, 2008. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

“You always want to do well at your home grand prix and we might get some points, which will be a big bonus,” Honda’s Button told reporters as he looked forward to Sunday’s race at Silverstone.

“But I’m going to have to leave it to Lewis to fight for the victory,” he added with a smile.

McLaren’s Hamilton is the man of the moment as far as the home crowd are concerned. On pole in Britain in his rookie season last year, he has won two races in 2008 and been one of four championship leaders.

Button, who has not been on the podium since the end of 2006, and Coulthard have had their turns in the limelight before.

Red Bull’s Coulthard remains the last British winner at the former World War Two airfield circuit, triumphant with McLaren in 1999 and 2000 while also finishing third with Williams in 1995.

Button’s best result at Silverstone was in 2004, when he finished fourth. In 2005 he started on the front row but ended up fifth.

“The last two years there have been pretty tough,” said Button, a winner in Hungary in 2006. “I had a problem with the engine in 2006 and last year we just weren’t quick enough basically, so this year I just want to get some points at my home grand prix.”


Coulthard, at 37 the oldest driver on the starting grid, agreed with that.

“The top six positions are fairly locked out under normal running conditions, you have Ferraris, McLarens and BMWs, but we are in that battle for the last couple of points with Williams, Renault, Toyota and Honda,” said the Scot.

This year’s race could be a farewell to Silverstone for the veteran of 236 races, although Coulthard says he is enjoying his driving as much as ever. Third place in Canada this month proved the point.

“When that moment (retirement) comes, there you go. That’s the journey of life. You move on to the next thing,” he told reporters at the previous French Grand Prix.

“I am currently a grand prix driver, I have been for many seasons, and I am still sitting here as a grand prix driver because I enjoy it and I get a buzz from it,” continued Coulthard.

“There will be a point naturally where that is not going to continue, and boo-hoo. There are a lot worse things that can happen to you and you move on to the next challenge.”


Nigel Mansell, Britain’s 1992 world champion, used to say that his home crowd were worth a second a lap and both Button and Coulthard agreed that the buzz of a British Grand Prix was hard to beat.

“Going down Hangar Straight to Stowe Corner and you see all the crowd standing at the side of the track, that is particularly special at Silverstone because it is a British crowd, you see the British flags and the home of motorsport is in Britain,” said Coulthard.

“That is a feel-good moment. At a lot of tracks you don’t actually even bother looking out at the grandstands, or whatever.”

Most of the expected 90,000 capacity crowd on Sunday, with a record 240,000 expected over the three days, will be cheering for the 23-year-old Hamilton but Button was confident his time would come again.

Honda have former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn running their show now and are expecting regulation changes in 2009 to level the playing field considerably.

“Last year was a tough year and this year has just been frustrating more than anything else,” said the 28-year-old Button.

“But I’m in a happy place, I’m in a good place at the moment and hopefully the fans aren’t too frustrated because I feel pretty happy with the situation.”

Editing by Clare Fallon