By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton will head to Silverstone for this weekend’s British Grand Prix with the circuit as much in the headlines as the home hero.
Both have said “no” to Formula One at the start of a big week in Britain — Hamilton the only driver to snub a major event in London on Wednesday and Silverstone calling time on the race contract after 2019.
“We had a fantastic response from all the teams and 19 of the drivers,” said a Formula One spokesman, without naming Hamilton, ahead of the F1 Live London event featuring demonstration runs on the streets of Westminster.
Hamilton told his fans on social media on Tuesday that he was going on a break. His Mercedes team confirmed that only Valtteri Bottas would be in London.
“Two day holiday before the greatest race weekend of the year!!,” Hamilton told his 4.5 million followers on Instagram alongside a photograph of himself and friends on the steps of his private jet.
See the image here: http://reut.rs/2uoksCt
The Briton will be back on Thursday as the focus of attention, bidding to match his late compatriot Jim Clark as the only driver to have won four British Grands Prix in a row and five in total.
The triple world champion is in need of home comforts after setbacks beyond his control in Azerbaijan and Austria left him 20 points behind Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel as the season approaches the halfway stage.
For the first time since March 2014 Hamilton has been off the podium for two successive races and he has no intention of completing that hat-trick at a circuit that ranks among his favorites.
“It is generally when there are adversities that there is an opportunity to grow and to do something pretty special,” he said of his current situation, while recognizing that things did not look great as they stood.
“We’ve still got a long, long way to go. It could easily, within one race, switch. But the bigger that gap gets, the more pressure builds.”
Vettel, like Hamilton, has won three races so far this season and will be looking for Ferrari’s first win in Britain since Fernando Alonso in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to Silverstone, should be a lot of fun with this year’s cars,” said the German, who missed out on victory in Austria by 0.6 seconds after a storming start by Bottas from pole position.
“I think our car has been really strong this year in fast corners, so I think it should be quite nice.”
Red Bull, with their factory down the road, will also be fancying their chances of getting in the mix after Australian Daniel Ricciardo racked up his fifth successive podium with third place in Austria.
Dutch team mate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, is eager to end his run of bad luck, with five retirements in his last seven races and three in a row.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien)