Brits at Britain: Button seeks that elusive first podium

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The “home Grand Prix” has in recent years been reduced by the preponderance of new Formula One races occurring outside of Europe.

With the British and German Grands Prix coming up in the next two weeks, eight of the 22 drivers on the grid will have their chance to race in front of their home fans. Three Englishmen and a Scot have the honor this weekend at Silverstone (Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC and live streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra), while four Germans will race at the Nurburgring on July 7.

We’ll take a look at the English drivers in their home races first, then the Germans next week.


For Jenson Button, 2013 marks his 14th crack at Silverstone. And after a four-year period when Button’s had the best car on the grid or close to it, getting anything close to a podium in 2013 would be a massive result for the down-on-pace McLaren Mercedes.

Button’s results at Silverstone have never fully matched the hype or hopes of the home crowd – he has yet to score a podium in his home race.

Things started well enough, when Button recorded his first ever Formula One top five at Silverstone in 2000, then the fourth race of the championship, in his only start there for Williams.

Two fruitless years with Benetton and Renault followed before three minor points placings with BAR from 2003 to 2005 (eighth, fourth and fifth respectively). His last run for BAR at Silverstone was dreadful, a 19th place qualifying effort and a retirement on lap 8 with an oil leak.

The geriatric factory Honda of the next two years made it nearly a decade worth of trying without a podium.

Button’s World Championship season of 2009 should have been the year. After four straight victories and six of seven to open the account, Button rode the largest wave of momentum he’s ever had in his career – to an uncompetitive and almost heartbreaking sixth place.

In three starts for McLaren at Silverstone, Button was fourth in 2010 but hasn’t bettered 10th since.

We don’t expect Button to end that podium-less streak at Silverstone this year (Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC), but it would be a massive result and a huge career moment if somehow he can pull it off.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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