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What to watch for: British Grand Prix (CNBC, NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET)

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Lewis Hamilton’s charge to pole position at Silverstone in Saturday’s Formula 1 qualifying session for the British Grand Prix acted as the latest twist in a strange week for the sport.

Having announced and held a groundbreaking demonstration in the very heart of London earlier this week, F1 was dealt a blow when Silverstone confirmed it would be breaking its current contract after 2019 to host the British Grand Prix.

Hamilton, meanwhile, came under fire for being the only current driver to have missed the London showcase, only to then send the home crowd into raptures with a remarkable final lap in qualifying on Saturday.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race from Silverstone.

2017 British Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton chases fifth home win

Lewis Hamilton may have scored a PR own-goal earlier this week by missing the live event in London, but his on-track exploits have done much to impress the baying crowd at Silverstone so far this week.

Hamilton’s continued success has put more and more records in his sights, and a fifth win at Silverstone on Sunday would tie him up with Jim Clark and Alain Prost for the all-time record.

Hamilton looked imperious through qualifying, so if can channel the home support in the same kind of way on Sunday, it would be a massive result for his championship bid.

Ferrari hopes to make numbers count

Ferrari may have struggled to match Mercedes’ pace through Friday practice or qualifying, but it heads into Sunday’s race with one key advantage: numbers.

Following Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hamilton will have to fend off the Scuderia by himself at the front. Kimi Raikkonen starts second on Sunday ahead of Sebastian Vettel in P3.

Ferrari has traditionally gone stronger in the races so far this season than qualifying, giving Vettel some hope that he can rain on Hamilton’s parade and extend his championship lead.

Bottas, Ricciardo plot fightbacks from grid penalties

Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo have been two of F1’s in-form racers recently, yet both have a challenge to continue their good recent record after being hit with grid penalties at Silverstone for gearbox changes.

Bottas drops from P4 to P9 on the grid, giving him a challenge to battle back through the midfield and rejoin the Mercedes/Ferrari train ot front, while Ricciardo will start P19 after a turbo issue in qualifying forced him out in Q1.

The high-speed 2017 cars have been spectacular to watch so far this weekend at Silverstone. Seeing them pick their way back through the field should be particularly exciting to watch.

Genuine hope for McLaren at home?

McLaren has not won the British Grand Prix since 2008, and while that is highly unlikely to change today, the team does head into the race with some genuine hope that it could hit the points.

The ‘Spec 3’ Honda power unit upgrade has offered a noticeable step forward in terms of performance, allowing Stoffel Vandoorne to partake in Q3 for the first time this season on Saturday.

The Belgian will start the race eighth on the grid, while teammate Fernando Alonso faces his usual challenge of recovering from the back of the field after grid penalties for power unit changes.

Strangely though, at a high-speed circuit where power matters, things may not be so bleak for McLaren.

2017 British Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
6. Sergio Perez Force India
7. Esteban Ocon Force India
8. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
9. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes*
10. Romain Grosjean Haas
11. Jolyon Palmer Renault
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
13. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
14. Felipe Massa Williams
15. Lance Stroll Williams
16. Kevin Magnussen Haas
17. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
19. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull**
20. Fernando Alonso Red Bull***

* Valtteri Bottas received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
** Daniel Ricciardo received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
*** Fernando Alonso received a 30-place grid penalty for multiple power unit changes.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.