What to watch for: British Grand Prix (7:30am ET on CNBC and Live Extra)

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In a time of dwindling track attendances and widespread negativity in Formula 1, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is the exception to the rule.

After over 100,000 people came out for qualifying on Saturday, the figure is expected to tip over 140,000 on race day as the track becomes a swathe of red, white and blue.

A good chunk of the fans will be cheering on defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, who goes in search of his third British Grand Prix victory on Sunday from pole position.

The Briton edged out Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg for P1 on Saturday, but with the German alongside him on the front row, the stage is set for a thrilling battle.

Here are a few storylines to keep an eye out for on Sunday.

HAMILTON’S HISTORY HUNT

Few drivers have captured the British audience like Lewis Hamilton has. With two wins at Silverstone under his belt, he now has a chance to win a third on Sunday and draw level with Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell for the most home victories at Silverstone.

The debate about the greatest British driver in F1 history is already one most deem to be over. Only Clark and Jackie Stewart can really compare with Hamilton. A third win for Lewis today would only further his argument to be known as Britain’s best.

Also note that his previous Silverstone wins came in 2008 and 2014 – the same years he went on to become world champion.

ROSBERG CHASES AUSTRIA REPEAT

Heading into qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton appeared to lack the rhythm required to score pole position. All eyes were on Rosberg to see if he could upset the home favorite. Ultimately, he fell a tenth short.

It was the same story in Austria, though. Rosberg dominated practice, Hamilton took pole, only for Nico to then seize the lead at turn one and dominate the race.

This time around, it may be a bigger challenge. Hamilton has reverted back to his old clutch setting that was causing him gripe, and the opening complex of corners at Silverstone would allow their fight to rage on throughout the first lap. It’s a mouth-watering prospect.

FERRARI THIRD BEST?

We’re still waiting on Ferrari’s big step forward, it seems. The engine upgrade introduced in Canada is yet to bear fruit, and at Silverstone on Saturday, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel ailed to P5 and P6 on the grid behind both Williams drivers.

Both drivers are confident that no ground has been lost to Mercedes and that they’ll be able to recover the positions in the race, but if Williams plays tactical, it could use either Felipe Massa or Valtteri Bottas as a rear gunner.

Perhaps the more intriguing fight would be between the two Finns, Raikkonen and Bottas. Ferrari is rumored to be lining up the latter as Kimi’s replacement, with reports in Italy suggesting that the Iceman has until the end of July to save his seat. Game on.

DAMAGE LIMITATION FOR RED BULL

After struggling at its home grand prix, Red Bull has shown a few more signs of life at Silverstone this weekend. Daniil Kvyat nearly beat the Ferrari drivers in qualifying, whilst Daniel Ricciardo would have been higher than P10 on the grid had his times not been deleted.

Once again though, it appears that Sunday will be a question of damage limitation. With Force India and Toro Rosso looking quick, the team will need to pick up what points it can.

As a final curveball, rumors of a possible tie-in with Aston Martin Racing emerged last night. Expect team principal Christian Horner to face a few questions on Sunday.

WHAT OF McLAREN?

At the beginning of the season, McLaren’s struggles were tolerated. “The team is still getting to grips with Honda,” we said. “It’ll get back to the top.”

We’re almost at the halfway point of the season, and still we’re saying the same thing. The novelty has worn off. The positivity from the teams appears to be more feigned than ever.

To qualify 17th and 18th at its home grand prix was nothing short of embarrassing for McLaren. Let’s see what the race brings on Sunday. Frankly, getting both cars to the finish would be an achievement.

STARTING GRID FOR THE 2015 BRITISH GRAND PRIX

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Felipe Massa Williams
4. Valtteri Bottas Williams
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
7. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
8. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
10. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
11. Sergio Perez Force India
12. Romain Grosjean Lotus
13. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
15. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber
17. Fernando Alonso McLaren
18. Jenson Button McLaren
19. Will Stevens Manor
20. Roberto Merhi Manor

The British Grand Prix is live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday. Lights out is at 8am.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).