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F1 Preview: 2016 British Grand Prix

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Formula 1 ventures to one of its most historic and well-attended circuits this weekend as Silverstone plays host to the British Grand Prix.

Despite there being a state of political disarray in the UK at the moment and the weather being unpredictable at best, over 100,000 fans will ensure Silverstone has a feel-good atmosphere over the coming days.

Lewis Hamilton arrives at his home grand prix with the championship lead once again in sight after his dramatic and controversial victory in last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

A final-lap clash with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg saw the fire between the Silver Arrows be stoked once again, leading to crunch talks on Thursday ahead of the race.

Mercedes has confirmed that its drivers remain free to race – for now – but that any future conflicts will be dealt with more severely.

Regardless, we now arrive at Silverstone with the title fight finely-poised, Rosberg’s lead now standing at just 11 points.

Here’s our full preview of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, live on CNBC and the NBC Sports App this Sunday from 7:30am ET.

Talking Points – 2016 British Grand Prix

Can Lewis and Nico behave?

There have been a number of major flashpoints in the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg during their time together as teammates.

However, the one in Austria is arguably the most important yet. Just when Rosberg appeared to be gaining momentum and getting on top in the intra-team battle, the momentum has swung back in his teammate’s favor.

This weekend, all eyes will be on Hamilton and Rosberg to see if they can keep it clean on-track and behave themselves. Mercedes has made clear that a repeat of Austria cannot happen. But we enter a weekend where both will be fired up and ready to prove a point.

Ferrari, Red Bull look to capitalize

Mercedes was somewhat fortunate that the Hamilton-Rosberg clash happened in Austria. Had it been Canada or Monaco, it would have cost the team a race win. Red Bull and Ferrari simply weren’t close enough last weekend.

Silverstone should be a good test to see just how far both teams have come. Engine power and speed through fast corners are both key traits, playing to the respective strengths of Ferrari and Red Bull.

A sprinkling of rain – almost guaranteed at some point over the Silverstone weekend – and who knows? Maybe the battle at the front will open up again.

Perhaps the man who has the most to gain is Kimi Raikkonen. His seat is coming under increasing scrutiny, and although the alternatives are hardly compelling, Ferrari will want some reasons as to why it should stick with him.

Button’s Silverstone podium hunt set to continue

There isn’t much Jenson Button hasn’t done in his F1 career – yet standing on the podium at his home grand prix is still a feat that eludes him. The Briton finished sixth in the 2009 British Grand Prix, the year of his title win, and has finished fourth on three occasions.

Button enjoyed arguably McLaren’s strongest weekend since rekindling its engine deal with Honda in Austria, starting third and finishing sixth, yet it was very much down to the conditions.

“In the wet we were pretty quick and in the drying conditions we made the best of it,” Button said of Austria. “Put it P5 and obviously got lifted up to P3 and was running P2 for a bit of the race, but we were quickly put in our place. To beat the cars that we did, we did alright.”

However, with the Silverstone layout set to play against McLaren, even with a repeat of Austria’s crazy race, scoring that elusive podium seems unlikely. Will this be the last chance JB gets though?

Grosjean, Gutierrez hope to continue Haas’ momentum

Haas has found the reality of racing in F1 biting back in recent weeks. After a stunning start to the season that saw Romain Grosjean score points in three of the opening four races, the top 10 eluded the American team in Spain, Monaco, Canada and Azerbaijan.

Grosjean put an end to the barren run in Austria last weekend, but should the race be a bit more stable at Silverstone, Haas may find itself battling outside the points once again. The British Grand Prix acts as one of Haas’ home races, given its factory is just down the road in Banbury, so it is an important one for the team.

Particular importance will be placed on Esteban Gutierrez’s race. The Mexican is still yet to score any points for Haas so far this season. Although he has been battling illness and has encountered some bad luck, the gulf to Grosjean may be cause for concern. Silverstone would be a good place to turn things around.

Keep calm and carry on

Being British at the moment is… interesting. The country has been in a state of flux since the vote to leave the European Union two weeks ago, particularly with the leaders of the Leave campaign slowly skulking away. Add into that the unpredictable weather and England’s embarrassment in EURO 2016, and everything seems a bit ‘meh’.

But us Brits never waver when the going gets tough. The old “keep calm and carry on” mantra rings true at the moment, yet the home fans may get something to get excited about this weekend at Silverstone. With Hamilton leading the charge and both Button and Jolyon Palmer flying the flag, the bulk of the fans at Silverstone will be hopeful of some home success.

Sport has a tremendous ability to unite people. Look how people in the Netherlands reacted to Max Verstappen’s breakthrough victory in Spain, or – away from F1 – how Iceland came together thanks to its own success at the EUROs.

At Silverstone on Sunday, you’ll see the hunger Brits have for racing on full display, come rain or shine.

2016 British Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Silverstone
Corners: 18
Lap Record: Mark Webber 1:33.401 (2013)
Tire Compounds: Hard/Medium/Soft
2015 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:32.248
2015 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:37.093
DRS Zones: Wellington Straight (T5 to T6); Hangar Straight (T14 to T15)

2016 British Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports App 5am ET 7/8
Free Practice 2: NBC Sports App 9am ET 7/8 (encore on NBCSN, 3pm ET)
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports App 5am ET 7/9
Qualifying: NBCSN 8am ET 7/9
Race: CNBC 7:30am ET 7/10 (encore on NBCSN, 2:30pm ET)

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).