F1 Raceweek: Home comforts a must for Hamilton as three-way title race beckons

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Lewis Hamilton heads home to the British Grand Prix knowing anything other than first is not good enough in a title fight that is threatening to become a three-way battle.

Hamilton fell 20 points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' standings after he could only work his way up to fourth at the Austrian Grand Prix last week following a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.

Vettel, meanwhile, finished second behind Valtteri Bottas, whose victory pulled the Finn within 35 points of the German and just 15 adrift of Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.

With Vettel increasing his advantage at the top and Bottas cutting the gap and threatening to join the title scrap, Hamilton described the 10th grand prix of a 20-race season as "must win".

Thankfully for the three-time world champion, his record at Silverstone has been nothing short of superb. He has tasted victory at his home grand prix four times, and goes into the 2017 edition eyeing a fourth consecutive triumph.

It is no surprise Hamilton and Mercedes have enjoyed success at this circuit, which is one of the fastest on the calendar and features a litany of high-speed corners among its 18 turns.

Much of the build-up has been dominated by talk of Silverstone's time as an F1 circuit coming to an end after 2019, with a break clause in its contract having been activated on Tuesday.

But for now, if Hamilton can enjoy more home comforts, it will provide a significant boost to his hopes of a fourth world title.

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM PRACTICE

Bottas set the pace in FP1 with a time of one minute and 29.106 seconds, but it took Hamilton just 15 minutes into FP2 to top that benchmark on soft tyres.

The Finn quickly reassumed the position of superiority he has become accustomed to since qualifying in Austria, his time of one minute and 28.496 seconds on the supersofts proving good enough to end a second successive session on top as Hamilton faltered.

Hamilton ran off at Chapel when on the supers, with engineers worrying he had damaged his car in doing so.

Kimi Raikkonen edged Vettel for third place, while Max Verstappen was quicker than Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Of greater concern to the Dutchman will be reliability as he bids to avoid a fourth consecutive retirement.

Championship leader Vettel tested the 'Shield' in FP1 and spun at Becketts after the cockpit protection device was removed.

The Force Indias produced a slightly disappointing showing, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finishing FP2 10th and 13th respectively, but there were positive signs for McLaren at a circuit that should not favour the struggling team's car, Fernando Alonso finishing in the top 10.


STANDINGS
Drivers
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 171 points
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 151 points 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 136 points
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 107 points
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 83 points

Constructors
1. Mercedes - 287 points
2. Ferrari - 254 points
3. Red Bull - 152 points
4. Force India - 89 points
5. Williams - 40 points

PREVIOUS WINNERS
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Lewis Hamilton
2014: Lewis Hamilton

WEATHER FORECAST
The conditions could present the teams with plenty to deal with in qualifying and during the race. There is a 50 per cent chance of rain on Saturday and a 40 per cent chance on Sunday.