By Alan Baldwin
Lewis Hamilton may not be feeling the years just yet but the double Formula One world champion still senses time is ticking by as he gears up for the ninth British Grand Prix of his career.
The Mercedes driver is determined to dominate at Silverstone on Sunday, where a record crowd of 140,000 will be roaring him on, because every chance to celebrate with the home fans is increasingly precious.
“I am noticing the years go by,” said the 30-year-old championship leader, who has twice won at the circuit after a stunning debut season in 2007 and is chasing a triple that would put him alongside the likes of Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell.
“The race is gone and it is another year. I might have seven chances at the Silverstone grand prix left, it seems like a lot but it isn’t.
“They are very precious opportunities, each and every single one of them. So when you lose out on one, the feeling to come back and do it again the following year is even greater.”
Hamilton won last year’s race, his first triumph at Silverstone since his 2008 title-winning season with McLaren, but team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg took pole position.
“It wasn’t a perfect weekend. So I don’t know whether I have had a weekend where I have really dominated it,” Hamilton continued.
“And I think this year that has really been the target, dominating weekends and really conquering the circuit, through practice, qualifying and the race.”
The pressure will be on, much of it self-imposed.
Rosberg, who is just 10 points behind after eight of the season’s 19 races, can add to that too and will need no reminding of the burden of expectation Hamilton is carrying.
The German celebrated his 30th birthday last Saturday after winning in Austria and another victory would be his fourth in five races.
Unlike Hamilton, he also tested in Austria after the race.
“With the extra day in the car on Wednesday also, helping the team prepare for Silverstone, I feel ready to go full attack at a circuit I really enjoy,” Rosberg said in a team preview.
“It should suit our car nicely with the focus on downforce and we learned some useful things during the test, so I’m sure we’ll be strong once again.”
If rivals are resigned to a Mercedes duel at the front, Ferrari should be back in the mix while Mercedes-powered Williams are also in the hunt for the podium after two successive third places.
Red Bull, with their factory in nearby Milton Keynes, are hoping to get closer to Williams despite ongoing complaints about the lack of performance of their Renault engine.
Force India, whose factory is across the road from the circuit, will meanwhile debut a much upgraded car.
“Everyone is full of anticipation, but we know it will be a very steep learning curve to fully understand and get on top of the changes in just a few free practice sessions,” said co-owner Vijay Mallya.