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Silverstone support: Does home advantage help in F1?

By Ed Foster, for CNN
July 6, 2012 -- Updated 1705 GMT (0105 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British Grand Prix at Silverstone is home race for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton
  • Former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell used to say home crowd gave him advantage
  • McLaren drivers to have backing of the majority of 100,000-plus crowd due to attend
  • Defending champ Sebastian Vettel is favorite despite Fernando Alonso leading championship

Editor's note: Ed Foster is the associate editor of Motor Sport magazine. He is also an F1 pundit for CNN's World Sport show and writes blogs for CNN.com International.

(Motor Sport) -- Nigel Mansell called it people power, others just call it home advantage.

Andy Murray at Wimbledon, Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford and -- this weekend -- Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta at Silverstone: they have the crowd behind them, they can hear the cheers from the stands, see the caps, banners and flags bearing their names.

Mansell was so popular with (most of) the British public that he even started his own movement, "Mansell Mania," which peaked at Silverstone in 1987.

"Our Nige" -- never one to let an ailment or problem go unnoticed -- was suffering from a severe wheel vibration by lap 12.

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It only got worse and soon he was running five seconds behind teammate Nelson Piquet. The Williams team wasn't planning to do any pit stops, but Mansell dived in to change the offending wheel. He emerged 29 seconds off the lead.

Designing Formula One tires
Designing a Formula One car

The fans were distraught -- there wouldn't be a repeat performance of Mansell's win the year before at Brands Hatch -- but he was suddenly flying.

"I think I broke the lap record 11 times in the last 15 laps," he said at the time. He was soon up on the back of Piquet and sold a dummy that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of with only two laps to go.

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His second -- of four -- British Grand Prix wins was complete. The crowd went mad and surged onto the track, so Mansell had to come to a grinding halt on his slowing down lap to avoid running any of them over.

Mansell always believed the fans gave him extra power, that extra quarter of a second a lap. It may seem ridiculous, but four of his 31 Formula One wins came on home turf in front of one of the most passionate crowds in the world.

Okay, not much comes close to the tifosi at Monza, bedecked in Prancing Horses, but Silverstone is up there.

Of course, not everyone shares the same view. British motorbike rider Cal Crutchlow looked a little bemused when posed the question of whether the fans gave him "extra power" ahead of his MotoGP race at Silverstone on June 17 this year.

"I don't know ... What? Like Uri Geller with his spoon? If he really thinks about it, it bends..." he said smiling.

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"I'll tell you what, hopefully all the fans can all sit in the stands on the weekend and think that I can have a podium or something like that and it might happen.

"But seriously you have to treat it like it's any other race when you're on the track."

Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne<br/><br/>2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren Australian Grand Prix: March 18, Melbourne

2012 champion: Jenson Button, McLaren
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Formula One 2012: The circuits Formula One 2012: The circuits
After a gap of 21 years, the British Grand Prix returned to the motor racing calendar in October 1948 at Silverstone, which had recently been built on a disused World War II airfield. After a gap of 21 years, the British Grand Prix returned to the motor racing calendar in October 1948 at Silverstone, which had recently been built on a disused World War II airfield.
Humble beginnings
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Silverstone: Home of the British Grand Prix Silverstone: Home of the British Grand Prix

Two days after this he went out and broke his ankle in practice. Come race day he started at the back of the grid -- with said broken ankle -- and stormed through the field to finish an incredible sixth, overtaking Ducati's former world champion Nicky Hayden on the last lap.

So what of the modern F1 drivers?

It doesn't make for great reading if you're Button/Hamilton/di Resta and hoping for a win this weekend in front of the 100,000-strong crowd.

Sebastian Vettel -- 0 German Grand Prix wins. Mark Webber -- 0 Australian Grand Prix wins. Button -- 0 British Grand Prix wins. Hamilton -- one British Grand Prix win. Fernando Alonso -- one Spanish Grand Prix win (and one win in the European Grand Prix in Valencia this year, which took him to the top of the championship standings).

The only man to have serious success on home soil is Michael Schumacher with four German Grand Prix wins, behind only compatriot Rudolf Caracciola -- who won it six times between 1926-39.

But seven-time world champion Schumacher has won a record 91 grands prix and it's no surprise the 43-year-old managed four of those at Hockenheim, plus five victories when the European Grand Prix was held at the Nurburgring. However, he has finished ninth and eighth at the German GP since returning from retirement with Mercedes.

This weekend most people's money is on Vettel. Before his Red Bull gave way in the last race, he was streets ahead in Valencia. No way anyone was going to catch him.

Alonso may have won fantastically in front of his home crowd, but he was cautious afterwards. "Red Bull is fast" echoed round the paddock.

McLaren, though, has been throwing the kitchen sink, and many millions, at its 2012 challenger in order to close the gap.

And with the unpredictability this season has produced there's no need to write off either Button -- who has always been dogged by bad luck in his home grand prix -- or his fellow former world champion Hamilton.

Also, there's always that home advantage, but maybe that's just a load of rubbish? We'll see for ourselves on Sunday.

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