What are your memories of the British GP as a kid?
“Lots of Mansell mania. I grew up watching F1 in the eighties, so it was hard to ignore ‘our Nige’, particularly during the week of the British GP, when the media focus on him was incredible. Fair play to Nigel, he usually delivered – he drove amazing races at Silverstone and really gave mileage to that old adage that a home crowd is ‘worth a second per lap’. I don’t think it’s quite that much, but it delivered for Nigel…”
Is there really any home advantage at Silverstone? Or does it just add pressure?
“There’s a benefit in that you’re on home ground and you slip more comfortably into the weekend as you’re used to the environment. It arguably gives you a better read on the weather, because you’re more familiar with it.
“It takes away the unfamiliarity of racing anywhere else in the world – but I wouldn’t say that’s an advantage; it just makes the weekend different.
“It’s an extremely busy weekend for me – probably the busiest of the year.There’s a lot on your plate, from the minute you get up until the minute you go to bed, so that can be difficult to manage. But it’s a fantastic event: the track is still great, and the people are amazing. I always look forward to it.”
Despite your achievements, would it be disappointing not to win a British Grand Prix by the end of your career?
“Yeah – a good result at Silverstone is always something that’s eluded me in my F1 career. In terms of points, it doesn’t matter whether you win in Montreal or Monza, but winning in front of your home crowd is special. Every victory is special in a different way, and I’ve taken a lot of satisfaction from winning in places like Suzuka, Monaco and Spa – all significant or historic circuits. Obviously, Silverstone is another of those places, and I’d love to win there. Will it happen this year? It’d be a long shot, and I think the fans appreciate that, but it’s always an aim.”
This is your 14th year in Formula One – how does the racing in 2013 compare to 2000?
“In terms of the actual racing, I think it’s better – and tougher – than ever. I miss the engines we used to have back then: big, 3.0-litre V10s with loads of torque. But the cars have improved massively since I first started in Formula One. You can’t compare the two eras, really. For me, the main thing is that I still enjoy racing. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, and that hasn’t changed from my first day racing in Formula One.”
Silverstone is the eighth race of a long season. Will you and McLaren be race winners again by the end of 2013?
“I don’t know, but I really hope so. Everybody in the team is working incredibly hard to get us back to the front of the grid where we belong – and I know we won’t rest until we get there again.”