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Page last updated at 20:03 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 21:03 UK

Silverstone to say goodbye to F1

Silverstone has captured the imagination of fans for generations

By Ross Heaton
BBC Oxford

If a week is a long time in football, then a year must seem like a lifetime in Formula 1.

The established pecking order of elite motorsport has been transformed, Britain has a driver at the summit of F1, and Silverstone has lost its crown jewel.

The long-time rumblings of discontent from Bernie Ecclestone meant the former WW2 airfield was always far from certain to keep the Grand Prix.

And its historic attachment has not proved an unbreakable bond.

This year's race, on 21 June, should see a final curtain call for F1 at a circuit which first staged the race back in 1948. Moving location a mere 63 miles up the M1 to Donington may at first seem insignificant.

F1 teams are global brands, who travel the planet in search of podium glory. But home is where the heart is, and for many British F1 fans that home is Silverstone.

Lewis Hamilton (left) and Jenson Button (right)
The focus of attention has switched from Hamilton to Button in 2009

Those supporters could get a swansong to remember with another home winner, but 12 months after a heroic victory in wet conditions for Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren driver is now playing second fiddle to a resurgent Jenson Button in the chase for the title.

Despite his undoubted talent, with just one grand prix victory prior to this season, and following Honda's decision to pull out of the championship, Button's future in the sport looked bleak.

But his bravery in staying loyal to the remains of the Brackley-based team and putting his faith in team boss Ross Brawn to forge a way forward, without the Japanese manufacturer's backing, has proved to be a career-defining stroke of genius.

Button and Brawn GP are now tantalisingly close to writing their names on both sets of silverware, and a team that looked like it would fade away is now setting the on-track benchmark.

More established names are now playing catch-up. Neighbours Williams have claimed 10 victories in the British Grand Prix, but are yet to taste the champagne from a top-three finish in 2009.

F1 fans Silverstone
British motorsport fans are some of the most passionate in the world

Both Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima have yet to step out of the shadows of their famous fathers. But the German has shown signs of real pace in practice and will surely convert that into a successful race finish for the Grove-based team before the campaign closes.

Another driver with huge shoes to fill is Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr. The Brazilian will probably always live in the shadows of his three-time world champion namesake father, and without a point from seven races his stay in F1 may not be extended.

Team-mate Fernando Alonso does not have those concerns. With two-world titles on his mantelpiece, assured and confident performances at every track, the Spaniard is a target for many who want to lure him away from Enstone.

Alonso powered home to victory at Silverstone in 2006, but the front-runners this year are likely to be no surprise. Red Bull's hot prospect Sebastian Vettel has nothing to lose starting 32 points behind Button.

Silverstone was sold out for the Grand Prix in 2008

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello is fully capable of earning a second consecutive podium in the UK, but his unwanted role as Brawn GP bridesmaid needs to continue if a fairytale end to Grand Prix racing at a beloved motorsport venue is to be achieved.

Once billed as a playboy, whose trappings distracted him from reaching his full potential, Button now looks as impressive and reliable as the car he drives.

The 29-year old is likely to earn the drivers' crown this year and the plaudits he deserves. However, he has just one opportunity left to hear the British national anthem at the circuit where he first watched the world's fastest.

If fate respects the sentiment of the occasion, and Button delivers, then Silverstone's Formula 1 history book will get the the final chapter every British fan craves.

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see also
F1 teams granted entry for 2010
12 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Racing jobs 'hinge on F1 licence'
04 Jun 09 |  Oxfordshire
F1 stars back teams in budget row
07 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Briatore calms F1 walk-out threat
05 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Williams suspended in sign-up row
27 May 09 |  Formula 1
Williams confirm F1 entry in 2010
25 May 09 |  Formula 1
Mosley wants action to 'save' F1
07 Oct 08 |  Formula 1

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