Probably one of the best races of last year and, for sure, one of the most important circuits in the calendar; Silverstone, the British GP. Along with Monza, it is the oldest track where F1 is nowadays still held. Furthermore, in 1950, British Grand Prix staged the first ever Formula 1 Championship race.
A little bit of history
So, speaking of Silverstone is speaking about the F1 history itself. From 1950 to 1954, the British GP was raced there. Then, it alternated between Silverstone and Aintree during the following 7 years. After 1962, the GP was held in Silverstone in odd-numbered years and in Brand Hatch in even-numbered years until 1986. Since then Silverstone has been nominated as the sole venue for the race.
The track was built on a disused Royal Air Force airfield, as most of the British circuits. It has always been a very fast circuit. Very little changes have been made since it was built. For instance, in 1975, a new chicane was added to slow cars in a high speed corner. Later, in 1987, the chicane was deleted and another one left-right was created just before the corner. The track underwent a major redesign between the 1990 and 1991 races, transforming the ultra-fast track into a more technical track. After the tragedies of Imola 1994, a new chicane was added in a flat out corner. Nowadays, Silverstone is still a very fast circuit; the average speed is about 235 km/h, one of the highest average speeds on the F1 calendar. Over the 65% of the lap is done at full throttle.
7 of the 10 F1 teams are based within a 100 km radius from Silverstone, so we can speak about a home race for most of the constructors. Even though, the largest number of victories in Silverstone does not belong to an English team but to Ferrari, with 13. McLaren is second, having won 12 times at the British track. Then, it’s Williams and Lotus, with 10 and 8 victories respectively. Mercedes, the most favorite team for the win this year, has won 3 times, as well as Red Bull. Speaking about the drivers, Jim Clark and Alain Prost hold 5 Silverstone trophies each. Nigel Mansell won at 4 occasions at the British circuit, and Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher went up to the first place of the podium 3 times. 10 drivers have won twice in Silverstone, including Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. Will the British driver start to belong to the 3 victories group this year?
Silverstone, with 5.891 km, is the second longest track of the calendar, just shorter than Spa Francorchamps. 52 laps are to be done to complete the 306.198 km of the GP. Mark Webber holds the lap record since 2013, with a 1:33.401.
The main straight is not too long but speeds of about 300 km/h can be reached. Drivers arrive to the almost flat out right-hander of Abbey which leads immediately into the left-hander corner number 2 before cars heavily brake and shift down to second gear for turn 3 to the right. DRS first detection point is located before turn 3. Then, the even slower turn 4, taken at 90 km/h to the left comes and leads into the flat-out left-hander of Aintree, before cars head down the DRS zone of the Wellington Straight. Cars will increase speed until 320 km/h.
Sector two starts with turn 6, which is taken by drivers in fourth gear and 180 km/h. Drivers head now to Luffield, a third gear curve; a right-handed and quite fast hairpin. The right-handed very fast and open turn 8, leads cars to a straight, before the difficult sixth gear corner to the right, taken at 265 km/h. Then, drivers press the accelerator until the tricky complex of Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel, some of the most famous corners of the F1 calendar; a left-right-left-right-left “S” section with a minimum speed of 170 km/h. The second DRS detection point is just before these corners.
The Hangar straight, the longest of the track, gives the start to sector number 3, with the second DRS activation point at the beginning. The fifth gear right-hander of Stowe comes at the end of the straight and drivers slow down until 180 km/h. This turn precedes another short straight which leads cars downhill towards the Club complex, the last three corners of the track. Heavy braking, from 280 to 110 km/h, is required for turn 16, a 90 degrees corner to the left. Turns 17 and 18 are both to the right. Drivers shift up from third to fifth gear and understeer can be an issue as cars need to accelerate to the start-finish straight.
Tires and technical requirements
Medium to high levels of downforce are needed in this track. This is not a disadvantage in terms of raw speed since the track doesn’t have very long straights. The brake wear is low and tyre usage is medium-high. The tyre compounds chosen by Pirelli are medium and hard ones. "Silverstone is a fast and flowing circuit, which requires a lot from tires, especially during the many high-speed corners. As a result, a lot of wear and degradation is generated, especially if the temperature is high" as Paul Hembery said. He expects between 1 and 2 pit stops. ”The succession of fast corners put loads on tires with peaks of sustained forces reaching 5G. Teams use high levels of downforce, which means large vertical and lateral forces acting on the tires simultaneously. The straights and braking zones are relatively short, allowing teams to use aerodynamics without an excessive time loss", the technician explained.
Race local times
Practice 1 Fri 10:00 – 11:30
Practice 2 Fri 14:00 – 15:30
Practice 3 Sat 11:00 – 11:00
Qualifying Sat 13:00 – 14:00
Race Sun 13:00 – 15:00
By Cristina DeLarge