There’s so much to talk about ahead of the ninth round of the Formula 1 championship, which gets underway this weekend with the British Grand Prix on the historic Silverstone circuit.
Sixty-one years ago, the first-ever World Championship Grand Prix was staged here on a windswept former World War II airfield, and the track’s potential to provide plenty of thrills has never dissipated.
We have more rules changes, potentially problematic tyre compounds, a new pits complex along a repositioned start/finish straight, and a young Australian making his race debut. Like we said, plenty to discuss.
So let’s have a look at all of the action that lays ahead for this weekend’s British Grand Prix…
|2011 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX
|Date:||10 July 2011||No. Laps||52|
|Lap Length:||5.891km||Race Distance:||306.227km|
|Lap Record:||1:34.874, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 2010|
The collapse of the Donington Park F1 venture saw Silverstone back on the F1 calendar for the long-term, and last year saw it use an exciting new ‘Arena’ layout for the first time.
The circuit has always been a high-speed spectacle, with ferocious corners like Copse, the Becketts/Maggotts sweeps and Stowe laid out for drivers to navigate with a heavy right foot and plenty of bravery. But the problem with so few proper braking points was that overtaking had become too difficult.
So the British Racing Drivers’ Club – the circuit’s owners – came up with a new section featuring a new loop that incorporated a long straight and slower corners to encourage overtaking, and this year the paddock relocates to its glorious new pit complex on the straight after Club corner.
The track – in a multitude of configurations – has been a part of the Formula 1 landscape since 1950, although occasionally sharing hosting duties with Aintree and Brands Hatch.
British fans are a parochial bunch, and this was no more apparent than during the years of ‘Mansellmania’ in the 1980s and early 1990s, where the crowds swarmed the track to celebrate his wins in 1987, 1991 and 1992. Damon Hill took over the mantle in the mid-1990s, and now ‘Buttonmania’ and ‘Lewisteria’ are the latest crazes, with the fans cheering their McLaren heroes.
The track’s fast corners a serious test for drivers but there tends to be little in the way of serious carnage at Silverstone. However, the relocation of the start/finish straight to the other side of the circuit could lead to a little bit of argy-bargy between the drivers as they try and funnel their way through the opening sequence of slow corners on the first lap.
Silverstone Talking Points
What are the three big talking points of the British Grand Prix?
What effect will the off-throttle exhaust blowing ban have? The latest of many tweaks to the rules now means that teams can no longer run their fancy systems that keep exhaust gases blowing through the diffuser when drivers are not operating the throttle. There is plenty of suggestion that this will hurt Red Bull more than anybody, while others suggest that McLaren and Renault will also be impacted. Or, conversely, will everybody be equally affected, and therefore it won’t change a thing in the F1 pecking order?
Will the hard-compound tyres hurt some more than others? Pirelli’s decision to bring its ‘hard’ compound tyre as the prime tyre for this weekend’s race will probably impact Ferrari more than anybody, particularly after the team fell off the pace when running the tyres at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this year. Could we expect to see the Ferraris at the front on softer tyres, only to fall away on the harder tyres? Either way, expect a wealth of different strategy options as the teams try to play to their respective strengths in working the two tyre compounds this weekend.
Will it be business as usual for Vettel? The last round at Valencia was – to put it mildly – an enormous anticlimax for McLaren, particularly as it occurred so soon after a hugely impressive win in Canada for Jenson Button. The silver cars were well off the leading pace around the streets of Valencia, and they certainly won’t want a repeat of that on home soil. Both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have been very vocal of late in calling for more aggressive developments from the Woking factory…
So what do the Richard’s F1 readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
Matt, Richard’s F1 IndyCar Correspondent
“It isn’t often that both Ferrari and McLaren effectively concede the championship as lost barely halfway into the season, but Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have both commented on this point. Sebastian Vettel is all but humiliating the field at every race thanks to the utter superiority of this year’s Red Bull machine.
“It sometimes makes me wonder what it would have been like had this car been around in 2002 during Ferrari’s dominant years. But I digress. Can anybody stop Vettel from winning the British Grand Prix? The scale of the task is growing at every race and even the sceptics are being won over to admitting the title will be officially decided in the next month or so. My prediction for Britain is another Red Bull masterclass. Anything other than this will be an upset.”
Joseph, Richard’s F1 Technical Correspondent
“Blown exhausts. That will be the focal point for all the teams this weekend, as it will be the first race where the teams will be banned from using their "off throttle" exhaust tricks. Christian Horner has stated that Red Bull Racing stands to lose half a second, and it would be interesting to see if all the teams take a similar step back, or whether there are any clear winners or losers.
Silverstone is a classic circuit where many exciting races have happened, with its organic flowing corners, it is one that the drivers and fans alike look forward to. Being the "Home" race of many teams, they’re all looking to do well this weekend. Being a fast flowing track with many flat out bends, aero efficiency will be tested. I can’t wait! Will Vettel continue his superb run? Will Webber put one on the board? Will the Scuderia surprise? Will McLaren make it a British weekend? Will Mercedes finally find some much needed form?”
Jen, Richard’s F1 reader, Canada
“It’s a sorry state of affairs gonig to Silverstone this year with so many drivers conceding defeat to Vettel, and it’s a strong reminder of the dominant Schumacher years when we rarely heard anything other than the German national anthem on the podium.
“Having said that, I’m still finding this season highly enjoyable with all the fighting between Webber, Ferrari and McLaren for the subsequent five positions. I think everyone is concentrating too hard on what’s happening for the title to enjoy the rest of the battle which is proving to rely on strategy, technical developments and driver talent: the perfect mix in my opinion.
“It’s time for everyone to sit back, relax and watch the race to second place for now.”
Matej, Richard’s F1 reader, Croatia
“The car is definitely the star on a track like Silverstone, which rewards those with good aerodynamics and a powerful engine. Given how strong the Red Bull RB7 has been on literally every circuit, it’s likely that we’ll see a comfortable 1-2 for the Austrian team once again, unless these new diffuser rules throw the cat among the pigeons and mix up the field. I don’t see this happening.
“Having a hugely passionate home crowd is often claimed to give local drivers that extra half-second to perform well on home soil. The British crowd is fiercely loyal, and the likes of the McLaren drivers – along with Paul di Resta – will be desperate to impress their fans.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing how Daniel Ricciardo will fare on his debut with HRT. If he can outperform Tonio Liuzzi on debut, it’s a great sign of things to come. He is a talent for the future.”
The Form Guide
Eight races into the championship race, and Sebastian Vettel has won six of them and twice finished second. It’s an extraordinary record that’s unlikely to be beaten in the future, and he doesn’t look like stopping yet.
Only Michael Schumacher’s utterly dominant 2002 season could come close in comparison – he too failed to finish off the podium.
And we’re not even halfway through the season, but already many are conceding that no one else but Vettel can threaten a run to the championship crown. But one gets the feeling that this weekend’s action will be more telling when it comes to predicting how the rest of the season will go.
The upcoming restriction on engine mapping will now mean that off-throttle exhaust blowing can no longer be used, and some reckon that Red Bull’s all-singing, all-dancing RB7 will be the most affected.
In truth, no one really knows how this will shake up the pecking order, if at all. Perhaps it will simply serve to compress the field, or perhaps Red Bull and Adrian Newey will have found some new tricks to put on the car to keep it in front? Perhaps the off-throttle exhaust-blowing isn’t the real panacea that the other teams are claiming it to be.
And here’s another interesting fact: no one driver has won the British Grand Prix more than once in the last eight years. With Sebastian Vettel having already won it in 2009, does this mean we’re in for a Jenson Button or a Felipe Massa win (those being the only two drivers in the top-three teams who’ve yet to win at Northamptonshire)?
There’s also – it being Britain – the threat of rain to contend with. The likes of Vettel, Hamilton and Schumacher are supreme in the wet, and this may help through up a few surprises if we’re hit with a rain-affected grid and/or race.
And we must also make a mention of Daniel Ricciardo. The always-happy Toro Rosso reserve driver is finally getting his chance to make his race debut after taking over Narain Karthikeyan’s seat at Hispania Racing. He’s long been touted as the next major talent to enter the sport since, well, Sebastian Vettel, and it’ll be fascinating to watch his progress in a car that struggles to qualify off the last row of the grid.
This will be a truly fascinating race, so make sure you check out Richard’s F1 this weekend for all the latest news, analysis and action!