After we all enjoyed a crash-filled European Grand Prix at Valencia a fortnight ago, one would expect things to settle down this weekend as the field sets up shop for the historic British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
No so, it would seem, with rain forecasted to be one of the unknowns in what is set to be a highly covered and intriguing race which is sadly being run in the shadow of the career-ending injuries suffered by María de Villota two days ago.
Let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com British Grand Prix Preview…
2012 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX
|Date:||06-08 July 2012|
|Venue:||Silverstone, Northamptonshire, Great Britain|
|Race Lap Record:||1:30.874, Fernand Alonso (Ferrari F10) – 2010|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (52 laps, 306.198km)||Sun 13:00-15:00|
|Past Winners:||Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F150 Italia)||2011|
|Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault RB6)||2010|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB5)||2009|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-23)||2008|
|Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari F2007)||2007|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R26)||2006|
|Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren Mercedes MP4-20)||2005|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004)||2004|
|Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari F2003-GA)||2003|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2002)||2002|
Silverstone’s place on the F1 calendar is locked in for the long-term, and its ‘Arena’ layout has been in place since 2010, with last year’s being the first to have the start/finish straight and pits complex relocated to this new section of the former World War II airfield.
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 last year the paddock relocated 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 gave the potential for a little bit of argy-bargy between the drivers as they try to funnel their way through the opening sequence of slow corners on the first lap.
Take a look at our Silverstone Circuit Track Guide:
Silverstone Fast Facts
A few tasty trivia items…
The British Grand Prix has been on the calendar since the inaugural F1 World Championship in 1950. The only other race able to claim that is the Italian Grand Prix. Silverstone played host to that first ever F1 World Championship event, when it hosted the British Grand Prix on 13 May 1950. Nino Farina won the race driving for Alfa Romeo and went on to win the Championship with further victories in Switzerland and Italy.
In the Formula One World Championship era, three venues have held the British Grand Prix. Aintree hosted the race in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1962; Brands Hatch in even years between 1964-1986 and Silverstone on the other 45 occasions.
Jim Clark and Alain Prost are tied on five wins apiece as the most successful drivers in British Grand Prix history. While Prost won all of his races at Silverstone, Clark spread his across all three British Grand Prix venues.
There have been 63 winning drivers in the 62 British Grands Prix. During the 1957 race at Aintree, Stirling Moss took the chequered flag driving the Vanwall in which Tony Brooks had started the race. Moss had pitted his ailing Vanwall from the lead and taken over team-mate Brooks’ drive, re-emerging in ninth place, Moss worked his way through the field and still managed to win by 26 seconds.
The British Grand Prix has the highest number of home-grown winners of any race on the F1 calendar, won by a British driver on 21 occasions. Alongside Clark’s five wins (1962-1965, 1967), Nigel Mansell has four (1986-7, 1991-2), while on two wins apiece come Stirling Moss (1955, 1957) , Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971) and David Coulthard (1999, 2000). The other winners are Peter Collins (1958), James Hunt (1977), John Watson (1981), Damon Hill (1994), Johnny Herbert (1995) and Lewis Hamilton (2008).
Rewind to 2011
With the 2011 event marking fifty years since Ferrari’s first ever Grand Prix victory, Fernando Alonso was given the keys to racewinner José Froilán González’s victorious Ferrari 375, now owned by Bernie Ecclestone.
A grateful Spaniard took the classic car for a spin around the circuit on the morning of the race, and perhaps it served as something of a good luck charm for the man from Oviedo, who went on to claim his first win of what had thus far been a disappointing 2012 campaign. His win made Ferrari the leading Constructor in British Grand Prix history with 15 victories, one ahead of McLaren.
His win came courtesy of superior pace and strategy on the day, leaping ahead of early race leader Sebastian Vettel, who managed to get the jump on pole-sitter and team-mate Mark Webber as the race got underway.
Vettel and Webber would enjoy a great scrap for second place in the closing stages – the team eventually ordered Webber to back off and ensure he finished in Vettel’s wheel tracks, while behind them, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa staged their own wheel-banging battle for the minor places, racing line astern through the final corners on the last lap to cross the line a few centimetres apart.
Silverstone Talking Points
So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
The Form Guide
Recent form on British soil would suggest that Red Bull Racing and Ferrari would be the favourites to claim victory at Silverstone this year, with the two outfits having won each of the last three races here between them.
Both teams – along with McLaren – have two wins to their credit in 2012, and will be eager to add a third to their tally this weekend.
Ferrari and Fernando Alonso may have won last time out at Valencia on the back of an inspired drive from the Spaniard, but his cause was most certainly helped by the alternator failure that hobbled Sebastian Vettel mid-race. Until his mechanical maladies, Vettel was coasting to a certain win in the updated RB8, and there’s no reason to suggest why the car wouldn’t be comfortable through Silverstone’s high-speed sweeps.
Down at McLaren, there will be huge pressure on local drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to deliver this weekend. The former lost valuable ground in the championship with his penultimate lap collision with Pastor Maldonado at Valencia as the pair disputed third place, while the latter is in the midst of a poor run of form that he is desperate to arrest.
While Hamilton may have claimed a dominant win here in 2008, Silverstone is a comparative bogey circuit for Button, who has never finished on the podium in his twelve Grand Prix starts here. The Australian Grand Prix winner has been battling with trying to get a workable set-up on his McLaren to get more out of the Pirelli tyres, and has even resorted to copying Hamilton’s set-up, to little avail…
Lotus is a major threat this weekend, and their continually improving form has got to translate into one of the black and gold cars celebrating in victory lane soon.
Likewise, Mercedes’ form is also on the improve, with the team seemingly having managed to get their tyre wear issues resolved, after a solid points haul (including Michael Schumacher’s first long-awaited podium of his comeback) in the heat at Valencia a fortnight ago.
With Silverstone’s high-speed corners proving similar to that of Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Williams could be in with a shout of another good haul of points, and they’ll be in close competition with Force India and Sauber for the minor placings once again.
The added factor this weekend is the almost certain threat of rain throughout the weekend, with forecasters predicting that Friday and Sunday will be particularly rain-hit, while Saturday is likely to be affected by frequent shower periods. This will no doubt throw the form guide completely out of the window and lead to a few surprise standout performances.
However, there will also be a sombre mood in the F1 paddock on account of the recent tragedy to have befallen Marussia F1 test driver María de Villota, who suffered career-ending injuries – including the loss of her right eye – in a freak testing crash only two days ago. All in the paddock will be wishing for more positive updates on her condition as the weekend progresses.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The ninth round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.
With the top twenty-placed challengers covered by a spread of just ten points, this is still anyone’s to claim, and we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?
To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your British Grand Prix fix!