Just two short weeks following an exciting return to Austria after a ten-year absence, the Formula 1 circus crosses the English Channel to have another hit-out at one of the sport’s most traditional venues: Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix.
|2014 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX
|Date:||04-06 July 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:00-11:00|
|Race (52 laps)||Sun 13:00-15:00|
|Lap Record||1:30.874 (2010)|
|2013 Winner||Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)|
* All session times are quoted in British Summer Time (UTC +01:00 hrs)
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 third 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 in 2011 the paddock relocated to a 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 homegrown heroes.
The track’s fast corners are always a serious test for drivers and cars, 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 has realized the potential for a little bit more argy-bargy between the drivers as they try to funnel their way through the opening sequence of slow corners on the first lap.
The jury is still unconvinced as to whether the new layout has improved racing. We were fans of the older-style layout that incorporated the fearsome Bridge right-hander, which the current configuration has sadly consigned to history.
Silverstone’s high-speed layout provides a unique challenge for the new-for-2014 hybrid power units. Over 60% of the lap is taken at full throttle, calling for a fast-responding, high-torque behavior. Additionally, the high cornering loads will place added strain on the internals within the V6 power units, while the lack of heavy braking zones will make harvesting additional electrical energy from the brakes particularly challenging.
Rewind to 2013
Last year’s visit to Silverstone proved to be one of the most controversial of the season, with ongoing concerns about Pirelli’s 2013-spec tyres finally coming to a head in spectacular fashion.
Mercedes staged a front-row lockout with Lewis Hamilton claiming pole position on home soil ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.
The Englishman skipped away into an early lead, but his joy lasted until the eighth lap when his left-rear tyre failed on the Wellington Straight, which handed the lead to Sebastian Vettel.
The drama wasn’t over. Shortly afterwards, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and Jean-Éric Vergne’s Toro Rosso suffered identical failures; the latter’s spectacular blowout on the Hangar Straight triggered a Safety Car interruption while officials were faced with the tough decision of whether to take drastic action and stop the race.
Racing did resume – although still with a few more tyre issues – and Vettel held the lead until ten laps to go when he suffered a gearbox failure. It was the German’s only DNF of the season and it handed the lead to Nico Rosberg.
The Safety Car was again in action while Vettel’s stricken car was removed from the start/finish straight, prompting Rosberg, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso to dive into the pits to receive fresh tyres for the short sprint to the finish line.
The move proved decisive for Webber and Alonso, who completed the podium after overtaking the Lotus of Kimi Räikkönen, whose team – much to his displeasure – gambled on not stopping in the hope of keeping track position.
Rosberg held on to win by 0.7 seconds from Webber, who earned a popular podium finish on the weekend that he announced his retirement from the sport at the end of the year to join Porsche’s World Endurance Championship return. Alonso finished third, while Hamilton recovered to fourth after his early-race tyre failure.
The Form Guide
The last ten visits to Silverstone have produced eight different race-winners, and since the move to the ‘Arena’ layout in 2011, the pole-winner is yet to claim victory.
Given the Silver Arrows’ near-domination domination of both Saturday and Sunday to-date, that trend could well be undone this weekend.
Aside from qualifying last time out in Austria and the thrilling finish to the Canadian Grand Prix the race before that, it’s been something of a ‘silverwash’, but the local fans will only accept one winner: Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton has repeatedly shown himself to be a hard-charging racer, and one of the most impressive performances two weekends ago was his burn through the field from ninth on the grid to finish second to Rosberg. His opening lap – which included a brilliant pass on Fernando Alonso – rocketed him to fourth, and thereon the team’s better strategy got him ahead of the Williams runners to finish on the second step of the podium.
But he still remains on the back foot relative to Rosberg, who will remain in the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings irrespective of what happens this weekend. Hamilton has had two DNFs this season to-date (Rosberg has had none so far) and lies 29 points behind the German, who is methodically racking up the points and will hope that the trend continues, ideally with a fourth win of the season.
Williams shook up the establishment with a front-row lockout in Austria, and they could perhaps spring another surprise this weekend. Valtteri Bottas showed his class with his first podium finish, while Felipe Massa showed that he still has plenty of pace with pole position and a fourth-placed result. The team will also make history this weekend in Friday’s opening practice session by giving Susie Wolff her first FP1 hit-out, the first for a female driver since 1992.
Force India should find Silverstone’s layout more suited to their VJM07 chassis, meaning that Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez should again be in the mix, quite likely running an alternative strategy as they have done over the last few races.
Despite Ferrari’s obvious shortcomings and troubles, both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen have formidable records here. Both being men who have a liking for ‘drivers’ circuits’, expect them to outdrive their red machines this weekend.
Conversely, McLaren is – by its own admission – likely to struggle. If a ‘home’ Grand Prix typically provides an advantage to a driver, then Jenson Button obviously never read that memo. In fourteen years of trying, he’s never finished on the podium here (his best was a fourth place with BAR Honda in 2004) and given how uncompetitive the MP4-29 has been of late, it will take a miracle for he and Kevin Magnussen to do so this year, let alone finish inside the top six.
For the Renault runners, defending champions Red Bull Racing will lead the fight of the Regie once again, and should be in the mix to challenge for the podium, and possibly steal victory if the Mercedes boys trip over each other.
The Adrian Newey designed RB10 is perfectly suited to Silverstone’s sweeps, and one should expect Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to give the silver cars a bit of a run for their money.
Scuderia Toro Rosso should feature in the lower reaches of the points. The Italian team has, of late, qualified and raced strongly here in recent years – one should expect more of the same in 2014. But a major bugbear for the team has been poor reliability, with the STR9 suffering a string of exhaust and braking issues that have robbed it of significant points’ finishes.
Don’t forget to enter your British Grand Prix Predictions!
Round 9 of the 2014 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open for business, and you can enter and edit your British Grand Prix predictions right up until five minutes before qualifying!
Entry is open to all of our readers, and it’s so easy to submit your predictions!
All you’ll need to do is predict:
- which driver will win pole position and the race
- which two teams will earn the best finishes in the race
- which eight drivers will finish in the top-eight positions
- who will post the fastest lap of the race
- who will gain the most positions relative to their starting position
You can also choose to ‘double up’ your points tally for the British Grand Prix – but be careful, you can only do this twice per season! Click here to see the current points’ standings.
To enter your British Grand Prix Predictions, click here.
Images via DPPI, Road & Track, Sutton Images
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