This weekend sees the Formula 1 action resume with the field heading to its most traditional venue of Silverstone, home of the inaugural World Championship Grand Prix in 1950.
|2015 Formula 1 British Grand Prix|
|Date||03-05 July 2015||Lap Length||5.891km|
|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||Qualifying||Sat 13:00-14:00|
|Race (52 laps)||Sun 13:00-15:00||2014 Winner||Lewis Hamilton|
Session times quoted in British Summer Time (GMT + 01:00)
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 fourth event 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.
Rewind to 2014
Lewis Hamilton put his championship challenge back on track with victory from sixth on the grid – the lowest grid slot from which he has ever won – in an incident-filled weekend that saw a dramatic first-lap accident for Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen.
Coming into the weekend 29 points behind teammate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton looked on course to claim pole position in a rain-affected qualifying session, only to abort his final lap while the remaining runner on-track lapped quicker then him by dint of a rapidly-drying track in the final sector of the lap.
Rosberg took pole ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, while Hamilton was bundled down to sixth.
The race provided even more drama. Fernando Alonso started outside his grid slot (and would subsequently earn a pit lane penalty for the offence), while teammate Räikkönen crashed heavily after running wide at the entry to Wellington Straight and losing control on a bump as he rejoined the circuit.
The Finn pinballed into the barriers and across the track, where he was collected by Felipe Massa’s Williams. The race was suspended for almost an hour while track marshals worked to repair the barriers that had been damaged in the pile-up.
Once the race resumed, Rosberg led until a sudden gearbox failure gave him his first DNF of the season, allowing Hamilton – who had carved his way into second place – to inherit victory.
Valtteri Bottas finished a career-best second place from fourteenth on the grid, while Daniel Ricciardo narrowly held off an inspired Jenson Button for the final podium position. A highlight of the race was a tense battle between Vettel and the recovering Alonso for fifth place, with the pair racing side-by-side over a number of laps while each complained to their respective teams over the pit-to-car radios about the others’ driving standards.
The Form Guide
This weekend will mark the seventieth running of the British Grand Prix, and it looks set to be another tight intra-team battle between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the season approaches its halfway stage.
As was the case last year, Rosberg arrives at Silverstone carrying the momentum of winning three of the last four Grands Prix – the highlight being his victory last time out in Austria – to narrow the points’ gap to Hamilton to 10 points.
Hamilton, of course, carries the advantage of racing on home soil – a luxury that his German teammate won’t enjoy this season – and will be solely focused on claiming his first win on European soil in 2015. Hamilton’s challenge, however, will be to reverse the momentum sitting with Rosberg, who soundly beat the Englishman at the Red Bull Ring a fortnight ago.
“I don’t feel like I ever really reached my peak in Austria,” Hamilton told the official Formula 1 website ahead of his home race.
“It wasn’t the smoothest of weekends for me – so to come away with P2 wasn’t a disaster in the circumstances.
“Silverstone [is] different. I can’t describe the feeling I had last year – lifting that trophy again in front of the sea of fans on pit straight after so many years and after a tough start to the weekend too. It’s something that will always stay with me and nothing less than the same again will do.
“Winning in front of your home crowd is something else,” he added. “We have a fantastic car this year – even better than in 2014 – and it should suit this track, so I’ll be going all out to make the most of it. The guys back at the factories deserve to see a big home result and I want to see Silverstone absolutely rocking at the chequered flag!”
“Instead of claiming an extra day of testing in the FW06 – which one assumes he would have had first call to do, give he leads the championship – Hamilton jetted to Monaco to party with musician Pharrel Williams. That could prove to be a critical decision if he’s beaten by Rosberg again.”
A curious decision made by Hamilton was not to claim a day’s extra running in the F1W06 Hybrid in the post-Austrian Grand Prix test last week – the Englishman jetted to Monaco to party with musician Pharrel Williams, while Rosberg clocked more laps and tested a series of upgrades being brought to the car for Silverstone.
“With the extra day in the car on Wednesday also, helping the team prepare for Silverstone, I feel ready to go full attack at a circuit I really enjoy. It should suit our car nicely with the focus on downforce and we learned some useful things during the test, so I’m sure we’ll be strong once again,” Rosberg said.
Perhaps this could prove to be a telling decision in the final reckoning…
Despite being soundly beaten by Mercedes in Austria, Ferrari should head to Britain with their tails up after a productive two-day test in Austria where a number of substantial aerodynamic and engine upgrades were run. Silverstone should play more to the SF15-T’s strengths, and perhaps allow Sebastian Vettel and an under-pressure Kimi Räikkönen the chance to close the gap and perhaps take the fight to the Silver Arrows.
Fresh from a podium finish in Austria and their own major upgrade package, Williams will also be confident of a strong showing on home soil, seemingly having recovered from a brief form slump earlier in the season, where the Monaco Grand Prix was the team’s nadir.
The midfield will see the biggest potential change in the form guide, with Force India set to bring its first major upgrade to its VJM08 chassis. A number of components were run in the Austria test, and the team – which sits a remarkable fifth in the Constructors’ Championship standings – will attract plenty of attention from rival teams this weekend.
Image via Daimler AG and XPB Images
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