Just one week after the series screamed through the Styrian mountains, Formula 1 returns to its spiritual home in the United Kingdom for the British Grand Prix.
|Location||Silverstone, United Kingdom||Circuit Length||5.891 km / 3.661 mi|
|Opened||1947||First Grand Prix||1950|
|Turns||18||Lap Record||1:33.401 – Mark Webber (2013)|
Silverstone’s current ‘Arena’ layout has been in place since 2010, with last year’s being the sixth 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, followed by ‘Buttonmania’ and now ‘Lewisteria’ is the latest craze, with the fans cheering their three-time World Championship homegrown hero.
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.
|2017 Formula 1 Rolex British Grand Prix|
|Event Dates||14-16 July 2017||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 09:00-10:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 13:00-14:30||Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:00-11:00|
|Qualifying||Sat 13:00-14:00||Race (52 laps)||Sun 13:00-15:00|
|Driver Steward||Danny Sullivan||Pirelli Tyres|
|2016 Pole Winner||Lewis Hamilton||2016 Race Winner||Lewis Hamilton|
Session times quoted in British Summer Time (GMT + 01:00)
Rewind to 2016
After the pair’s controversial last-lap collision at the race before in Austria, title protagonists and teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton arrived at the British Grand Prix separated by just 11 points in their increasingly bitter championship battle.
Hamilton achieved his 55th career pole position with a scintillating qualifying run, starting the race ahead of Rosberg and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Sunday’s race would begin behind the Safety Car thanks to a rain shower before the start. That proved little obstacle to Hamilton, who swept to his third straight British Grand Prix win, leading home Rosberg and Verstappen as changing weather conditions threatened to throw an element of unpredictability into the race.
Rosberg, however, came under investigation by the FIA Stewards for receiving detailed pit-to-car radio instructions for how to work around a gearbox problem afflicting his car in the closing stages of the race. That was in contravention of the rules and led to a 10-second time penalty that dropped him to third place behind Verstappen and saw his championship lead cut to just one point.
The Form Guide
The halfway mark of the 2017 Formula 1 season sees Sebastian Vettel atop the Drivers’ Championship standings with a 20-point margin to Lewis Hamilton, despite the German not having stood on on the top step of the podium since the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
In the three Grands Prix since, both he and Hamilton have had their run of bad luck – some of it their own making. In Canada, Vettel found himself shuffled to the tail of the field after he broke his front wing and had to stage a rearguard action to climb back into fourth place; Hamilton took victory.
In Azerbaijan, the pair had a controversial collision behind the Safety Car for which Vettel was hit with a 10-second stop/go penalty; Hamilton meanwhile also had to pit thanks to a loose headrest. The end result saw Vettel finish fourth and Hamilton fifth, allowing Vettel to extend his points’ lead to fourteen.
Last weekend in Austria, Hamilton incurred a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change that demoted him to eighth on the grid. Vettel took advantage of this to finish second behind the Englishman’s teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Despite momentum seemingly being in Vettel’s favour, Hamilton will be the firm favourite at his home event where he has won four times. A fifth British Grand Prix victory will draw him level with the event’s all-time victors, Jim Clark and Alain Prost.
Statistics aside, Hamilton needs to start making a dent in Vettel’s title lead. His path to do so, however, won’t be made easier by the emergence of a new championship contender: his own teammate.
Valtteri Bottas, the winner last time out in Austria, is steadily growing into his new role at Mercedes. With the addition of runner-up results at the Canadian and Azerbaijan Grands Prix, this has propelled him to within 35 points of Vettel and just 15 off Hamilton.
His form – perhaps in stark contrast to his Finnish compatriot and Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen – has helped Mercedes move back into the lead of the Constructors’ Championship standings, 33 points clear of Ferrari.
Räikkönen desperately needs a result at a circuit where he has typically driven well in his career. The 2007 World Champion is under increasing pressure to retain his seat and will help his cause by turning around his rather indifferent form. To be fair to Räikkönen, luck has hardly been on his side at recent Grands Prix.
The leading teams will again be chased hard by Red Bull Racing, which has enjoyed something of a purple patch – at least for Daniel Ricciardo – with a run of five successive podium finishes, the last three coming at circuits few expected the RB13 to shine given its horsepower disadvantage. Ricciardo has enjoyed a great run of late, while teammate Max Verstappen has copped all of the team’s bad luck with five DNFs in the last seven events.
Encouragingly, the RB13’s recent upgrades have paid dividends. The car has gone from being almost a lap adrift at the start of the season to finishing within six seconds of the race-winner in Austria.
|British Grand Prix Weather Forecast|
|Friday||13°C – 18°C||Saturday||11°C – 19°C||Sunday||16°C – 21°C|
Images via Formula1.com, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Red Bull Content Pool
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