- Sam Bird's track preview
Bird's eye view of SilverstoneSam Bird June 26, 2013
GP2 driver Sam Bird gives ESPN his track guide to Silverstone ahead of this weekend's race
Silverstone's layout may have changed in recent years but I've been driving higher end single seaters since 2010 and the circuit layout hasn't changed for me since then. This is now the fourth grand prix on this layout so it's not that new to the teams anymore and everyone knows what to expect from this circuit layout now.
The first corner is a nearly flat-out or flat-out right hander dependent on the fuel level and the tyres that you are on. It's relatively straightforward and then straight into a flat-out left hander where the car is fully loaded up onto the right hand tyres before then braking into quite a tight right hand corner in second gear.
Turn three is OK, but then turn four is quite fiddly; the left hand phase of the new Arena section. You always tend to have a little bit of a lack of traction out of there, and then you've got that little left kink that actually looks quite innocent and like it should be quite an easy corner, but once you get behind the wheel and a set of Pirellis that have done more than about three laps then that corner becomes quite tricky with the rear end always wanting to swap ends with the front.
You wouldn't try to engineer the car around that particular corner - there are many more important corners on the circuit - however if you do slide through there every single lap you are going to damage your rear tyres through that corner. For a corner that looks so innocent and just like a little kink in the straight it's actually more significant than that in terms of tyre management.
After that you head down the Wellington Straight, under the bridge and have an overtaking opportunity into Brooklands. This was obviously the old last two corners; the new Brooklands corner is a bit more open and you can attack the corner a bit more than you used to. The minimum speed is a lot higher because we're using a different straight and the angle going into the corner is one that allows you to carry more minimum speed. Attack the kerb on the inside - the tyres are fully loaded up to the right - and you use most of the road on the exit, however you want to bring the car back across the road a little bit before turning right for Luffield.
Luffield goes on forever; you're waiting and waiting to get on the power but if you get on the power too early you'll get understeer and then snap oversteer resulting in a loss of traction. If you do that then you have to back off the throttle, so it's much better to wait and then get on the power in one go. You're looking through the corner all the time thinking 'When? When? When? Now.' Then once you've done a couple of laps you know exactly where to get on the power.
You also don't run tight all the way round the corner at Luffield, you have to choose a clipping point then run a little bit wider, get the car turned and then get the car out. You then pass the old pits and head for Copse. As an Englishman I know I'm a little bit biased but for me Copse, Maggotts and Becketts is the best sequence of corners anywhere in the world. In my opinion it's better than Spa, better than anything else I've ever experienced. To get Copse, Maggotts then Becketts correct is so flowing, so fast and you've got to be so committed.
The balance through Copse depends on the wind direction because Silverstone is quite open as it's an old airfield and reasonably flat. You get a bit of wind there; if it's in the right direction - you get a headwind through there - you're going to be very quick. If you've got a tailwind it's going to be a lot trickier but in both cases it's a mega corner.
You've got to keep your minimum speed up through Maggotts and Becketts but at the same time you've got to get the exit out of Chapel onto the Hangar Straight. If you kill your minimum speed your laptime is dead anyway, so you've got to get both things sections right and be so committed. You get more understeer if you're following someone through there which makes it hard to overtake into Stowe, so you have to carefully time how and where you catch people.
Stowe does provide another overtaking opportunity; you've seen people overtake around the outside and down the inside. It's not the most high-speed corner on the circuit but it's still fast enough. You take it in fourth gear, a lot of energy goes through the left hand tyres and you have to be committed again so it's another very good corner.
Then we come in to the final few corners which are a little bit more fiddly and harder on the rear tyres where you demand traction and change of direction. There's a chicane and then a long right hander out onto the finish line. You've got to get on the power out of the chicane but it's how you control the slip of the rear tyre out of the right hander that is important. If you're constantly spinning up the tyres and fighting oversteer through the final corner then your tyres won't last very long and your ultimate laptime will suffer.
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 ahead of every GP2 round