• British Grand Prix preview

The best of British

ESPNF1 Staff
July 6, 2011
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Silverstone is always a popular venue for Formula One racing but this year's Britsih Grand Prix promises to be one of the best in recent memory. An all new pit and paddock complex will provide the glamour, the DRS should provide the action and the change in exhaust regulations (see below) could provide an upset. Add to the mix a healthy dose of British summer weather and it has the potential to be one of the best races of the season.

On form

Fernando Alonso claims to be in the best form of his career, and a closer look at his recent results tends to back that theory up. In a car that is clearly no match for the Red Bull, he has finished second at two of the last three races and qualified on the front row at the other. Ferrari has been working tirelessly in an attempt to provide him with a car worthy of his talent, and the tangible results of that push should arrive at Silverstone. The updates will be focused on the rear of the car and made up of a new floor, exhausts and rear wing, and Alonso has made clear that they will determine his ability to fight for wins for the rest of the season.

Out of form

After a blistering start to the season with two podiums in the first two races, Renault has found itself fifth best at recent races. For a team that rocketed up the standings last year the lack of progress will be something of a disappointment, even though its results are still respectable. The big question now is whether they can hold on to fourth spot in the championship ahead of Mercedes, although on the evidence of recent races that will be a struggle. On the plus side, the return to high-speed, purpose-built circuits (rather than street circuits) will see the R31 back in its favourite hunting ground.

One to watch

Paul di Resta will take part in his first British Grand Prix © Sutton Images
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Paul di Resta has had a very solid start to his Formula One career and on a number of occasions has been close to pulling off even better results. He will arrive at his home race hungry for an even better result after two top-ten finishes for his team-mate Adrian Sutil at the last three races. The Force India hasn't been at its best on high-speed circuits this year, but last season Sutil had and Tonio Liuzzi had strong races at Silverstone and the team, which is based just across the road, will be keen for more of the same this time around.

Talking points

Exhaust blown diffusers
The biggest question ahead of the British Grand Prix is how the exhaust regulation changes will affect the top teams. The truth is that no-one knows for sure and the teams have sent mixed messages that tend to err on that side of caution. The rule change will effectively ban the practice of blowing the diffuser with exhaust gases when the driver is off throttle, which should reduce the levels of downforce on corner entry. However, it will also unbalance the car as the downforce that has been there all season under braking will now be taken away and the teams will have to compensate. This factor that could create, not only a shakeup in the performance of the cars, but also the drivers. As usual in F1 the quickest to adapt will come out on top.

Tyre selection
Pirelli dabbled with the idea of bringing the medium compound tyre to Silverstone but ultimately settled with the original plan of bringing hard and soft. The Italian firm knows that its rubber is in for a tough weekend as it is tortured through the high-speed sections, but is confident its product is up to the challenge. The bigger question is whether some of the teams are up to the demands of the hard compound tyre. The only time this specific compound has been used in race conditions was at the Spanish Grand Prix and only Red Bull and McLaren got the most from it. Ferrari struggled to get the tyres up to temperature and lost a significant chunk of performance as a result, which meant both cars were lapped in the race.

Driver contracts
Around this time of year some weird and wonderful stories start to emerge about the career paths of certain drivers. So far we've had Lewis Hamilton linked to Red Bull, Jenson Button linked to Ferrari and Mark Webber and Felipe Massa apparently making way. In reality it seems as though neither move will happen - at least not next year - and the front runners will remain where they are for 2012. But until contracts are signed and press releases issued, expect the rumour mill to continue to swirl.

Silverstone's bright future

The new Wing at Silverstone © Sutton Images
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Silverstone hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix in 1950 and has built itself on the reputation of being "The Home of Motorsport" ever since. It's a circuit worthy of the title and now it has the facilities to match thanks to the recent opening of the Wing. The brand new pit and paddock complex looks as though it will be on par with far-flung venues such as Shanghai and Korea, which is crucial with F1 searching for more and more cash-rich venues to hold races. There will undoubtedly be a few teething issues with the new facilities, but the sheer good will built up since the first impromptu race on the site in 1947 means there should be very few complaints.

Fast Facts

  • Keke Rosberg averaged 160.938mph in a Williams when he set pole position at the 1985 British GP, making Silverstone the world's fastest GP circuit at the time
  • British drivers have won their home grand prix 21 times, more than any other nation
  • The Maggots, Becketts, Chapel complex is one of the fastest corner sequences on the calendar and is entered at 185 mph, with drivers pulling 5G through Becketts
  • Jim Clark led John Surtees and Graham Hill in an all-British one-two-three at Silverstone in 1963

Trivia

  • The name Silverstone derives from the Old English for "wooded area"
  • In the early years of the event spectators were not allowed in the circuit's infield area for fear they might damage the local farmer's crops
  • The circuit has seen many changes down the years. The last major alteration before last year's was in 1990 when Becketts was revised, a new section between Stowe and Club was added and a five-corner complex before Woodcote was built
  • Silverstone hosted the inaugural round of the Formula One world championship on May 13 1950. Giuseppe Farina won in an Alfa Romeo 158, with an average speed of 90.95mph

Circuit

Silverstone has long been a favourite among the drivers and the alterations to the circuit last year didn't change that. The high-speed corners were retained and even added to with the new nearly-flat-out Abbey Corner that features a sizable bump on entry. The extra 0.8 kilometres of track, added roughly 10 seconds in lap time but opened up some good viewing opportunities for spectators and a couple of overtaking opportunities at Village and Brooklands. This year Brooklands should see even more passing as it marks the end of the DRS zone down the long Wellington Straight.

Driver steward

British Grand Prix winner and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell will be the driver steward this weekend.

Weather

© ESPNF1
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Anybody who knows Silverstone (and British summers), knows weather forecasting the British Grand Prix weekend is a fairly futile activity. For what it's worth, rain is expected on Friday and could feature later in the weekend too, with temperatures hovering around 20C. A wet practice will be frustrating for the teams as they try to understand the new exhaust regulations and it could leave them heading into qualifying and the race without a proper grasp of what the dry tyres are doing over a long stint.

Betting

No prizes for guessing who's the favourite this weekend - and you won't see much of a return if you bet on Sebastian Vettel at 8/11 either. Lewis Hamilton (9/2), Fernando Alonso (5/1), Mark Webber (11/2) and Jenson Button (9/1) are all worth a punt if you've got a good feeling about them or rain is on the horizon.

ESPN Prediction

There's no getting away from Red Bull's tremendous record at Silverstone in the last two years and with Sebastian Vettel on top form it's hard to look past him for the win on Sunday.
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