• British Grand Prix preview

Bring on the rain

ESPN Staff
June 21, 2012

Eight from eight was a little too much to ask in Valencia, but the extraordinary season continued with another riveting grand prix. In securing his second win of the year, Fernando Alonso opened up a little bit of space between himself and the chasing pack, but it was Red Bull who looked to be making the most progress. In 2012, track conditions are more crucial than ever in determining the outcome of a race, and you could be hard pushed to find two more different weekends weather-wise than Valencia and Silverstone. It's a home grand prix for almost every team too, with only Ferrari, Sauber, Toro Rosso and HRT not based near Silverstone, and they'll all be looking to deliver in front of their team members.

On form

It's hard to ignore Fernando Alonso's performance in Valencia, as he became the first two-time winner in front of his home fans. It was an impressive drive through from 11th place, and while it's true that Sebastian Vettel's retirement was hugely influential in the result, he was the man in second place ready to capitalise. His driving has been outstanding all year, and even though Romain Grosjean was well placed to challenge for victory before his own retirement there's no certainty that he would have been beaten to the chequered flag. At the scene of his only win of 2011, with an improving Ferrari, Alonso will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.

Out of form

After another scoreless weekend, Jean-Eric Vergne could be starting to feel the pressure from the Red Bull hierarchy. It had been beginning to grow on Saturdays as Daniel Ricciardo boasts a 7-1 qualifying record over his slightly less experienced team-mate, but while Vergne's race performances had been more impressive he caused an early retirement in Valencia with a reckless swerve in to the side of Heikki Kovalainen which left both cars with a puncture. It was the sort of move that wouldn't be accepted in any lower formulas, and he's left with a ten-place grid penalty at Silverstone that almost guarantees that he'll start from the back row. Helmut Marko is a tough man to please, and so far Vergne has done little to show he's Red Bull's next world champion.

Paul di Resta felt that he cost himself a better result than seventh in Valencia due to a qualifying error © Sutton Images
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One to watch

After a relatively slow start to the season Force India appeared to make strides in Valencia and Paul di Resta was actually disappointed to qualify in tenth and finish seventh. A mistake on his qualifying lap saw him on the fifth row rather than the second, but di Resta delivered at Silverstone last year when he secured sixth on the grid. Force India is displaying a similarly impressive development rate to last season, and with more updates in the pipeline for this weekend it will be targeting a repeat of its Valencia performance.

Talking points

A new era of Red Bull dominance?
Sebastian Vettel's pace at the start of the European Grand Prix was a stark reminder of how one-sided Formula One can be. After being treated to different winners at the first seven races, Red Bull set about stamping its authority on the Valencia weekend with a major upgrade to the rear of the car. Vettel took pole by 0.3s and set about building a gap of 20 seconds to the chasing pack before a safety car eliminated his lead and an alternator problem cut his race short. But the warning was clear to see: Red Bull and Adrian Newey have tapped a new vein of performance with the RB8. The question now is whether its rivals can respond. The McLaren will likely be stronger at the high-speed Silverstone and has an update of its own said to be worth multiple tenths of a second by members of the team. Silverstone is therefore likely to be a good barometer of just how much lap time Red Bull has found with its new package.

The weather
It wouldn't be a British Grand Prix weekend without a few mutterings about the weather. The forecast is set out below, but in summary, it doesn't look good. The last soaking wet race day was in 2008, when Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory that still stands out as one of his greatest performances. Rain on practice days is less welcome as it plays havoc with the teams' testing programmes, not to mention Pirelli's trial of a new hard compound on Friday this year. But also spare a thought for those camping outside the circuit. At the time of writing the current status of the woodlands campsite was RED, meaning cars may need to be towed in and out of the car parks. The top tip is to bring wellies, a brolly and a sense of humour.

Cost cutting
The deadline for cost cutting to be submitted for the next World Motor Sport Council has been and gone without the teams agreeing on a means of passing cost control onto the FIA. It appears that deadline has been extended until July 24 as Red Bull and Toro Rosso appear unhappy with the latest proposals, but time is running out to be able to vote the cost cutting measures through in time for next season. McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh believes that a decision needs to be made soon, telling Autosport that "you don't want to wait until after the dominoes start to fall to suddenly say we better do something."

Maria de Villota was testing Marussia's race updates when she crashed on Tuesday © Getty Images
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Maria de Villota's accident
The focus on the build-up to the grand prix was abruptly switched to Duxford Aerodrome where Maria de Villota had crashed during testing for Marussia. While she remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital at the time of publication, the loss of her right eye means her competitive racing career is over. Formula One has a habit of rallying round those who really need it, and de Villota will get all the assistance she needs to make the best possible recovery, but a thorough investigation in to the crash will take place and raise a number of questions, chiefly: Was the incident a result of the current testing ban, meaning test drivers suffer from a lack of track time and experience in the car?

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
  • On the current layout, approximately 65% of the lap is spent at full throttle with an average speed of 134mph
  • 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

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 the most recent changes 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 over the past two years haven't changed that. The popular high-speed corners at Maggots, Beckets and Chapel were retained and even added to with the new nearly-flat-out Abbey Corner that is now turn one. 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. The Wing pit and paddock complex also proved a hit with F1's travelling circuit as Silverstone has well and truly shed its 'County Fair' comparison, bestowed on it by Bernie Ecclestone.

FIA driver steward

At a grand prix where he was so successful himself - having won it four times - Nigel Mansell will be the driver steward for the second time this season. He performed the role in Monaco, while also having done so twice in 2011.

© ESPNF1
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Weather

You've heard plenty of jokes about the British weather, but this weekend looks like taking on the form of the rest of the summer the UK has been enjoying so far; wet. The one saving grace for the teams is that it is likely that every session will be wet, but the flip side of that is they will be unable to fully analyse their upgrades and new parts. Saturday could be changeable during qualifying, but Sunday looks set to be very wet - with even thunderstorms predicted. One thing is for sure; the drivers will be tested this weekend.

Betting

After the dominance shown before his retirement, Sebastian Vettel is the favourite with the bookies at 2/1. McLaren doesn't expect that Red Bull advantage to remain, however, and Lewis Hamilton is at 4/1, while Fernando Alonso is 11/2. Jenson Button is good odds at 16/1, but with his record at Silverstone you'd be brave to back him to win. The outside bets that might at least be worth an each way flutter are Felipe Massa at 66/1 and Sergio Perez at the same odds. The Ferrari is improving, and we all know what Perez did in terrible conditions in Malaysia...

ESPN prediction

This could be an even harder race to predict than any other this season due to the number of upgrades expected and - most importantly - the fickle weather. There's only one man who has been consistently delivering the results this season, however, and as Ferrari improves we're going to back Fernando Alonso to stamp his authority on the championship at the scene of his only 2011 victory (also in wet conditions). That's our logic, anyway.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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