ROUND 9 - Great Britain 6-8 July 2012
Venue: SILVERSTONE, birthplace of the World Championship
Circuit Length: 5.891 Km
Lap Record: 1:30.874 = 233.373 km/h - F. Alonso (Ferrari) 2010
Pole Position: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault); 1:30.399 = 234.599 km/h
1st: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:28.41.196 (average race speed 207.155 km/h)
2nd: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Renault)
3rd: Mark Webber (Red Bull Renault)
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari); 1:34.908 = 223.454 km/h on lap 41
SILVERSTONE: ‘A PROPER DRIVER’S TRACK’
Hands up if you spotted that our Silverstone picture is taken from last year’s race, featuring Jaime Alguersuari in his Toro Rosso. Jaime may no longer be racing in F1, but the weather conditions look likely to be the same for this year’s British Grand Prix, the 46th to be staged at the great Northants track, still one of the signature events on the World Championship calendar.
“Silverstone is a great track to race at, both because it’s one of our two home races and because it’s a proper driver’s track,” says Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen, who was actually on pole position here for McLaren Mercedes back in 2008. “Even with the changes that have been made over the years it is still what F1 is all about – high speed corners that really push the performance of the car.”
Paul di Resta may be less experienced than Heikki, but the Force India driver still shares the Finn’s appreciation of this track. “It is one of those classic races that bring a smile to your face when you think of some of the corners,” says the young Scot. “I actually describe it as an ‘old-school’ circuit because it’s narrow and you have to be really committed and brave through the quick parts of the lap. It’s super-fast and great fun when you hook up the perfect lap.”
Which begs the question: why don’t we have more circuits like this one on the calendar? The teams come to Silverstone after a run of three street races so don’t be surprised if you hear a collective sigh of relief when they get out there on Friday. Silverstone has 18 corners, 10 right, eight left, and no fewer than seven of them are taken at over 250 km/h. Only the legendary Spa-Francorchamps has more.
Watch for two key Silverstone features: the new ‘Arena’ complex, Turns 1-6, which has enhanced the atmosphere and the challenge, and the more familiar sequence from Turns 9 to 15: the names Copse, Becketts and Stowe are part of F1 mythology and remain among the most thrilling stretches of tarmac in the whole racing year. And in the course of Silverstone’s 5.891 kilometres there are five sections where the cars top 300 km/h…
In response to the Silverstone challenge Pirelli will offer all the drivers an additional two sets of tyres for Friday practice. These use a new, experimental Hard compound which may be introduced for regular use later. For the rest of the weekend the choice will be between Pirelli’s P Zero Silver and P Zero Yellow, the Hard/Soft combination which we saw on offer in Barcelona earlier this year.
It may be home to many of the F1 teams, but Silverstone is also very much a ‘local’ track for our two Aussies: both Mark Webber and Dan Ricciardo are based in Buckinghamshire, just to the south. Can Webber win? He did it in 2010, brilliantly, and in the last four years he has never started from anywhere other than the front row. And Mark knows he needs to keep that man Alonso in his sights, especially after rescuing a superb second place when all seemed lost in Valencia last time out.
Keen to stop him, of course, will be McLaren Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. World Champions both, and both intoxicated by the home crowd support they receive at Silverstone. Button badly needs a boost: the day he cruised to victory in Melbourne seems a long way away and Jenson languishes in eighth place, a cool 72 points adrift of Ferrari’s Spanish ace – almost three full race wins’ worth.
Lotus is another famous British marque, and whether or not you think the team in its current guise has any real connection with the legendary Chapman-Clark era (Jim won his home GP five times), it is once again a major player. Kimi Raikkonen comes fresh from a podium finish in Valencia, while Romain Grosjean was challenging for victory before becoming one of Renault’s alternator victims. He won at Silverstone last year in GP2 and believes firmly that a maiden F1 victory is just around the corner – or, in Silverstone’s case, 18 corners…
With the Olympics looming and Britain buzzing with a high-class summer of sport, there has been much gossip about a London Grand Prix – Santander have even generated a computerised version of what a street circuit round some of the capital’s landmarks might look like. For now, though, forget it: rural Silverstone is THE place to be. Most of the drivers have driven it in many categories, and many times in F1, but in this case familiarity breeds only respect. As Di Resta says, “It’s a place where you can really appreciate what a Formula One car is capable of.”