Bring on Formula 1’s own Battle of Britain

Flags and fans. Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday 21 June 2009.

Support for local heroes Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will be greater than ever

Jul.07 (Grand Prix 247) With the British Grand Prix this coming weekend, Silverstone is back! In truth, ‘The Home of British Motorsport’ never really went away…

Track works completed around Woodcote and the Brooklands Complex. Silverstone Track Work Nears Completion, Silverstone, England, 9 March 2010.

Silverstone's Arena section in final stages of completion in March

After plans to stage the event at Donington Park collapsed, Silverstone immediately stepped back in, securing a new long-term deal which will keep the British Grand Prix at the Northamptonshire circuit for the next 17 years.

Being England in the summer, you never know what the weather will do, so rain and wind can often upset things for drivers and engineers. Facilities improve all the time, but only the British would build grandstands without roofs!

British GP, Silverstone 20 Jul 1963  Winner Jim Clark Lotus 25

Jim Clark won the British GP five times

British GP Basics
• This will be the 61st time F1 has staged a British Grand Prix, with Silverstone staging its 44th British GP this year. The race has also been held at Aintree and from 1964 until 1986 Silverstone shared the grand prix with Brands Hatch.
• Both Jim Clark and Alain Prost have racked up five British GP wins each with Nigel Mansell notching four home wins.
• Pole position counts for little here. Of the last 10 grand prix staged here just three have been won from pole – Rubens Barrichello in ’03, Fernando Alonso in ’06 and Sebastian Vettel in ’09. If that pattern continues the next lights to flag victory is not due until 2012!
• Of the current drivers, the best records belong to Fernando Alonso (with two poles in ’06 and ’07 and one win in ’06), Michael Schumacher (pole in ’01 and wins on ’02 and ’04) and Rubens Barrichello (poles in ’00 and ’03 and victory in ’03).

Race winner Nigel Mansell (GBR) Williams FW14 gives fourth place finisher Ayrton Senna (BRA) McLaren a lift back to the pits after the Brazilian ran put of fuel on the final lap. British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, 14 July 1991. Catalogue Ref.: 10-183 Sutton Motorsport Images Catalogue

Race winner Nigel Mansell lifts Ayrton Senna at the 1991 race

British GP Racing
• Nothing excites as much as a home win and British fans got one to remember in 1991 as Nigel Mansell scored pole and the win, even having enough time to pick up rival Ayrton Senna on his victory lap after the Brazilian had run out of fuel from second position.
• If that was special for the home crowd, it was nothing compared to the following year when ‘Mansellmania’ truly gripped the nation. After Mansell won the race, finishing ahead of Riccardo Patrese and Martin Brundle, the track was invaded by spectators who surrounded Mansell’s car despite the danger of being hit. In the end so thick was the throng that he had to abandon his car and get a lift to the podium ceremony in a marshal’s vehicle.

An aerial view of the new Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit layout. Silverstone Arena Grand Prix Circuit Launch, Silverstone, England, 29 April 2010.

Aerial view of the new Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit layout

British GP Analysis
• Silverstone has a new layout this year, which will provide an extra challenge for all the teams. The new ‘Arena’ section introduces a series of corners after Abbey corner before rejoining the old track at Brooklands. It lengthens the track by 0.472 miles to 3.666 miles and is expected to add about four seconds to lap times. According to circuit chiefs the new section has been designed to provide three new overtaking opportunities.
• As with most tracks this season, tyre management will be crucial here. It’s a medium to high wear track so looking after rubber will be crucial to scoring points. Bridgestone are also likely to give the teams headaches by bringing its soft and hard compounds and again the new layout will add further stress to the tyres.

Red Bull Racing dominated the 2009 race with Sebastian Vettel winning and Mark Webber in second

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Race Red Bull Racing dominated the 2009 race with Sebastian Vettel winning and Mark Webber in second

What happened last year…
Silverstone last year was about Sebastian Vettel. The Red Bull Racing driver dominated every session and repeated the performance in the race. Starting from pole Vettel simply drove away from the rest of the field, often lapping a second quicker per tour than Brawn rival Rubens Barrichello who had started second. It was a good day too for Mark Webber, the Australian passing Barrichello with a quicker pit stop on lap 20 to record a one-two finish for Red Bull Racing. Championship leader Jenson Button dropped to ninth from sixth on the grid at the start but managed to haul himself back to his starting position by the chequered flag. Barrichello held third ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Williams’ Nico Rosberg. Vettel was so dominant though that he claimed his first ever race hat-trick, with the pole, win and fastest race lap.

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Race Red Bull Racing dominated the 2009 race with Sebastian Vettel winning and Mark Webber in second

A young Ferrari fan at Silverstone

What will happen this year…
That is the million dollar question! Most current F1 teams refer to Silverstone as their home race. Of the twelve teams who will line-up on the grid only Ferrari, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Hispania Racing do not consider the British GP their “home” track. Red Bull with their Austrian funding is based at nearby Milton Keynes, fiercely French Renault F1 team are based in Enstone, Mercedes GP with their decidedly German heritage work out of Brackley, Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya has his Force India team based at Silverstone itself, true Brits Williams are housed in Grove and the list goes on.

(L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren talks with team mate Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday 17 April 2010.

Local heroes Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton

However on the weekend, the majority of those making the pilgrimmage to the circuit, situated in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, will no doubt be urging on one of the most British teams of them all: McLaren Mercedes who with their British driver pairing Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button lead the driver’s standings while the team sits at the summit of the constructor’s table. Silverstone will be Lewis and Jenson territory during the course of the weekend.

The Woking team have become the major force in the latter part of the first half of the season. Turning around their fortunes and taking the battle to Red Bull Racing who have been the team to beat with their Adrian Newey penned RB6 proving to be a formidable asset in their quest for championship glory.

Red Bull have had their fair share of drama during the season starting with apparent lack of reliability or luck or both, an internal revolution and most recently a massive accident which Mark Webber was lucky to walk away from in Valencia while his team mate Sebastian Vettel, an hour later, was celebrating victory.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will be the duo to beat

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will be the duo to beat

The Bulls will arrive at Silverstone as the team to beat with McLaren their most likely pursuers. Others who could give the top two teams a run for their money are Ferrari’s Fernando  Alonso, Felipe Massa and Renault’s Robert Kubica.

Thus there are six drivers, from four teams, who realistically have a shot at pole position and the top step of the podium come race day.

Behind the half dozen best we should witness the Silver Arrows of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher desperately trying to turn around the woeful fortune of their Mercedes GP team, probably struggling to keep at bay customer Merecedes outfit, Force India whose factory is literally a stone throw away from the circuit and are regular points scorers this season.

(L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) Renault with Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari. Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday 13 March 2010.

Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso would love to be the Silverstone party poopers

Both Williams and Sauber showed improved form in Valencia and their progress will be worth watching, while Toro Rosso hope they can be in this mix with their relatively inexperienced drivers.

Lotus will again be the best of the three new teams, perhaps edging closer to the established teams while their fellow “noobs” Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing slug it out to stay off the back row of the grid.

The racing this season in Formula 1 has been remarkable, each Grand Prix (bar Bahrain) has been an epic and the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone promises to be a cracker and that is even if the rain stays away…

  • Bec

    The one problem with Silverstone is that it rarely produces exciting races, this is the reason the circuit has probably had more changes to it over the years than any other … The promoters are still trying to find a layout that reduces the processional races Silverstone is largely famed for … Let’s hope they’ve got it right this time, or pray for rain ;)