Technical Preview: British Grand Prix

By Will Gray, England
Atlas F1 Technical Writer

Click here for a track map of Silverstone

For eight of the eleven Formula One teams on the grid, Silverstone represents a home Grand Prix, and for many of those the circuit is just a stone's throw away from their factories. That, you would think, makes Silverstone one of the easiest races on the Grand Prix calendar. But that is not truly the case. Yes, if there is a problem or an off-track excursion by a driver then the factory is not too far away to feed out a replacement part and cure the problem, but that is about where the operational advantages of Silverstone end.

The lorries still have to be packed in the same way as they were to go to the last race in France and to the next race in Germany. Even Jordan, who are based literally over the road from Silverstone's main gate, will drive their lorries over the bridge to the infield and park in the pits to create a base home away from home.

Indeed, being at home creates its own problems in that there are many sponsors desperate to get to the Grand Prix. All must be channelled through the garages and shown the telemetry machines, the cars and the drivers, and everything that goes on inside the hallowed and often hidden race team's inner sanctum must be explained to the important funders.

That can create large unwanted pressures on the engineers, who need utmost concentration in order to do their job, and the atmosphere in the Silverstone paddock is often intense and on a knife edge - because, of course, with a home Grand Prix comes the pressure of performance.

The advantages of circuit knowledge is also fast receding as teams' ever-increasing budgets allow them to move to other testing venues to take advantage of the better weather in other countries. Teams now test in places such as Barcelona and Monza, also allowing them to gain circuit knowledge of other tracks on the calendar, and Silverstone is becoming a rare testing venue.

So it is now less of an advantage to be a British team when it comes to Silverstone, and although David Coulthard has won the last two races at the Northamptonshire circuit, Michael Schumacher will be at less of a disadvantage having joined all the British teams with Ferrari at the pre-Grand Prix test at Silverstone a month ago.

The circuit itself is a particularly challenging one for the engineers - and not just because it rarely remains the same in design! Once a ferocious flat-out high-speed track, Silverstone is now a more complex design with many different requirements from high-speed corners to the painfully slow complex before the pit straight.

Such a circuit requires a medium approach to set-up, with the downforce and drag trade-off particularly critical considering the requirement to minimise drag to gain the maximum speed down Hangar Straight and maximise downforce for the slow sections in the complex.

It also means the car must be responsive and stable for corners such as Becketts and Maggots which sees the cars asked to rapidly flick from left to right to left and back to the right again, putting immense G-forces on the drivers and massive strains on the cars themselves. However, because of the slower speed complex, low speed traction is important and traction control is sure to make things easier in the latter part of the lap.

As always the weather is a major consideration, even though the Silverstone race has been moved from last year's April date back to its usual weekend in July. Despite baking hot days in the UK over the last few weeks, the forecast is not promising for Silverstone's big weekend, and if the rain does fall things could become very interesting.

Michelin has admitted that their wet weather tyres are not as good as rivals Bridgestone, but it has also been said in the past that their tyres are no good in cold weather, and the French manufacturer has proven that they have now developed in that area. They undertook wet weather testing in Barcelona with Williams and Benetton last week, and it remains to be seen how successful the latest product from Michelin will be if Silverstone is soaked by a British summer storm.

However, it depends when the storm comes as to how it will really affect the race. The days when rain caused major upsets on the grid are pretty much gone, with most of the teams able to predict the weather from high-tech stations. The one difficulty with rain in qualifying, though, is when there is a drying surface, as a drier track is a faster track, and if that track is drying right up to the final seconds, the fastest man out there is often the man who crosses the line last.

As for race day, more rain could make strategies interesting, as the track is hard on tyres in any condition. But also the openness of the Silverstone circuit, which used to be an airfield, means wind-shift is a major problem as it can totally change the aerodynamics of the car in certain corners. But the teams are well-equipped to cope with most situations, and all eight of the home battlers will be working hard to claim points and please their sponsors as they watch on - at a distance.

© 2007 . This service is provided under the Atlas F1 terms and conditions.
Please Contact Us for permission to republish this or any other material from Atlas F1.
Email to Friend

Print Version

Volume 7, Issue 28
July 11th 2001

Atlas F1 Special

Hakkinen 2001: Chronicles of Desperation
by Paul Ryder

That's Entertainment?
by Roger Horton

British GP Preview

The British GP Preview
by Ewan Tytler

Technical Preview: Silverstone
by Will Gray

Focus: Surtees in Britain
by Marcel Schot


Elsewhere in Racing
by Mark Alan Jones

The British GP Trivia Quiz
by Marcel Borsboom

Bookworm Critique
by Mark Glendenning

The Weekly Grapevine
by the F1 Rumors Team

  Contact the Author
Contact the Editor

  Find More Articles by this Author

   > Homepage
   > Magazine
   > News Service
   > Grapevine
   > Photo Gallery
   > My Atlas
   > Bulletin Board
   > Chat Room
   > Bet Your Nuts
   > Shop @ Atlas
   > Search Archive
   > FORIX
   > Help