Editorial: Sublime Silverstone

The FIA’s survey brought up a number of head-slapping, ?????ǣI could have told you that,?????? type results. Not least of which was Silverstone’s place among the top three of the best circuits in Formula One at present.

Now, for a dedicated Silverstone enthusiast such as this it is not a major surprise. Crucially both the other leading tracks are venues that cling to Grand Prix’s road racing heritage: the streets of Monte-Carlo and the winding forest roads of the majestic Spa-Francorchamps.

Silverstone, fashioned from the perimeter roads of a wartime airfield in rural Northamptonshire, may lack the evocative romance of the other two, but this track once called ‘prehistoric’ by the mighty Mr Eccletone roundly thrashed such antiseptic Hermann Tilke super-venues as Bahrain, Sepang and Shanghai.

Indeed, it even held off John Hugenholtz’s magnificent Suzuka circuit.

What this should tell the FIA leaders is that present circuits, for want of a better phrase, head off in the wrong direction.

Tilke insists that the tight turns of the staid new Hockenheimring or the ghastly infield twist of the Nurburgring are fashioned to encourage overtaking. A completely justifiable approach given modern car aerodynamics.

But, as we are beginning to see in 2005, whatever you do to the tracks, surface aerodynamics (i.e. wings) will always mitigate true racing. If one car cannot closely follow another, it is unlikely to be able to pass. This, combined with the unedifying engine rules, scuppered Raikkonen’s race.

Sadly, engineering progress has put paid to the days of cars with monstrously powerful engines and huge, drag-producing rear wings that faciliatated slipstreaming.

What is needed, therefore, is a rules package that targets a substantial cut in aerodynamic downforce in favour of under-body downforce and mechanical grip, that allows cars to run quickly without disturbing the passage of a following car.

An increase in the minimum width, forcibly reduced in Max Mosley’s disastrous 1998 rules package, could also help. So would a long-overdue return to proper racing slick tyres.

The draft – and, I stress, ‘draft’ – regulations for 2008 promise just this. But aside from tinkering with the cars, what the fans want more of are circuits which showcase the true brilliance of F1 machinery. Tracks with corners that like the awesome Copse, Becketts, Stowe or Bridge.

There you have it – that is why Silverstone is such a special track. It has four of the best corners the cars touch all season. More than all the Tilke venues put together. And no number of plush lounges for pampered ‘VIP’s can make up for that.

  • I am a London resident and work in the centre of the city, and I would like to pay tribute to all those affected by the terrible bombings last Thursday. As well as offering the greatest sympathy for all those who have suffered so terribly, I would like to applaud the tremendous efforts of the emergency services on the day and in the days since, the Transport for London staff, and the resilience of the city’s workers. We are not afraid.

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