Will Monza lose “fastest track” crown?

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Silverstone could eclipse Monza as F1's fastest track
Silverstone could eclipse Monza as F1's fastest track

The revised Silverstone circuit revealed yesterday could take Monza’s place as the fastest track in Formula 1.

Though F1 cars will hit higher top speeds at Monza, the projected average lap speed for F1 cars at the new Silverstone is 4kph faster than that achieved at Monza last year. Here’s why.

Fastest lap speeds in F1

The graph below shows the average lap speed of the fastest lap at three tracks in their Grand Prix weekends from 2000 to 2009. Times from all F1 sessions were counted:

Fastest average lap speed at F1's fastest tracks
Fastest average lap speed at F1's fastest tracks (click to enlarge)

Fastest average lap speeds for each track (highest in italics):

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Monza 248.95 253.66 259.83 258.56 262.24 260.03 256.75 256.34 248.68 251.40
Spa 226.71 233.36 241.66 239.86 236.24 239.98 237.79 241.28
Silverstone 215.95 230.06 234.28 232.88 236.57 235.68 230.62 233.82 232.69 236.92

Speed-limiting rules hit Monza hardest

Rules brought in to slow F1 cars down have cut average speeds at Monza more than they have at tracks like Spa and Silverstone.

This because engine performance has a greater effect on lap time at Monza than aerodynamic downforce, and engine performance has been severely restricted in the past five years – due to the move from V10s to V8s in 2006, and the lowering of the rev limit in 2007 and 2009.

The teams run special low-drag aero kits at Monza to allow them to hit top speeds over 30kph higher than any other track on the calendar. Aerodynamic performance matters little over Monza’s chicanes.

At Silverstone and Spa the teams use a more conventional aerodynamic set-up because the tracks have more quick corners. As we saw earlier this month, largely unrestricted aerodynamic development over the winter means the cars are quite a bit quicker this year.

Silverstone’s changes

The changes being made to Silverstone will make it quicker than the old version (and how often do we say that about an F1 circuit?).

Silverstone originally estimated F1 cars will lap the revised 5.9km circuit at around 1’23.13 – suggesting an average lap speed of more than 255kph.

When you consider that the cars will probably be flat-out from the re-profiled (but no slower) Club, through Abbey up to Village, and then flat-out from The Loop and down the new Wellington Straight, it’s clear the new stretch of tarmac will be quite a bit quicker than the one it replaces even with its two slow corners.

The re-profiling will cut out the slow Abbey chicane and Brooklands will be wider and faster.

Will all these changes add up to a faster lap speed than Spa and Monza? We’ll find out in July.

But even if it does, it may only prove fleeting. With more downforce cuts planned for 2011 including the double-diffuser ban, the initiative could swing back towards Monza.

Silverstone Arena circuit

Image (C) www.mclaren.com