Is the new Silverstone better for F1? After a day in the stands I think so

F3 cars charge down Silverstone's new Wellington Straight

F3 cars charge down Silverstone's new Wellington Straight

In the 12 years I’ve been to Silverstone to watch F1 and other races the track has changed very little. So it felt strange to stand at Abbey today and watch the cars turn right instead of left.

But having seen GT1 and Formula Three races at the track today I think the revised circuit will be a change for the better for F1.

The new circuit

The substantial changes between Abbey and Brooklands command your attention, but Club has also been re-profiled.

If you tune into the Moto GP race in June you’ll see the bikes take a slightly different route at Becketts, but F1 cars will continue to use the current line here.

There is more work to be done between now and the Grand Prix in July to set it up for spectators. Some walkways have been closed due to the renovations and larger grandstands are going to be added at some corners such as Village.

Club

Grasscrete is needed at Club to stop cars using the run-off as race track

Grasscrete is needed at Club to stop cars using the run-off as race track

The changes here are quite subtle. Club was previously a sharp left-hander followed by a long, opening right-hander – now more like a left-right chicane followed by a right-hand kink. Expect F1 cars to take less time to get through the complex but with a slightly lower exit speed.

My first thought on watching the cars here was they need to install some artificial grass next to the exit kerb where the cars join the straight, as every car was using the tarmac run-off as an extension of the circuit, which rather defeats the purpose of having it there.

The entry to Club features a new ‘combination kerbs’ which have been introduced at several other new circuits including Monza, Melbourne and Singapore. These are flat where the meet the circuit and are raised in the middle to stop drivers cutting the corners.

As discussed here before, I’m concerned about their potential to launch our-of-control cars into the air in the event of the type of accident Kamui Kobayashi suffered at Melbourne and Vitantonio Liuzzi had at Shanghai.

Part of the reason for the change at Club is because the following straight will eventually be the site of the new pits straight, potentially as early as next year. The pit wall is already installed and this could have an effect on racing.

If a car spins at the exit of Club it could hit the new pit wall. And a stranded car will need a safety car for the marshals to recover it.

Abbey

The revised Abbey corner is slightly uphill - and very fast

The revised Abbey corner is slightly uphill - and very fast

I won’t miss the slow left-right chicane that was hurriedly built here in 1994 following the Imola tragedies and Pedro Lamy’s shocking testing crash when his Lotus landed in the (mercifully empty) spectator tunnel.

Now we have a very quick right-hander with a gentle uphill incline, making for better viewing at the existing Abbey spectator enclosure. The circuit was damp when I saw the cars rounding this corner and from the puffs of spray they were kicking up it looks like there’s a slight ripple at the inside of the corner.

While the GT cars were braking quite sharply for it on this cold and wet day, in the dry F1 cars will reach this corner pushing 190mph and should tackle it without lifting – at least in qualifying.

When the pits and start line have moved Abbey will be the first corner on the track for F1 cars. It will be quite different to the first corners we see at other tracks (a bit like the first corner at pre-1986 Paul Ricard), and the field will be going very quick when they reach the Village/Loop complex.

Farm

Having rounded Abbey, the cars turn left at Farm. It should be easily flat-out but the challenge here is to get the car back to the left-hand side of the track while braking hard for the next corner.

After heavy rain this morning there was a large volume of standing water in the run-off area here, but expect the drainage to be improved for future races.

Village

A sharp, slow right-hand corner. Whether it can be used as a place for overtaking depends on whether F1 cars can follow each other closely through Abbey. I expect that in dry conditions they won’t be able to unless downforce is drastically cut.

Any driver that chooses to defend the inside line here could find themselves badly out of position for the following left-hander, hurting their run onto the Wellington Straight.

There’s another of the combination kerbs at the inside of the corner, and ample tarmac run-off at the exit.

The Loop and Aintree

A sharp left-hander followed by a more open left-hander leading cars onto the Wellington Straight. The second part of this sequence should be flat-out in a Formula 1 car.

The end of the Wellington Straight may now be the fastest point on the track – that’s previously been the Hangar straight. This may create an overtaking opportunity into Brooklands. However as Brooklands is being approached from a different angle it’s now less sharp than it used to be.

A change for the better

Lots of people have mentioned in the comments here that it’s a pity Bridge has been lost. I do think it’s a shame that Silverstone’s only incline worthy of the name has been dropped.

But I sat at Bridge during the 2006 Grand Prix and I wouldn’t have bothered to do it again. There were already better corners at Silverstone – Copse, Maggotts, Becketts – and I’d add the new Abbey to their number as well.

I don’t believe the renovations will create much in the way of new overtaking opportunities. But as we discussed last week I think having variety is healthy for F1 and these changes will make an already fast circuit even faster.

That’s laudable given that Silverstone didn’t have much space to work with or an Abu Dhabi-sized budget, and many other circuits are being forced to insert slow corners for safety reasons.

Of course I’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve seen a couple of F1 races there. But I like what I see so far.

Were you at today’s racing at Silverstone? What do you think of the new track? Have your say in the comments.

New Silverstone track map

New Silverstone circuit corner names

New Silverstone track map (click to enlarge)

Silverstone Arena circuit

Images (C) British F3, F1Fanatic.co.uk, F1Fanatic.co.uk, Silverstone

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86 comments on Is the new Silverstone better for F1? After a day in the stands I think so

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  1. Based upon what I saw today, I say the changes made to the layout are definitely a good thing.

    Okay, so I might miss Bridge for nostalgic reasons (it was the first place I saw an F1 car in the flesh), but the run down to Brooklands along Wellington Straight has completely transformed Luffield, which was the slowest, most boring, part of the whole circuit.

    I must have seen at least twenty overtaking manoeuvres along the new straight today, and while such feats are easier to produce in lower racing categories, this can only be a good thing. Especially when F1 comes in to town.

    • njw said on 2nd May 2010, 19:38

      It was a great (and cold) day at Silverstone. I agree, the new track is a positive change, I especially like the effect its had on Luffield!

    • MigueLP said on 2nd May 2010, 19:50

      but they could managed to keep the bridge it was iconic but agree it is impressive

  2. Hairs said on 2nd May 2010, 19:36

    I’m going to copypaste what I put in the Monza thread:

    Top Expert Romain Grosjean has weighed in on the new circuit following the GT1 race: (via autosport)

    —————–
    Others such as former Renault Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean believed the track not as good as its predecessor.

    “It’s nothing special,” said Grosjean – who raced on the previous track in GP2. “We have lost Bridge and the complex which was very nice and we didn’t gain much with the new part. I’m not a 100 per cent convinced.

    “With the single-seater cars they are flat-out through Abbey and in Formula 1 it is going to be very fast as well. I don’t think it gives any overtaking opportunities. So that’s a bit a shame.”

    ————-

    And Grosjean knows a lot about going 100% and overtaking in an F1 car.

    • MigueLP said on 2nd May 2010, 19:51

      i dont like grosjean but he is right with so much downforce nothing will happen on the new part

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd May 2010, 19:52

      the complex which was very nice

      The complex was always the dreariest part of Silverstone. It was slammed when they built it in 1991 and rightly so. I won’t be shedding a tear for Priory or the slower Brooklands.

      • Calum said on 2nd May 2010, 21:19

        I must agree, the whole “s shaped” complex was too slow compared to the rest of the circuit. At least there is only one really slow corner now – the loop.

      • Ben said on 3rd May 2010, 2:00

        I agree, the last 4 corners (3 since Luffield was converted into a single bend) were shocking. So glad they’ve cut Priory out and changed Brooklands, keeps much more in character with the rest of the circuit.

      • kowalsky said on 3rd May 2010, 7:13

        keith, i was at silverstone during the 1987 british gp. It was the year they made the bridge chicane, the rest was the original layout. It was the forth track i visited at the time, and shocked me how fast and flat it was. The race was perfect, with mansell winning over piquet in the last few laps. Do you think the new track is more challenging for a driver than the old one?

    • Icthyes said on 2nd May 2010, 19:59

      Grosjean wants back in:

      http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/83288

      Can’t say I’m too excited, even if he appeared worse than he actually is. The worst thing he could have done for his F1 career was to replace Piquet.

      • Ned Flanders said on 2nd May 2010, 20:37

        Am I the only person who actually thinks Grosjean did quite well?! Remember, he was up against one of the best drivers in F1 (perhaps the best- but I’d dispute that!) and he got close to his pace at times.

        Certainly, he did no worse a job than Piquet had been doing, despite being less experienced. Also bear in mind that the Renault was arguably the worst car on the grid by the end of the season.

        OK, so he’s not quite top drawer- but he’s at least as deserving of a place in F1 as Kobayashi/ Chandok/ Di Grassi/ de la Rosa/ Senna/ Petrov etc… Presumably he needs to find a few sponsors to get a drive

        • Robert McKay said on 2nd May 2010, 21:23

          I think he did better than Piquet, which puts me at odds with Brundle who seemed to think he was no better…

          Was he great? Not especially. Did he come in at a very difficult time, with a crap Renault and no testing (a situation which caught out other notable replacements)? Undoubtedly. Does he deserve another shot? Yes.

          I think he can do a Glock: come in to F1 as a replacement, not automatically catch the attention, rebuild his career away from it and come back properly, for the start of a season and with better chances to impress.

          I still rate him, personally.

          • steph said on 2nd May 2010, 22:11

            I said this somewhere else when the question of Romain returning to Renault popped up on another blog…

            Romain suffered because of the testing ban and Renault were quick to get rid of him but Jaime was in exactly the same situation with STR who go through their drivers notoriously quickly but he survived.
            Nothing has changed with testing really, it is more relaxed but it is still a mess for rookies. I can’t help but think he would have been better to go to GP2.
            Was Grosjean a victim of the rules? yes probably but F1 has a lot more promising talent in the wings, he probably won’t be much better for a while if he does return and Renault have made clear they want to fight for championships and Romain has absolutely nothing to offer on that front.
            He said before…
            “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. ”
            Petrov was brave and clever enough to wait until he was ready. Most drivers would snap the team’s hand off if there was an offer but it is their choice.
            “they wanted to make a clean sweep of the past”
            If he had shown as much potential as Petrov who was completely unknown in an F1 car at this time then they would have kept him. They may have wanted a clean break but Grosjean gave them almost no incentive to pause for thought.

            I’ve softened slightly since then. I think he had some speed and given more of a chance would definately have been quite good. He would have done better than some rookies have done so far this year but I’m still not overly impressed. I think he could come back one day possibly, probably not with Renault and he’d need some backing but if he gets another chance good on him.

          • Ned Flanders said on 2nd May 2010, 22:26

            Steph- Alguersairi might have survived while Grosjean didn’t… but then he was up against a (pretty mediocre IMO) rookie, while Grosjean was partnered with ‘el Sixtenthso’.

            Put Alguersairi and Grosjean in the same car and I reckon Grosjean would come out on top

          • OEL said on 3rd May 2010, 7:47

            @steph: As Renault’s test driver, did Grosjean really have a choice other then to step in when Piquet Jr was sacked?

          • steph said on 3rd May 2010, 9:32

            In knew Ned which is why I say I’ve softened slightly. He didn’t do too badly, he couldn’t have been expected to do that much better but he took the chance (yes I believe he could have said no, he may have appeared mad to do so mind so it would have been a gamble) but his races weren’t great. I don’t think anyone deserves a shot, it would be nice if he could score another one in better circumstances but even if Renault wanted to start a fresh, they still would have gave him more of a thought if they thought he would be beneficial to them so maybe he is good but he wasn’t good enough to keep his drive at that time.

          • BasCB said on 3rd May 2010, 13:47

            Alonso did say that Grosjean was pretty good and deserved a chance on the grid (although he did not say to much bad things about Nelsinho either).
            I think the car last year was really crap, even Alonso did not get it close to the podium or even top 5 more regularly. So probably comparable to this years Toro Rosso or Sauber?

        • Himmat said on 3rd May 2010, 8:31

          Hey….what makes u say that Roman is on the same footing as Kamui, Karun, Lucas, Pedro, Bruno and Vitaly??

          I seriosuly think he isn’t that good.
          Plues I think Kamui is one of the best out tyhere. :)

          • OEL said on 3rd May 2010, 9:11

            Well, he didn’t impress, but the Renault was crap last year (even Alonso struggled), so I think he deserved another shot.

    • My only complaint is they could have made is faster. I mean, why not make it 5 straights going away and 5 coming back with really tight 180 degree turns at each end, like a heater. Then it would be the fastest, allow for the best and most viewing opportunities for fans in the stands and probably have more overtaking than any other track. Add a speed bump upon pit entry and exit and we have the most exciting race on the f1 calendar. =)

  3. Dougal said on 2nd May 2010, 19:48

    Is there now enough of a variation in Silverstone’s layout could have two optimal setup options depending on the car? One which is more downforce reliant for good cornering speed, but sacrifices something at the top end. And then another which favours the 3 places where F1 cars are expected to get close to 200mph, but loses them something in the twistier bits.

    I know its unlikely that we’ll see much in variation an there will be just the one optimal setup chosen by all teams, but theoretically such a layout is possible.

  4. Icthyes said on 2nd May 2010, 19:48

    Already commented on how I would have modified the circuit, but as it is I really like the new layout. I didn’t realise the new Abbey was uphill either – my reservations about it becoming the new Turn 1 have completely gone!

  5. I was sat in the grandstand at Village corner for the first F3 race. It’s a good place to view the action, as the cars barrel in really fast (sometimes 3-abreast) and then you have the right-left switchback which allows for someone to hold the outside, then inside like, or vice versa. Plus you are also really close to the cars at that point, really close.

    There was, however, a depression on the outside of village corner that filled right up with water. One F3 car got completely bogge down in muddy water after being pushed wide there, seems like they need to add a drain, or level it out, as you can’t have that kind of thing happening when F1 comes to towm.

    I took a video of the F3 cars coming through here on their first lap, I’ll put it up on YouTube sometime in the next 24 hours. Took many many photos too.

    I agree though Keith, there needs to be something done on the exit of Club, some cars were going 3-4 car widths off-track.

    The new, fast entrance into Brooklands also looks promising, The speed at which the GT1 cars arrived there was incredible. Overall it was a great day out, and the new track layout looks as if it’ll provide some great racing.

  6. One thing I’m interested to know is how they plan to get spectators over to the new arena section come the grand prix?

    There’s only one way across (over Bridge), which has small walk ways and will be heavily congested with traffic. Once in the infield, it’ll then take quite a lot of work to ensure they wander off in the right direction and not near the F1 paddock.

  7. F1 Novice said on 2nd May 2010, 20:24

    I’m going to the F1 Grandprix at Silverstone again this year after a break for a few years.

    Historically I have walked the entire track on every occasion to see the cars at different spots in different sessions but have always plumped to watch the race just back towards Copse from entry to Maggots/Becketts – from what you guys have seen today is the ability to walk the whole outside of the track still possible ?

    I’m going to nip up there on the Friday of the MotGP meeting (only £15:00 for entry :) ) for a bit of a recce before F1 in July but any insights / spectator tips with regard to the new changes and how they affect people with a General Admission Only ticket (no Grandstand) to the Grand Prix in July would be very welcome.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd May 2010, 12:43

      You could basically walk around all of the track yesterday except for a few parts where they were doing building work to put in viewing platform or stands (e.g. the straight after Club), and part of the outside of Abbey (where the ‘Bridge circuit’, as it is now called, heads off).

      • F1 Novice said on 4th May 2010, 20:34

        Thank’s for info – Just to confirm does it look like you will be able to walk on the outside of Abbey along the Farm Curve to Village and then along the Wellington Straight to the gravel traps before the inside Brooklands Corner ?

  8. Lenny said on 2nd May 2010, 20:25

    What F3 race was on today?

  9. Ned Flanders said on 2nd May 2010, 20:28

    One thing’s for sure- they’re going to have to start tidying up soon. The track looks really scruffy with all that building work in the background, so I hope it’s all sorted out by the time of the GP.

    Another thing I don’t like about Silverstone’s new look is that it’s much less green- it used to be lined with grass, but now it’s surrounded by those huge tarmac run offs like everywhere else. Shame. If I was in charge at Silverstone- or any other track- I would have the gravel and tarmac run offs painted in different colours, like at Melbourne, Sepang, Paul Ricard etc

  10. Neil said on 2nd May 2010, 20:36

    A change for the better it may be, but it’s still not going to produce the excitement that Donington would have.

    • BasCB said on 3rd May 2010, 13:50

      Yea, but that would have been more like rally or dirt track racing, with the holes everywhere ;-)

  11. Monkeypeachy said on 2nd May 2010, 21:01

    Just got back from Silverstone ( we had to warm up in a pub on the way back!)

    New layout was great in my opinion, the GT1′s and F3′s were both using the new overtaking spots to maximum advantage.

    Circuit was definatly a building site though. Whilst I’ve been to silverstone before and I love it:

    I’d forgetten that the commentry isn’t on FM radio (only MW) which is rubbish. It should be on FM and they should be flogging radios – PA systems are pointless at Motorsport events. The timing tower glitched several times too which confused the life out of me the first time it happened!

    Also, Snetterton has better cafes (i.e. there is one within reach) it was damn cold today.

    The racing today was awesome, I went to the F1 last year and it was the best show I’ve ever been to, but I don’t think they do a good job of helping average joe enjoy himself. People who turn up in the wrong clothes and can’t follow the action are left cold (as it were!)

    tldr – I’m only being mean because I want Silverstone to be perfect. Less hardcore people need cafes. And my phone doesn’t do MW (grr).

    PS – Kieth, the car in the pond at village was nothing to the JCB almost getting stuck pulling the diablo out of the mud at Luffield. That gravel trap was trouble today! :P

  12. Video from the new Village corner grandstand that I took earlier today:

  13. steph said on 2nd May 2010, 21:24

    I actually wouldn’t mind a dry race. I want to see where the teams are with the updates and how the title race might pan out. Everything has been a lottery so far, a very exciting lottery mind :P Although I probably wouldn’t complain if it rained

  14. Zazeems said on 2nd May 2010, 22:18

    It looks quite good, but I agree with Ned, the tarmac everywhere looks awful, they should at least paint it green, and add a strip of grass on the exit of Club.

  15. HounslowBusGarage said on 2nd May 2010, 22:28

    Nice vid, AJ. So from your position there, the camera was able to capture about 10 seconds of car coming in to view from right, to car heading off down Wellington straight. So a person swivelling ther head to look, would probably see sixteen seconds ish of an F3 car, probably 12 to 13 seconds of an F1 car. Hmm, not bad. Were you able to see anything of the other part of the track – Becketts/Chapel etc from where you were sitting?

    • Sitting at Village, you can just about see the tops of the cars come through Becketts, then they disappear briefly behind a grandstand as they go through Chapel, before being able to see them again screech down the Hangar Straight and into Stowe.

      You then see them pop round Farm, and before you know it, they’re in front of you, through Village, the Loop, and then through Aintree (where a lot of the cars ended up side-by-side – depending on what kind of an exit they got out of the Loop)

      But because you’re sitting slap-bang in the middle of the track, you can hear the cars almost everywhere else that you can’t see them.

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