Red Bull’s speed may stop home success at Silverstone (British GP preview)

Jenson Button, McLaren, Montreal, 2010

Having won four races already this year Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have their eyes on a home win at Silverstone?

But the Red Bulls may prove just too quick to catch on a circuit where aerodynamic performance is crucial.

Read on to see what surprises the new Silverstone may have in store for the teams in the British Grand Prix.

Red Bull the team to beat

Since the RB6s dominated the Spanish Grand Prix, high-speed tracks like Silverstone have looked like being a happy hunting ground for Red Bull. Even more so thanks to the new section of track which has transformed Abbey from a fiddly little chicane into a 180mph-plus blast.

But it’s easy to exaggerate how quick Red Bull were in Barcelona. They may have had 0.9s in hand over their rivals in qualifying, but in the race they couldn’t pull away fast enough to stop Lewis Hamilton passing Sebastian Vettel during the pit stops.

The teams haven’t stood still since then and McLaren are readying their latest tweak which they hope will bring them closer to Red Bull on tracks like Silverstone – the exhaust-driven diffuser (described in detail in the last technical review).

Blasting exhaust gases towards the diffuser can increase downforce but may also result in more unpredictable handling. That probably explains why the team have said they will give their drivers the choice of whether they want to run the upgrade after practising with it tomorrow.

Reliability will also be a concern – McLaren have had at least one failure with the new exhaust arrangement while testing it. If Red Bull get pole position, expect them to repeat their Valencia trick of driving very slowly on the formation lap in an attempt to provoke failures in their rivals’ cars.

Williams are also using an exhaust-driven diffuser for the first time. But even those teams who already ran it in Valencia – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – may find it a trickier proposition around Silverstone’s many fast corners.

Don’t underestimate Ferrari?s potential either. They under-performed in qualifying in Valencia but their race pace looked good in practice.

The new Silverstone is expected to be even tougher on tyres and the F10 seems to have looked after its rubber very well this year – remember Fernando Alonso’s mammoth stint in Monaco.

Lap times on the new circuit

Silverstone circuit for the 2010 British Grand Prix

Silverstone circuit (click to enlarge)

Speaking of which, just how fast will this new track be? The consensus seems to be that while lap times will become higher, the average lap speed will also increase.

This is highly unusual as we’ve become used to seeing tracks get slower whenever they’re changed, and is a testament to the circuit owners’ desire to preserve the nature of their track.

Keep an eye on the lap times to see if Silverstone really is quicker now than it was last year, and whether it has now exceeded Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, the two track which were previously faster.

Here are the target lap times the cars have to beat in order to exceed the fastest average speeds set at other tracks:

Race Benchmark Avg. speed Silverstone target time
Silverstone ’09 Fastest lap of old track 236.92kph 1’29.662
Spa ’09 Fastest lap of current Spa 241.28kph 1’28.041
Monza ’09 Fastest lap of Monza last year 251.40kph 1’24.497
Monza ’04 Fastest lap of current Monza 262.24kph 1’21.005

How fast will they be? I expect they’ll narrowly beat last year’s average lap speed around Spa – though that may well end up getting beaten again when they return to Spa later this year.

But don’t expect them to be as quick as they were around Monza last year.

Read more: Will Monza lose ??fastest track?? crown?

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Jenson Button – Hamilton’s now out-qualified him for five races in a row. Button isn’t far off on race pace at all, but he needs to hit back soon. He’s never finished on the podium at home – his best result was fourth in 2004.

Mark Webber – His early-season surge came to a spectacular end at Valencia. Team mate Vettel was very quick at Silverstone last year, but Webber felt he could have out-qualified him had Kimi R??ikk??nen not got in his way. Expect them to be very close.

Kamui Kobayashi – The star of Valencia qualified in the top ten at Barcelona which, like Silverstone, has a lot of quick corners which seem to suit the C29. Perhaps he can claim a points haul without a strategy gamble this weekend?

Jarno Trulli – More updates for Lotus should bring them even closer to the midfield. As ever, keep an eye on Trulli’s times in qualifying.

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25 comments on Red Bull’s speed may stop home success at Silverstone (British GP preview)

  1. Stephen said on 8th July 2010, 10:00

    “McLaren have had at least one failure with the new exhaust arrangement while testing it”

    Have they? What happened?

  2. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 8th July 2010, 10:01

    Didn’t Webber have an engine failure in practice that weekend too? Or did I dream that? I always felt Webber could have been closer but Vettel’s race was just stunning and it should be a track that suits Seb more than Mark.

    I don’t think Silverstone will beat Monza but maybe Spa.

    • Kate said on 8th July 2010, 10:15

      I don’t know if it was an engine failure but he definitely came to a halt in FP2. I think it was an electronical problem caused by hitting a curb too hard IIRC.

      As for my predictions…McLaren’s new updates should bring them closer in theory but I think they could be probematic in installation as they are changing so much. Its odd that they haven’t seen so optimistic about them in the last week or so. Either way, I think the characteristics of the circuit will mean its between the Red Bulls.

      Vettel’s win last year makes him a strong bet, but then Webber did win the last race on a high speed circuit, and he has won at Silverstone in 3 or 4 other categories so he clearly likes the track too.

  3. BasCB (@bascb) said on 8th July 2010, 10:10

    I am looking forward to seeing McLaren and Red Bull and at least Alonso but maybe Massa and Kubica as well battling for the top starting spots.

    And if the race speeds up, that’s great, let’s just hope it is not only high speed but also (near) passes at unexpected places.

  4. SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 8th July 2010, 11:06

    Think we’ll see much of the same.
    Fast redbull’s in qualy and McLaren (definatly Hamilton) who will have good race pace.
    How good that race pace will be, will depend on their upgrades, I hope they work well.

  5. GeeMac said on 8th July 2010, 11:07

    “Spa ‘09 Fastest lap of current Spa 241.28kph 1′28.041″

    Shouldn’t that be 1:47.263 set by Vettel last year?

    • mateuss said on 8th July 2010, 11:16

      It is the ‘target’ lap time for the new Silverstone circuit to beat the average speed for the lap time of 1:47.263 set by Vettel last year at Spa.

      • miguelF1O (@) said on 8th July 2010, 16:30

        if silverstone does the time on the right of spa that 1.28 you are talking about it means it was covered at the same avg speed

  6. Stuart said on 8th July 2010, 11:21

    I expect to see Hamilton and Vettel standing on the podium.Which one will be on the top step probably Hamilton but Vettel could equally well be there.
    The new layout should suit the RB6 downforce levels/.
    But the high speed nature of the new layout should suit Hamilton.
    Webber should be thereabouts as should Button.If Ferrari have made some progress then Alonso should show well.

  7. rampante (@rampante) said on 8th July 2010, 12:02

    Two things that may slow RBR down is the old chassis Webber is using and I don’t yet know how much there is in the papers yesterday and today here about RBR using an engine management system that ensures continual hot air over the diffuser even when breaking. The suggestion is that it is only being used in Q3 as it would cause too much damage during a race but this type of device is not legal. May only be speculation but it would explain 8 poles in 9 races.

    • Carl said on 8th July 2010, 12:33

      Why is such a device illegal? This wont be the first time this year the FIA find something illegal on RB car. They were told to make modifications to their suspension not to long ago. If they do use this device and it is illegal, will the FIA just tell them to remove it or will they start taking action. What are the rules regarding using illegal parts?

    • Pete said on 8th July 2010, 12:34

      Why would it be illegal? It’s just a different engine setting. Don’t all cars/teams use different engine settings between qualifying and race?

    • Franton said on 8th July 2010, 12:37

      The engine management systems are uniform across all teams and are supplied by McLaren, if I recall correctly.

      • rampante (@rampante) said on 8th July 2010, 13:25

        They are a unified unit that they all use. The suggestion is that RBR have effectively got an extra management plus compressor that is blowing at all times thus improving down force.

      • Stuart said on 8th July 2010, 20:12

        The ECU is a a uniform unit, supplied by McLaren Electronic systems.

        But the the teams write their own engine mapping programmes within the hardware confines of the standard ECU.

    • DaveW said on 8th July 2010, 14:52

      You may be talking about the overrun setting that John Beamer mentioned in the comments of his article. It would in fact hurt the engine in the long run.

  8. wasiF1 said on 8th July 2010, 12:25

    First of all thanks for the organizer for not letting Tilke touch the track & making modification but still making it fast, remember this track wasn’t feature on Bernie’s menu until the last minute.
    Secondly the new F1F looks great, hope the forum looks even better.
    Again it will be Mclaren VS Red Bull with Ferrari may surprise a few. I think Kubica & Renault may surprise & watch out for those Force India they were quick in Canada another low downforce circuit, hope they have a good luck this time around.

  9. Rahim RG said on 8th July 2010, 14:12

    Should be a cracker….Go Vettel Go Webber

  10. vitor said on 8th July 2010, 14:31

    1-2 for red bull
    vettel will win!!!

  11. miguelF1O (@) said on 8th July 2010, 14:33

    more important than this news is the new look of the website great work!

  12. DaveW said on 8th July 2010, 14:50

    RBR was driving slow on the formation lap to induce others to break down? I hadn’t heard of that. It would be quite ironic for them to try to induce overheating in competitors given that the Renault engine historically has not been bullet proof. They may have been trying to put pressure on Mercedes who had admitted exhaust-related overheating, but that would be some seriously ruthless behavior.

    I don’t see RBR walking away with this whether or not McLaren can get the EBD to work. I do not agree that RBR has some kind of fast-track advantage per se. In both Turkey and Spain they were not out of reach of McLaren. Given the new layout, I also and interested to see whether RBR’s fuel concerns arise again. If McLaren can keep them in view early on they may be able to make fuel for the end game. They still have some kind of mysterious qualifying advantage, apart from Webber and Vettel in the cars, but that gap is closing.

  13. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 8th July 2010, 15:07

    I’m not sure taking out the old fiddly bits will be so great for Red Bull. They did well in Sector 3 at Barcelona and the MP4-25 has shown it doesn’t like fiddly sections nearly as much as its predecessor did. The F-duct will also be a big advantage down the pit, Hangar and back straights. I see this being quite close, and will all depend on McLaren getting their new diffuser system to work. I think we might see a repeat of Turkey.

    I don’t really see Ferrari in with much of a chance of anything but the final podium spot either – they have less downforce than Red Bull and a less effective F-duct than McLaren.

    By the way, interesting new colours for F1F!

  14. Lucas.M said on 8th July 2010, 15:55

    I’ll be at Silverstone, I hope Vettel does not win. He is rude and a horrible person. Don’t bother replying, I don’t use my email anymore.

  15. Julie said on 8th July 2010, 21:07

    I will be at Silverstone and I am looking forward to a Vettel win, with probably Hamilton then Webber also on the podium.

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