Silverstone will have a very different look when the teams begin the British Grand Prix weekend there tomorrow.
The old pits, considered cramped by modern F1 standards, still stand – but they’ll be used by GP2 teams.
The F1 paddock will be adjacent to the spectacular new Silverstone Wing complete with a new start/finish straight heading into Abbey corner.
On lap one the cars will be flat out through the first two corners before bunching up at the tight Village and The Loop, which could provide some exciting action.
Aside from the new pits, the circuit configuration remains much the same as last year. But the flattening of some bumps should allow the drivers to find a little more speed around what is already one of the fastest tracks on the calendar.
Silverstone’s many high-speed corners will make spectacular viewing for the capacity crowd expected over the weekend – race organisers predict a three-day figure of over 310,000.
Red Bull aim for three-in-a-row
It’s the kind of track where Red Bull have thrived, and the team have won here for the last two years in a row: Sebastian Vettel in 2009, Mark Webber last year.
But at the last race at a circuit similar in style to Silverstone – the Circuit de Catalunya – McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was able to put Vettel under pressure.
Can he repeat that at home? That depends on whether McLaren’s toothless performance in Valencia really was the “blip” in form that they say it is,
The same goes for Jenson Button who, surprisingly, has never finished on the podium in his home race.
Ferrari’s hard tyre worries
Silverstone also marks a return to the hard tyre for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix, and that’s a concern for Ferrari, who struggled on the revised compound Pirelli introduced at that race. They believe they have made progress with it since then.
There was an air of defeatism among the Ferrari and McLaren drivers after Valencia, and not unjustifiably: Vettel has finished in the top two positions in every race this year.
If they are going to fight back against his ever-growing championship lead, they can’t afford to wait any longer. Silverstone marks the first of three races in four weeks where Vettel could put the destiny of the title beyond any serious doubt.
Aside from the usual package of upgrades, teams also have to contend with further changes to the rules on exhaust-blown diffusers. Red Bull admit it will cost them some performance, but the same surely goes for their nearest rivals as well.
Losing most of their capacity to generate downforce by blowing hot exhaust gasses through the diffuser will affect balance as well as performance. That is likely to be a critical area for the teams during practice.
Daniel Ricciardo will make his Formula 1 race debut for HRT this weekend. Expectation of his performance will be lowered by the fact he’s driving the slowest car in the field.
But Ricciardo, another product of Red Bull’s Driver Development programme, comes highly recommended. He won the 2009 British F3 crown comfortably and came close to winning the World Series by Renault in his rookie season last year.
With several appearances for Red Bull in testing under his belt, plus stints in every first practice session so far this year for Toro Rosso, Ricciardo is about as well-prepared as a rookie can be in 2011.
HRT have been nipping at the heels of Virgin in recent races. Ricciardo will do his reputation plenty of good if he can get on or near the pace of team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi and help propel the team forward.
Who have you got your eye on at the British Grand Prix? Who will win? Have your say in the comments.
Driver form in 2011
2011 British Grand Prix
- 2011 British Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for your British Grand Prix driver of the weekend
- Red Bull: Webber made a number two driver again
- Ferrari back on form after poor start to 2011
- McLaren: Fuel and pit errors add to problems
- Renault: Heidfeld salvages points from poor weekend
- Mercedes pass Renault in the championship
- Force India squander points chance
- Sauber: Perez claims best-ever result
- Toro Rosso: Alguersuari battles Buemi for point
Images ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images, Motioncompany