Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2009

Silverstone has a new look but expect the same winner

2011 British Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2009

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.

Ricciardo’s debut

Daniel Ricciardo, HRT, Silverstone, 2011
Daniel Ricciardo, HRT, Silverstone, 2011

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

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 1.13 1.25 1 2 8/8 Form guide
Mark Webber 4.5 3.5 2 5 8/8 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.88 3.86 1 8 7/8 Form guide
Jenson Button 4.5 3.88 1 6 8/8 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 4.25 4.14 2 7 7/8 Form guide
Felipe Massa 6.63 6.67 5 11 6/8 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 9.38 9.33 4 17 6/8 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 6.25 8.29 5 12 7/8 Form guide
Nick Heidfeld 13.25 8.57 3 12 7/8 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 8.5 9.71 3 17 7/8 Form guide
Rubens Barrichello 14.63 12.5 9 17 6/8 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 13.5 17.2 15 18 5/8 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 13.88 11 7 15 7/8 Form guide
Paul di Resta 12.63 12.43 10 18 7/8 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 13.5 9.29 5 16 7/8 Form guide
Sergio Perez 14 12.75 9 17 4/6 Form guide
Sebastien Buemi 13.25 11.38 8 14 8/8 Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari 14.63 12.17 8 16 6/8 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.25 16.6 14 19 5/8 Form guide
Jarno Trulli 19.25 16.71 13 20 7/8 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23 20.5 17 24 6/7 Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi 21.86 19.2 13 23 5/7 Form guide
Timo Glock 21 18.4 15 21 5/8 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 22.5 17.86 14 22 7/8 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 17 12 12 12 1/1 Form guide

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Motioncompany