2013 British Grand Prix preview
For all bar three of F1′s eleven teams the route to round eight of the world championship is a straightforward one. Silverstone is practically on the doorstep of most F1 teams – almost literally so for Force India, whose factory is opposite the track.
But getting to the circuit was a far from straightforward affair for many spectators last year. Incessant rain in the run-up to the race weekend and during most of it turned fields into swamps. Several thousand had to be kept away on Saturday so the organisation could be sorted out for race day.
That may be part of the reason why ticket sales are down for this year’s race. Alternatively, some have suggested the performance of the local entries in the opening races might have something to do with it.
But a large crowd greeted F1 in Montreal despite the lack of a single Canadian driver or team. Those heading to Silverstone looking for local entries to cheer on are spoiled for choice, even if several of the British teams are registered to foreign owners (Austrian Red Bull, Russian Marussia, Malaysian Caterham and, obviously, Force India) and most of the home drivers long left the British Isles to live in tax havens.
The cost of going to the race may have more to do with it. Silverstone has always been one of the dearer races in terms of ticket price, a fact some broadcasters and newspapers have picked up on in recent weeks.
But a healthy crowd is still expected which is fitting for a race that takes place on one of F1′s best circuits. The British Racing Drivers’ Club have tried to retain Silverstone’s identity as a quick and challenging track. The 2010 changes may have added a couple of slow turns but it also created some new quick bends and deleted the fiddly Abbey chicane.
Silverstone circuit information
|Lap length||5.891km (3.66 miles)|
|Distance||52 laps (306.3km/190.3 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’30.874 (Fernando Alonso, 2010)|
|Fastest lap||1’29.615 (Sebastian Vettel, 2010)|
|Tyres||Hard and Medium|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Sauber’s head of track engineering Tom McCullough calls it “one of the most challenging circuits, with a bias towards high speed corners and relatively short straights compared to the more modern circuits”.
“The layout favours high-speed stability and a good change of direction, whereas the demand on the braking system is low. The track is also quite bumpy in some areas so the ride performance is important too.”
The track gets a lot of use and the surface is quite abrasive, causing high tyre wear and necessitate Pirelli bringing their hardest compounds. The is the next toughest track for tyres after the pit stop frenzy that was the Spanish Grand Prix, and a key question on Sunday will be whether drivers need to make four stops for fresh rubber.
Britain Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Fernando Alonso’s 2011 win, scored on a weekend when the rules on exhaust-blown diffusers had been temporarily tweaked, is the only reason why Red Bull don’t have four consecutive wins at this track.
They’ve taken seven from a potential eight podiums at this track in the last four years and six out of eight front row places. Their rivals’ best hope seems to be that the RB9′s sheer levels of downforce prove too much for Pirelli’s tyres – a limitation the team have not kept quiet about.
Stefano Domenicali says Ferrari need to do some catching up before the summer break: “I think we will be competitive in Silverstone, as we have been in the recent past at this track, but there are so many factors to take into account,” he said.
Alonso won in 2011 and was on course for victory last year before being caught and passed by Mark Webber. The F138 flies in race trim but qualifying outside the top two rows, as Alonso has in the last three races, is hurting him.
Jenson Button says their point-less Canadian race weekend “wasn’t a fully accurate reflection of where we are as a team”. More pessimistically, he warned against raising expectations, adding: “I think the fans know what to expect”.
Surprisingly he’s never been on the podium at home – to finally do so this weekend would be a considerable relief for him and his team.
Two poor results have taken the wind out of Kimi Raikkonen’s sails, knocking him and his team back in their championships.
He was let down by his team somewhat during the Canadian race. Providing there is no repeat of that he expects to be more competitive this weekend. “Silverstone is a more normal circuit and we’ve been okay at every other permanent circuit so far this year,” he said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be back to the positions we should be with this package.”
Arguably Mercedes’ just had their second win of the 2013 season at the FIA International Tribunal in Paris. They can expect further questions over how much they got out of their test with Pirelli over the weekend.
That will be particularly so if they show improved performance on just the kind of track where they struggled previously: in Spain they turned a one-two on the grid into sixth and twelfth at the flag.
Sauber are having a horrible season and have now been out of the points for four races in a row. Silverstone’s relative lack of low-speed corners may give some respite from the high rear tyre degradation that’s blighted them so far this year.
James Rossiter, Force India’s simulator driver who tested for the team in the off-season while they prevaricated over their race line-up, will make his F1 race weekend debut on Friday when he gets behind the wheel of one of their cars during first practice.
The team will have some special stickers on their car commemorating their 600th Grand Prix start. Their first points of the year would be some way to toast it, though still a disappointment after the highs of last season.
The contest for supremacy at Toro Rosso is getting very interesting. Daniel Ricciardo held the upper hand in the opening races but Jean-Eric Vergne hit back with good points finishes in Monaco and Canada.
Giedo van der Garde carries a ten-place grid penalty into this weekend after his dreadful race in Canada culminated in a collision with Nico Hulkenberg when the Sauber driver was lapping him. Given which you have to wonder if it’s worth sending him out to qualify at all when they could just save him some fresh tyres before he starts from an inevitable 22nd.
The final home driver on the grid is Max Chilton who remains yet to out-qualify his team mate on merit so far this year – a distinction he shares with fellow rookie Esteban Gutierrez along with Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber.
2013 driver form
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2013 British Grand Prix
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Images © Red Bull/Getty, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Force India