Round ten of the 2017 Formula 1 Season will take place at the historic Silverstone circuit with the 68th running of the British Grand Prix this weekend. The inaugural race of the first ever F1 season in 1950 was staged at this windy circuit built on an abandoned World War II airfield, in the county of Northamptonshire in England.
British Grand Prix Preview
The British Grand Prix along with the Italian Grand Prix has the distinction of being the longest continuously staged Grand Prix races. The Silverstone circuit has at various times alternated with the Aintree circuit (1955 to 1962) and the Brands Hatch circuit (1963 to 1986) in staging this F1 race. From 1987 onwards, the Silverstone circuit has become the permanent venue of the British Grand Prix and will host the 51st running of the British GP this year.
Six of the ten F1 teams are based in Britain and consider this almost like a home GP. McLaren (Woking) and Williams (Grove) are the quintessential British teams with a great history in F1 behind them. The other F1 teams based here are Red Bull Racing at Milton Keynes, Force India at Silverstone, Renault at Enstone, Mercedes at Brackley. Formula 1 racing has a rich history in Britain with probably the widest and most passionate fan base in the world. Rain and traffic chaos is never far away from a race at Silverstone. But the fans still turn up in huge numbers to support this very popular Grand Prix.
The Teams and Drivers
The British Grand Prix has witnessed many milestones and significant historic moments in its 68-year old history. Italian Giuseppe “Nino” Farina won the inaugural race for Alfa Romeo. In the 1951 British GP, the Argentine Jose Froilan Gonzalez scored the first-ever win for Ferrari in a F1 race. The Ferrari team has won the British GP 15 times, McLaren 14 times and the Williams team is in third place with 10 wins. Mercedes has five wins and has won the last four years.
Alain Prost and Jim Clark have the most wins at a British GP with five, ‘the Professor’ scoring all his wins at Silverstone. The British Grand Prix has seen British drivers winning 24 times with Nigel Mansell and Lewis Hamilton with four wins each. Hamilton has three straight wins since 2014. Fernando Alonso (2006, 2011), Sebastian Vettel (2009) and Kimi Raikkonen (2007) are the other winners on the grid.
The 5.891 kilometer track with 18 corners (14 high-speed and 4 slow-speed corners) and six straights is a fast-flowing and technically challenging track with some of the most iconic high speed corners in F1. The track has one of the highest average speeds of a F1 track along with Spa and Monza at 235 km/h. The circuit which demands a medium downforce setup is a high fuel consumption track with 60% of the track taken at full throttle and low brake wear. Good aerodynamic setup is needed in the highly windy conditions. The fast cars of 2017 will be a great sight around this circuit and lap records will be smashed this year.
The circuit has undergone many changes over the years, especially to improve safety with so many fast corners. The most recent change in 2010 saw the introduction of the new Arena layout, a fast corner Abbey replacing the iconic Bridge corner and the slowest corner – the Loop following the tight right-hand corner at Village. In 2011 the new ‘wing’ pit complex was built between Club and Abbey corners and the start-finish line was moved there.
Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones
Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 5) includes the Abbey corner (T1) taken flat out at over 290 km/h into the Farm curve (T2) leading to the tight right-hand corner at the Village (T3) leading to the very slow tight left-hand corner at Loop (T4) leading to Aintree (T5) and down the Wellington Straight.
Sector 2 (Turn 6 to Turn 14) starts with Brooklands (T6) and the tight right-hander at Luffield corner (T7) leading to Woodcote (T8) and the National pit straight. This leads into three of the fastest corners on a F1 track with the Copse, Maggots and Becketts complex taken at over 290 km/h leading to the last corner of the sector Chapel (T14).
Sector 3 (Turn 15 to Turn 18) starts with the superfast Hangar Straight leading to the right-hander at Stowe (T15) leading to another straight and the final two corners at Vale and Club leading to the start-finish line.
There are two DRS zones with the first detection point is before Turn 3 (Village) and the activation point is after Turn 5 (Aintree) on the Wellington Straight. The second zone’s detection point is at Turn 11 and the activation point will be after Turn 14 (Chapel) on the Hangar Straight.
Pirelli tyre choices for this race are the white-striped medium tyres, yellow-striped soft tyres and the red-striped supersoft tyres. The drivers have chosen six or more sets of the supersoft tyres of the thirteen sets allocated to them. The race is likely to be a one-stop race with the durability of the tyres. With mixed weather conditions always a possibility at Silverstone, the intermediate and wet tyres could also come into play.
Mercedes is in the top spot in the constructors’ title race with improved form since the Canadian GP. Mercedes (287 pts) leads Ferrari (254 pts) now, followed by Red Bull Racing (152 pts) at a distant third. Force India (89 pts) is in control of fourth place, followed by Williams (40 pts). McLaren bring up the rear of the field with two points.
Sebastian Vettel (171 pts) leads the drivers’ title race by a comfortable 20 points now. Lewis Hamilton (151 pts)is second and Valtteri Bottas (136 pts) has closed the gap to the leaders. Daniel Ricciardo (107 pts) and Kimi Raikkonen (83 pts) complete the top 5 in the drivers’ championship.
Vettel has been the most consistent performer of the season, but Bottas with a win in the last race in Austria is showing he is no pushover. Hamilton finished fourth in Austria because of a poor qualification and the five-place grid penalty. The Briton needs to be more consistent to stay close to Vettel and keep the title race alive. But Mercedes has improved and appears to be the slightly faster car than Ferrari now.
Hamilton has clinched his fifth pole at Silverstone and will be hunting for a fifth race win on home turf. With Vettel in third place behind him, another exciting race is in prospect tomorrow.