The Silverstone Grand Prix circuit is famous for its high-speed layout, particularly the first half of the lap, which includes one of the finest sequences of corners of any track in the world. The high-speed nature means Silverstone is tough for tyres and engines as the drivers will not touch the brakes at any stage during the first half of the lap.
Corners range from 180 mph sweepers to the long, slow complex at the end of the lap. The car must also cope with the bumpy surface and capricious, gusting winds that always affect the former airfield.
AerodynamicsDownforce levels used at Silverstone are medium to high in order to give grip for the quick corners in the first half of the lap. This is not too much of a handicap down the straights, which are not especially long and the braking zones are short, which makes overtaking difficult. The lack of heavy braking also allows the team to run some of the smallest brake ducts of the year, which helps to optimise the car’s aerodynamic performance. The fastest part of the lap is the Maggots and Becketts sequence (turns 2 to 5) as Fernando Alonso explains:
“The run through Maggots and Becketts is a really challenging and enjoyable part of the lap. The speeds are high, especially on entry, and so it’s important to have a responsive car for good change of direction. We don’t touch the brakes at any stage through these corners and simply lift the throttle to keep the car online. The high speeds also make this a very physical part of the lap and we experience loads of about 4g in the cockpit.”
RideRide is an important characteristic at Silverstone, where maintaining consistent aerodynamic performance is so critical for delivering grip in the quick corners. The surface is quite bumpy, nowhere more so than under braking for Vale (turn 8 ), where the uneven surface can unsettle the car. The drivers also tend to drift out onto the kerbs exiting the quick corners in order to take the fastest line, which can make the circuit seem bumpier than it is.
SuspensionWe run the car with a forward mechanical balance at this circuit – essentially with a stiff front end and softer rear end. The stiff front gives the car a good change of direction in the high and low-speed corners, while the softer rear end gives better grip under traction, exiting turns 9, 11 and 16 in particular.
TyresTyres are always given a hard time at this track, especially because of the numerous high-speed corners, and this means that Silverstone is among the toughest tracks of the season for tyre wear. Bridgestone will therefore provide the soft and hard compounds from its 2009 range in order to cope with these challenges.
Ambient conditionsAs a former airfield, Silverstone is inevitably exposed to the wind – and this can have a big impact on car performance. Gusting wind alters the aerodynamic balance of the car and makes handling unpredictable, particularly in the high-speed corners. The driver must be able to judge the direction and strength of the wind, and adjust his driving accordingly.
StrategyFuel consumption is high at Silverstone, as is the time penalty for carrying extra fuel weight. This means that it is a circuit where strategies rarely vary from the norm, as two extra laps of fuel could cost nearly two tenths per lap. Expect to see most teams running a “standard” two-stop strategy, which is generally slightly forward-biased for the front runners in order to ensure good grid position and clean air in which to race in the early stages. With overtaking nearly impossible at this circuit, track position is all-important.
EngineSilverstone gives the latest generation of V8 engines a thorough workout with just under 66% of the lap spent at full throttle. Despite the reduction in downforce with this year’s regulations, the percentage of full throttle remains similar to last year due to the grip offered by the slick Bridgestone tyres. The main priority is to ensure the engine is responsive at high revs as the drivers take the quick corners, such as the sweeping right-hander of Stowe (turn 7), on either full or partial throttle.
Nelson Piquet explains: “Stowe corner is the first time in the lap that we touch the brakes. We actually turn into the corner and brake at the same time so that we hit the apex at about 200 km/h. It is possible to overtake here, but as it’s such a small braking zone you really need to slipstream on the Hangar straight and be alongside before the corner to make the move stick.”