On exactly the most criticised circuit on the calendar, one of the best Grand Prix of this year took place. A strong second place in qualifying for Trulli and a first pole this year for Barrichello made us believe in some good racing. Nonetheless, a 56-year old priest apparently thought it wasn't enough, and ran onto hangar straight in the opposite direction of all cars. This started a second safety car period, after the one caused by Coulthard losing the head-and-neck rest of his McLaren.
Now the leader was Da Matta, followed by his Toyota team-mate Olivier Panis. What followed was a spectacular but fair race, with lots of passing manoeuvres. Barrichello won what was probably the best race of his career. It was difficult to count how many cars he overtook, but there were six outstanding manoeuvres: Twice on Raikkonen, Trulli, Ralf, Panis and Firman. Gerhard Berger said: "If Rubens could conserve such a form for each of the 16 races, he would be world champion."
Lots of updates before testing ban
Renault had modified their engine once again for this race and in conjunction with new fuel from Elf; they produced about 10 hp more. The next step is planned for Hockenheim. Although the engine problem of Trulli from Magny-cours is still a worry, the changes to be bodywork should help the engine a little. Renault is now the only team that has chimneys on the sidepods and covers over the exhausts to cool down the engine by leaving out hot air. The revised aero-package includes a lower side pod and a new diffuser, which resulted in around 3 tenths of a second per lap. The R23 will therefore be called R23B until the end of the season. A smaller and lower side pod now enables more air to flow onto the rear wing, while the new exhaust layout should enable the engine to produce the so much needed extra power. At its highest level though, the side pod of the R23B is still (I estimate 5cm) higher than the Williams. Renault is opting very much for a side pod like Ferrari, with high beginning for radiators, and a fast narrowing, while Williams concentrates very much on reducing the overall height of the side pod.
BAR and Toyota did a similar thing. The BAR005 arrived at Silverstone with a new airbox, a lighter rollover-structure (700 gram), sidepods with a tighter bottle-shape and a lower engine cover. Honda had its 6th update, 10 hp stronger and one kg lighter. As the next image shows, the renewed airbox should enable a smoother airflow into the box, as more air is happed from higher above the helmet, even above the upperline of the rear wing.
Also note the little wings just in front of the rear wheels, which are now curved, and look very much like the ones at Jaguar. Just like at Renault and Toyota, a narrower end of the sidepod increases airflow and efficiency of the rear part of the car.
Toyota changed the front wing and the whole sidepods. Gustav Bruner quantified it to "2 percent better aerodynamic efficiency". The TF103 now looks like the new Ferrari and it gained, according to Andersson, 0.3 seconds per lap. The Toyota team however stuck with a three stop strategy, and chose a harder tyre compound because their TF103 is very demanding on the rear tyres. "The car eats up the rear tyres. Michelin is saving us. That gives us an advantage over BAR, Sauber and Jordan at the moment."
Williams on their side had developed their car intensively during the first part of the season, which raised their performance considerably. It is also why only few changes were introduced at Silverstone. The only really noticeable novelty is a fin on the bonnet of the car (see image). At the and of the engine cover, that fin is quite large, just like many CART cars use it. The thing has already been spotted on McLaren's MP4/18, which hasn't raced yet.
Michelin vs Bridgestone part x
It was actually about time that Bridgestone got their act together and fought back in front of Michelin, who are dominating the last GP's. Since they are also aware of that, the Bridgestone-equipped teams drove more than 9000 test kilometres during the last test week before the testing ban. Despite all this very hard work, Bridgestone only made a very small step. Yes there was an improvement for Ferrari, but that is mostly due to their aerodynamic changes, including a reworked diffuser, new bargeboards that start to look like a combination of turning vanes and a barge board, and some added hp's to the Ferrari engine. Moreover, Ferrari is the only team that can choose their tyres on short-term. All other teams must tell Bridgestone 4 weeks in advance. BAR improved because of a new aero-package by 0.3 seconds, not because of the tyres. Villeneuve revealed: "I was using Melbourne spec tyres." Heidfeld reported: "I cannot feel any step forward."
Other small changes related to layout and sponsors came from Trulli (once again), Jaguar and BAR.
- As noted in the news on this site already, Gametrac is a new sponsor for Jordan for the coming 2004 season, and was for once this year painted on the car as a publicity notice.
- Jaguar painted, in return for a press presentation on the film premiere of Terminator 3 their bonnet black, with the logo of the new movie, a sequence on the well-known Terminator 2 film. This time again, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was present during the whole weekend at Silverstone
- The BAR F1 team announced a new strategic partner at Silverstone. Sina, a leading newsportal in China will be strongly pointing out F1 and the BAR team to get interest in the sport and the team when Formula One goes China in 2004.
- Jarno Trulli again adjusted his helmet design, although only slightly different from the previous design seen at Magny-Cours. His helmet is now chromed, where it was flat grey in France. It seems like this so-called one-time design is remaining a little longer ;).