Williams' preview of Silverstone

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Great-Britain, Silverstone Circuitgb

Silverstone is one of the most challenging tracks on the schedule (although it is due to disappear from 2010 when the British Grand Prix switches venue to Donington Park). The Williams F1 team looks forward to the possibly the last Silverstone GP for a long time.

Drivers need to be as finely honed as their cars to cope with the immense g-forces through Copse, a 170mph right-hander, and the high-speed Becketts complex. Logic dictates a two-stop race, but the fickle British weather always has to be considered.

Talking technical

Car dynamics

Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit’s corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute the corners in the circuit’s configuration and the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. At Silverstone, the average turn angle is 1080 - 20 less than the average for the Championship. The circuit therefore has less effect on understeer than half the circuits on the calendar. The end of straight (EOS) speed at Silverstone was 300kp/h in 2008. The British track ranks as having the 4th lowest EOS speed on the 2009 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimise the downforce/drag ratio. Meanwhile, Silverstone has the 3rd highest average lap speed of any of the tracks on the calendar.

Pitlane & refuelling strategy

The pitlane length and profile (i.e. corners in the pitlane entry) contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Silverstone is approximately 21.8 seconds, the 4th most penalising pitlane in the Championship. To complete a normalised distance of 5km around Silverstone requires 2.38kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, making the circuit the 8th most demanding track of the year in terms of fuel consumption.
Safety car Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. There have been 6 safety car deployments in the last 9 races at Silverstone, making it the 5th most likely race to produce a safety car period.

Temperature, pressure & humidity

As an example, it is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at Interlagos complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 metres above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling. The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance. Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Silverstone is 155m above sea level and has a relatively low pressure of 997.69mbar with a relatively low ambient temperature of 21°C, so engine power will be average.

* Please note these statistics do not take into consideration Abu Dhabi.

Thoughts after Istanbul

Nico: “I really enjoyed the Turkish GP! After struggling a little bit with tyre choice as there was very little difference between the option and the prime, we settled into the weekend, made it into Q3 again and I felt confident that we had a good car for the race. Making up four places in the first lap was a great way to start the race, it would have been nice if I’d caught Trulli, but fifth is still the team’s best result this season. We have to keep scoring points at every race if we’re going to make progress in the Constructors’ so getting those four points was important for us.”

Kazuki: “Istanbul was obviously disappointing but it was one of those things that happens to most drivers at some point or other. It’s just frustrating that I was having a great race and I was on for my first points of the season when it happened to me! We took some new parts with us to Istanbul and they seem to have helped us make some progress and close the gap to the cars in front a little, so that’s encouraging to take with us to Silverstone.”

Thinking about Silverstone

Nico: “Silverstone is a great circuit, one of the few remaining tracks that really challenge a driver. It has quite a varied layout but really is dominated by the fast corners. Our car is much better suited to these types of circuits this year, so I’m going to Silverstone with more optimism than I did last! As well as taking into consideration the high speed corners for set-up, you have to consider the relatively slow sector three. We have to work quite hard to make sure we get the optimum balance on the car to hook up a competitive lap time because of those extremes. Overtaking isn’t easy at Silverstone, so qualifying is also really important here.”

Kazuki: “Silverstone is one of the older tracks we race at and has kept much of its original layout which has made it one of the few remaining true driver’s tracks. As you’d expect, it’s therefore very demanding on the cars and the drivers, but mainly on the tyres. All the high speed corners put a lot of load onto the tyres so we have to be really careful with them. We also have to watch the weather. Everyone knows how unpredictable summer can be in the UK so anything can happen. Silverstone is also exposed to quite strong winds which can affect the car and which we have to take into consideration in the set-up process.”

Reflecting on the team’s home GP

Kazuki: “I really enjoy going to Silverstone. As I’ve lived in Oxford for a few years now, the British Grand Prix is kind of a home race for me after Japan. The British fans seem to really love Formula One and make a big weekend of it, so it should be a bit more lively than Turkey! Williams has a lot of history at Silverstone, winning our first race there in 1979 and then our 100th as well, so it’s also a bit of a special weekend for the team.”

Nico: “Even though I’m German, it still feels special racing in front of the British fans when you drive for a British team. The atmosphere is amazing at Silverstone, and I know that lots of people come for the weekend who are based in the factory. As a reward for all their efforts this year, it would be amazing if we could deliver a really good result on Sunday.”

Source: Williams F1