Following the intense and exciting opening triple-header, the 2020 Formula One World Championship continues its intense schedule at Silverstone, home to the British Grand Prix.
What a start it has been to the coronavirus-delayed 2020 F1 season! The championship finally kicked off at the modern facility of the Red Bull Ring that played host to two races at two consecutive weekends. Following the Austrian and the inaugural Styrian Grands Prix, the field made the short trip to the beautiful Budapest for the third round of the season. The Hungaroring where overtaking is usually at a premium delivered a fascinating race on the initially damp track.
The only disappointment was Mercedes’ utter dominance with the Anglo-German outfit presenting itself untouchable. The competitive advantage of the W11 indicates that it will be a tough ask for anyone to beat Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas in 2020. However, the midfield is tighter than ever with Racing Point clearly leading the rest of the field behind the Brackley-based outfit which it took inspiration from when designing of their 2020 race car, the RP20.
The action continues this weekend with Silverstone playing host to a double-header event before the second triple-header concludes at Barcelona on August 16.
Mecca of motorsport
The world’s first ever purpose-built motor racing track was built in Brooklands in 1907, located just outside the British capital of London. This circuit played host to the first British GP in 1926, a motorsport event established by Henry Segrave and won by the French Louis Wagner. 1927 saw Brooklands hosting the second British Grand Prix which was won again by a French driver named Robert Benoist.
When the Second World War ended in 1945, the legendary Brooklands had fallen into disrepair and so Silverstone was adopted by the Royal Automobile Club as the home for the British Grand Prix in 1948. Silverstone started life as an aerodrome. The 1948 and 1949 races were won by Maserati. 1950 saw the birth of the Formula One Championship with Silverstone hosting the first ever round. Alfa Romeo’s Giuseppe Farina was victorious in the first ever F1 Grand Prix. The next four years saw Ferrari dominating the venue with José Froilan Gonzales and Alberto Ascari. The Argentinian’s win in 1951 was the first ever victory for the fabled Ferrari stable.
In 1955, the British GP moved to Aintree which began to alternate the race with Silverstone for the coming years. Aintree played host to the GP in 1962 for the last time. Out came Aintree, in came a new venue. 1964 saw the first Formula One race at the southern English circuit known as Brands Hatch, located in Kent, just outside London. The track was built in the early 1950s and had been extended in 1960. Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix in odd-numbered years and Brands Hatch in even-numbered years. Since 1987, Silverstone has been a fixture on the F1 calendar, hosting the British Grand Prix in every single year.
Silverstone's layout, like Brands Hatch, had changed little since 1949. 1987 saw Silverstone being modified; the Woodcote chicane was no longer used and a new left-right chicane was built on the Farm Straight just before Woodcote. After the tragedies of Imola in 1994, a chicane was installed at the flat-out Abbey corner 6 weeks before the event was due to take place and Stowe corner was slowed considerably. The 2010 race saw a new circuit configuration being used, using the brand new "Arena" layout.
For 2011 a new pit complex was built between Club and Abbey Corners, to where the start/finish line was moved. Silverstone is still a very fast circuit- with average speeds up in the 145 mph range for Formula 1 cars; one of the highest average speeds on the F1 calendar.
Fast and flowing
The Silverstone race track provides drivers and cars with a very different set of challenges compared to that of the Hungaroring. The circuit always belonged to the fast tracks, but the modifications completed in 2010 made it even faster.
Following the relatively short new start and finish straight, drivers throw their cars into Turn 1, titled Abbey, without touching the brakes in the qualifying session. Turn 2 that is easily taken at full throttle leads to two slower corners where rear grip is always at a premium. Drivers concentrate on the exit of Turn 4 because they head to the Brooklands straight, one of the longest full-throttle sections of the circuit which offers probably the best overtaking spot.
Turn 6 opens the second sector where drivers need to use the last inch of the wide kerbs to maintain the highest possible speed. Turn 7, Luffield is a tricky section, offering different lines. F1 drivers usually try to keep it tight, gluing their cars to the inside line of the entire corner to get then the best possible exit that lead to another fast section. Leading on to the National Pit Straight, Woodcote is easily taken flat out with the modern F1 machines. The following corner, named Copse is another beautiful and challenging part of the mesmerizing Silverstone track, testing drivers and their trust in their cars.
The following section formed by Turns 10, 11, 12 and 13, titled Maggots, Becketts and Chapel is arguably among the most enjoyable sections on the entire calendar. This combination of fast, flowing corners is on the drivers’ favourite list which even motivated Hermann Tilke to copy this section when designing the COTA race course in Texas. The following Hangar straight is the first part of Sector 3 that leads towards another fast bend, the Stowe corner. The last three turns create a different rhythm with their tight, slow nature.