British Grand Prix Preview

Round eight of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Formula One circus to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix – possibly for the last time as Donington Park gears up to host the event from 2010.

The 5.141km (3.194-mile) circuit is one of the fastest and most famous tracks on the F1 calendar, making it popular with drivers, engineers and spectators.

Silverstone was the scene of the first F1 World Championship Grand Prix in May 1950, although the circuit staged its first non-championship race two years earlier and will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year. Formerly a World War II airfield, the track initially used the airfield’s perimeter road before undergoing various facelifts. The layout that is used today has been in place since June 1994, when the Abbey Chicane was modified following the events of Imola the previous month.

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Vital Statistics

  • Date: 21/06/09
  • Circuit Length: 5.141km
  • Race Distance: 308.355km (60 laps)
  • Winner 2008: Lewis Hamilton – McLaren

Circuit Guides

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Drivers Eye

LEWIS HAMILTON: “The two greatest things about racing at Silverstone are the fans and the track itself. It’s great to see and meet people from all across the country and the world who have made the journey to Silverstone for the Santander British Grand Prix. When I’m in the car, I can actually see the fans around the circuit waving banners and cheering. It’s as if they were racing every lap with me – incredible!

“Driving the track is incredible too. I love Silverstone – it’s an amazing place to drive. Copse, Becketts and Bridge are all absolutely fantastic, flat-out corners that really show you the power and grip of a Formula 1 car. It’s a perfect place for the race, so let’s hope it’s not the last time we race at this track.”

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HEIKKI KOVALAINEN: “Silverstone: what a fantastic circuit! I got my first Formula 1 pole position here last year and I remember how great the car was to drive on the limit. I love fast corners – it’s when a Formula 1 car really feels at its best and your whole body is just on the limit.

“While we know our car won’t be at its best through the fast corners, the challenge as a racing driver is to push to the limit so I’m just going to try my hardest. After a couple of disappointing races, it would be fantastic to get back into the points in one of the team’s home races.”


SILVERSTONE – THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

Generally, Silverstone is a very fast track. The fast, sweeping bends at the start of the lap require a lot of confidence from the drivers, so they tend to set-up their cars for Copse, Becketts and Stowe while doing the best they can through the slow complex of corners at the end of the lap.

As at any track, there is more lap time to be lost and found through the slow corners, particularly at Club, the Abbey chicane and the final complex, where traction is all-important. As a result of the slow-speed grip needed through these slower sections, the cars run slightly more downforce than at Magny Cours, the last race on the calendar, and that places an emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency.

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There are several sections of the track where the absence of traction control this year will frustrate the drivers, particularly at the exit of Club where the cars accelerate from second gear through to fifth while under severe lateral load. This makes it one of the key corners, as are the two left-handers – Priory and Brooklands – entering the final complex.

The asphalt is quite smooth, except for a couple of bumpy sections midway through the lap. Notably, the braking point for Vale is very bumpy so a few cars may be swapping ends early in the weekend as drivers work out their braking points.

Full throttle: 62%
Brake wear: Light
Downforce level: High – 8/10
Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard
Tyre usage: Medium
Average speed: 230kph (143mph)

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BMW on Silverstone:
Technical Insight – Willy Rampf
“If you want to be quick at Silverstone you have to be driving a car with extremely good aerodynamic balance. The track is characterised by its many medium and fast corners, and it is important for the drivers to carry as much speed out of them as possible. Maggots-Becketts-Chapel is one of the finest combinations on the F1 calendar. The track surface is pretty rough, which means that tyres come in for a good deal of punishment. We tend to opt for the harder tyre compounds here for that reason.”

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Robert Kubica “Silverstone has a lot of tradition and the circuit is excellent. Good downforce is important, especially in the fast first sector. Later on in the lap you get a few slow corners. The circuit is a good mixture from a driver’s point of view and asks a variety of different questions. The wind conditions are always a big factor here and can have quite a significant impact on the car in the first sector. The British weather is unpredictable.”