On the Pit Wall: The Silverstone Circuit Guide

On the Pit Wall: The Silverstone Circuit Guide

Paddy's Perspective

"It was a great result for the team to get another one-two finish in Austria – even more so considering our below-par grid positions. For Lewis in particular, to come through from ninth place and be fighting at the front was an impressive performance, while it was also immensely satisfying to see seven of the top ten cars powered by Mercedes-Benz. While it was a less than straightforward weekend for us, the event itself was fantastic. We very much enjoyed returning to Austria and will look forward to going back there again in the coming years. For now, though, we look ahead to Silverstone and a different challenge to anything we’ve seen so far this year. It’s a very fast circuit layout which tests aerodynamic performance to the very limit. We demonstrated our competitiveness there last year with victory for Nico and equally with pole position for Lewis – who was extremely unfortunate not to achieve the result he deserved with his tyre failure in the race. We’re very much hoping that our strong form will continue and are looking forward to seeing another tightly contested battle between our two drivers. The circuit is a matter of miles from our factories at Brackley and Brixworth, so we’re determined to put on a great show for everyone in the team as well as the fantastic British fans."

Silverstone: On the Pit Wall

The Circuit
Silverstone is one of the longest standing circuits on the calendar. Although it has been modified over the years, it has been a near-constant feature since the Formula One World Championship began. In terms of track layout, there are very few low-speed corners, with medium and high-speed turns prominent. This represents a different challenge to most venues visited so far this season. One of the interesting features of the current configuration is the new pit lane, which will see its third year of action in 2014. This is unusual in that it is slightly quicker to come through the first section of the pit lane to the timing line – even at the 80 km/h speed limit – than it is to stay out on the circuit, as the three corners of Vale, Club and Abbey are negated. Of course, the overall time through this sector is still higher when conducting a pit stop, but it is rare to see such a narrow differential in lap time between coming in and staying out. The circuit itself is frequently used throughout the year, making track evolution less of a feature than seen at many other venues over the course of a race weekend. There is some evolution during the Friday practice sessions as rubber is laid down on the surface, but from Saturday onwards this is reasonably consistent – provided conditions remain dry.

The Drivers
Lewis has always been quite exceptional around Silverstone. Along with Montreal, this is a track at which he has traditionally shone, with the high-speed nature suiting his style very well. It is, of course, his home race – something that affects different drivers in different ways. Where some struggle with the additional pressure of performing in front of their native crowds, Lewis revels in this scenario and will do his utmost to put on a good show. The psychological effect of having a crowd behind him undoubtedly makes him stronger. What makes this all the more interesting is that, historically, a stronger Lewis brings out the best in Nico. The battle between the two should be as close as ever this weekend.

Weather conditions at Silverstone have historically been very inconsistent. Rarely has there been a race weekend here that has not had rain-affected sessions at some stage during the weekend. In 2013, for example, both Friday sessions were wet, with Saturday practice starting dry and ending wet. Qualifying was also wet, but the race itself remained dry throughout. This makes judgement calls, on tyres in particular, difficult to predict. Going into the race last year, knowledge of how the dry tyres would perform and was a relative unknown. Variations in temperature can also be quite significant. It is not unusual to see ambient temperatures range from a low of 18 to a high of 27 degrees from one day to the next – similar to the scale of fluctuations often experienced in Melbourne or Montreal, for example. With that in mind, cars cannot be setup and run as close to the limits as teams would ideally like in terms of cooling and so on. Weather forecasts are usually quite reliable here, to within a few degrees in terms of temperature, but aspects such as cloud cover can have a notable effect – leading teams to err on the side of caution. Being, as it is, based on an airfield, wind is another key factor – particularly for the drivers. As a benchmark, winds of up to eight km/h are can be experienced at most circuits. At Silverstone, however, it is not unusual to see base winds of around 22 – 23 km/h, with gusts of up to 40 km/h. The direction can also change quite radically from day to day, with 180 degree shifts commonplace. In the past, this meant re-assessment of gear ratios – trying to run the best configuration possible for the day while considering a margin of error for the following day. With set ratios as used today, this is no longer a factor. However, wing settings and general car setup are still affected.

Safety Cars
Safety cars have not traditionally been prevalent at Silverstone. It’s a wide circuit with a good amount of run-off around most corners, so there is generally plenty of space for stricken cars to pull off the track without interrupting running. On top of that, the marshals here rank amongst the very best in the world. Motorsport is part of the heritage and culture of Great Britain, and will clear away most incidents both quickly and effectively.

Although not quite as straightforward as circuits such as Montreal, Silverstone sits amongst the top circuits on the calendar in terms of overtaking opportunities. The high-speed nature of the layout means that drivers must be bold, but there are several key areas around the track which lend themselves to passing manoeuvres. There are many corners where the drivers can carry plenty of apex speed, but also take a variety of lines – both through the turn itself and on exit. This is, essentially, what leads to overtaking.

The hard and medium compounds have been nominated for this race. As demonstrated in 2013, this is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar in terms of the energy being put through the tyres. It’s therefore necessary to have the hardest allocation available. There were a number of failures last season which, if they were going to happen anywhere, would always occur at Silverstone due to the nature of the track. We’re confident, however, that there will be no repeat this year. The 2014 compounds are more conservative than those of 2013 and have been proven to work well at other circuits already this year – Sepang being a good example.

Energy Recovery
Unlike circuits such as Barcelona, there are very few heavy braking zones where energy can be recovered quickly. This means that, the more efficient a Power Unit is at both recovering and deploying its energy, the better it will perform. Therefore, although not quite at the top end of the scale in terms of ‘Power Circuits’ such as Montreal, a strong Power Unit package will nonetheless come to the fore due to the requirement for good energy efficiency.

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