Although the circuit layout at Silverstone has changed many times, one thing has remained constant in the 61 years since it hosted the opening round of the Formula One World Championship: speed. By the mid-1980s, Silverstone was the fastest circuit on the calendar, thanks to its sweeping high-speed corners; indeed, Keke Rosberg’s 1985 pole lap, at an average speed of 259 kph, stood as the fastest average lap speed in Formula One until 2002. And although the old circuit was lengthened for 2010, it retained its essential character, and even gained another flat-out sweeper, at what is now Turn One, in the new layout. No wonder Silverstone is praised every year as an example of a true driver’s circuit…
How did the layout changes for 2010 alter the circuit’s character?
The new layout introduced last year lengthened the circuit by 750 metres, and added approximately ten seconds to the overall lap time. The circuit is now 1241 metres (27%) longer than the circuit first used for Formula One in 1950 and, coincidentally, the same length (3.67 miles) as the very first layout used in 1948. However, although the circuit layout was changed between 2009 and 2010, the average lap speed remained almost identical: the fastest lap during qualifying in 2009 was at an average speed of 236.915 kph, while in 2010, it was at an average of 236.652 kph. The circuit includes eight corners that are taken at over 250 kph and just two below 100 kph; in complete contrast, Monaco has eight corners below 100 kph and none above 250 kph.
What is the quickest corner at Silverstone?
Using FIA numbering, the fastest corner on the circuit is Turn Two, known as Farm Curve, on the new section of the circuit - but this is more a flat-out sweep than a proper corner. The quickest true corner is Turn One, Abbey, the flat-out right-hander after the new pit complex. This requires a small confidence lift, but no braking, and is taken at approximately 290 kph. It was “quite slippery last year because it was very new,” according to Michael, “but I expect it to be good this year.” The drivers experience a peak g-force of 4.8G, and over 4G for 1.3 seconds, while the car experiences a peak vertical force, including car mass, of 22kN - equivalent to 2.2 tonnes. This means the car generates two and a half times its weight in downforce in the corner.
The sequence from Copse through Becketts and down to Stowe is one of the most famous in Formula One. What challenges does it present?
With the new corner numbering, Copse Corner is Turn Nine while the Becketts complex accounts for Turns 10 to 14, and Stowe is Turn 15. This section of the circuit is 1.88 km long (32% of the lap distance) and negotiated at an average speed of 272 kph - in around 25 seconds. The lowest speed of the car during this sequence is 195 kph.
What do the drivers experience through the Becketts complex?
The Becketts complex includes five corners in total, through which the drivers experience extremely high g-forces in opposite directions within an extremely short space of time. As Michael says, “Silverstone is a lot about high-speed but it is also about getting the combination through Turns 11 to 14 right - if you don’t get the first one right, you will still suffer at the last one.” Nico echoes those thoughts: “It’s a great part of the lap, and very challenging, because the car has so much grip through there! You need a perfect car balance to do a good lap.” On the technical front, this sequence rewards both downforce and an agile change of direction; the cars experience an average vertical force of 21 kN (equivalent to 2.1 tonnes). The drivers barely touch the brakes through here: there is gentle braking before Turn 12, and a little more (but only 35% of maximum) before turn 13. The sequence of g-forces is as follows:
Corner Direction Speed G-Force
Turn 10 Left 300 kph 2.2
Turn 11 (Maggotts) Right 275 kph 4.8
Turn 12 (Becketts 1) Left 230 kph 3.9
Turn 13 (Becketts 2) Right 195 kph 3.9
Turn 14 (Chapel) Left 240 kph 2.2
The circuit presents two contrasting halves, with only fast corners from the exit of Turn Seven (Luffield) to braking for Turn 16 (Vale). How different are these sections of track in actual terms?
The section of track from Turns Seven to 16 is 3.2 km long, equivalent to 54% of the lap distance. It takes around 41s to negotiate, at an average speed of 250 kph. The other half of the circuit, from Vale to Luffield, including the new Arena Loop, is 2.7 km long (46% of lap distance). This is completed in around 48s, at an average speed of 199 kph. In other words, the section between Luffield and Vale is some 25% faster than the other half of the circuit.