Posted 01 July 2008 - 14:38
The challenge of racing at Silverstone has been transformed in recent years by the introduction of V8 engines and ever-increasing levels of downforce. The result is that corners previously requiring downshifts can now be taken with just a lift of the throttle, and indeed the first half of the lap, all the way to Vale, requires very little braking at all.
The engines are therefore under prolonged load with a full throttle percentage of 66% per lap. Corners range from 180 mph sweepers to the long, slow complex at the end of the lap – and the car must also cope with the bumpy surface and capricious, gusting winds.
Downforce levels at Silverstone are medium to high – the same as those used at the last race in Magny-Cours. The downforce is required for the quick corners in the opening part of the lap, and the relatively short straights and short braking zones mean that any deficit in straightline speed is unlikely to see competitors overtaking you. The lack of heavy braking also means we run some of the smallest brake ducts of the year to optimise aerodynamic performance.
Ride is an important characteristic at Silverstone, where maintaining consistent aerodynamic performance is so critical for performance in the quick corners. The surface is quite bumpy, and nowhere more so than under braking for turn 8, where the uneven surface can unsettle the car. The drivers also tend to drift out onto the kerbs exiting the quick corners in order to take the fastest line, which can make the circuit seem bumpier than it is.
The cars are run with a forward mechanical balance at this circuit – essentially with a stiff front end and softer rear end. The stiff front gives the car a good change of direction in the high and slow speed corners, while the softer rear end gives better grip under traction, exiting turns 9, 11 and 16 in particular.
Tyres are always given a hard time at this track, especially because of the numerous high-speed corners, and this means that Silverstone, along with Barcelona and Spa, is among the toughest tracks of the season for tyre wear. To cope with this Bridgestone will offer the ‘medium’ and ‘hard’ compounds from its 2008 range of Potenza tyres in order to cope with these challenges.
As a former airfield, Silverstone is inevitably exposed to the wind – and this can have a big impact on car performance. Gusting wind alters the aerodynamic balance of the car and makes handling unpredictable, particularly in the high-speed corners. The driver must be able to judge the direction and strength of the wind, and adjust his driving accordingly.
Fuel consumption is high at Silverstone, as is the time penalty for carrying extra fuel weight. This means that it is a circuit where strategies rarely vary from the norm, as two extra laps of fuel, for example, could cost nearly two tenths per lap. Expect to see most teams running a “standard” two stop strategy, which is generally slightly forward-biased for the front runners in order to ensure good grid position and clean air in which to race in the early stages. With overtaking nearly impossible at this circuit, track position is all-important.
The Silverstone circuit gives the latest generation of V8 engines a thorough workout with just under 66% of the lap spent at full throttle. This is slightly less demanding than in previous years, largely due to the advent of control tyres from Bridgestone, but the engine still needs to be responsive at high revs as the drivers take the quick corners on either full or partial throttle. In terms of cooling, an extensive test at this circuit in the run up to the Grand Prix means we are well prepared for every eventuality.