British Grand Prix Preview: Silverstone
Formula One heads to Silverstone, the home of British motorsport (with no fewer than eight teams based in the UK) and also a second home race for Pirelli, with the company’s logistics hub and ‘centre of excellence’ based in Didcot, less than an hour away from Silverstone.
The track is well known for being one of the fastest of the year, putting a high-energy load through the tires. Making the challenge even harder is the fact that the weather is usually variable, with a high chance of rain at some point during the weekend and a notoriously wide range of temperatures and wind speeds. This can sometimes make it difficult to rationalise the data obtained in free practice with the actual race conditions. Pirelli has nominated the two hardest tires in the range, P Zero orange hard and P Zero White medium, to face up to the demands of Silverstone.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“Silverstone is one of the truly great venues of the year, which is steeped in history and always thrilling for the drivers and fans because of the high speeds involved. British fans are among the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic of the year: it’s absolutely fantastic to see them out in full force, whatever the weather. And the weather is always a talking point in Silverstone of course; in the past we’ve seen everything from bright sunshine to torrential rain. As a result, the ability to make quick strategy decisions based on real-time conditions is always very important, as you can’t necessarily rely on previous data. We’ve brought our two hardest tires, which should be well suited to the conditions, and after the race we look forward to the final dedicated in-season tire test of the year, from Tuesday to Wednesday. Ferrari and Marussia will be driving for us on the first day, with Red Bull and Lotus on the second day, as we continue our development test campaign.”
The circuit from a tire point of view:
Teams tend to run medium to high levels of downforce to obtain the best possible cornering speeds through the first half of the lap, with its sequence of fast corners. These settings are not too much of a handicap on the straights, as they tend to be quite short – with short braking areas over the course of the lap as a whole. This can make it quite challenging to overtake.
Silverstone is a high-energy circuit, as the fast and flowing nature of the circuit means that the tires are constantly subjected to different forces: sometimes several different forces at the same time. Lateral accelerations peak at 5g while the surface temperature of the tires can exceed 110 degrees centigrade.
The medium tire is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at low temperatures. The hard tire is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures and more strenuous track conditions. Temperatures in Silverstone are among the most varied of the year: there can sometimes be a shift of more than 15 degrees of track temperature between sessions, making strategy hard to predict.
The Silverstone track is quite intensively used during the season, especially with the support races during the grand prix weekend, so track evolution is not as much as a factor as it is at some other circuits.