Along with the Italian event, the British Grand Prix is the only race to feature on the Formula One calendar every year since its inception as a World Championship in 1950. As such it features a rich history with drivers such as Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher all winning on three or more occasions in Britain.
Fast and flowing, Silverstone held the record for fastest average qualifying lap for 16 years when Keke Rosberg’s 160.92mph average stood until Juan Pablo Montoya roared around Monza at 161.4mph in 2002. The home race for many teams – eight of the 12 teams are based in the UK – winning the British Grand Prix is high on the list of achievements for every driver.
Silverstone grew from a former WW2 air base into one of the world’s premier sporting venues, and while it may lack some of the glitz and glamour of the more recent arrivals from Abu Dhabi and Singapore, Formula One would be poorer without its presence on the calendar.
Tyre wear: 8/10
High cornering speeds mean the hard tyre makes an appearance this weekend, and in combination with the soft tyre – missing out the medium – means a full step between the two compounds and a variety of strategic options available. With estimates of up to a second difference between the two tyres in terms of raw laptime, the onus will be on getting the harder tyre up to temperature quickly in order to minimise any lost time.
Despite its fast, flowing nature the teams run a reasonably high downforce level thanks to DRS, which ensures that excess drag can be shed in order to complete an overtake. You’ll always lose more time making a mistake in a slower corner than a fast one, so higher downforce levels help to provide the grip when it is needed most.
Average speed: 6/10
Silverstone has always been an ultra-quick circuit and the revisions to the layout in 2010 have not changed that, despite lengthening the average laptime by about 11 seconds. Good lateral grip is key to getting through the many fast corners throughout the lap, and some are predicting the new first corner at Abbey will be taken flat in seventh gear this year.
Track difficulty: 7/10
Regarded as a proper driver’s track, Silverstone provides a number of challenges which will catch out an unprepared driver or a car with a less-than-optimal setup. Smooth application of the throttle and steering will reward the drivers with a stable platform with which to attack the circuit.
The two slow corners that end the lap, Vale and Club, provide an opportunity to get close to the car in front, either to pass into Arena or by using DRS on the Wellington Straight into Brooklands. Stowe and Vale are the only other real overtaking opportunities on the lap but passing is hard on such a quick track.
The track revisions have helped Silverstone to move with the times and the imposing Wing, used to house the teams, media and VIPs during the race weekend, is a truly impressive site. What makes Silverstone special is the fans, who naturally cheer for the Brits but are equally likely to applaud a strong performance by a Finn, Frenchman or German. A knowledgeable and passionate crowd brings an extra dimension to an already special weekend, and with the race secure at Silverstone until at least 2026, they are guaranteed to return for many years to come.
Silverstone underwent significant revisions to its layout two years ago but retains its fast, flowing, challenging nature which makes it a firm favourite amongst the drivers. The section from Copse up through Maggotts, Becketts and on to the Hangar Straight is one of the best on the calendar, a flat-out blast which pushes the cars to the limit with a fast left-right-left-right series of flicks. This section requires a strong aerodynamic platform and a compliant suspension set-up to allow for rapid direction changes without losing grip.
The track generally isn’t a ‘car-breaker’ with a low overall impact on the engine, gearbox and braking systems, but it has a very high fuel effect – the amount of time lost per lap with a higher fuel load – and it is also one of the highest circuits on the calendar for lateral grip requirements, owing to the multitude of long, fast corners. The key to a fast lap-time is minimising the time lost in the few slower sections at Arena, Luffield and Vale. Watch out for drivers making use of the kerbs to shorten the corner distance and gain vital fractions of a second.
The 2011 race was a cracker, aided by the ban on off-throttle diffuser blowing, where special engine maps allowed the burning of fuel under braking, providing extra downforce and up to a second in laptime. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel started from the front row, with Vettel easing ahead off the line in wet conditions. The World Champion led through the first pitstops but lost out on his second visit to the pits when an uncharacteristic mistake by the Red Bull mechanics delayed him enough to allow Fernando Alonso through to the lead. Vettel was then caught up behind Lewis Hamilton while Alonso stretched his lead. Attention turned towards the battling Red Bull duo - with Webber in third visibly faster than Vettel in the closing stages, the Australian was told to hold station behind his teammate, finishing less than half a second behind the sister RB7.
Lap record: 1m 30.674s – Fernando Alonso, Ferrari (2010)
2011 Winner: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Silverstone 1950-1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987-present
Aintree 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961-1962
Brands Hatch 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986
* only races held as part of the Formula One World Championship are included
In-depth stats (courtesy of Mercedes)