Silverstone: A Race Engineers guide to the British GP


British Grand Prix 2016. Silverstone, England. Credit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

Sahara Force India F1 Team Chief Race Engineer Tom McCullough explains the intricacies and unique nature of the Silverstone Circuit, as the F1 calendar heads to the UK this weekend, and Force India’s home race.

To engineer McCullough, the Silverstone Circuit sets one of the biggest physical challenges for drivers and F1 teams, as amongst its architecture there is a combination of low, medium and high-speed corners, which can make it a real nightmare to find the perfect set-up.

“Our home Grand Prix in Silverstone is one of the toughest tests for a Formula One car. The current layout is a mix of low, medium and very high speed corners, meaning you have to find the ideal compromise when it comes to set up.”

The design of the 2017 cars will see the machines go even faster than ever before, with G-forces also set to rise as the drivers power through the Maggots, Beckett’s and Chapel curves. Having the confidence to take those corners at full chat is key, and ensuring they have a car underneath them that allows that, is top of the list for McCullough.

Silverstone Circuit, UK. Credit: Sahara Force India F1 Team

“We expect the current generation of cars to be very impressive in the high-speed sections, a challenge the drivers will love: this means, however, that we need to produce a car that gives them the confidence required to attack those corners.”

Strategy is all-important here at Silverstone, with tyre wear tested to its max, and the likelihood of rain high on the probability scale. These scenarios all go towards producing what should be an exciting but challenging race.

“The high tyre degradation will open up the strategic options, and the weather is always unpredictable – even when dry, the high winds on this exposed track mean conditions can change between a lap and the other, which is an added challenge.”

Unlike the Red Bull Ring, where the teams raced last time out, Silverstone is one of the longest circuits on the calendar, and so a big contrast to what the teams experienced in Austria.

“At 5.89km, this is one of the longest circuits of the year – we only have 52 laps, quite the opposite from Austria.”