PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 British Grand Prix – Silverstone Circuit

by Sudha Sundararaj

Round ten of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place at the historic Silverstone circuit with the seventieth running of the British Grand Prix this weekend. The inaugural race of the first ever Formula 1 season in 1950 was staged at this windy circuit built on an abandoned World War II airfield in the county of Northamptonshire in England.

The British Grand Prix along with the Italian Grand Prix has the distinction of being the longest continuously staged Grand Prix race. The Silverstone circuit has at various times alternated with the Aintree circuit (1955 to 1962) and the Brands Hatch circuit (1963 to 1986) in staging this Formula 1 race.

From 1987 onwards, the Silverstone circuit has become the permanent venue of the British Grand Prix and will host the fifty-third running of the British Grand Prix there.

Six of the ten Formula 1 teams are based in Britain and consider this almost like a home Grand Prix. McLaren (Woking) and Williams (Grove) are the quintessential British teams with a great history in Formula 1.

The other Formula 1 teams based here are Red Bull Racing at Milton Keynes, Racing Point team at Silverstone, Renault at Enstone, and Mercedes at Brackley.

Formula 1 racing has a rich history in Britain with probably the widest and most passionate fan base in the world. Rain and traffic chaos is never far away from a race at Silverstone. But the fans still turn up in huge numbers to support this very popular Grand Prix.

It was great news for the sport in general and the British motorsport fans in particular that a new five-year deal has now been signed between Formula 1, the British Racing Drivers’ Club and Silverstone Circuit to host the British Grand Prix till the end of 2024.

What happened at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen scored a sensational victory at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix as he edged Charles Leclerc to clinch his second straight win at this home race for Red Bull Racing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Leclerc was on pole position with Verstappen joining him on the front row. Valtteri Bottas and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were on the second row. Lando Norris and Kimi Räikkönen were on the third row.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, and Kevin Magnussen started at the front of the grid. It was a mixed grid due to a slew of penalties.

Leclerc made a perfect start to lead Bottas into Turn 1. Hamilton had to battle Norris to take third position. The fast-starting Räikkönen took fourth position ahead of Norris.

Verstappen was bogged down at the start and fell to eighth position behind team-mate Gasly. Verstappen recovered from his bad start with feisty overtake moves. By lap 9, Verstappen was in fifth position behind Vettel.

After the first round of pitstops the order was Leclerc, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton. In quick time Verstappen overtook Vettel and Bottas for second position. With 15 of 71 laps to go, Verstappen was on a charge just six seconds behind race leader Leclerc.

By lap 66, Verstappen was within DRS-range of Leclerc. On lap 69, after some exciting wheel to wheel racing, Verstappen took the race lead. Verstappen and Leclerc banged wheels and Leclerc was pushed off the track.

The race-winning pass was investigated by the stewards and deemed a racing incident. Verstappen became the first non-Mercedes driver to win a race in this 2019 season. Leclerc had to be content with second position after leading the race until the final laps.

Bottas joined the two young drivers on the podium. The Mercedes drivers were forced to lift and coast as they had to manage the high temperatures all-race long.

Vettel finished in fourth position after a fine recovery drive from ninth position. Hamilton had to be content with fifth position as his race was compromised by the long pit stop of over eleven seconds to change a damaged front wing.

Norris finished the “best of the rest” in sixth position ahead of Gasly.  Carlos Sainz who started in nineteenth position recovered to eighth position and completed a double-points finish for McLaren.

Räikkönen and Giovinazzi with ninth and tenth positions respectively for Alfa Romeo Racing completed the top 10 positions. Verstappen took the extra point for fastest lap to add to his points tally.

What happened at the 2018 British Grand Prix?

Vettel clinched an impressive win at the 2018 British Grand Prix amid controversy. Pole-sitter Hamilton and Räikkönen banged wheels on the opening lap that saw the Briton drop to last place.

Hamilton started from pole position. Title rival Vettel joined him on the first row. Räikkönen and Bottas were on the second row. Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo lined up on the third row. Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, Leclerc, and Esteban Ocon lined up at the front of the grid.

Hamilton made a poor start off the line with wheel spin. Vettel had a rocket start and led into Turn 1 with Bottas behind him. As Hamilton and Räikkönen jostled for positions behind them, the Finn hit Hamilton at Turn 3 and shunted him off the track.

As Hamilton spun off it looked like his race was over. But he rejoined the race and was told by the Mercedes pitwall that they did not see any damage. Stewards imposed a 10-second penalty on Räikkönen for the collision with Hamilton on the first lap.

At the end of the first set of pitstops for the frontrunners, the order was Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Räikkönen, Hamilton, Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

The Safety Car came out twice and triggered a series of pitstops. On lap 32, Ericsson had a heavy crash as he exited Turn 1 with his DRS open. The Safety Car (SC) came out. On lap 39, Sainz overtook Grosjean on the outside on the Copse corner and both drivers crashed. The Safety Car was back out and the field was bunched up together.

With 8 laps to go, on the SC restart, Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Räikkönen, and Ricciardo were all within DRS-range of each other. The Mercedes drivers were on older tyres and were on the backfoot.

Lap after lap Vettel hunted down Bottas and the Finn defended as best as he could. With six laps to go, Vettel overtook Bottas with a clean move to take the lead in the race. Bottas was then overtaken by teammate Hamilton and then Räikkönen.

Vettel won and not only extended his championship lead, but denied Hamilton a record sixth British Grand Prix win. Ferrari won at Silverstone for the first time since 2011.

Hamilton claimed second spot with a comeback drive after he fell to dead last on the first lap. Räikkönen completed the podium places as he recovered from a 10-second penalty for hitting Hamilton at the start.

Bottas finished fourth and Ricciardo finished in fifth position. Hulkenberg, Ocon, Alonso, Magnussen, and Sergio Pérez rounded off the top 10 positions.

Vettel clinched his fifty-first win and extended his lead to eight points at the top of the drivers’ championship with the win at the 2018 British Grand Prix. In contrast, the German goes to the 2019 British Grand Prix in fourth position in the drivers’ championship, a full seventy-four points behind the championship leader Hamilton.

Credit:www.formula1.com

The Circuit

The 5.891 kilometer track with 18 corners (14 high-speed and 4 slow-speed corners) and six straights is a fast-flowing and technically challenging track with some of the most iconic high speed corners in Formula 1.

The track has one of the highest average speeds of a Formula 1 track along with Spa and Monza at 235 km/h. The circuit which demands a medium downforce setup is a high fuel consumption track with 60% of the track taken at full throttle and low brake wear. A good aerodynamic setup is needed in the highly windy conditions.

The circuit has undergone many changes over the years, especially to improve safety with so many fast corners. The most recent change in 2010 saw the introduction of the new Arena layout, a fast corner Abbey replacing the iconic Bridge corner and the slowest corner – the Loop following the tight right-hand corner at Village.

In 2011 the new ‘wing’ pit complex was built between Club and Abbey corners and the start-finish line was moved there.

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 5) includes the Abbey corner (T1) taken flat out at over 290 km/h into the Farm curve (T2) leading to the tight right-hand corner at the Village (T3) leading to the very slow tight left-hand corner at Loop (T4) leading to Aintree (T5) and down the Wellington Straight.

Sector 2 (Turn 6 to Turn 14) starts with Brooklands (T6) and the tight right-hander at Luffield corner (T7) leading to Woodcote (T8) and the National pit straight. This leads into three of the fastest corners on an Formula 1 track with the Copse, Maggots and Becketts complex taken at over 290 km/h leading to the last corner of the sector Chapel (T14).

Sector 3 (Turn 15 to Turn 18) starts with the superfast Hangar Straight leading to the right-hander at Stowe (T15) leading to another straight and the final two corners at Vale and Club leading to the start-finish line.

A new third DRS zone was added last year to aid in overtakes. The third DRS zone was on the start-finish straight after Turn 18. Heavy crashes for Ericsson and Grosjean with the DRS open in this zone has led to the removal of the third DRS zone.

The two old DRS zones start with the first detection point before Turn 3 (Village) and the activation point after Turn 5 (Aintree) on the Wellington Straight. The second zone’s detection point is at Turn 11 and the activation point will be after Turn 14 (Chapel) on the Hangar Straight.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C1), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C2) and the red-striped soft tyres (C3) nominated for this race are the hardest tyres in the range of Pirelli tyres. This was the same compounds of tyres nominated for the races in Bahrain and Spain.

The drivers have chosen seven or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C3) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  The Red Bull Racing and Ferrari drivers have chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres. Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres.

It was a mixture of one and two pit stops for the drivers last year. A number of drivers pitted during the two Safety Car periods.

The newly resurfaced smooth asphalt surface will lead to faster lap times and lower tyre degradation. The famously variable English weather conditions will also play a role in the strategies employed.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Before the Austrian Grand Prix, Mercedes had been dominant winning the first eight races of the season. Verstappen’s win ended the winning streak.

The Mercedes W10 challenger endured high temperatures at the Red Bull Ring that led to a below par performance from the Silver Arrows. Rivals Red Bull Racing and Ferrari on the other hand turned in strong performances at this race.

The Ferrari SF90 with its strong straight line speed should again perform well at the fast Silverstone circuit. Mercedes on the other hand will look to rebound after their first poor race of the season.

Hamilton with six pole positions and five wins returns to one of his favourite tracks in front of an adoring home crowd. Vettel is the defending champion at this race. The fast circuit should see both Vettel and Leclerc challenge the Mercedes drivers.

Verstappen has made a stellar start to the season, totally outperforming his team-mate Gasly. Verstappen’s first win this season at the Austrian Grand Prix should spur him on to greater heights at this race.

McLaren leads the midfield teams and returns in a position of strength to the marque team’s home race. The large fan base of the team will look to the young driver pairing of Sainz and Norris to deliver good points for the team.

Hamilton (197 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas (166 pts) by thirty-one points in the drivers’ championship. Verstappen (126 points) is now in third position in the championship. Vettel (123 points) and Leclerc (105 points) rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (363 points) lead the constructors’ championship by 135 points over Ferrari (228 points). Red Bull Racing (169 points) led by Verstappen but hampered by the lack of points from Gasly sits in third position. McLaren (52 points) and the Renault team (32 points) complete the top 5 positions in the constructors’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 12 July

09:00 GMT / 10:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
13:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 13 July

10:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
13:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 14 July

13:10 GMT / 14:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the British Grand Prix.

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