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F1 teams in a race to learn to get tactical upper hand at new Silverstone
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Photo: Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jul 2011   |  3:45 pm GMT  |  68 comments

The F1 race strategists are pretty excited about this weekend as the new Silverstone pit lane will be used for the first time and they have to learn the best way to plan Sunday’s race.

Tests in the teams’ simulators indicate that the time lost coming into the pit lane will be very short, so stops could take as little as 15 seconds. This will push them to stop more times and with the lateral loads on the tyres from the high speed corners here at Silverstone, the feeling is that the leading teams will be stopping three times on Sunday in the race.

The pit lane entry cuts out the Vale corner and the speed limit is 100km/h, but there is a right turn in the pit lane which simulators show might not be possible to pass through at 100km/h; the drivers may have to slow down to take it. So we could see some drivers taking risks there trying to get a small advantage.

“The new pits are the biggest difference, and the entry and exit bring new challenges,” said the FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

“The entry is shorter than staying on the circuit, so we will have to ensure that drivers don’t use these changes to the pits to their advantage.”

I’m not sure we’ll see that, but the time needed for a stop at Silverstone is very short.

Pirelli is bringing its soft and hard tyres to the race this year – the same as we had in the early flyaway races – as well as two experimental medium compound tyres for the teams to try out on Friday in practice. The indications are that Pirelli is moving towards bringing tyres which are only one step apart for later in the season, as this may improve the qualifying spectacle and make for more exciting and variable strategies.

The soft tyre is likely to be up to 2 seconds a lap faster than the hard this weekend, as it was in Spain. This will mean two things: drivers will want to spend the minimum time on the hard tyre in the race and they will want to save as many new sets of soft tyres as possible. This will mean fewer qualifying runs.

The wear rate of the tyres at Silverstone is high because of the lateral loads through the high speed corners, like Copse and Abbey. Strategists are working on the basis of similar wear rates to the Chinese Grand Prix, which was a three stop race for the winner. The surface of the track is not particularly grippy.

The target will be to do three stints or around 14 laps each on the soft tyres and then a short stint on the hard at the end. A new set of soft tyres will not only give an offset in terms of lap time through the stint but will also mean that the stints can be three laps longer than cars running used tyres.

For this reason we will definitely see drivers saving tyres in qualifying to keep fresh sets for the race.

Amazingly, getting knocked out in Q1 is proving to have significant advantages; it’s interesting to note that Jaime Alguersuari has now twice come through to finish in the points having been eliminated in Q1, which meant that he had two new sets of soft tyres for the race. In fact in five of the eight races so far, we’ve seen a driver who was eliminated from Q1 go on to score points on Sunday, showing how important new tyres are.

Five out of eight is a significant statistic.

The circuit has been modified quite a bit in the last few years and various parts of it have been resurfaced, such as the high speed Copse corner. The grip level remains relatively low, but the high speed corners take a lot out of the tyre, especially laterally.

To find out more about the strategy considerations for the British Grand Prix, check out the content I’ve prepared with input from F1 team strategists – go to STRATEGY CONTENT and click on the track map of Silverstone

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68 Comments
  1. Knuckles says:

    James, I don’t get what Charlie Whiting is saying: “we will have to ensure that drivers don’t use these changes to the pits to their advantage.”

    What advantage would that be, and why does he have to ensure drivers don’t use it?

    1. James Allen says:

      End of a quali lap?

  2. Neil B says:

    So why wouldn’t Lewis use the pits on each lap. There’s nothing in the rules to prevent that, is there?

    1. DB says:

      The speed limit means it’d not be faster than doing the extra distance on the track.

      The shorter distance means a pit stop is faster, so it’s easier to offset one extra stop by using newer tyres more often.

      When there was no speed limit, Senna scored a record lap at Donington Park using the pit lane.

    2. Getting to the line might be an advantage, but that would evaporate as you then have to drive down the whole straight at 100 km/h, rather than accelerating well past 200.

      It’d only be an advantage for the finish of a lap, not the start of the next one.

      1. fafan4 says:

        How about in qualifying? I think Charlie Whiting is pointing at drivers pulling into the pitlane on their flying laps.

      2. It’s a possibility. Not sure what Charlie is going to do to prevent that, unless they interpret the pit-lane “not part of the racing surface” and therefore any qualifying laps where that section is used would be ineligible for a qualifying time. That’s just a guess, however.

      3. John says:

        hahaha, okay lets get real here, he doesn’t mean driver’s pulling into the pitlane on flying laps…come on! I would imagine if it really is shorter, an attempt to finish the race by entering the pits on the final lap.

      4. RichyS says:

        We’ve already seen one British GP ‘won’ in the pit lane. I’d hate to see another driver do the same (or even the same driver — he’s still racing, just, after all).

      5. fafan4 says:

        Well why not John? I think what applies to the final lap of the race applies just the same to a lap in qualifying. Even the last flying laps at the 0:00 mark in each session end with a chequered flag!

      6. philip says:

        Does that mean that you could dive into the pitlane on the last lap and cross the finish line before the point at which the speed limit comes into force?

        And if you did, and didn’t slow down in time, could you be penalised for exceeding the pit lane limit -after- completing the race?

      7. As I mentioned in another comment, they may interpret the pit-entry to not be part of the racing surface, so therefore if it is used to gain a time advantage, penalties would be assessed. Also, they can always assess time penalties after the race.

      8. Alex W says:

        They use 2 sensors and an average time so you could speed aslong as you compensate before the second sensor, but presumeably it would be at the start finish line.

    3. Sebee says:

      HRT should do it, to get attention. It can’t be against the rules – Pit lane is part of the track. The only way they can possibly address this before the race, is to lower the pit lane speed limit perhaps. Wonder if teams will test this move out on Friday.

      If someone would do this pit lane move, that would certainly put that stunt right up there with the 1998 Silverstone race. Which was one of the craftiest things I have ever seen happen. There couldn’t be an F1 fan out there who didn’t enjoy that finish, unless you were Finnish. Brazil 2003 is still the crazies finish I’ve ever seen, and it just so happened I was at that crazy awesome race.

      1. Fluebroggle says:

        What was the stunt that happened at the 1998 Silverstone race?

      2. Aaron95 says:

        Schumacher got a 10 second stop-go with 2 laps to go. The rules stated you had 3 laps in which to serve it so he entered the pits on the final lap, crossed the finish line, then served the penalty in the Ferrari pit-box.

        The stewards added 10 seconds onto his race time which meant he still won as he was 22 seconds ahead of Mika Hakkinen. Had he served the penalty in the normal way, he may have lost as he would have lost more time due to having to enter and then leave the pitlane.

        McLaren understandably objected to the whole debacle. Eventually the original penalty was rescinded on a technicality and Schumacher awarded the race win. All 3 stewards then handed in licences in protest.

      3. The other Ian says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_British_Grand_Prix

        Basically Schumacher received a stop-go penalty, and choose to serve it on the last lap. As the start/finish line also crossed into the pits, in going into the pits, he also crossed the finish line, and as he was in the lead, was declared the winner. Cheeky!

      4. Aaron says:

        Michael Schumacher was given a stop/go penalty near the end of race so he served it on his last lap, and as his pitbox was after the line, he finished the race before actually serving it. He was disqualified I believe.

      5. Paul D says:

        Senna also set the fastest lap of the race at Donnigton in 1993 by coming into the pits and driving straight through.

        No deliberatley I might add, his pit crew were not ready for him.

    4. Glenn says:

      I should imagine this will be discussed at the drivers meeting. I would think Charlie might take a dim view on anyone using the pitlane in a way that would bring the sport into disrepute ;)

      Didn’t Schumi serve a drive-thru penalty many years ago on the final lap, yet he still won the race by virtue of the start/finish line crossing into the pitlane? Or was it Senna?

      1. Aaron95 says:

        Yes, that was Schumacher at Silverstone 1998.

  3. ajay says:

    I cannot see why they do not let them have extra sets of tyres for qualifying. I find it even more absurd now that you have pointed out that it proving to be an advantage to get knocked out early :-)

    1. Ian says:

      Hear hear!

    2. devilsadvocate says:

      Guess I’m goin to sleep in on Saturday and check the quali results when I wake up, watch the recording if looks like it got exciting. Puttin my money on not too lanyard people running in q3

    3. Glenn says:

      Agree
      I’ve been of the same opinion for some time. Give all teams a full compliment of new tyres for Sunday. Forget about starting on the tyres you qualified on. No more saving tyres for Sunday. Lets get back to ‘balls -to- the- wall’ qualifying of the past.

  4. irish con says:

    i would imagine this is a 4 stop race. turkey and spain both were for most of the front runners and silverstone has more highspeed turns than those two tracks and the pirellis seem to be great on slower corners but the faster corners seem to destroy them much quicker…

  5. Sebee says:

    Looks like Rain on Saturday as well, so it could be that everyone will save their softs for Sunday.

    Would doing Q3 on hard, then going soft till the end be a good option? I hope some give us this miss-match to ensure end of race action.

    Safety car at Silverstone a rare thing, right?

  6. Dino says:

    Great article, James. Any sign that the weather might upset things this weekend? Looks like it might be wet for Friday practice at least…

  7. San K says:

    Hi James,

    On a slight seperate note – I will be in Silverstone on Saturday bringing some scepticle F1 viewers (Im determined to convert them) and wondering if you can be kind enough to let me/us know (via twitter or on here on Friday night) what the circuit conditions may be for Saturday for spectators (i.e. muddy swamps/fields etc) so that we know whether to dust off the wellies & bring them along?

    -Dont worry mate, Im not expecting for you to do a march around the track as you’ll be busy tending to more important issues, but as you may be there you will have a good idea if the area is potentially resembling a swamp for saturday.

    In other words maybe a friday night quick circuit conditions forcast for the spectators.

    Hope this is a fair request – If at all that is possible that would be very very helpful.

    I’ll be at the new abbey grandstand which I think has a roof – but cant wait to see as we will be at turn 1 which should be quite amazing – hoping to see at least one dry session so that we can see the F1 cars flat out (or near enough) through turn 1.

    Eitherway have a fantastic weekend – would be even greater if we bump into you & say hi but I somehow think that will be quite unlikely.

    Anyway best of luck and enjoy!

    Best regards,
    San

    1. James Allen says:

      it will be muddy because the rain has fallen hard most of today. It’s been miserable frankly

  8. noahracer says:

    I think Silverstone was better in the old days, before modernification and Bernie. Woodcote down the straight was magnificent and Abbey breathtaking. What a miserable waste and a rotten legacy for F1 to have this modern, sanitized and sterile place where, during WWII, once landed giants.

    1. Uhm says:

      You really believe Bernie demanded to change the layout of any track?

      You guys are making up stuff and then attack that argument, lol.

      That’s the FIA in agreement with the owners of the circuit, Bernie is not the FIA, neither the owner of the circuit.

      He just demanded the track was more easily accessible for the fans and transportation.

    2. Gcom says:

      Don’t worry he used the word modernification and chucked in an unwelcome dose of hyperbole and punctuation.

      The track is fabulous with facilities both the fans and all racing teams at all levels of motorsport will love.

    3. Jay says:

      I think the old Silverstone was boring. Especially with these modern cars – it wouldn’t be a challenge at all.

      To me there is nothing interesting about going straight for 90% of the lap.

    4. Scuderia Missile says:

      @noahracer – modernification.

      Cracking new word!

  9. MrNed says:

    Don’t forget to factor-in the loss of blown diffusers which will result in a big drop in mid-corner downforce, and so presumably much more lateral scrubbing of the tyres. The teams who have leaned most heavily on blown diffusers are, therefore, most likely to eat up tyres the quickest… it’s shaping up to be a fascinating race!

    1. Martin says:

      WRONG !
      Blown diffusers have NOT been banned (will be next season).
      Just blowing hot or cold air from exhaust WHEN the driver is OFF trottle!
      That means loss of downforce under braking and on initial corner entry.
      Corner speeds maybe bit lower in proportion to downforce, and may have no effect on tyres.
      But it may incease chances of outbraking cars which HAD the best developed “blowers”, e.g. Red Bulls…
      Regards,
      “Martin”
      one time F3 driver

      1. Peter C says:

        You just love that ‘one time F3 driver’.

        So was Bernie Ecclestone.

    2. iceman says:

      Not necessarily… the change to the blown diffuser rules might actually make the tyres last longer based on what we’ve seen earlier in the season. Unlike with the Bridgestones, the Pirellis seem to have worn out faster the more load you put on them. Some of the teams with less downforce, Lotus for example, have been able to make the tyres last a very long time.

  10. paddy says:

    Does not want a murdoch to touch or have anything to do with the sport i love, the sport that runs through my own blood, the sport that has taken my mind of many diffrent issues within my own life, all my life, a media of which i back, support and am an avid true fan of every diffrent part. As a life long fan i want my voice heard on this as i have dedicated many hours, days and years following supporting and trying to justify to friends why its such a fantastic monumental sport. This name whether directly involved or not but as a part of the current revolting tactics of these deeply immoral businessmen should not become priviledged to any ownership of any part to my sport. -Apologies James and i understand why you may not post this but i sincerely request that you do. I would like to know where the average fan stands on this and hope that bbc retain the rights to screen my sport and not some pay as you go couldnt care less businessman. -Rant had! ,thank you and keep up your great work. p.s-alonso for the comeback starting in three days ;)

    1. David McVey says:

      I agree! If Murdoch gets his Lizard Man fingers on F1 I’ll turn off. I haven’t missed a single Racing or qualifying lap since 1994 and I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of my pitiful government salary attending races etc. I believe that we the fans should have a say, after all we bank roll the whole thing so we should be involved in the change of ownership process.

      The problem with people like Murdoch is that they are so wealthy that they are insulated from the effects of their actions so they begin to feel they can do anything and get away with it. Unfortunately, capitalism is geared towards allowing the super rich to do exactly that and it’s high time that the decent hard working public that are ripped off and flogged for every penny of their hard earned cash got some recompense for the actions of these wicked people that run rough shod over everything we hold dear.

  11. glen says:

    I think one lap qualifying should return, split into three sections. Introduce rules so they can’t manipulate the tyre situation.

    1. Steve says:

      rules rules rules rules! The FIA needs to stop it with the rules already!

    2. MrNed says:

      Noooo – the one-shot qualifying system was horrendous. Totally lacking in excitement or suspense, unlike the current quali system.

      Personally I’d prefer to see this problem resolved via the tyre allocation rules – maybe let the teams trade one or two worn sets for new sets after quali (but drivers still start on their quali tyres).

  12. Douglas says:

    Bringing in a special qualifying tire is looking like a good idea, when you read those stats. Whats the general feeling on this?

    1. Roman says:

      How about going old-school (at least if my memory serves me correctly) by having teams pick between either the hard or soft tire for the whole weekend (i.e. either qualify faster and wear out your tires and do more stops or be slower and do less pit stops)?

      1. Sebee says:

        Don’t you think everyone would eventually use same tire?

      2. Roman says:

        Teams still split both types actually. It depends how your car is set up and your driving style and what the simulations said.

  13. Eje says:

    [q]In fact in five of the eight races so far, we’ve seen a driver who was eliminated from Q1 go on to score points on Sunday, showing how important new tyres are.[/q]

    with that in mind this then say a bit about the new teams. They never made it out of Q1 and finished behind all the established teams yet having the tire advantage. So in that case pretty much poor on them for being so slow that having this advantage can’t get them further up the grid and why does Lotus (Team Lotus) think here then if they manage to get through to Q2 they can start racing for points. In essence they are better taking 17-18 position and then blitz the midfield on track by having another set of new optional tires.

    1. Phil says:

      Very good point.
      I’d be interested to hear James’ opinion on that one.

  14. cjf says:

    Time to change the qualification tyre rules,

    Extra sets of tyres for Q3 and ALL cars starting on the tyres they qualify on.

    As it stands teams are effectivly being rewarded for mediocracy.

    Who would want to start 10th on the grid when the 11th place car not only gets the clean side of the grid but can also start on brand new tyres and may even have an extra set of unused tyres in hand?

    1. Fluebroggle says:

      I have seen this “try to qualify 11th” quite a few times this season.

      Just how exactly does the driver do that?

      There is only say 1 or 2 tenths between each grid position at most. To try and alter the speed in Q2 to get to position 11 is going to be a bit of a lottery.

  15. Robert N says:

    James,

    regarding the new blown diffuser rules: do you expect Webber to be much closer to Vettel this weekend? I seem to remember you writing during the first half of last season, that Webber had the edge over Vettel when they had only hot blown diffusers, as he was earlier on the throttle coming out of corners.

    Do you think this might help him again?

    Any other predictions about drivers/teams which will benefit/lose the most?

    1. AuraF1 says:

      Yes it’s surprising Webber has been quite vocal in interviews condemning this rule change as I do remember the articles from James and others where it was noticablely to webbers advantage to have no hot blown diffuser mapping as he had a better skill level exiting corners than vettel.

      Perhaps with the rb7 stability based heavily on this mode he is worried more about higher tyre wear and, in my admittedly average technical opinion, webbers main loss to seb this year has been entirely tyre wear related (and maybe poor marks allergic kers system dying every GP!)

  16. Matt Shea says:

    Does anyone else feel like Silverstone has really grown in stature over the last couple of years? It’s always been a great GP but the whole Donnington snafu now feels like it happened an eon ago. Perhaps it’s in part down to the addition of so many ordinary racetracks to the schedule, but after the move fell through it was like everybody woke up to how special the place is. Can’t wait for the weekend.

  17. Adrian Newey Jr says:

    James – any thoughts that RBR could be foxing with the statements about how much the recent change in rules could affect them? Personally I think their advantage could be more than just the blown defuser, but it suits them to have the paddocks attention on it whilst their real technical advantage goes unnoticed? Similar to the bendy front wing last year? It seems to have been a distraction.

  18. alan q says:

    Great stuff, love the old GP’s! Any chance of putting up earlier races from the 1980′s?

  19. Pandabater says:

    How about this.
    In the race you can/must only run one set of softs & as many hard sets as you need.

  20. Andy C says:

    James

    I was interested to hear from Peter Windsor that Pirelli have created 50,000 F1 tyres for this season. And thats not a typo.

    Makes a little bit of a mockery about the green push in F1 doesnt it ;-)

    Like most fans I want F1 to be about racing, with an eye on the environment. That figure staggered me… thats an equivalent of over nearly 2100 tyres per car (over 500 sets).

    Wow…

  21. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    Just watching Practice 1 on BBC Web–Ok slightly off topic, set up not strategy, that McLaren looks to be running way more rake than it has earlier this season.

  22. KK says:

    correction: In China, the winner had 4 stops defeating the 3 stopper by 5 secs (probably the only miscalculation by RBR so far)

    To the race, I think reducing the exhaust gas blowing to 10% means a reduction in downforce at the back of the car, meaning loss of downforce in heavy braking at the corners and thereby making it difficult to navigate without sliding and slipping. Now this could play a spoil-sport for everyone who has adapted well to the blown diffuser and who has a reasonably good downforce level. Everyone thinks Redbull would slip back while its a wihsful thinking at best, the motive behind the mid season rule change is simple and clear, it’s to help a certain team who’s languishing down third in the constructors.

    1. KK says:

      I’m sorry James! Research suggests it was a 3 stopper for Hamilton and 2 for Seb.

  23. KK says:

    I will be sporting a wry smile if Newey turns out, played mind games with Ferrari and McLaren when he said earlier in the week that “the Redbull is built around the blown diffuser”, whereas it eventually turns out wrong. Comeon, how much can Redbull lose over a lap? More precisely, how much can they lose to McLaren who themselves were into a copy-paste mode for a good year and a half?

    James, do you think the mid-season rule change is a ploy by the FIA to bring Ferrari into the reckoning? Last it happened, it was in the early 90s when a certain active suspension (apparently a brainchild of Newey during his tenure with Williams) was deemed illegal when Ferrari couldn’t make it work, just like how they struggle with the blown gases in 2011.

    Would you read between the lines James or you would rather Ferrari’s back from an entertainment point of view?

    1. James Allen says:

      No. Times have changed

  24. Alan says:

    The Teams will be playing around maximising the cars around the new rules for quite a few more races I would think, Silverstone will not be the definitive performance from the new order.

    If Ferrari and Mercedes can rise up and take points off Vettel, we will probably have a competitive Championship to watch and enjoy. If it just allows LH and JB to be competitive with RBR, we will have some fun races, but SV will have the WDC on a plate and really just due to a large machinery advantage.

  25. A fan says:

    The correct answer to the question is by having a Renualt engine, lulz

  26. James K says:

    James – Can you ask around the tire guys about the recent reports of a tire shortage in the US and how the images of 22 F1 cars shagging 36 per car (790+ total) black rings per weekend?

    FIA is so worried about being green, I wonder why the continued waste of resources because of the desire of tactics. If they want to add “Green” motors, maybe we need to move back to single type of tire, which an engineer and driver must work around. Drivers, driving hot, tired cars, on hot, tired, shagged tires. I recall seeing a brilliant Brazil GP which many passes and challenges, all with no tire discussions (Circa 91/92), just pure skill driving.

    Not trying to stiffle the spectacle, wondering more if they feel there is any negativity of the tire consumption in face of a tire shortage.

    http://www.tirereview.com/Article/75430/low_supply_higher_raw_materials_bring_tire_shortage.aspx

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/driveon/post/2011/06/automakers-complain-about-tire-shortage/1

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