So far this season we have seen quite a number of races won on race strategy and with uncertain conditions forecast for Silverstone and cool temperatures making the behaviour of the tyres unpredictable, it should be another interesting weekend.
As always there are many things for the teams to consider when planning how they attack the weekend. Here’s how we see it:
Silverstone is loved by the drivers and engineers because of the many high speed corners it offers. It provides a rigorous test of aerodynamic efficiency, like Barcelona.
The track was built on a wartime airfield and is in a windy spot, with gusts that can often upset the balance of the cars.
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. The pit lane time is a little longer this year than last due to some modifications to the pit lane, requested by the FIA.
Pirelli is bringing its soft and hard tyre compounds to the race this year, a similar selection to what we saw in Barcelona. They also have an experimental hard tyre for teams to test on Friday. This has a wider operating window of temperature and lasts longer. It’s being developed for 2013 use.
Silverstone – 5.891km kilometres. Race distance – 52 laps = 306.198 kilometres. 18 corners in total. A high speed circuit based on an old WWII airfield. Lots of high speed corners, very easy on brakes.
Aerodynamic setup – Med/High downforce. Top speed 311km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 301km/h without.
Full throttle – 66% of the lap (medium). Total fuel needed for race distance – 150 kilos (average/high). Fuel consumption – 2.36kg per lap (high)
Time spent braking: 9% of lap (very low). 9 braking zones. Brake wear- Low.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 15 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop: 19 seconds.
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.38 seconds (high)
The British Grand Prix is the ninth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship. It has been a very open championship so far with seven different race winners in eight races.
Traditionally Silverstone has been a circuit which suits the Red Bull car, with its aerodynamics very effective in high speed corners. With the major upgrade they brought to their car at the last race in Valencia, they are currently the team to beat. Lotus is also very strong on this type of circuit and must be a strong contender for a podium.
However Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leads the world drivers’ championship and is the only driver to have won two races this season. The Spaniard also won the British Grand Prix last year on Ferrari’s 60th anniversary in F1.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have won this race once, Fernando Alonso has won it twice and Michael Schumacher has won it three times.
The weather in England is notoriously hard to predict. It could be warm and sunny, or cold and wet. This week so far has been of the cold and wet variety in England and it’s forecast to continue, with light rain and temperatures around 15-18 degrees.
Pirelli tyre choice for Silverstone: Soft (yellow markings) and Hard (silver markings). This is a similar combination to what we saw at Barcelona in May.
That race was interesting because the leading drivers made three stops and primarily raced on the hard compound tyre, with soft used only for the opening stint. But Barcelona has a rougher track surface, which eats up the rubber more quickly.
At Silverstone, Pirelli is forecasting that the soft tyre will be faster than the hard by up to 1 second in qualifying and around 7/10ths of a second in the race.
Our Strategy Calculator, based on comparable Barcelona tyre models and wear rates has the gap slightly closer than that, so we’ll see during Friday practice (if it’s dry) what the gap is.
The wear rate of the tyres at Silverstone is high because of the lateral loads through the high speed corners, like Copse and Abbey. The surface of the track is not particularly grippy.
The secret to doing well this weekend will be a) getting the right balance of tyre temperatures front and rear, which comes from a good aerodynamic balance and b) picking the exact point in the wear rate where the tyre performance drops off suddenly, to make a stop. This should be when the tyre is around 70% worn out.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
If the temperatures are high (35 degrees or more of track temperature) then the tyre degradation will be more severe and the race will certainly be a three stopper. It will probably be either a two or three stopper in cooler dry conditions.
Chance of a safety car
Silverstone is a fast, open circuit with lots of run off areas. So for marshals it’s relatively safe to recover a broken car.
The chances of a safety car are 57%, with 0.6 safety cars per race.
Recent start performance
The start of the Grand Prix is absolutely vital in terms of executing the ideal race strategy. A few places gained means a team has more options, while a few places lost usually means switching to Plan B and being more aggressive to make up ground.
As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –
+17 Glock, Alonso
+10 Perez ***, Senna
+6 Di Resta
+5 Schumacher*, Hamilton, Vergne
+ 4 Karthikeyan
+ 2 Vettel
-1 Grosjean** ****
-3 De la Rosa ****, Button
-4 Rosberg, Hulkenberg
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. Here again Ferrari leads the way consistently this year.
It is also clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops. The top seven teams’ fastest stops were within 3/10ths of a second of each other in Canada! It shows how much work has gone on in this area.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the European Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The positions from previous race are in brackets.
Worth noting is that McLaren has been working on its pit stops and they now have the fastest stops of all the teams, by some margin. However consistency is the key and McLaren still had a front jack failure in the race, which undermined all their efforts.
1. McLaren 19.355 secs (4)
2. Ferrari 19.789 (1)
3. Red Bull 20.023 (3)
4. Mercedes 20.041 (2)
5. Force India 20.295 (7)
6. Lotus 20.479 (8)
7. Caterham 20.726 (5)
8. Sauber 20.904 (6)
9. Toro Rosso 21.209 (9)
10. Williams 21.342 (10)
11. Marussia 22.838 (11)
12. HRT 22.930 (12)
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli