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What lies in store for the F1 teams at the British Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Jul 2012   |  4:09 pm GMT  |  55 comments

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.


Track characteristics

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)


Form Guide

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.

Weather Forecast

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.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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 –
Gained:

+26 Massa
+18 Kovalainen
+17 Glock, Alonso
+12 Raikkonen
+10 Perez ***, Senna
+9 Maldonado****
+8 Kobayashi****
+7 Pic
+6 Di Resta
+5 Schumacher*, Hamilton, Vergne
+ 4 Karthikeyan
+ 2 Vettel

Held position:
Lost:
-1 Grosjean** ****
-2 Petrov
-3 De la Rosa ****, Button
-4 Rosberg, Hulkenberg
-5 Webber
-13 Ricciardo

* 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

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55 Comments
  1. madmax says:

    Looking at the pitstops and Williams at 10th.

    Do they still have Michael Johnson’s company working with them? Not a great advertisement for them.

    1. CTP says:

      i also don’t understand why they’d be so far down the list – they used to be among the best, back when they were winning championships. just because they’re not winning championships now shouldn’t mean that they’re pitstops have to suck.

      1. Optimaximal says:

        Well, it can do, as the higher performing pit staff have moved on to other, higher performing teams.

  2. Donald says:

    Given the similarity to Barcelona, it will be interesting to see how the McLaren goes on Saturday…

    1. ian says:

      And surely the Williams – well at least one of them.

      1. Optimaximal says:

        Or, more to the point, how fast it goes INTO a McLaren!

        ^_^

  3. Nigel says:

    >It will probably be either a two or three stopper in cooler dry conditions<

    So why does the calculator again indicate that a one stopper is a very viable strategy (stop somewhere around lap 22-24 for fresh primes) ?
    It was wrong for the first time in Valencia. Is it going to be wrong again ?

    1. Nigel says:

      Actually, the model shows you can stop as late as lap 29 and one stop.

      Surely that isn’t going to be the case ?

  4. goferet says:

    Personally, the only consolation I got after Fred’s blessed win in Valencia is the thought that he won’t be on the top step at the very home and birth of motorsport.

    Yes having won Silverstone last year & now having won the last race, he might as well not show up.

    Now, the thing I love most about this race (apart from the hardcore, passionate fans who sit through rain & even applaud a rival) if the fact that there’s always the possibility of rain kinda like at Spa & that track in Germany near the castle.

    As for Silverstone Traditionally being a circuit which suits the Red Bull car, I would concur and go ahead to say it’s a track that favours Adrian Newey cars for in the past 20 years (since 1991), 12 Newey cars have gone on and won.

    Also, Silverstone tends to favour the Ferrari for looking at the past 10 years(since 2001), Ferrari has won 5 times.

    Meanwhile, since we’re expecting cooler conditions this weekend, wouldn’t that affect Lotus for I was under the impression they don’t go too good in the cold whereas Mercedes do.

    Now the Brits at Mclaren (looking at you Lewis & Jenson), can forget about the victory this weekend for this track is one of those that don’t suit Mclaren (despite the hype of upgrades)

    For look, in the past 10 years Mclaren has won at Silverstone thrice and in 20 years, they have won 5 times but importantly, 4 of those 5 wins were thanks to a Newey design.

    But am sure a certain Frome flier will finally get his podium due to last year’s pitstop heartbreak & also due to the fact F1 in 2012 has been setting all sorts of records e.g. Webber at his home Grand Prix.

    P.s.

    *History lesson*

    Alain Prost (despite being a Français speaker) is the pilot that owns Silverstone with 5 wins then the next successful are our Jim Clark, Nigel Mansell and the Kaiser from Deutschland.

    The track doesn’t favour the pole sitter i.e. Only 3 have won from pole in the last 10 years

    *Fun fact*

    Lewis hasn’t won at a track, where he got his first win in the wet e.g. Japan 2007, Monaco 2008 and this one Silverstone 2008

    1. The birth of motorsport was in France…

      I will agree that Red Bull has a good shot here; however with Q2 being consistently too-close-to-call, one missed apex could knock either Webber or Vettel down to 12th and thus out of contention for a win on Sunday. Frankly, it could be up for grabs between anyone in the top 10. I’d wager that whoever is in the top three in Q2 will go on to win it.

      Should be a good race!

      1. It will be. Rain will bring the needed thrilling element, but if it’s dry, I expect that:

        1. Red Bull will show their last package superiority.
        2. Alonso consistently driving great, close to the top.
        3. Maldonado to perform strong, given the Barcelona similarity.
        4. Good runs from both Lotus cars.
        5. The possibility of Mclaren taking the front rows given the newly expected performance upgrade.

        It all bodes really well for a great weekend.

      2. Paul R says:

        No, the “birth of motorsport” was not in france, you are referring to the first use of the term “Grand Prix” meaning Grand Prize, nothing more.

    2. MrNed says:

      Great analysis – good post.

    3. James says:

      Have you seen the race result already? I wasnt aware the race had run yet. Alonso has every chance of winning this race this weekend, especially because of the highly changeable conditions which will be present in every session.

  5. Daniel MA says:

    I say watch out for Williams, they were strong in Barcelona and were the quickest in the fast sector 3 in Valencia.

    1. Hmm. says:

      Uhm, sector 3 in Barcelona is the slow one. Williams was rather average in the first two there. Traction out of the last very slow chicane was their big advantage.

      And I don’t see that many slow corners in Silverstone…

  6. Davexxx says:

    James, somewhat off-topic, there are reports Lewis Hamilton would like to have some of the trophies he won, that McLaren keep. Is there any chance you could do a mini-article on the subject – Do any teams allow the drivers to keep their own trophies, or do they all keep them all? Do drivers have to negotiate as part of their contracts if they want to keep them? Which drivers have their own trophies? And are they valuable financially? (Have any been sold on Ebay?!)

    1. Niki Lauda sold all of his… and as far as I know, McLaren is the only one that keeps all of the trophies. I seem to recall them making an exception for Hamilton when he won his first race, but I think they get replicas made for the drivers if they want one.

      1. Cliff says:

        Williams trophies are on display in their Conference Centre along their cars from previous years. I’d be surprised if Ferrari didn’t keep theirs too!

    2. Brendan says:

      Also, is there a reason why the circuits don’t just provide 2 trophies? 1 each for team and driver.

      1. James Allen says:

        The driver can get the replica made. That’s always been McLaren practice.

        If they are discussing trophies, then that rather suggests that the important numbers are already agreed, doesn’t it?

      2. Brendan says:

        Absolutely, but if a driver can get a replica, why is it even a talking point during negotiations?

      3. HFEVO2 says:

        Hopefully that’s the case – I can’t realistically see Lewis taking what would be a serious risk by going to any other team.

        As for the trophies, I’m sure Lewis would only want originals, not replicas.

        That only seems fair – after all, whenever he wins a race, McLaren gets an (original) constructor’s trophy.

        I doubt whether a real racer like Lewis or Kimi has any interest in second or third place trophies !

    3. SP says:

      I sense Lewis is on his way out of Mclaren…. or very close to doing so. Time will tell I guess.

    4. Michael T says:

      Eddie Irvine has all (or most) of his trophies in a display cabinet in his karting centre in Bangor, Northern Ireland…. with a few helmets and overalls….. suppose they could be replicas….

  7. goferet says:

    *Reasons why 2012 is looking more and more like 2010*

    a) Our Lewis crashed out at a Spanish track (on the second last lap) through no fault of his own just like what happened in Barcelona 2010

    b) Alonso just like he did in 2010, was mainly benefiting from others misfortune

    c) Winners of the classic tracks in 2012 i.e. 20yrs or older (e.g. Australia, Monaco and Canada) are the same winners in 2012 so fully expect to see Webber doing the weird Kangaroo hop on the podium

    d) Mark Webber has his 2010 form

    e) The Championship is mighty close just as it were in 2010 with the same protagonists fighting it out (Eh, Jenson being the only one missing-in-action)

    f) Mclaren’s are losing the development race and just like what happened in 2010, the Silverstone upgrades just made the car slower.

    g) Lewis led the Championship after clinching the win at the CanadianGP

    So yeah, it’s déjà vu all over again, only difference ~ We having a different champion in 2010.

    1. azac21 says:

      You forgot to mention that 2012 is an even number like 2010 ;)

    2. the pimp's main prophet says:

      …ans his name will be Fernando Alonso.
      Sorry for you not finding any consolation.

      1. JaY says:

        Alonso’s luck will surely run out sometime.

    3. Dave C says:

      Well look forward another Vettel, Alonso and Webber shootout at the last race, but this time it’ll be easier to overtake slow cars like Petrov, the race is on to see qho becomes the first 3 time champion out of the 2 best drivers on the grid.

    4. Kay says:

      We can do more 2010 and 2012 type of seasons :D

  8. Irish Con says:

    I expect McLaren to go back big time this weekend. Lewis would of walked Barcelona if not for a stupid mistake by his team on the Saturday. Red Bull surely start as favourites though.

  9. Rob Newman says:

    It is hard to predict how the ‘new’ Red Bulls will behave this time at Silverstone. Also there is no confirmation that the alternator issue is fully resolved. The current Red Bull does not have a good record in wet weather.

    I believe the Lotus cars will be much more stronger here. Williams also will be strong.

  10. Jonathan says:

    “The weather in England is notoriously hard to predict”

    Come on, both Wimbledon Finals and British Grand Prix? Rain is guaranteed! :)

    1. Rich C says:

      I saw a Masters’ Thesis on British weather once that determined that if you predicted tomorrow would be just like today you’d be right 70% of the time. (The point was why pay for National Weather Service?)

  11. nns27 says:

    In my opinion this year williams,lotus and sauber are the best in the field not the bulls.Just there driver’s are not doing full justice to their car.If lewis or fernando or seb was there in the car.They would have leading the championship.

  12. nns27 says:

    Whatch out for the two force india’s they are also there now as they have started doing the same thing as last year.So i am expecting them to fare even better than valencia.

  13. CMR says:

    If it’s dry it will be a breeze for the young Vettel, now Red Bull have the secret weapon more less working again, the German will be flying on the fast circuit where rear end down-force can really make the difference, expect another pole position and ride off into the sunset (not this summer!) will gain a free pit-stop through shear pace

    If it’s wet obviously it becomes more of a lottery but the best handling cars will still rise to the top, Alonso is a master craftsmen in difficult and testing conditions and could well take another win

    I’d prefer a British win overall

    1. Gate 21 says:

      Vettel was clearly the fastest driver in Bahrain and Valencia.

      But until he can do it on a day where the air and track temperatures are sub 20ºC, I don’t buy this “Vettel to smash the field” expectation.

  14. Stuart Moore says:

    Given McLaren pitstops recently, it would be quite illuminating if you also gave average and worse pit stop times as well as best. Consistency is king…

  15. Andrew Carter says:

    I brought this up early in the year about the pit stop times your putting up James but I think this new list cements it’s problem. Its based entirely on the out right fastest pit stops a team has performed and that means McLaren top the list, but Autosport’s recent list of averages puts McLaren. Maybe it’s time for an average list to be produced as well as the outright fastest, would make for interesting comparisons.

    Should be an interesting race between McLaren, who have got a lot of downforce on their car, and Red Bull, ditto.

  16. Crusty says:

    from what James told us after Valencia there will be 2 races on Sunday: Vettel’s and everyone else’s.
    We’re looking at pole and win for Herr Vettel.

    So for the chasing pack, I reckon it looks too cold and smooth-tracked to suit the Lotus. As someone says above, McLaren will surely be a force, and I’m guessing Button will emerge from the doldrums. He will have to contend with Maldonado, and the best way to do that, and the safest, is to out-qualify the barging, crashing, wild bull that is Pastor M!!

  17. glennb says:

    I like Red Bull this weekend, rain or shine. The car has gone like a jet since they plugged up those holes in the floor after Monaco. Seems the holes were slowing them down ;)Both drivers are having a decent season with Webber the more consistent even if Seb is a little quicker on race day. Having said that, I hope Lewis can take the fight up and continue his present form. He’s a decent driver in the wet so lets wait and see.

  18. Elie says:

    If its dry I would be putting money Sebastian.If its wet, Mercedes or Mclaren are a good chance

    1. Martin says:

      Hi Elie,

      I’m curious in your form predictions for the wet. The McLaren looked good in Malaysia prior to the red flag, but at that stage had a downforce advantage that at a minimum has been significantly reduced. McLaren tend to run harder springs than anyone else, and while teams don’t change spring rates anymore for wet races, I doubt this helps.

      With Mercedes, I haven’t seen much beside Rosberg closing up on Webber, who was being cautious knowing that if he made no errors then he was safe.

      I’m curious in your thinking, in part to consider what I’ve missed.

      Regards,

      Martin

      1. Elie says:

        No science here Martin, I just think Lewis in particular will be out to make up lost ground and same really for Jenson
        Also high speed nature of the track is good for them. Michael Schumacher making the podium at Valencia will be a good inspiration for both he and Nico to out class each other. Although its medium-high downforce track suiting the RB8 the wet should slightly equalize those brave enough to make up lost ground. I’m obviously not ruling out Ferrari or Lotus but I just think Lewis and Jenson will be fighting harder just to stay with leaders. Having said that.. It would be absolutely no surprise if Fernando pulls another special one out of the bag!

        Must say I’m slightly disappointed with Lotus as I get the feeling that while they are pushing really hard – they are satisfied with podiums and if by some chance Red Bull or Ferrari or Mclaren slip up then they will be there. Do you feel that too?

        I was also very surprised about Sam Michaels interview sought of playing down Red Bulls speed at Valencia. Saying it was just them reaching the sweet spot in the tyres. Honestly if the teams haven’t found 3-4/10 in upgrades that RB8 will drive off into sunset.

  19. Joe B says:

    For me the rest of the season hinges on this race – it’s been great so far, with some superb drives from the best on the grid, and plenty of incident. If this race is a return to last year’s Red Bull>everyone else though, I’m going to struggle to maintain interest.

    Great article, informative as ever. I’m in Northampton now and can tell you all that it’s been raining on and off for the last couple of days; fingers crossed it sticks around for the weekend! And I cycle to work…

    Final thought – will the teams be mandated to run the 2013 tyre on Friday? Seems like a waste of testing time.

  20. Mike says:

    James,

    June was the wettest June for 100 years and the forecast is for light showers on Friday, heavy showers and Saturday and Thundery showers on Sunday. I think its going to be a wet weekend and the race will be a complete lottery.

    Camping is going to be great fun with the saturated fields plus added rain.

    As I have weekend pass, is it worthwhile going on Friday?? There may be limited running because teams will want to be saving intermediates and wets for the race?

    Then again it might be the only dry running of the whole weekend.

    Mike

    1. James Allen says:

      I wouldn’t miss a moment if I were you. What happens on Friday always has a bearing on Sundays’ result, Listen on BBC Online or Fanvision to me and Jaime Alguersuari, Gary Anderson and Jennie Gow on Friday and you’ll be in the picture

  21. JaY says:

    If there is strategy involved, McLaren are sure to screw it up big time.

  22. Alan Warwick says:

    Can you give details about the redesigned pit lane for 2012, Please?

  23. Nicky Santoro says:

    Isn’t best strategy a 2-stop one, Used option (stop~lap 13) New prime (stop~lap 36) Used option?

    It is quite faster than the default one.

    Although it’s only academic this time around with the weather being what it is…

    As it will probably rain, it is up to the amount of water what the type of tyre and stops will be!

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