Reigning world champions Red Bull have claimed victory at Silverstone in three of the last four years and arrive at this weekend’s British Grand Prix as favourites to add to that tally.
According to JA on F1 technical adviser and former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan, the secret behind their success at the Northamptonshire venue is that their car is the best out there in terms of aerodynamic efficiency – something which is crucial on the sweeping terms of Silverstone.
“Silverstone is certainly a circuit where better drivers seem to thrive,” said Gillan. “It’s technically quite difficult and very demanding on the aerodynamic platform as it has the highest average corner speed of any circuit. It’s definitely a circuit which highlights the inadequacies in the aerodynamic platform. Red Bull are probably the best team aerodynamically out there.”
Silverstone is built on an airfield which was used during World War II so the track is prone to windy conditions, something the Red Bull is best equipped to deal with because of its superior aerodynamic stability.
“It can be a bit tricky as it’s a pretty windswept area,” added Gillan. “When you’re going in at such a high speed corner speed, in high crosswind conditions, the aerodynamics are close to being unstable so if you get a side gust, you will lose stability. The cars with better aerodynamics always tend to do better.”
The weather usually plays a part at Silverstone. Last year, Friday and Saturday were hit by wet conditions but on Sunday, the sun came out for the first dry conditions of the weekend – something which makes it very challenging for the aerodynamicists.
“At Silverstone, there is a lot of pressure on all teams to bring upgrades as it is a home race for the majority of teams,” added Gillan. “Because the weather is unfortunately usually bad, teams have very little time to check the correlation between track data and the windtunnel or information from any aero track testing they may have done.
“Red Bull will be very well placed for these conditions. They have got a very tightknit aerodynamic team who have been together for a long time and have confidence in their tools. If the weather is atrocious, one would expect the Red Bulls to have an advantage over everyone, because their correlation between the data is likely to be the best as is their aerodynamic platform.”
And it seems Red Bull are benefitting from a design philosophy which they integrated to their car many years ago.
Gillan said: “Red Bull were probably one of first teams to really concentrate on aerodynamic stability, not just efficiency, but what we call stability metrics – how the car performs with angle change and ride height motion.
“They have developed the car around that area – and most teams have followed suit. But Red Bull are probably the most advanced in that type of development so their car is likely to be the most stable platform.”
Gillan adds that Pirelli’s decision to take the two hardest tyres in the compound range - hard and medium – will help the reigning world champions.
“Red Bull are struggling a little bit on the tyre situation, but Pirelli have gone for the two hardest tyre choices which will probably go in Red Bull’s favour,” he said.
Red Bull currently lead the constructors’ championship by 56 points from Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel, who is the only driver so far this season to win three races, on the top in the drivers’ standings, 36 clear of Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.