It’s the British Grand Prix; a popular race on a much revamped circuit that last season saw plenty of drama with exploding tyres as well as a total of 49 normal overtakes and 35 DRS overtakes.
Silverstone this year will be interesting on a number of levels; with the teams using the hybrid turbo cars on the track for the first time, as it’s one of the lowest braking energy circuits on the calendar; only 9% of the lap is spent braking, so harvesting energy for the MGU-K unit will be an interesting challenge.
At the other end of the scale, it is a high fuel consumption circuit so making sure that the Energy Recovery System is working to its maximum capacity is also vital.
Silverstone has the fastest corner combinations on the F1 calendar and is loved by the drivers, but it can be a real headache for the engineers and strategists, as it shows up aerodynamic instabilities and it can be very difficult to get a good reading on the tyres, especially as there is usually some rain during the practice sessions.
This year the teams have not spent much time on the hard compound Pirelli tyres. They have been used only in Malaysia and Spain, where they were around 4/10th slower per lap than the medium tyres.
What we saw in Spain was Nico Rosberg trying a “Plan B” approach to strategy, having lost the start to his team mate Lewis Hamilton. Whichever Mercedes driver finds himself behind in the opening stint may well try this option in Silverstone.
The “Plan B” is to switch the second placed to the harder tyre at the first stop and look to attack the leader in the final laps of the race when the leader would be on the slower tyre. This increases the pressure on the leader and is more of a psychological challenge, because the gaps are offset and need to be calculated all the time, allowing for the difference between compounds
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, aerodynamically challenging, 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).. Fuel consumption – High
Time spent braking: 9% of lap (very low). 9 braking zones. Brake wear- Low.
Total time needed for pit stop: 25 seconds.
The British Grand Prix is the ninth round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.
Traditionally Silverstone has been a circuit, which suits the Red Bull car, with its aerodynamic design very effective in high speed corners. Red Bull has won the race in three of the last five years,
But last year it was Mercedes territory with Lewis Hamilton leading until hit by a tyre failure and Nico Rosberg winning the race.
And this year the Mercedes pair have won all but one of the eight races with Red Bull winning the other, due to reliability issues on the Mercedes cars.
Lately the Williams cars have been competitive with both drivers fighting for podium places with the Mercedes in Canada and Austria.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Fernando Alonso has won the British GP twice, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel , Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen have won there once.
The weather in England, even in summer, is notoriously hard to predict. Last year saw rain affecting the practice days. It could be warm and sunny, or cold and wet. The long range forecast for this weekend is for temperatures around 19 to 20 degrees, with rain showers forecast for Saturday and Sunday.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Silverstone: Medium and Hard. This is a similar combination to what we saw at Malaysia and Spain.
Last year’s race was blighted by a series of tyre failures which led to Pirelli changing the tyre construction midway through the season.
It was a three stop race for most people, but the teams were under instruction to run certain tyre pressures due to the problems.
This year the medium and hard tyres came through Spain and Malaysia without any problems and on the basis that Spain was a two stop race it is like to be the same at Silverstone.
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 or aggressive, unlike Barcelona, so this will lead to less rampant tyre degradation, while the cooler temperatures will also help with degradation, even if they make tyre warm up something of a challenge.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
Because the new pit lane at Silverstone is quite long, a stop is relatively slow by F1 standards at 25 seconds total pit lane time. This encourages teams to do less, rather than more stops.
Early predictions, show that two stops is the most likely scenario with the first stop between laps 10 and 15 and the second between laps 29 and 35. Drivers would do the first two stints on medium tyres and the last one on hards.
However as mentioned earlier there is scope for a counter strategy whereby a driver takes the hard tyre in the middle stint, rather than at the end, and runs a longer middle stint then has the faster tyres for the final stint of the race.
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 therefore quite low – 57%, with 0.6 safety cars per race.
Recent start performance
As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows, taking places lost away from paces gained.
Net Gained places
10 Hulkenberg, Perez [See notes]
9 Bianchi, Bottas
8- Maldonado, Ericsson
6- Sutil [See notes],
2 – Hamilton, Chilton
Net Held position
Net Lost places
6 Kvyat, Ricciardo
Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.
Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1
Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact
China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after.
Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.
Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1
Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane
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.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Austrian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. It is noticeable how much Williams has improved in this area in addition to its performance gains on track. In Austria they had the fastest pit stop of any team.
1. Williams 21.133
2. Ferrari 21.234
3. McLaren 21.242
4. Red Bull 21.381
5. Mercedes 21.474
6. Lotus 21.884
7. Toro Rosso 21.906
8. Force India 21.920
9. Sauber 22.449
10. Caterham 22.480
11. Marussia 22.977
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli