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Silverstone debrief: A fan posts a question, the architect replies
Silverstone debrief: A fan posts a question, the architect replies
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Jul 2010   |  5:25 pm GMT  |  37 comments

As part of our look back at the British Grand Prix weekend, looking at fans’ experiences of Silverstone we had a post left by Robert yesterday, raising the following question,

“Why is the pit lane in the new Club/Abbey complex so low ? Even with a grandstand opposite it will not be possible to see the cars, as the pitwall obscures the pitlane as it sits lower than the race track. Check it out please James. I thought the idea was to create a pit lane like Monaco where the main grandstand has a direct view onto the pit lane. Seems odd to me.”

Drew McDonald, the designer of the new Silverstone corners saw the comment on this site and responded as follows:

“As one of the design team and specifically the track designer at Populous the answer regarding sightlines to the pitlane is simple. We always love to give great sightlines, that’s why all the stands this year were raised. We prompted, calculated and tested in CAD all the sightlines for Silverstone. For example we made sure this year you could see into the existing pits from the first row of the stand to the back row.

“However the new pits are located where the track level changes 5m over the new start/finish straight. To raise only one end costs in excess of £3 million. Silverstone want to run two pitlanes from a business point of view, hence the location. Therefore the entry of the pitlane is extremely visible as it’s actually higher than the wall and the exit is lower. That said, if you do sit at Abbey you will have an amazing view of the cars exiting the pitlane and arriving at the midpoint of Farm Corner, and a straight drag race to Village will develop. It will add a new and exciting dimension to the pitlane.

“If you want to see the action sit at Club, you may have noticed the building is at an angle relative to the track. This opens the sightline all the way down the pitlane for both Spectators and race control. Only Paul Ricard in France does this and now Silverstone.

“One final comment, the new circuit was designed for not only MotoGP and F1, but it’s designed to work best for next year’s start/finish straight, imagine they can go 2 abrest through Abbey and Farm, much like Copse, Maggotts, Becketts, but arrive at Village at less than half the speed followed by The Loop. Loads of first lap overtaking…..

“Hope you all enjoyed this year, I think next year will only be better. I’ve done the track but my colleagues have designed a stunning 335m long building and the best bit has yet to be built…..

For more on the thinking behind the changes, here is another look at a video interview with Drew and his boss John Rhodes I shot before the GP weekend.

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Having unfortunately not been able to make it to Silverstone this year and now after reading Drew McDonald’s response – I can’t wait to go to Silverstone in 2011! Can I buy a ticket for a seat in the Club Grandstand as recommended by Drew now??? 🙂


Nice one James, excellent as usual!


Hurrah, can these people take over from Hermann Tilke, please?


how much overtaking did the ‘bump’ in abbey create? keep the bump I say!


The new layout of Silverstone is magnificent.

Ihave watched the Moto GP and the Formula 1 and it has been fascinating how the 2 different GP has used the track.

Moto GP bikes were able to use different lines in the new part unable them to try overtaking in a spectacular way.

F1 cars were able to play cat and mouse through the first and second sector to arrive at the Loop and try to overtake.

I think moving the pit lane from next season is genius.

The start will be completely different and after 2 starights you will be at Loop and it could be very interesting to see how many passes will be made, actually it could be even carnage there if someone will overbrake.

It will be interesting to see if the will redisign Becketts / Chapel and make those 2 corners slower, at the moment the F1 are going their full throttle.

Doins so they will create a new challenge for the car and drivers and we could see a few overtaking from the Hangar straight – Stowe corner and Vale and traction will be very important.

Overall I think the British designers have done a brilliant job, it was always a risk to change a so famous circuit, well done.


When an architect designs a new track or modifies a track do they ask drivers for some feedback? I think this would be beneficial because they are there driving the best cars on the planet and I think their knowledge would be more suitable to others.


It was good to get a response to my question from Drew.

The bottom line is that our group really enjoyed the new layout and grandstands and we look forward to 2011.


Drew and James,

Thanks very much for your expansion of information. Whilst I know that the ‘old’ Silverstone track layout has a lot of history attached to it, and I was skeptical of the new layout, the racing on it certainly proved that the obvious thought behind the layout was well considered.

Lastly, thank-you for not just putting chicanes everywhere to condense cars into single file, and quick succession left right left’s which are straightlined anyway but again create a single file racing line.

I look forward to hearing more as the future developments happen.



They were right about the late apex in Brooklands encouraging overtaking. More late apexes please.


They WERE right, and yet this design element is contrary to my thinking…

Brooklands achieves a ‘late’ apex by bending slightly left, before the tighter left of the corner itself. I’ve always felt that an underutilised circuit design element is to veer the track one way before a corner that points the opposite way. Examples of this include the entry to Vale, or former Villeneuve/Tosa sequence at the old Imola.

This allows an attacking driver to choose a wide corner entry for a fast exit (ideally on to another straight), if the lead driver is defensive. Or if the lead driver choses the standard racing line, he effectively opens up the door to the driver behind.

But anyway – the new Brooklands seems to work, so well done!


These guys fully deserve to get to design and build a complete track now. I suspect that their designs would be far superior to anything Hermann Tilke has come up with in the last decade.

We can only hope Bernie will give them a chance, but I doubt very much it will happen; the cronyism within his organisation is borderline scandalous.


Well done, Drew, on the new design. When I found that Bridge Corner was surplus to requirements I was more than a little upset. However even I have to admit that what you’ve done is a vast improvement.

Not mentioning any names, but modern circuit design seems to lack appreciation of what racing is all about. Not so your Silverstone. It is brilliant.

You have my permission to feel smug.


I really enjoyed the track also. I was concerned that the acres of tarmac runoff at the new fast kinks would detract from the spectacle, but the fact that the drivers approach Abbey with a wall on the inside, restricting visibility, is fantastic I think.

I also loved the TV shots of the cars approaching Brooklands with a packed grandstand as backdrop…



I understand you and Britain are proud of Silverstone, however to most of the racing world the track construction story is uninteresting.

It is about racing, not the construction of the racing track.

Move on please.


Robert in San Diego

This site is International and the home of Grand Prix is Silverstone. Of course any development there is interesting. This site has really brought me back in close touch with F1. I used to race in the UK and I had the priviledge of being at Silverstone when James Hunt overtook Ronnie Peterson (someone I revered) inside at the old Woodcote where there did not seem enough room to slip a piece of paper through. I happened to be standing on top of the pits right next to Lord Hesketh and Harvey Postlewaite (sic). My goodness the chapaign flowed that day. They included me and my racing buddie in their celebrations. What a memory.

All this great content on this site only brings all the fantastic experience of F1 back. I was in the UK a couple of years ago and I took my wife (who is Filipino and does not know a race car from a space ship) and my two boys to Silverstone where we watched a lot of testing going on. As I was watching the Grand Prix on Speed TV this last weekend my wife and kids both said that this was the place they had visited.

Great site James, I visit it at least once a day and I just emailed a link to my brother, who also lives in the US, who had not heard of the site.

I want to hear about development at all tracks and I loved reading a reply from an actual designer of the track. What a wonderful content. Thanks James.


Well B.B. You obviously did’t read the article.

It went on to explain the best viewing points for next years race, and also how the 1st lap should lead to more overtaking, as a spectator that is great information to have before you book your tickets. Or maybe it doesn’t matter cos you’ll be in your armchair while the rest are watching real live racing at Silverstone?


BB, I’m interested and I don’t know why you think you speak for most of the racing world.


Sorry, but I have to defend James here.

I find this side of the sport fascinating and I’m sure a great number of other fans do. Maybe we’re in the minority, does that mean that we shouldn’t be catered for? No. James does a fantastic job of covering the sporting aspects of the sport, but what sets this site apart is that he is able to offer these sorts of insights as well.

There are plenty of (equally good) sites out there that only cover the sporting aspects of the sport, and some that delve even further into the technical side of things (I have spent many a lunchtime trying to get my head around the aero conversations on one other site in particular), but James IMHO manages to strike a very good balance between the various aspects of this sport.


Adrian, we are not a minority. I think BB (ironically) is lol.

I host the F1 coverage for me and my mates every round of the year, and they were all saying how great the new silverstone is.

Linked them to BB’s comments and there is disgust amongst the ranks.

Suffice it to say yours and everyone elses comments (except 1) are spot on and looks like the MAJORITY speaks volumes 🙂

James, once again I have to say this is a cracking site.


For you maybe, I found it interesting to have an insight into why certain design decisions were made.


If you don’t find it interesting, don’t read it.

Of course, you only get good racing if the track construction is done correctly. Or would you rather all the tracks were like Bahrain?


I find the track construction stories interesting, regardless of the track involved.

The racing is directly related to the construction of the track, and having such insight directly from the track’s designer is fascinating.


I fail to see how it is uninteresting when the world is populated with many supposedly “boring ” tracks, which provide a seemingly endless barrage of debate. I guess many people visit this site because it covers angles that many do not.


A better track makes for more interesting racing, does it not? There is much history in Silverstone. This is good stuff too. I am glad to hear more about the evolution of all aspects of the sport.

If one post in twenty does not do it for you, as you say, move on.


Bill, what makes JA on F1 on of the best F1 sites on the net is the inside scoop. Getting the designer to follow is awesome and to get a response likes this must be more than a feather in James’s cap! We love it and no I am not a Brit and from South Africa.

James please keep it up.

Ps any inside scoop about getting F1 back in SA


As the Birthplace of F1 and the heart of British motorsport, Silverstone has a special place in the hearts of many fans. I’m a Brit currently living in China, and I’m fascinated by the progress being made with the new Silverstone track.

If you don’t find it interesting, you don’t have to read the article and you don’t have to comment. But please, don’t spoil the fun for the many of us who are genuinely interested.


I disagree with you Bill,

I think that many of the people to take the time to visit sites like this one, the appreciation that ‘racing’ involves a lot more than just the on track action makes this type of information worthwhile.

I for one read and appreciated it, particularly knowing that there are track designers out there that do more than just lay bitumen, and think more about it than that also (not that I’m passing judgement on anyone else with that comment).

Furthermore, this entire article was the result of a question posed by a reader. Does that not speak worlds in itself for what is wanted?

BB, it may not be your cup of tea, but think that your assertion that ‘most of the racing world [find the] story uninteresting’ is probably speaking out of turn, but hey, this is just my opinion, and we are all allowed to our own.



I’m not English and I must say – I’m very interseted in this as track design has been one of THE talking points the last few years…


I’m afraid I have to agree =(


I am not sure what your problem with, as part of the beauty of the Internet is that you can choose which stories to spend your time reading, it is not like TV news where there is a limited amount of time to divide amongst the news stories and you are at the whim of the producer.

Also, I am not sure that you are correct in your assertion that no one outside the UK is interested. I follow the developments of all the new circuits whenever I see reports on them – I followed the news on Abu Dhabi last year, will follow Korea this year and am keenly interested in the developments at Austin.

Silverstone is a classic race track and has been on the calendar since the first F1 race and therefore changes to it are as significant as if there were changes at Monza or Spa. Having just had the first race on the revised layout it is not surprising that there are questions being raised and also why James in the position to get the answers.

Finally, given James is best known by F1 fans who followed his commentary on ITV there are a substantial number of UK fans who follow this blog, so even of there were the occasional UK only interest articles I am not sure it should come as a surprise, nor that it should warrant complaints.


I’m from Southern Ireland and I’ve adopted Silverstone as my ‘Home’ track… so BB you’re very wrong when you say only British fans are interested in Silverstone and the behind the scenes comments on the reconstruction of Silversone.

SIlverstone and England are part of the back-bone of Formula 1… so Well done England on been one of the biggest contributors to Formula 1.


I found it interesting, keep it up James


Really fascinating stuff, great to hear this feedback direct from the designer. Will have to make sure to snap up a weekend ticket for next years race!


I’ve got to say even from watching the British GP on TV this weekend it was amazing. The changes to the circuit made for some great racing and the half finished paddock buildings really showed that there is massive investment going into the circuit and builds the anticipation for next year.

On top of that the BBC coverage was fantastic and James’ posts on this site went into even more detail. I honestly have never felt so involved in GP before. Many thanks James, your site keeps getting better and better.

I will definitely be heading to Silverstone next year.


“I will definitely be heading to Silverstone next year.”

Yes, me too. I’m a volunteer with St John Ambulance so am hoping to be there in that capacity, but if not I will be shelling out for a Sunday ticket for me and my other half…and if she doesn’t want it then I’m sure my Dad would snap it up..!!


James, this is what sets your website off from all the rest. Love it and nice work…

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