A historic venue, a new track The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship reaches its halfway point this weekend, with the sixty first running of the British Grand Prix and, after a bid to move this year's event to Donington Park collapsed, ...
A historic venue, a new track
The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship reaches its halfway point this weekend, with the sixty first running of the British Grand Prix and, after a bid to move this year's event to Donington Park collapsed, Silverstone circuit plays host to the race for the forty fourth time. The race in England has great significance in the Scuderia's history as it was here in 1951, that the Prancing Horse took its first ever World Championship victory, when Froilan Gonzalez beat Juan Manuel Fangio's Alfa Romeo by 51 seconds after completing 90 laps of the 4.7 kilometre track. The Scuderia has gone on to win this event a further fourteen times, with the last victory dating back to 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen was first past the flag. Of our current line-up, Fernando Alonso won at Silverstone in 2006, with two second places to his name in 2005 and 2007, while Felipe Massa's best result was a fourth place last year. Our Brazilian driver is particularly keen to improve on that, a sentiment he shares with his race engineer, Rob Smedley, for whom this is the home race.
With the majority of Formula 1 teams based in the UK, the British Grand Prix used to add some spice to the battle, as Ferrari and other "foreign" teams would delight in scoring an "Away" win. In the past, when testing was an almost weekly occurrence, the "Home" teams also benefited from familiarity with the track, but today this argument no longer holds true. In fact, this year, the track will be new to everyone, as the layout has been extensively modified, although it retains its fast and flowing nature, which has always made it so popular with drivers.
With that in mind, Fernando Alonso recently spent time in Maranello to work with his engineers, analysing available data from the circuit, even watching the MotoGP event held at Silverstone a few weeks back. Initial signs are that the new layout might provide a few more overtaking opportunities, although as ever at this track, the weather can add some uncertainty to proceedings. Currently the forecast is for a dry and warm weekend, but even in these conditions, winds blowing across what was after all a flat airfield in a previous life can upset the aerodynamics of the car and even affect the choice of gearing. Walking the track is a regular feature of every Thursday on the F1 calendar, but this weekend, for the two drivers and their engineers, it will be more important than ever, as even though they have studied data from the revised circuit, only a first hand inspection can throw up useful information about bumps in the track surface, the type of kerbs in place and other details.
The current phase of the development programme on the F10, which began in Valencia, continues here in England, with a new front wing, as well as an update on the rear wing, while further modifications will be seen in Hockenheim and Budapest. This is a crucial part of the season: as the tenth round, it marks the mid-point of the championship, but on top of that, the F1 circus will now tackle three races in four weeks. Therefore, it is not only because we often see some of the highest temperatures of the year in Germany and Hungary that the series can be said to be hotting up! The two previous rounds in Montreal and Valencia were tinged with disappointment that the potential of the Ferrari package did not deliver the double podium finish that was within its grasp, for various well documented reasons and on past form, the configuration of the Silverstone track is not the most favourable to Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, however a combination of the updates launched at the European Grand Prix and those introduced this weekend, should give Fernando and Felipe a more competitive car than they had in Istanbul, the track that most closely matches this weekend's track characteristics.
Despite the preponderance of English teams in this sport, there are usually many Prancing Horse flags in evidence at Silverstone and plenty of support for the team: not surprising given that the UK Ferrari Owners Club is one of the oldest, originally established in 1967 and boasting almost three thousand members. Indeed, 2010 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Ferrari cars being officially present here, originally through Maranello Concessionaires, until October 2004, when Ferrari took over importation, trading under the Ferrari North Europe Ltd. banner. The UK is one of the company's top five markets, with a thirteen strong dealer network and last year, England's first Ferrari Store was opened in Regent Street, London, in the heart of one of the most important commercial areas in the world.
On Sunday, it will be impossible to ignore the fact that another great sporting event is taking place a few thousand kilometres away, as the football World Cup Final in South Africa kicks off a few hours after the end of the British Grand Prix. As an Italian team with a Brazilian and Spanish driver, only the latter can now have a patriotic interest in the final outcome and, only after tomorrow's semi-final between Spain and Germany, will Fernando Alonso know whether he will be blowing into a vuvuzela watching his home side playing on Sunday for the World Cup trophy or on Saturday in the much less important match to decide which team has finished third in the tournament.