The British Grand Prix represents a watershed in this season, both in terms of time and also on the technical front. The race that will take place at the rebuilt Silverstone facility, known as The Home of British Motorsport in the UK and one of the iconic venues on the calendar, is the ninth of the season.
It kicks off a very busy month with two further Grands Prix to come, first in Germany and then in Hungary. By the end of July, it will be clear which way the championship will go for Scuderia Ferrari.
The first part of the season was very exciting for the fans in the stands at the Grands Prix and for those watching on television: the return of KERS, the introduction of DRS and a new construction philosophy relating to the Pirelli tyres all contributed to producing more spectacular racing. And yet, for all fans of the Prancing Horse, one key element was missing: a Ferrari win.
The early part of the season definitely did not live up to expectations, but there were signs of a comeback in recent races, ratified by two podium finishes in Monaco and Valencia, two races held on street circuits where aerodynamic efficiency plays a less important role. This situation, in addition to the use of softer tyres and the arrival of some updates for the 150º Italia, delivered a visible improvement in terms of being competitive. Now we are back at a track with very different characteristics: on this high speed circuit designed around the old Silverstone aerodrome, a picture will begin to emerge as to whether the incredible effort put in over the past months, and the latest aerodynamic modifications to emerge from that work, has paid off.
“The last three races were very important for all of and we had never been as competitive as that this season,” said Fernando Alonso. “Even if maybe the track characteristics could have given us a hand, it was important to be fighting for the podium places and even for the win, because it means we can tackle the coming races in good spirits. At Silverstone, we will find out where we are in terms of being competitive even at tracks which, on paper at least, do not suit us. I am keen to see how things will work out, especially as we will also have some more updates on the 150º Italia which should give us a little bit more.”(these updates concern the floor, exhausts and a new rear wing. Editor’s note) When thinking of England, changeable weather always springs to mind. “You can quickly go from sunshine to rain or vice versa,” reckons Fernando. “We have to be ready to tackle any change in the weather and make the most of it.”
Felipe Massa too heads for England with the same desire to keep going down the path seen at the last few races: “I hope that the progress we have made these past weeks will allow us to improve still further, even on a track which, in theory is not that suited to our car. We go back to using the Pirelli pair of compounds that we had in the earlier part of the season, but while it’s true we struggled a bit on the Hards, it is equally true that the car has improved since then. Being on the pace at Silverstone would be a good sign and would confirm that we have been working in the right direction over the past two months.” ""I hope that the progress we have made these past weeks will allow us to improve still further|Felipe Massa|left"
The subject of tyres is always on the agenda and Fernando does not hold back when it comes to commenting on the performance of the Pirellis over the first eight races of 2011. “I think the fans have appreciated the show they have seen so far: you really need to wait until the closing stages of the race to see if the situation might change around. There is no doubt that Formula 1 has become more interesting and it means that what Pirelli was asked to deliver in terms of tyre specification to create a better show has been achieved. The tyres work well and there are no problems with them. It is the same for everyone: we know that some compounds are better suited than others to our car, but it’s down to us to make them work as well as possible, working on set-up and aerodynamics.
Eight of the twelve teams currently competing in the Formula 1 World Championship are based in the UK and therefore, in football terms, the British Grand Prix can be seen as an “away” fixture for Scuderia Ferrari. It’s true that these days the English teams get no more opportunity to test there than the foreign ones, as was the case up to a few years ago, but there are other aspects that make life easier for them when racing close to home, especially in terms of logistics.
Along with the Italian Grand Prix, the Scuderia’s home race, the British Grand Prix is the longest standing fixture on the calendar, this year’s race being the 62nd, the vast majority having taken place at Silverstone. The English circuit has evolved over the years and it has spent the past year building an entirely new pit and paddock complex. It is not just a new facility, it has also moved from its location after the Woodcote corner to a new home between Club and Abbey corners. The teams are looking forward to working in better surroundings while race fans will be looking forward to more overtaking, as this track’s high speed corners and lack of braking has meant that one car passing another has been a rare occurrence here.
However, KERS, DRS and the Pirelli tyres should make a significant contribution to changing this state of affairs. The one question mark centres on the Kinetic Energy Recover System, as there are not many points at this track to recharge it, given that brakes are possibly one of the least used components on a car at this venue. Whichever team manages to get the most out of the KERS, even in this situation, might end up with an advantage.