Home on the range at Silverstone

Seven of the ten Formula One teams can describe the British Grand Prix as their home race, or an adopted home race, and Jordan, with headquarters right next to the circuit, is the closest. McLaren, BAR, Jaguar, Renault, Williams and Minardi also...

Seven of the ten Formula One teams can describe the British Grand Prix as their home race, or an adopted home race, and Jordan, with headquarters right next to the circuit, is the closest. McLaren, BAR, Jaguar, Renault, Williams and Minardi also have bases in England. The long history of British motor racing has mainly revolved around Silverstone but other tracks have also played their part.

Jacques Villeneuve.
Photo by Nikki Reynolds.
Donington Park hosted the European GP in 1993 and Brands Hatch shared the British GP with Silverstone from the sixties to the mid-eighties. But it was at Silverstone in 1950 that the very first round of the World Championship was held. King George V1 attended the race but it was Italian Giuseppe Farina who defeated the Brits for victory.

The following year the British Racing Driver's Club (BRDC) took over the lease of the circuit. The track was redeveloped, with the pits moving from Farm to the more familiar location between Woodcote and Copse. Come 1955, the British GP moved to the Aintree circuit at Liverpool and switched between the two venues until Brands Hatch took over in 1963.

In 1971 the BRDC bought Silverstone and more development followed. A massive accident in the 1973 Grand Prix, involving Jody Scheckter's McLaren, that crashed at Woodcote and bounced back into the middle of the track, caused an eight-car pile up. It was decided to build a chicane at the approach to Woodcote to slow the cars down.

In 1979 the whole track had to be resurfaced due to the amount of wear from the sheer volume of races. The speeds of the time became a bit too alarming and in 1987 another corner was incorporated before Woodcote, followed by alterations to Stowe, Becketts and Club.

The British GP has had a controversial time in the last few years, with Bernie Ecclestone publicly belittling the Silverstone facilities and FIA president Max Mosley saying the circuit is not a high priority on the F1 calendar. Despite this, teams and drivers alike support the race as being one of the landmarks of Formula One. Britain and Italy are the only two countries that have hosted a GP every year since the start of the championship in 1950.

The list of previous winners is one scattered with illustrious names; Juan-Manuel Fangio, Sterling Moss, Jim Clark and Jack Brabham to mention but a few. In the more recent era, Nigel Mansell won the race four times, Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard twice. Silverstone has not been the luckiest of tracks for Michael Schumacher; the German has only won there twice, including last year.

Quite a lot of testing goes on at the circuit so it's one that drivers are familiar with. There are three straights and a combination of fast and slow corners that make it a challenging drive. Aerodynamics are important with a compromise needed between speed and traction, and downforce levels tend to be medium. It's not a particularly hard circuit on engines as the race is only around 55% full throttle due to the nature of the layout.

The infamous British weather is one variable that can cause problems. Silverstone was previously an airfield so the exposed location can leave it prone to windy conditions. This can alter the way the car needs to be set up and cause headaches for engineers. It's not uncommon for it to be cold and wet, even in July -- last year spectators were subjected to both sunburn and pouring rain in the space of two days.

One of the fastest tracks, with lap speeds averaging 145 mph, Silverstone is also quite bumpy and abrasive so tyre wear is a concern. The changeable conditions may suit Bridgestone and its tyres were instrumental in Michael Schumacher's victory last year.

The start: Juan Pablo Montoya leading Michael Schumacher.
Photo by BMW PressClub.
The German started from second on the grid, Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya being on pole position. Although dry initially, it started to rain and twelve laps in the track was drenched. The forecast had not predicted rain and many teams were caught unawares. Williams opted for full wets -- Michelin not having fully developed an intermediate choice at that time -- but Schumacher went for the Bridgestone intermediates and it proved a wise choice.

Rubens Barrichello had started from the back after stalling on the grid, but with his similarly intermediate shod Ferrari, he managed to fight all the way back past Montoya to second. Michelin runners McLaren also had problems, switching back to dry tyres as the rain eased off, only to have it start again and render the strategy useless.

It's impossible to say which tyre manufacturer will have the advantage this year as although Michelin is much improved, the weather can change so quickly it's a bit of a lottery. The UK has been experiencing a heatwave this week, with temperatures reaching 34C in some areas, but it's forecast to change by the weekend.

Ferrari has been working its socks off in testing in an effort to match the Williams charge. Ralf Schumacher and Montoya are proving a hard duo to beat the moment and Williams have not been sitting idle. Renault is introducing major new bodywork at Silverstone, which the team is expecting to bring an improvement in speed.

McLaren too has been testing, although fiddling about with the problematic MP4-18 took up much time. However, there has been some development of the MP4-17D and the team is confident. Jordan hasn't much in the way of changes but has faith in the Bridgestone tyres, while Jaguar has been working on reliability.

BAR is introducing upgrades to engine and aerodynamics and hopes to repeat it's double points finish of last year, while Toyota is also introducing a new aerodynamics package. With its pair of one-two podiums in the last two races, Williams is confident -- but then again, so is just about everyone else.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan