Motorhead

British Grand Prix: The ultimate race weekend guide

Venue: Silverstone

Length: 5.901km

Laps: 52

Lap record: 1m 30.674s – Fernando Alonso, Ferrari (2010)

Previous races

Pole Position Fastest Lap Winner Second Third
2008 Heikki Kovalainen

McLaren

1m 21.049s

Kimi Raikkonen

Ferrari

1m 32.150s on lap 18

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren

Nick Heidfeld

BMW Sauber

Rubens Barrichello

Honda

2009 Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

1m 19.509s

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

1m 20.735s on lap 16

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

Mark Webber

Red Bull

Rubens Barrichello

Brawn

2010* Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

1m 29.615s

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

1m 30.874s on lap 52

Mark Webber

Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

2011 Mark Webber

Red Bull

1m 30.399s

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

1m 34.908s on lap 41

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

Mark Webber

Red Bull

2012 Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

1m 51.746s

Kimi Raikkonen

Lotus

1m 34.661s on lap 50

Mark Webber

Red Bull

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull

Track tech

Silverstone’s new layout gives it the second highest average speed on the current calendar, behind only Monza, but it tops the charts for average corner speed with no less than ten corners taken in fourth gear or higher. It is very light on brake wear with few major braking zones, so overtaking can be a bit more tricky here though opportunities exist for a committed driver. The drivers love Silverstone with its fast and flowing layout, in particular the section from Copse up through Maggotts, Becketts and onto the Hangar Straight, which will feature an additional DRS zone this year. Fuel effect – the amount of time lost per lap due to fuel carried – is particularly high here so there is a tendency to run the cars underweight and save fuel during the race.

Race strategy highlights from last year

The 2012 race was a straight fight between second-placed Mark Webber and polesitter Fernando Alonso, with the Australian emerging victorious to take his second win at Silverstone. Going into the race no one had any conclusive data on how the hard and soft Pirelli tyres would perform over a race distance, with both Friday sessions affected by rain and the one-hour session on Saturday, whilst dry, yielding little in the way of useful data as the track was still ‘green’ - i.e. had practically no rubber laid down on it.

It did become clear that the soft tyre was not the one to have long-term in the race, so Alonso opted to stop twice and take softs in the final stint, hoping that the combination of a ‘rubbered-in’ track and a lighter fuel load would allow the tyres to last. By contrast, Webber opted to start with the softs so as to spend the rest of the race on the hard - and better - race tyre. Alonso maintained first place at the start and opened a gap of five seconds to Webber, the Australian just looking to keep pace and run longer with his soft tyres. With both drivers on hard tyres for the second stint the gap stabilised at between five to six seconds and Alonso pitted for the second time on lap 37, leaving him 15 laps to do on the soft tyre.

By this time Ferrari believed that degradation on the soft tyre was not as bad as first thought pre-race, as Felipe Massa ran 13 laps at the start of the race with no problems. However the hard tyre was giving up as much outright pace as the softs but without wearing as quickly, so Webber was in the box seat for his 19-lap final stint and caught the Ferrari steadily over the six laps following his lap 39 pitstop, eventually getting by the Ferrari on lap 47, using DRS to pass on the Wellington straight.

What to look out for in 2013

Last year’s race was predominantly a two-stop affair, with all of the top 10 adopting this strategy on the way to scoring points. Webber and Alonso’s opposing approaches to the two-stopper were covered above, but we can also look to Romain Grosjean’s 2012 performance to see that a one-stop race is theoretically possible. Grosjean started on the soft tyres but had to pit on lap two after a coming-together with Vettel, thereafter taking the hard tyres and running stints of 24 and 26 laps to finish sixth. After that early stop he dropped to the back of the field, but used the Lotus E20’s tyre wear advantage to maintain a strong pace and move back up through the order.

With the addition of a second DRS zone for 2013, strategists will be less concerned about being bottled up behind slower cars and look to run their fastest possible race. Pirelli are bringing the two hardest tyre compounds, the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium, to the race and there should be little to choose between them in overall performance, making for some interesting and contrary strategies.

Who has the best record at Silverstone?

With two wins apiece, it comes down to podium finishes to split Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, and it is the Ferrari driver who boasts the best record of the current field at Silverstone, with victories in 2006 and 2011 backed up by second-place finishes in 2005, 2007 and 2012. Webber’s wins came last season and in 2012, while he finished second behind winner Sebastian Vettel in 2009 and was third behind Vettel in 2011 – you may recall that race for he was ordered very clearly not to pass Vettel when the Aussie was clearly the faster driver.

Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are the only other current drivers to have won the British Grand Prix. Raikkonen’s win came during his 2007 title-winning campaign, taking victory ahead of the McLaren pair of Alonso and Hamilton, who had taken pole at his first British Grand Prix. He was to taste victory at home next season, winning a rain-soaked event where he demonstrated an incredible feel for wet conditions, at times lapping over six seconds quicker than the next-fastest driver.

How important is pole position?

Since 2004 the race has been won three times from pole position, while second place on the grid has yielded victory a further three times. Across the whole running of the British Grand Prix the polesitter has won on 16 occasions, giving a 34 per cent win rate from pole from the 46 races held to date. The last time the driver on pole won here was in 2009, when Sebastian Vettel swept to victory as the early-season domination by Jenson Button and Brawn-Mercedes was truly broken.

Tyre wear: 7/10

Regular high-speed cornering events force Pirelli to bring the two hardest tyres in their range, the Medium and Hard, to Silverstone. Last year this translated into a two-stop race, with drivers varying their strategies. This year there shouldn’t be as big a performance gap between the two compounds as with last year’s Soft and Hard, so most strategies will be based around a two-stop event.

Downforce: 6/10

Although it is one of the quickest tracks on the calendar, the number of high-speed corners plus quite a few slower sections mean the downforce levels cranked onto the cars are higher than might be expected. DRS helps to shed excess drag to complete an overtake, while the extra grip will help to maintain speed in the slower sections, which is where most time is won or lost.

Average speed: 9/10

Despite track changes that extended the laptime by 11 seconds in 2010, Silverstone retains its characteristically fast layout. In last year’s race some drivers were able to take Copse corner flat in seventh gear and then not touch the brakes until they reached Stowe, almost halfway round the lap.

Track difficulty: 7/10

Silverstone is a driver’s track, with a challenge to be met on every turn. The sweeping curves of the Maggotts and Becketts section are one of the best pieces of racetrack in the world, and were replicated in the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Overtaking: 5/10

The new layout adds opportunities to overtake that didn’t exist, whilst also creating opportunities for cars to be closer going into Luffield and down into Copse. The race will have two DRS zones this year – Wellington Straight was used in 2012, while the addition of a zone on Hangar Straight will create more opportunities for passing into Stowe.

Spectacle: 8/10

Silverstone may have finally moved into the 21st century following the track changes and construction of the new pit building, known as the Wing, but it retains its vintage charm and character. Last year’s race was hampered by terrible weather conditions, with a month’s worth of rain dropping on the track in the days running up to the event causing some spectators to miss qualifying, but the UK’s passionate and intelligent crowd ensures a cracking atmosphere both in and around the circuit.

Driver’s eye view: Mark Webber, Red Bull

“It’s an old school circuit, fast and flowing. It’s very demanding on the driver in terms of accuracy, and the car also. You can really let the car go around there and feel like you’re a Formula One driver. It’s the home race for a lot of the team and it’s my second home race, as I live in the UK. The fans here are right up there with the Italian Tifosi; Formula One has been an integral part of UK motorsport for such a long time. The Silverstone GP is a brilliant weekend, it’s such a prestigious event and that’s why it’s so nice to get a great result there.”

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“The contrast between Silverstone and the last round in Montreal couldn’t be greater: we go from a circuit that’s stop-and-start with big braking areas and aggressive kerbs to one of the fastest and most flowing tracks of the year. We’ve chosen the two hardest compounds in the Formula One range – P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium – in order to cope with the high-energy loadings that go hand in hand with the high average speeds you see in Great Britain. The track surface is very smooth, but wear and degradation can be considerable because of all the forces going through the tyres, which peak at around 5g.

"The big variable in Silverstone is of course the British weather – which is capable of anything. We’ve seen wet and dry races in the past but at the same time it can be very hot too. And obviously, the higher the temperature, the more demands are placed on the tyre. This will be the determining factor for tyre strategy at Silverstone, which as we have seen in the past often has a key influence in the race outcome. Of course strategy begins in qualifying, and we saw from Valtteri Bottas’s Saturday performance in Canada just what a difference it makes to be on the right tyre at the right time.”