Silverstone - the technical requirements 07 Jun 2006
The demands of the Silverstone circuit for the cars and engines has changed significantly in 2006 thanks to the advent of V8 engines and the return of tyre changes. The first half of the circuit, all the way to Turn 8, now sees very little braking at all and the engines under prolonged load. The second part of the circuit includes more slow corners, and places a premium on a good low speed balance and traction. Overall, Silverstone is a selective circuit that allows a strong, harmonious chassis-engine package to shine, as Renault explain
Downforce levels at Silverstone are medium-high - almost identical to Barcelona. The downforce is required for the quick corners in the opening part of the lap, and the relatively short straights and braking zones mean that any deficit in straight-line speed is unlikely to see competitors overtaking you. The lack of heavy braking also means we run some of the smallest brake ducts of the year to optimise aerodynamic performance.
The circuit is not particularly bumpy, so achieving good ride is not usually a big problem. The exception to this is under braking for turn 8, where the uneven surface can unsettle the car. The drivers also tend to drift out onto the kerbs exiting the quick corners in order to take the fastest line, which can make the circuit seem bumpier than it is.
We run the car with a forward mechanical balance at this circuit - essentially, with a stiff front end and softer rear end. The stiff front gives the car a good change of direction in the high and slow speed corners, while the softer rear end gives better grip under traction, exiting turns 9, 11 and 16 in particular.
The numerous high-speed corners mean Silverstone is a demanding circuit for the tyres, as they work hard over a lap. However, the difference compared with a circuit such as Barcelona is that none of the high-speed corners are particularly long. In general, if temperatures are cool and tyres are graining then the left-front will suffer in particular, while in higher temperatures, the left rear will be the limiting tyre.
As a former airfield, Silverstone is inevitably exposed to the wind - and this can have a big impact on car performance. Gusting wind alters the aerodynamic balance of the car and makes handling unpredictable, particularly in the high-speed corners. The driver must be able to judge the direction and strength of the wind, and adjust his driving accordingly.
The percentage of the lap spent at full throttle has climbed significantly with the advent of the V8 engines - from 59% last year to 71% this. Silverstone is now one of the harder circuits in terms of the demands it places on the engine, which also needs to be responsive at high revs as the drivers take the quick corners on either full or partial throttle. However, by race 8, issues such as cooling are well under control and, particularly after having already tested at the circuit, will pose no problems.