The British Grand Prix Preview - Silverstone prepares to bid adieu 18 Jun 2009
A sell-out crowd. The chance for Jenson Button to continue his incredible form with another home win to echo those of Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton. No wonder there is so much expectation ahead of Silverstone this weekend!
The local Red Bull Racing team harbour great hopes, with the Adrian Newey RB5 that has been so good in really high-speed corners all season. Ferrari believe that their new aerodynamic package, shaken down by Felipe Massa at Fiorano recently, will put them back at the front.
Toyota and Williams are cautiously optimistic, as are Renault. And Brawn believe that revised endplates, rear wing and suspension settings will keep Button and team-mate Rubens Barrichello on top.
Looking back at Turkey, team principal Ross Brawn says: I was extremely pleased with the performance of the team at Istanbul Park and the way in which we were able to maintain our competitive position. We worked very hard ahead of the race to identify any potential areas of weaknesses versus our competitors and the improvements that we saw over the weekend proved that the team are able to respond quickly and take the necessary steps forward. We have been quietly making progress over the past few weeks and have a series of upgrades to come this weekend.
"The British Grand Prix will be a particularly special weekend for our team this year. Our base in Brackley is just eight miles from the circuit and we are very proud, as a British team, to be going into our home race leading the constructors' and drivers' championships. I have been fortunate enough to have been on the winning team at Silverstone in the past and it is an extremely special feeling that I would love to share with this team. We are holding a family day at our factory on Sunday for everyone who is not working at the track and it would be fantastic to head back there in the evening with a great result to celebrate what should be a very memorable weekend."
Button comes to Silverstone convinced that Red Bull will be stronger than they were in Turkey. I was surprised by their pace there. There is only one really high-speed corner there, but for some reason their pace was not strong there. They have been better than us in the high-speed corners all year. So, I dont know, but we did take a step forward with the balance of our car in Turkey. It should work well at Silverstone, but Red Bull and Ferrari will be the biggest threats. Our car seems to be working everywhere, but we need to sort out our Fridays a bit better so we can be a bit more confident. But our race pace is good.
He also expects team mate Barrichello to be very strong. Rubens will be a big challenge. Those three Rubens, the Red Bulls and Ferrari - will challenge me for sure. Rubens is a tough guy, and always goes well here. We all want to win Silverstone, thats why were here. I want to win every race. When you have a competitive car that has to be your aim, it doesnt need to be said.
Winning the world championship is the most important thing to me. If I win it and dont win at Silverstone, I wont be disappointed. But I would love to win at Silverstone. I watched Nigel Mansell win here, and I saw that amazing passion from the British fans. Their emotion would make a win here very special. But I am taking it race by race.
Massa, meanwhile, says: We have new components on the car this weekend, including a front wing and a lighter chassis, and that should make us more competitive. In Turkey we went backwards over the course of the weekend, after being very competitive on Friday and on Saturday morning. We now know why that happened, which is the most important thing: we believe that with the very high track temperatures, we ran too low on the downforce and should have run with more rear wing, because as the temperature rises, the grip from the tyres went down and we needed to compensate for that.
One man who has lower expectations than normal of Silverstone is last years hero, Lewis Hamilton. The high-speed nature of the track is unlikely to suit the McLaren MP4-24 with its current aerodynamic problems, and he says: Points are definitely the goal, and I guess I just have to adjust from 2008. Itll be a struggle, but well see. In practice we seem to be quite good, but then we tend to drop back as the track gets grippier.
Silverstone is one of the fastest race tracks in F1 and a favourite with many of the drivers. Formerly a World War Two airfield, it staged its first non-championship race in 1948 before hosting the inaugural Formula One World Championship Grand Prix in May 1950.
It is renowned for the challenge presented by its fast, sweeping bends in the first half of the lap - Copse, Maggots, Becketts and Stowe - then the slower sections of Vale, Club and Abbey, the superfast Bridge, and the technical complex of Priory, Brooklands, Luffield and Woodcote, and demands high downforce allied to aerodynamic efficiency.
Bridgestone will bring their hard and soft compounds, the same as they did in Turkey, where several teams found it difficult to generate decent temperatures running the former.