Hold on to your hats, its high-speed Silverstone 06 Jul 2011
Although the circuit layout at Silverstone has changed many times, one thing has remained constant in the 61 years since it hosted the opening round of the Formula One world championship: speed. By the mid-1980s, Silverstone was the fastest circuit on the calendar, thanks to its sweeping high-speed corners; indeed, Keke Rosberg's 1985 pole lap, at an average speed of 259 km/h, stood as the fastest average lap speed in Formula One until 2002. And although the old circuit was lengthened for 2010, it retained its essential character, and even gained another flat-out sweeper, at what is now Turn One, in the new layout. No wonder Silverstone is praised every year as an example of a true driver's circuit. Mercedes explain more
Q: How did the layout changes for 2010 alter the circuit's character?
A: The new layout introduced last year lengthened the circuit by 750 metres, and added approximately ten seconds to the overall lap time. The circuit is now 1,241 metres (27 per cent) longer than the circuit first used for Formula One in 1950 and, coincidentally, the same length (5.9 kilometres or 3.67 miles) as the very first layout used in 1948. However, although the circuit layout was changed between 2009 and 2010, the average lap speed remained almost identical: the fastest lap during qualifying in 2009 was at an average speed of 236.915 km/h, while in 2010, it was at an average of 236.652 km/h. The circuit includes eight corners that are taken at over 250 km/h and just two below 100 km/h; in complete contrast, Monaco has eight corners below 100 km/h and none above 250 km/h.
Q: What is the quickest corner at Silverstone?
A: Using FIA numbering, the fastest corner on the circuit is Turn Two, known as Farm Curve, on the new section of the circuit - but this is more a flat-out sweep than a proper corner. The quickest true corner is Turn One, Abbey, the flat-out right-hander after the new pit complex. This requires a small confidence lift, but no braking, and is taken at approximately 290 km/h. It was "quite slippery last year because it was very new," according to Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, "but I expect it to be good this year." The drivers experience a peak g-force of 4.8G, and over 4G for 1.3 seconds, while the car experiences a peak vertical force, including car mass, of 22kN - equivalent to 2.2 tonnes. This means the car generates two and a half times its weight in downforce in the corner.
Q: The sequence from Copse through Becketts and down to Stowe is one of the most famous in Formula One racing. What challenges does it present?
A: With the new corner numbering, Copse Corner is Turn Nine while the Becketts complex accounts for Turns 10 to 14, and Stowe is Turn 15. This section of the circuit is 1.88 km long (32 per cent of the lap distance) and negotiated at an average speed of 272 km/h - in around 25 seconds. The lowest speed of the car during this sequence is 195 km/h.
Q: What do the drivers experience through the Becketts complex?
A: The Becketts complex includes five corners in total, through which the drivers experience extremely high g-forces in opposite directions within an extremely short space of time. As Schumacher says, "Silverstone is a lot about high speed but it is also about getting the combination through Turns 11 to 14 right - if you don't get the first one right, you will still suffer at the last one." Team mate Nico Rosberg echoes those thoughts: "It's a great part of the lap, and very challenging, because the car has so much grip through there! You need a perfect car balance to do a good lap." On the technical front, this sequence rewards both downforce and an agile change of direction; the cars experience an average vertical force of 21 kN (equivalent to 2.1 tonnes). The drivers barely touch the brakes through here: there is gentle braking before Turn 12, and a little more (but only 35 per cent of maximum) before Turn 13. The sequence of g-forces is as follows:
Turn 10 (Left, 300 km/h) - 2.2g
Turn 11 (Maggotts, Right, 275 km/h) - 4.8g
Turn 12 (Becketts One, Left, 230 km/h) - 3.9g
Turn 13 (Becketts Two, Right, 195 km/h) - 3.9g
Turn 14 (Chapel, Left, 240 km/h) - 2.2g
Q: The circuit presents two contrasting halves, with only fast corners from the exit of Turn Seven (Luffield) to braking for Turn 16 (Vale). How different are these sections of track in actual terms?
A: The section of track from Turns Seven to 16 is 3.2 km long, equivalent to 54 per cent of the lap distance. It takes around 41s to negotiate, at an average speed of 250 km/h. The other half of the circuit, from Vale to Luffield, including the new Arena Loop, is 2.7 km long (46 per cent of lap distance). This is completed in around 48s, at an average speed of 199 km/h. In other words, the section between Luffield and Vale is some 25 per cent faster than the other half of the circuit.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.