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Pre-Silverstone analysis - Red Bull's loss to be rivals' gain? 08 Jul 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 25 June 2011 (L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren with girlfriend Jessica Michibata (JPN).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 7 July 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 7 July 2011 Red Bull Racing RB7 diffuser detail. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Valencia, Spain, Friday, 24 June 2011 McLaren MP4/26 diffuser detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Preparations, Montreal, Canada, Thursday, 9 June 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 20 May 2011

As Adrian Newey has suggested that the ban on off-throttle diffusers will hit Red Bull hard here, Friday’s first two free practice sessions should finally provide some answers to the question of whether McLaren and Ferrari can get on terms with the dominant cars from Milton Keynes.

“There is always a chance,” McLaren’s Jenson Button said on Thursday. “Whether it’s a big enough one I don’t know. I think if you look at the last race you’d say the Red Bull was very strong and we were quite a long way behind them. But we have updates for this race, which hopefully will help us, together with the difference in the blown diffuser this race and the electronics. That might help us more than the other teams. I don’t know, it might not. That’s something we just have to see when we get out on the circuit.

“I think the important thing is that we have done a lot of preparation work for this race with the new components and also running with the new blown diffuser system. It’s about preparation for this race. This is a pretty tough circuit to get out on to with the new package so preparation is key and I think we have prepared very well.

“I think the team are doing a great job of bringing updates and reasonably big updates to most Grands Prix, and especially this one, the home Grand Prix, so I think we are all doing a very good job. We’ll see if it works out for us when we get out on the track.”

Both Button and team mate Lewis Hamilton have tried the revisions in McLaren’s simulator, and Hamilton was quietly optimistic.

“I think they’ve made a reasonable difference,” he said. “When you take away the engine modes we have been using before it will be different for the likes of Ferrari and for the Renault engines particularly I think as they use it slightly different than us. Whether or not they are hampered more than us, who will know? But I think the team have done a great job trying to understand and get on top of things and to recover elsewhere, through set-up and through other bits, through updates we have coming. So I really, really hope that we are at least as good as them, if not better.

“In terms of driving style and all that, I think we have had a good chance to be on the simulator again (via test driver Gary Paffett who will be very busy this weekend) to do a good job there.”

At one stage Button laughed when somebody asked whether Sebastian Vettel could still win in his sleep. “He’s still pushing hard,” he chuckled. “We’ve seen that, he’s on the limit. He’s obviously done a very good job in qualifying. It’s very impressive that he’s been able to put it on pole at every race except one, but in the races it’s been a little bit more difficult for them. We’ve challenged them a few times - in four races. Twice we’ve beaten them and the other two we didn’t. It’s not a walk in the park for him. He’s still having to push hard and it’s good to see and I hope it continues that way.”

Button also made it very clear that there are no safety issues with the modified diffuser regulations, even though cars are likely to be less stable under braking and have less downforce in high-speed corners.

“I think that the top teams will lose quite a bit, because we’ve had this for a little while now so you start designing the car around the systems that you have in place,” he said. “It’s going to be a reasonably big hit and you’ll feel it everywhere: high, low speed, not so much on power but it’s more under braking and high-speed corners. I think the biggest problem will be that in braking and exit will be a very different feeling in corners, that could be changing a lot, so that’s probably the thing that you need to get used to.

“But safety? No. It’s just like us driving in a slower car, with less downforce. There’s no safety issues. We feel the circuit, we feel the car. When it’s wet we have to drive the car slower because it’s easier to go off because there’s less grip. There’s no safety issue.”

The FIA have decided on only one DRS zone here, after considering two. It will be located on the Wellington Straight, starting 45 metres after Turn Four, with the detection zone 25 metres before Turn Three.

David Tremayne

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