British Grand Prix: Trackside at Silverstone

By on Friday, June 28, 2013

SilverstoneIt’s difficult to make definitive conclusions from watching trackside, especially in cool and damp conditions at a windy Silverstone circuit. But nonetheless, that’s exactly what we did during second practice for the British Grand Prix.

The session started in damp conditions, forcing drivers to begin the 90 minute practice on Intermediate tyres. Our spot was on the exit of Farm curve, as the drivers blast through the flat out left hander before braking heavily and negotiating the tricky Arena section. Even with a little bit of spray kicking up, the Red Bull RB9 was seriously planted, even straight out of the pit lane. Valtteri Bottas was also committed, but the Williams didn’t possess the speed of the Red Bull. Felipe Massa, later to find the wall at Stowe, was good on the brakes but even at this early stage it was clear to see both McLaren drivers having a few issues.

As the circuit dried we wandered over to the Maggotts/Becketts complex, undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of tarmac on the entire planet. The cars emerge from Copse before being thrown into the rapid sequence of turns and it was here where you can see the differences between the cars. Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were both planted to the circuit, but Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez were both a little cautious into the first part of the turn. Charles Pic was more committed than his rookie team mate while Nico Hulkenberg was a little apprehensive.  Both Toro Rosso drivers looked to be flying and a quick glance at the timesheets – sixth and seventh – justified such thoughts. Force India looked smooth but fairly unspectacular, while Bottas was more accurate than team-mate Pastor Maldonado. Again, the Red Bull looked planted, but to the naked eye there was little to choose between the top five.

SilverstoneLight rain began to fall, meaning that exiting the Arena section proved to be an even trickier proposition than usual. The Lotus appeared to have fairly good traction, while neither Sauber nor Caterham was quick on the gas. Both McLaren drivers were struggling on the exit; Perez was unable to put the power down and made several attempts at correcting the direction change. Button too was struggling. Force India was fairly rapid but the cooler conditions meant both Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil had minor lock ups into Village.

McLaren’s woes on the bumps were even more visible in the dry as the car snaked under braking into Village. Sergio Perez was undoubtedly more committed than Jenson Button – and at that stage he was half a second up on his world champion team-mate – although the Brit ended the session ahead of Perez. Romain Grosjean was confidently late on the brakes while Lewis Hamilton threw his Mercedes W04 at the corners with the determination that the car would respond to his requests, which most of the time it did. Hulkenberg continued to have a few issues; he had to make a correction mid-corner at Farm and followed it up with a lock up into Vilage. The Ferrari too was far from perfect at Village; Alonso making several attempts at completing the corner.

Heading back to the rapid Abbey/Farm combination it was clear that Williams is struggling. There were no major issues but the car just wasn’t as quick as its rivals, with Bottas seeming a little nervy through the middle of the turn. Sebastian Vettel was supremely quick through Abbey and had an almost perfect line. By contrast, Perez couldn’t carry the same speed through Abbey and when he tried, the car wouldn’t agree and he took a lot of kerb, compromising his line through Farm. A similar predicament affected team-mate Button. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were both committed but didn’t appear to be quite as quick as Vettel; by now the teams were undertaking high fuel runs, which could explain why the W04s didn't look quite as stable as the RB9.

It’ll be an interesting race, but right now it seems to be advantage Red Bull.

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