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Tag Archive | Silverstone

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GP2 Silverstone – Calado’s harsh penalty

James Calado goes into this coming weekend’s German round of the GP2 series with a ten-place grid penalty for the Feature Race after being found guilty of causing a collision with Max Chilton at the last round in Great Britain.

In the Sprint Race at Silverstone, Calado and Chilton spent the race moving towards each other from opposite ends of the starting grid.While running tenth on the penultimate lap, Calado had a much better run than Chilton out of Copse corner and drew partly alongside on the way into Maggotts. On the exit of the corner, the cars touched, causing both to spin out of the race.

It was an ambitious move from Calado, which almost succeeded due to the awareness of Chilton, who allowed Calado just enough room make it through the corner on track. The contact was unfortunate, but was it really enough to earn a grid penalty for Calado?

GP2 is the primary feeder series for Formula One, which means that these drivers could find themselves at the pinnacle of motorsport a year or two from now. With that in mind, it seems logical that they should be encouraged to race each other to the limit, in order to provide the most entertaining and competitive racing possible. In this case, the move was unlikely to succeed, but it displayed opportunism and good aggression. Those are desirable qualities in a racing driver. Calado would have done better to stay as close as possible to Chilton through Chapel corner and attempt a pass into Stowe, but it is easy to come to that conclusion with the benefit of hindsight. In the race, he saw an opportunity and went for it, and it didn’t work out.

If anyone is to blame, it is Calado, simply because of how little chance he had of making the move work, but a ten-place grid penalty seems rather harsh for what is really just a racing incident.

Testing times for young guns

In recent years, Formula One teams have conducted a test in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season for their young stars. It is a rare chance to gain experience in a Formula One car while still climbing the racing ladder. This year, the Young Driver Test is split in two – at Silverstone this week, and then at Abu Dhabi as usual at the end of the year.

This week’s test takes place on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 July at the home of British motorsport, just a few days after the British Grand Prix. Only three teams are taking part – Williams, Marussia and HRT. The other nine teams will test in Abu Dhabi.

This is the only opportunity available to the teams to test on track for the rest of this season, which raises the question of why so few teams have chosen to take part. It’s not only about testing the young drivers. There is valuable data to collect from running the cars, perhaps with new parts that could find their way onto the cars for later races. Yet most of the teams have chosen not to run this week, which makes very little sense from a car development point of view.

Williams are testing their reserve driver, Valtteri Bottas, who has been taking part in some of the Friday practice sessions during the season. Bottas is the reigning GP3 champion, and his experience in the FW34 should make this a productive test both for him and the Williams team.

HRT will be giving Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua his first taste of a Formula 1 car today and tomorrow. The 24-year old from Shanghai won the 2011 Chinese Touring Car Championship and joined HRT’s development programme in April of this year. After failing to qualify for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the team has made steady progress and is now able to consistently compete with Marussia on the track. This test will be crucial to HRT continuing to move forward.

The Marussia F1 team is still reeling from Maria De Villota’s horrific testing accident last Tuesday. She had been lined up to drive at the Young Driver Test, but the team has had to make other plans after the crash. Marussia will be running their GP2 drivers, Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto, each of whom has tested an F1 car once before. The two drivers will each have one day in the car.

Silverstone – Red Bull gives Webber wings

Mark Webber has become the second driver to win twice in 2012, by taking victory at a surprisingly dry Silverstone.

After a weekend of torrential rain, the sun shone brightly at Silverstone, which mean the teams went into the race not knowing how their dry tyres would last. Most of the top ten started the race on the softer option tyres, and found that they fell off quite quickly. Fernando Alonso had started from pole on the harder prime tyres, and it proved to be a good decision as the Spaniard easily maintained the lead before pitting later than most of his rivals.

For most of the race, it looked like Alonso was in complete control, but Mark Webber was always not too far behind in second. After the last round of pitstops, Webber made his move, reeling in the championship leader before passing with the aid of DRS. From that point on, there was no challenging the Australian as he calmly went on to take his second British Grand Prix win in three years.

Sebastian Vettel finished third for Red Bull after making a poor start from fourth on the grid. The World Champion found himself fighting with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa for much of the early part of the race, but eventually found his way past in the final round of pitstops. Massa had his strongest race since 2010, finishing fourth after his best drive of the year.

Raikkonen and Grosjean finished fifth and sixth respectively for Lotus, continuing their reasonably competitive season. Onboard footage from Raikkonen’s car showed lots of suspension travel on the Lotus, presumably as part of a wet weather setup that ultimately proved unnecessary and possibly prevented better finishing position.

Mercedes had a disappointing day, with Schumacher finishing seventh from third on the grid and Rosberg 15th from 11th at the start. There were no particular incidents that put the Mercedes drivers out of contention. It seemed that the car was just not on the pace. It is possible that it was simply a matter of driving in the dry with a wet weather setup, but if not there may be some head scratching at Brackley.

McLaren seemed similarly slow, with Hamilton not managing to improve on his eighth place grid position. Button started the race 16th, and improved to tenth, but never seemed to have the pace to challenge for more points.

The major on-track incident of the race occurred when Sergio Perez attempted to pass Pastor Maldonado round the outside of Brooklands corner at the end of the DRS zone. Maldonado lost the back end of his Williams and slid into the side of the Sauber, causing the two cars to engage in some synchronised spinning and ending Perez’s race. When interviewed by Lee McKenzie in the pitlane following the incident, the Mexican was very outspoken in his criticism of Maldonado, placing blame squarely at the feet of the Venezuelan and calling on the stewards to take harsh action against the Williams driver.

The results of this race showed the superiority of the Red Bull and Ferrari teams. The rest of the field had no answer to the pace of the front-runners, and will now have to play catch-up through the middle of the season. Two races – in Germany and Hungary – remain before the summer break, and Ferrari and Red Bull will each want to go into that break with a clear advantage.

Silverstone – Alonso takes pole

Fernando Alonso has been the stand-out driver of 2012, as the only driver to have won two races thus far. But before yesterday, the Spaniard had not yet secured a pole position this season. That changed in a drenched Silverstone qualifying session.

The rain came down just before the start of Q1, as a result of which drivers queued to get out on track as quickly as possible – fearing that the rain would intensify and the track become slower. As usual, both Caterhams, both Marussias and both HRTs were eliminated in the first session. The big name to fall out in Q1 was Jenson Button, who was on a quick lap towards the end of the session but was the victim of yellow flags in the final sector when a Marussia spun on the start-finish straight.

As if the weekend hadn’t been wet enough already, the rain pelted down in Q2, to the point that several drivers found themselves passengers in aquaplaning cars. With just over six minutes remaining, race control decided that conditions were too wet for the session to continue, and put out the red flag. The session was stopped for over an hour before the track was safe for qualifying to resume, at which point the 17 remaining drivers streamed out to set times in the few remaining minutes of the session. Eliminated in Q2 were di Resta, Kobayashi, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Senna, Vergne and Perez.

Q3 saw laptimes dropping constantly as the track dried out. After pole changed hands almost every lap, Alonso emerged on top ahead of Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher. Vettel, Massa, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Grosjean rounded out the top ten. Grosjean had failed to set a time in Q3 after spinning into the gravel right at the end of Q2.

Kobayashi drops 5 places and Vergne 10 after causing collisions at the previous race in Valencia. Hulkenberg and Pic have gearbox penalties and therefore drop 5 places each. In Pic’s case that makes no difference to his grid position, after he did not qualify within 107% of the fastest time in Q1. The stewards have nonetheless allowed Pic to race, and he will start 24th and last.

The provisional grid after penalties is as follows:

Grid No Driver Team
1 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
5 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
6 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus
7 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams
8 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren
9 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus
10 11 Paul di Resta Force India
11 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
12 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso
13 19 Bruno Senna Williams
14 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
15 15 Sergio Perez Sauber
16 3 Jenson Button McLaren
17 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber
18 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia
21 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT
22 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT
23 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
24 25 Charles Pic Marussia

Britain preview – who can beat Alonso?

Formula One returns home this weekend with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, scene of the very first World Championship Grand Prix in 1950. It is the home race of eight out of twelve teams, as most Formula One factories are based in England.

Although this is a big weekend for Formula One, this week’s racing news has been dominated not by the British Grand Prix, but by Maria De Villota’s horrific accident that occurred during testing of the Marussia MR-01 on Tuesday. As a result of the crash, she has lost an eye and remains in critical condition in hospital. The thoughts of the racing community are with Maria, her family and the Marussia F1 team at this difficult time.

Who can challenge Alonso?

Fernando Alonso is obviously the form driver thus far this season. He has not had the quickest car, but is the only driver to win two races this season, and consequently leads the Drivers’ Championship.

Based on their form in the early part of the season, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are Alonso’s major title challengers, and they will be looking to take as many points away from the Spaniard as possible this weekend.

Tyres

Pirelli are bringing their hard and soft compounds to Silverstone. The large gap between tyre compounds (the medium compound separates them) should result in a substantial performance gain on the softer rubber, perhaps as much as a second per lap. The setup challenge will be to generate enough energy to heat up the hard tyres but not so much that the soft tyres overheat.

With rain predicted, dry setup could become irrelevant, and the teams may choose to focus on wet weather setup instead.

Pirelli are bringing an experimental hard tyre for the teams to test during Friday practice. This allows the tyre manufacturer to evaluate the performance of the tyres on current cars. The rest of Pirelli’s track testing takes place on a car that is two years old, and therefore not current in terms of technical regulations.

Race prediction

The Silverstone track is likely to play to the strengths of McLaren and Red Bull – the teams with the strongest aero packages – due to the large number of high speed corners on the layout. However, Fernando Alonso is bullish ahead of the weekend, suggesting that the Ferrari F2012 could be in contention.

It looks likely that the race will take place in the rain, which throws the contest wide open. The teams are already so closely matched that rain can only disrupt the order. It does bear remembering that Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez were strong in rain-hit Malaysia, suggesting that Ferrari and Sauber could be strong this weekend.

Fernando Alonso has been a step ahead of the field in the early part of the season, which makes him the favourite for victory.

Stats

Circuit Length: 5.891 km
Corners: 18
Race laps: 52
Race length: 306.198 km
Lap Record: 1:30.874 – Fernando Alonso / Ferrari (2010)

2011 results:
Race winner: Fernando Alonso / Ferrari
Pole position: Mark Webber / Red Bull – 1:30.399
Fastest lap: Fernando Alonso / Ferrari – 1:34.908

Trivia

  • Local hero Jim Clark won the British Grand Prix five times from only eight attempts between 1960 and 1967.
  • The last driver to win back-to-back British Grands Prix was David Coulthard in 1999-2000.
  • Only three of the last ten British Grands Prix have been won from pole position.

Weather

In true Silverstone fashion, rain is predicted for the entire weekend. Running is therefore likely to be limited in practice on Friday, unless there is a break in the weather that allows for some serious setup work.

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