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Lead Up to Lights Out: Silverstone Circuit

Another race? Already?! I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say we're still processing the drama from Austria. That ending was shocking and unforgettable, and I’m sure it will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds this weekend. But for now, let’s shift our focus to the British Grand Prix; Silverstone has a high bar to clear – can it match Austria’s thrills, and if so, can our hearts handle it?


TRACK STATS

Location: Silverstone, England

Time Zone: BST (British Summer Time, UTC+1)

First Grand Prix: 1950

Number of Laps: 52

Number of Turns: 18

Number of DRS Zones: 2

Circuit Length: 5.9 km (3.7 miles)

Race Distance: 306.198 km (190.263 miles)

Top Speed: Approximately 330 km/h (205 mph)

Capacity: Around 150,000 spectators

Temperature: Average July highs of 21°C and lows of 12°C

Track Elevation: Relatively flat with minor elevation changes

Lap Record: 1:27.097 by Max Verstappen (2020)

Most Wins: Lewis Hamilton (8 wins)



Silverstone Circuit. Credit: F1


Interesting Fact: Although Silverstone feels like a staple in the F1 calendar, 2004 was almost its final year. F1 legend Jackie Stewart announced in September 2004 that the British Grand Prix would be excluded from the 2005 calendar, with any future British GPs to be hosted by Donington Park. However, the 2008 financial crash impeded the development of the Derbyshire circuit, and despite a 17-year deal being signed, the move never materialised. Pressure to keep a British GP on the calendar, combined with the lack of an alternative venue, ensured the race went ahead at Silverstone in 2005. A recent 2024 announcement confirmed that Silverstone will continue to host the race until 2031, marking nearly nine decades of continuous racing history.


2023 BRITISH GRAND PRIX


Before we dive into the 2023 race, let’s quickly recap the qualifying session, which was one of the most exciting of the season. Q1 saw spins, engine failures, and a short-lived, yet surprising, 1-2 for Williams. However, the most shocking moment came with another early exit for Perez, who qualified 16th, denied Q2 by Alonso. Q2 was more sedate, with no big surprises; Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ocon, Sargeant, and Bottas failed to make the time needed to progress through. Q3 reinvigorated the session, with three British drivers in the mix, all hoping to stop Verstappen’s qualifying dominance. Although no one could match the formidable fastest lap set by Verstappen, the performance of the McLaren cars was a major talking point of the weekend. Taking 2nd and 3rd positions on the grid, both drivers were clearly elated with the car's performance and the effects of the recent upgrade package. With a tight and exciting qualifying session, hopes were high that the mostly British crowd might see a British driver take the top spot come Sunday.


Race day arrived and marking only Norris’s third front-row start, and his first since the 2021 season, the pressure was sky high for him to get a good launch off the lights. The roar of the crowd into the first corner could only indicate one thing – success! A British driver leads the British Grand Prix! For five laps, the British crowd was fully behind Norris, hoping for his maiden win at his home race. However, Verstappen, not known for his patience or defeatism, remained hot on the papaya’s rear wing, looking for every opportunity to reclaim his position. A relatively easy manoeuvre on lap 5 saw the move done and the crowd disappointed.



Lando Norris and Max Verstappen battle it out at the 2023 Britsh Grand Prix. Credit: Getty Images

A steady race ensued with Verstappen comfortably pulling away from Norris who in turn left held his position against Piastri following behind. 


By lap 9 we had our first retiree, with Ocon pulling into the pits to end his race after suffering from a hydraulic leak. We also saw the front pack breaking into two groups; Verstappen, Norris and Piastri followed by Leclerc, Russell and Sainz. Verstappen building a very comfortable lead while his teammate worked his way slowly up the grid behind. 


Safety car deployment on lap 33, due to Kevin Magnussen’s Haas having engine failure, brought tire strategy into play. Half the field had already pitted, meaning the safety car deployment gave advantage to Verstappen, Norris, Hamilton, Alonso and Albon who had yet to come in. Hamilton gained the biggest advantage, finding himself P3 ahead of Piastri and within striking distance of Norris. The two British drivers provided clean and thrilling wheel-to-wheel driving to the end of the race, Norris fighting with hard tires against Hamilton’s softs but ultimately coming out on top. 


A late battle between Sainz, Stroll and Gasly for P10 resulted in Stroll being penalised for causing damage and Gasly’s Alpine being retired on lap 46 due to suspension damage.


The 52-lap race concluded with no change to the top three positions after the safety car period and a provided good handful of records and career bests amongst the three.


Verstappen’s win marked the Red Bull team’s first circuit win since 2012 and his 11th consecutive win, matching the McLaren record. Norris's second-place finish was his best since Monza 2021 and capped off an excellent race weekend for McLaren and never to be discounted at his home race, Lewis stepped onto the Silverstone podium for an incredible 14th time. 

Other notable finishes included Piastri’s P4 finish, who having held third place for over half the race before being hampered by the safety car, described fourth place to “hurt a little bit”. Further down the field Williams had an excellent race with Albon bringing 4 points home and Sargeant narrowly missing out on his first points, finishing 11th. Perez redeemed himself, pulled what is almost becoming his signature move by overcoming a poor qualifying session by moving up the field race day to finish P6. 


At the waving of the chequered flag, the front three were Max Verstappen in 1st, Lando Norris in 2nd, and Lewis Hamilton in 3rd. The rest of the top ten drivers finishing in the points were as follows:

4. Oscar Piastri

5. George Russell

6. Sergio Pérez

7. Fernando Alonso

8. Alexander Albon

9. Charles Leclerc

10. Carlos Sainz Jr


2024 BRITISH GRAND PRIX


Will Lando Norris be as happy with a P2 finish this weekend? I don’t think so. He’s often talked about how much a win at his home race would mean to him, and the bitter taste of believing Verstappen stole a potential second win through “recklessness” last week can surely only fuel that fire. Which leads us onto the topic everyone is talking about; Could this be the start of a historic rivalry? Will we see revenge moves? Can they both keep their cool or will tempers prevail? You can’t help but think Norris and Verstappen will want to finish last week’s battle, but how will we see that play out on the track? It’s going to be fantastic to find out!


Outside of any fallout from Austria, it looks likely to be a strong weekend for the McLarens, with Norris still likely to out race his teammate. The McLaren has shown consistency and speed, and with a home crowd for Norris, you certainly wouldn’t rule out a P1 finish. 


While many expect Sunday to be a Verstappen-Norris duel for P1, it would be shortsighted not to consider other contenders. This season is incredibly tight, and we’ve already seen five different drivers take the top spot. Russell has just come off a somewhat unexpected but no doubt confidence boosting win in Austria. He and the Mercedes team have got to be feeling encouraged and hoping to keep that momentum going. Mercedes seem to be getting stronger as the season goes on, so it feels on the cards for them.



George Russell celebrating his shock win at the Red Bull Ring, Austria. Credit: FIA


It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen a Ferrari at the top, and Sainz has a proven track record here, having won in 2022. The team does seem to be struggling with their recent upgrades, running different setups between their drivers last week. They’ll need to sort that out quickly to avoid falling further behind in the constructors' standings and to keep their drivers happy. Still, a Ferrari on the podium is not out of the question, and they will be keen to prove they can compete with Red Bull and McLaren.


A potential Verstappen win is always on the cards, especially with Red Bull reportedly bringing new updates. Their last major update package was in Spain, so it’s unclear if these are minor tweaks or something more significant. Either way, Marko claims they are enough to “hit back.”


And finally, it wouldn’t be Silverstone without mentioning the Silverstone King! Could Hamilton extend his winning record here and take a ninth win? He took P3 in Spain and must be desperate to close the growing gap since his last win in Saudi 2021. His fight seems to be back, and the car appears to be capable of challenging, so who knows? I know I’d love to see it happen!


Who do you think will be standing on the top step come Sunday? 




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