Red Bull have been fastest in every session so far this weekend. But they’ve thrown away scores of points this year through driver errors and unreliability in the races.
Can they banish those demons to score a second consecutive one-two at Silverstone? Or will the fragile RB6s and its warring drivers allow the likes of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton by on race day?
As far as Mark Webber is concerned, he’d be better off starting from third instead of second:
I would rather be third on the grid, probably. Fernando is on the clean side. As usual we know that second on the grid at most tracks this year is ****, so that’s why pole is a big… If Fernando wants to change, I don’t know if we can. But it is a long race, so let’s see what happens.
The left-hand side of the grid is the cleaner side, and it’s a very short run to the first corner, so Sebastian Vettel can expect to preserve his lead if he gets away cleanly at the start.
But the difference between the clean and dirty side of the grid is usually not so pronounced at Silverstone as the track is in regular use. Webber started third last year and wasn’t able to pass second-placed Rubens Barrichello at the start.
After that, the high-speed Maggots/Beckets sequence usually forces the field to go single file, though there is usually some slipstreaming to be done on the run down Hangar Straight to Stowe.
This is where Jenson Button, starting down in 14th, will need to make some progress on the first lap if he’s going to salvage some points this weekend.
After the controversial circumstances of qualifying Webber will be desperate to pounce on any mistake by his team mate to stop him from claiming a second Silverstone win in a row.
Behind them Alonso and Lewis Hamilton will be equally keen for a chance to capitalise on more in-fighting between the Red Bulls. The prospect of Alonso and Hamilton fighting it out for ‘best of the rest’ is an enticing one, especially given their thrilling duel here last year.
As ever the timing of the pit stops will be crucial and it could be a headache for Red Bull if their drivers are running first and second.
Whichever of their drivers is leading will probably get the advantage of pitting first (unless the second placed driver is a long way behind) but that could leave the driver in second vulnerable to beign leap-frogged. And both their drivers have lost places due to slow pit stops on occasions this year (Webber in Valencia, Vettel in Spain).
We haven’t had a ‘normal’ strategy race since Turkey – the pit stops at Valencia were hastened by the arrival of the safety car and in Canada the teams ran unusual strategies to cope with unusually high tyre degradation. At Silverstone things are more likely to run according to plan.
As usual the trigger for the domino effect of pit stops will be when the new teams have fallen far enough away from the midfield for the midfield drivers to make their pit stops. Expect this to happen more quickly than usual, as the midfield runners have been over two seconds off the pace this weekend.
Then there is the question of whether any drivers will choose to start on the hard compound tyres. This may be a route for Button to take, running a long first stint in the hope of gaining some places after his pit stop. But with that come the usual caveats that it would leave him vulnerable to a late safety car deployment and make it harder for him to gain places at the start.
However with tyre degradation expected to be higher due to the changes to the circuit, we could see some surprises in the strategies. In Button’s position, it’s much easier to make the case for ‘rolling the dice’.
What do you expect to happen in the British Grand Prix? Should they just give Red Bull the trophies already? Have your say in the comments.
2010 British Grand Prix
Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images