Like Thruxton to the south and Snetterton to the east, Silverstone is one of Britain’s motor racing circuits which arose from airfields used during World War Two.
That inevitably leaves it wanting in terms of elevation change. But the wide expanses of the Northamptonshire circuit has allowed one of F1’s quickest circuits to retain much of its high-speed configuration while building in the necessary safety improvements.
Substantial changes were made to its configuration in 1991 and 2010. And while it still seems strange to watch the cars take tee start at the exit of Club instead of Woodcote, the essential character of the track which hosted the first world championship race is still with us.
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A lap of Silverstone
The lap begins with the newest portion of the circuit. Abbey and Farm form a super-quick pair of corners which may be flat out in an F1 car but can still catch drivers out – this is where Max Verstappen’s race ended last year.
Village, turn three, is a sharp right-hander which offers one of the best overtaking opportunities around the lap. The Loop, an even tighter right-hander, follow immediately afterwards.
“The first one is more open than the second one,” explains Romain Grosjean, “and the second you really want to go for as early as you can.”
The flat-out left-hander at Aintree bring the cars onto the Wellington Straight and a long run into Brooklands, where overtaking is possible for the supremely committed. The long right-hander of Luffield demands patience, but it is well-rewarded as the rest of the lap is a immensely fast.
Woodcote once a formidable corners but is now taken easily flat-out, though it become rather trickier in the wet. The cars pass the old (but still functioning) pits on the way to Copse, which was turn one until 2010. Drivers risk a penalty if the stray beyond the track limits at the exit of this corner.
“It’s a great sensation in the car here,” says Grosjean of the super-quick right-hander. The following five consecutive corners from Maggots to Chapel is like few other sequences on the calendar and demand incredible precision at very high speeds.
“You stay flat out as much as you can into Maggotts and Becketts, and then downshifting every corner a gear, and then you’re onto the Hanger Straight.” Stowe, another quick right-hander, follows quickly, with its exit kerb threatening to spit drivers into the barrier on the inside.
“This is another tricky one where you enter very quickly,” says Grosjean. “You want to go on the power as quick as you can, but the corner is closing down more than you think.”
Drivers pass the pit-lane entrance before braking for the slow left-hander at Vale – this quirk of the track layout explains why drivers lose less time pitting at Silverstone than at most circuits. The exit of Club, the final corner, is another point where drivers must be wary of exceeding the track limits.
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