by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

British F1 Grand Prix 2012: Preview (VMM)

Silverstone is inextricably linked with Formula 1: the circuit staged the opening round of the inaugural world championship in 1950 and has been the exclusive home of the British Grand Prix since 1987.

The track is situated on a plateau, on the site of a former World War II bomber station and, despite several facelifts over the years, it still retains much of its original high-speed challenge. It was the scene of F1’s first 160mph qualifying lap [set by Keke Rosebrg in a Williams in 1985], and the middle section of the ‘new’ lap – Copse, Becketts and Stowe – remains one of the fastest and most revered stretches of racetrack anywhere in the world.

The most recent change to the layout came in 2010, when the new Arena Complex added 759 metres to the length. Last year the start-finish straight was moved in between Club and Abbey corners to coincide with the opening of a brand new pit and paddock complex in the infield.

Both Lewis and Jenson have had mixed fortunes at Silverstone. It was the scene of one of Lewis’s greatest victories in 2008, while Jenson has yet to finish on the podium at his home circuit.

Race distance - 52 laps (190.263 miles/306.198km)Start time - 13:00 (local)
Circuit length
- 3.660 miles/5.891km
2011 winner - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 52 laps in 1hr28m41.196s (128.720km/h)
2011 pole - Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing) 1m30.399s (234.599km/h)
Lap record - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F2010) 1m30.874s (233.373km/h)

McLaren at the British Grand Prix
- Wins: 14 (1973, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008)

- Poles: 7 (1977, 1984, 1985, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005)

- Fastest Laps: 7 (1977, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2008)

Car 3: Jenson Button

- Age: 32 (January 19 1980)
- GPs: 216
- Wins: 13
- Poles: 7
- FLs: 7
- 2012 points: 49 (8th)
- British GP record: 2011 Q5 R-; 2010 Q14 R4; 2009 Q6 R6; 2008 Q17 R-; 2007 Q18 R10; 2006 Q19 R-; 2005 Q2 R5; 2004 Q3 R4; 2003 Q20 R8; 2002 Q12 R12; 2001 Q18 R15; 2000 Q6 R5

I’m really looking forward to the Santander British Grand Prix. We’ve been making progress in a lot of areas and while I wasn’t able to show that in terms of the result at Valencia – mainly because I got boxed in at the start, then wasn’t very lucky with the Safety Car – our strategy was fine and the car improved throughout the race.

“This has been an incredibly unpredictable season, but at least it’s a little easier to predict that Silverstone will once again be packed and that all the British drivers are going to get a lift from the energy the fans bring. I always enjoy racing at home because the atmosphere is unbeatable, and while the race itself hasn’t always been too kind to me, I come here every year knowing I can count on the support of the many thousands of fans.

“We all had to adjust last year to starting in a different place on the circuit, which is a very odd thing when you’ve spent your entire racing career treating Copse as Turn One! Formula 1 is all about evolution, about looking to the future, and Silverstone has demonstrated its adaptability all through the years. It’s part of the fabric of F1, and still one of the world’s greatest motor racing circuits.”

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton 

- Age: 27 (January 7 1985)
- GPs: 98
- Wins: 18
- Poles: 21
- FLs: 11
- 2012 points: 88 (3rd)
- British GP record: 2011 Q10 R4; 2010 Q4 R2; 2009 Q18 R16; 2008 Q4 R1; 2007 Q1 R3

“Sometimes you have to accept when things don't go your way in racing. Obviously it was frustrating to lose out so close to the finish, but that’s motor racing: you put it behind you and move on to the next race – which, happily for me, is at my home circuit of Silverstone.

“It doesn’t really alter the way I go racing because I race to win, and that’s what I’ll be doing, especially at my home grand prix. The Santander British Grand Prix is special because I get a massive boost from all the fans. To me, winning at Silverstone is right up there with winning at Monaco. Standing on the top step of the podium in 2008 was among the sweetest moments of my career.

“I know we can count on the fans to bring a totally unique atmosphere. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got, put on a great show. This is an incredible summer of sport for Britain and I want to play my small part in bringing some joy to fans. I will be doing everything possible to get a win for my country on home soil.”

Martin Whitmarsh
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

The races so far this season have been very difficult to read, and while that may be frustrating for some, it also creates opportunities. It has also made for some incredibly exciting races and challenged many preconceptions – as we saw last time out at Valencia, a circuit at which established wisdom tells you there are very few opportunities to overtake.

“As we look forward to the Santander British Grand Prix, therefore, we have to keep an open mind from the minute we arrive to the moment the chequered flag is unfurled. The team that best manages the performance delta of the tyres is the one best placed to win, and to do that you have to take every opportunity to gather data and learn from it quickly and effectively. Today, Grands Prix are no longer sprint races that are won or lost on the first lap.

“While that means hard work for us and for our rivals, it is excellent news for the fans in the grandstands and for those watching at home. It means excitement from beginning to end, and that is what Formula 1 must continue to offer.

“This is our home race and we approach it, as ever, determined to win. I genuinely expect the Santander British Grand Prix to be an unmissable spectacle.”

McLaren has enjoyed many successes in the British Grand Prix. Here’s how the team defined 14 days in the history of the race – both at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

1. July 14 1973 (Silverstone)
There’s carnage at the end of lap one when Jody Scheckter spins at Woodcote and takes out eight cars. The race is stopped for 30 minutes. At the re-start the M23s of Peter Revson and Denny Hulme are in the thick of it, with Revson passing Ronnie Peterson for the lead on lap 39. It’s his first F1 victory; Hulme is third.

2. July 19 1975 (Silverstone)
Rain early on in the race creates havoc. Some cars dive into the pits for wet tyres, while others – including McLaren’s Emerson Fittipaldi – stay out on slicks, hoping the rain will stop. When it does, the track dries quickly and Emmo is unstoppable. He takes the lead on lap 43, just as a heavier cloudburst brings out the red flag. Emerson is declared the winner.

3. July 16 1977 (Silverstone)
McLaren world champion James Hunt starts on pole, but drops to fourth after the start. He picks off Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda in quick succession, and then inherits the lead when John Watson’s Brabham suffers reliability woes. Jochen Mass comes home fourth and Gilles Villeneuve impresses on his F1 debut, finishing 11th in a third car.

4. July 18 1981 (Silverstone)
A war of attrition, which is won by the Cosworth-powered MP4/1 of John Watson. The turbo-powered Renaults are the fastest cars around Silverstone, but both drivers – first Alain Prost, then Rene Arnoux – suffer engine problems. John drives a tenacious race to win from Carlos Reutemann, who is the only other driver on the lead lap.

5. July 18 1982 (Brands Hatch)
McLaren’s first victory at Brands Hatch. John Watson enters the weekend leading the world championship, but he retires on lap two. Team-mate Niki Lauda runs second to Brabham’s Nelson Piquet early on and inherits the lead when the Brazilian retires on lap 10.

6. July 22 1984 (Brands Hatch)
Alain Prost passes Nelson Piquet for the lead on lap 12, just as the race is stopped due to an accident. Piquet takes the re-start from pole, but Alain powers ahead on the run to Paddock Hill Bend. He then retires mid-race with a gearbox failure, leaving Niki to cruise home to win number 22.

7. July 21 1985 (Silverstone)
Ayrton Senna leads early on, but Alain Prost sits on the Lotus’s gearbox for the bulk of the race. Twelve laps from the flag, they are running nose-to-tail and Prost makes his move seven laps from home. Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto is second after Senna runs out of fuel.

8. July 10 1988 (Silverstone)
Unusually, neither Ayrton nor Alain is on the front row. They line up third and fourth, but foul weather on race day helps to ensure that this is Senna’s race. In pouring rain he takes the lead from Gerhard Berger on lap 14 and goes on to win by 25s from Nigel Mansell.

9. July 16 1989 (Silverstone)
Ayrton takes his sixth pole position in eight races and duly leads into the Copse for the first time. But an uncharacteristic error sees Senna spin into retirement on lap 12, leaving Alain to take an easy victory ahead of local hero Nigel Mansell.

10. July 11 1999 (Silverstone)
Mika Hakkinen dominates qualifying, taking pole position by 0.4s, but the Finn comes unstuck in the race. He loses a wheel while leading and is forced to retire. David Coulthard inherits the lead to score his first victory of the year and his first win at Silverstone.

11. April 23 2000 (Silverstone)
McLaren’s first one-two at Silverstone, in which David comes home 1.4s ahead of team-mate Mika. DC deserves the plaudits after he pulls off a stunning pass on Rubens Barrichello to take the lead at Stowe. It’s his second victory on home soil – make that mud, given the soggy, saturated ground – in as many years.

12. July 15 2001 (Silverstone)
Michael Schumacher starts on pole and leads the race early on, but Mika overtakes him for the lead on lap five and disappears up the road. By lap 21 he has opened up a gap of 26 seconds, which is more than enough to pit and come out ahead of the Ferrari. This is his first victory of the year and the penultimate win of his career.

13. July 10 2005 (Silverstone)
Juan Pablo Montoya is a man on a mission. He starts third, but leads the race halfway around the opening lap after pulling off a daring pass on Fernando Alonso on the approach to Becketts. Thereafter he’s never headed and he wins his first race for McLaren, ahead of Alonso and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

14. July 6 2008 (Silverstone)
“By far the best victory I’ve ever had,” says Lewis Hamilton afterwards. He starts the rain-drenched race fourth, but passes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen for the lead on lap five and isn’t seen again. He finishes 1m08s ahead of second-placed Nick Heidfeld and laps everyone up to third place. A truly stunning performance.

~ Official photo and details courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ~

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