Silverstone is a pretty demanding track for both engine and chassis. The first sector is mainly a drag race against time, although good traction out of The Loop, through Aintree and up to Brooklands counters some of the power deficit if you are in a Renault-powered car. Sweeping high speed corners with a lot of direction change meets the drivers in the middle sector, the final sector likewise but with a few big stops and tricky, technical bits towards the end of the lap.
This circuit tests a car and driver’s commitment and the best guys are visibly quicker when watching trackside. Strong aerodynamic characteristics are the order of the day, yet they have to be integrated to suit the driver’s needs. As Mark Webber – a two time winner and five time podium visitor at Silverstone – told us during the qualifying buildup on BBC TV on Saturday, driver confidence is critical in producing laptime. This is why we saw the Saubers and Caterhams struggling as they have massive problems with their brake-by-wire systems and have generally poor downforce.
The British GP is not traditionally a place where teams bring plenty of upgrades despite most of the them being based a matter of miles from the circuit. However, a variety of detailed tweaks sprouted across the grid which we will have a look into.
Small tweaks keep coming through the Maranello pipeline, both mechanical and aerodynamic. Having opted to run a less aggressive rear wing pylon for Austria, the team have resorted back to their conventional layout which features a two-element winglet above the exhaust instead of a small lip. This boosts the upwash effect at the rear of the car to generate more rear downforce.
Trialed but not raced in Austria was this sidepod airflow conditioning vane, however for Britain it found its way to the F14 T for the entire weekend. It is thicker at the base than its predecessor which allows the device to deflect a higher volume of tyre wake from the sidepod’s undercut and leading edge. Its implementation at Silverstone could relate to the higher cornering speeds, thus the greater tyre wake that is produced needs to be treated more carefully.
Ferrari also experimented with temperature regulating bodywork within the brake housing area. This year the teams are leaving the brakes more exposed to the wheel surface to generate more tyre temperature due to the harder compounds. The Scuderia have been manipulating this heat by placing bodywork around the brake discs, forcing it out of the wheel face and into the tyre wake behind in a bid to increase aerodynamic efficiency.
A small adjustment to the floor of the MP4-29 is designed to reduce the negative impact of ‘tyre squirt’ – tyre wake ejected outwards that impinges the diffuser. The new section of floor now forms and ‘S’ shaped cut, with a lip that entices airflow above the be sucked downwards and around the inside wall of the rear tyre. Instead of the tyre wake hitting the outer regions of the diffuser, it should be shifted by the introduction of new airflow arriving through the slot.
This has been accompanied by a new, more twister vane alongside the slot which aims to amplify the process. Instead of replacing the entire floor McLaren have done a ‘cut and paste’ job on an existing floor to save money. Should there be a new floor in the future this device will be integrated seamlessly.
Silverstone is not really a ‘power’ circuit as such but a good power unit goes some way towards lap time. Standing trackside on Saturday, the RB10 – particularly in Sebastian Vettels’ hands – was remarkably quick through Maggots and Becketts. It is just such a pity that they cannot get between the corners fast enough! He literally went wherever he had the wheels pointed the front end was that good, and the rear just followed suit. Nothing was giving way and Vettel looked completely comfortable when it came to pushing the envelope in qualifying.
To aid their power unit’s pitfalls were a few modifications to the rear wing. Like during the Canadian GP weekend Red Bull introduced a large slot in the leading edge of the rear wing endplate to reduce drag. This was also complimented with a Ferrari-esque Swan-neck rear wing pylon, attaching on the upper part of the wing before bending over the meeting the top of the engine cover.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic