news

DOWN AT THE LOCAL

The races are coming thick and fast and this week we’re at Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix – and just a stone’s throw from our base in Milton Keynes.

We’ve been here before this year. Daniel gave the RB14 its debut here back in the winter – albeit only on the shorter Club circuit and in conditions that really don’t bear any comparison to this weekend.

Despite the fact he’s the 2018 driver from furthest away, Daniel treats Silverstone like it’s his home track. He made his F1 debut here, on loan to HRT, and before that won (several times) at Silverstone on his way to the British F3 title, and drove here in other junior series, as well as living for a while in Milton Keynes.

He’s had some great drives here in F1 too, including a snarling charge from 19th to 5th last year, and a great podium in 2014, executed in full-on Daniel Ricciardo style with a late race scythe through the field. Max has done podium duty too, with an excellent second place in 2016.

This has generally been a good track for us. We’ve had three victories here, courtesy of Sebastian Vettel in 2009 and then Mark ‘very definitely not a no.2 driver’ Webber in 2010 and 2012, plus seven other podiums in total.

2009 was a very good race for us. It was only our second win as a team, but also our second one-two. What made it particularly pleasurable was that it was a proper team effort. The factory managed to get an upgraded floor ready for the cars a race ahead of schedule and were able to rush it to the track to put on the car for Saturday. Seb was able to nick pole position, ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the then dominant Brawn that had won the previous four races and seven of the first eight. That really was the turning point: from Silverstone onwards we had the best car in F1 for the next four and a half years. 

Possibly we could have got the upgrade to Germany or Belgium or France, and possibly not. There’s definitely an advantage to being 20 miles down the road from the track.

What’s particularly nice is that this is the race where a big chunk of the factory turn up to watch. The team buys a lot of tickets for this weekend and people who would otherwise never see the cars in action get to cheer us – cheer themselves really – on from the grandstands. You don’t have to be an F1 fan to design and build F1 cars – but it’s surprising how very few people working at our factory in Milton Keynes don’t jump up and down like lunatics when we win.

For the race team, the home race is a little bit different. There’s lots of talk of home comforts and the pleasure of sleeping in one’s own bed – but the truth of the matter is that not everybody takes that route. For some, there’s a rhythm and a routine to an F1 weekend they don’t want to interrupt, and so the team has the usual travel arrangements available for those who want it. Bizarre though it may sound, for some of the crew that means staying in a hotel that’s further away from the circuit than their home.

Silverstone this season is race 10 of 21, so we should know everything there is to know about these cars by now – but it doesn’t work that way. There hasn’t been a track like Silverstone so far this year – which is why we’re seeing Pirelli’s ‘ice blue’ hard tyre for the first time. Silverstone is high speed, high downforce. Plenty of the tracks we’ve been to so far have quick corners, but nowhere else so far do they keep coming at you like they do here. Basically, as soon as the cars accelerate out of Luffield (Turn 7), they’re on the gas all the way to Vale (T16), never dropping below sixth gear. Copse and Stowe are massively quick but it’s the bit in the middle, the S-bends through Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel that really show an F1 car at its best. Screaming into these in eighth gear, the fast change of direction on the very limit of grip is what F1 cars are all about. Nothing else on the planet can do it.