Following our home race at the Red Bull Ring we move swiftly on to our other home race at Silverstone. It’s about 15 miles from our factory in Milton Keynes to the circuit gates (and we’re by no means the closest team) which makes for an unusual weekend for an organisation that’s basically built around travelling long distances. The race team try to treat it like a normal event, but it’s a rarity for the factory, many of whom come to Silverstone and see their work in action for the one and only time of the year.
They’re picking a good race. The best thing about Silverstone is the circuit itself. Like many race tracks in England (but not so common in the rest of the world) it began life as an airfield, and thus has a ‘perimeter’ layout that covers a vast acreage. It’s been adapted again and again over the years – with the recent switch to the ‘Arena’ layout possibly the biggest change, but the basic template remains: it’s a big, roomy, above all fast track replete with epic, high-speed corners. It’s a set-up that has provoked scintillating duels – but even solo laps have been known to make even the most stone-hearted racing drivers giggle. It’s a firm favourite among those driving – but happily it’s also one of the very best circuits at which to watch a Grand Prix. Through Copse – and particularly Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel – spectators can see an F1 car at its best, doing things that others simply can’t match: cornering and changing direction at the sort of speeds that would leave any other car (or bike) floundering.
Having such a very, very large area is useful because it takes a big venue to contain the British Grand Prix. In terms of spectator numbers, it’s the biggest, busiest race of the year and that’s palpably obvious driving (or cycling) in every morning. It produces a buzz on a Thursday that many other circuits can’t replicate on a Sunday. There’s a lot going on from fairgrounds to merchandising to display stands, corporate hospitality, food trucks and bars. And given the ‘difficult’ location of Silverstone, huge numbers of fans camp on the farms surrounding the circuit, which tends to mean the party only really gets going after the track action has finished for the day.
For us, Silverstone holds some of the very happiest memories, particularly those in the era when we first stepped up to being a major force within Formula One. Arguably, that transition happened at Silverstone. We won our first race in China, in April 2009 but as with all wet races, that could be considered something of an outlier. It was only when F1 got to Silverstone at the end of June, that we had the sort of dominant, race-winning display that would start to look normal over the following four-and-a-half years. Sebastian Vettel won from pole and took fastest lap in the RB5, with Mark Webber tucked in right behind. It’d taken us a little while at the start of the year to recover from the double-diffuser ruling but from Silverstone onwards – and for the next four seasons – we had the car to beat.
Mark would add victories in 2010 and 2012, and in total we’ve had ten podiums at Silverstone, the latest being a sweet drive to second for Max in 2016. We’ve also added two more pole positions, Seb in 2010 and Mark in 2011, while Mark added another fastest lap in 2013. While we’ve scored decent points in the last few years it has been something of a dry spell: while Silverstone requires a car with excellent handling and downforce, we’ve struggled a bit with a horsepower deficit. With that particular problem diminishing, we’re hopeful of good times ahead.