British Grand Prix: McLaren previews Silverstone

24 June, 2013

The Santander British Grand Prix is one of only two races on the Formula 1 calendar to have featured in every World Championship season. The race has been staged at three circuits during that time, and Silverstone – scene of the first ever world championship race in 1950 – has been its exclusive home since 1987.

Silverstone is situated on the site of a former World War II bomber station and has undergone several facelifts over the years. The most recent change came in 2010/11, when a new infield loop was added and the start-line was moved from the exit of Woodcote to the straight between Club and Abbey corners. The change added 759 metres to the track length, taking the total distance to 3.660 miles, and it resulted in the introduction of a new pit and paddock complex. The new pitlane is 489 metres, the longest of the entire season, and slopes heavily downhill.

The fast and flowing nature of Silverstone makes it popular with the drivers. Two corners – Copse and Maggotts – are taken at speeds in excess of 250 km/h, and the average speed of 225 km/h makes it one of the quickest circuits on the calendar. Only Spa-Francorchamps and Monza are faster.

McLaren has an enviable record in Great Britain; 14 victories since 1973 make it the second most successful constructor in the event’s history. For 2013, Jenson Button enters his home race seeking the 50th podium of his career – and his first at Silverstone – while team-mate Sergio Perez aims to take his second points finish at the racetrack.

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 5: Jenson Button

“Any driver’s home race is a special thing, but racing at Silverstone means so much to me: it’s the place where I grew up watching Formula 1 – I first came here in 1994 – and it’s also a race that means so much to grand prix racing’s history and heritage.

“It’s just unique: to race on the same track as Fangio, Clark, Stewart and Senna is cool, and you always feel the echoes of the past when you arrive at the circuit for the first time. Even though it’s almost changed beyond recognition since 1950, and is now one of the best grand prix facilities in the world, it’s still lost none of that special atmosphere. I love it.

“One of the most amazing things at Silverstone has been the level of support I’ve seen every single year. From the garage, on the slow-down lap, on the drivers’ parade, or just on the way to the paddock in the morning, you see the fans cheering you on. Silverstone really reverberates to fan-power.

“After our difficult weekend in Canada, I’ll be hoping for a more representative weekend at home. Although the race in Montreal was disappointing, I still feel that it wasn’t a fully accurate reflection of where we are as a team – on a smoother track like Silverstone, I’m optimistic that we’ll fare better.

“Of course, I don’t want to raise everyone’s expectations: I think the fans know what to expect. For me, my goal will be to get the maximum from the package and to race as hard as I can – that’ll be a satisfactory outcome for me next weekend.”

Car 6: Sergio Perez

“It’s exciting to be going to Silverstone for my first ‘home’ race with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Like McLaren, Silverstone is a place with an incredible amount of history – it’s cool that you can look at old black-and-white photos of the British Grand Prix and still clearly recognise corners like Copse and Stowe, and the Hangar Straight. It’s amazing to think that the circuit has been in use since the very first race of the Formula 1 World Championship.

“I like Silverstone, and I usually go well there: I had a good race in 2011, when I finished seventh, and I feel [sure] [that] I could have had a points finish last year until I had an accident with Pastor [Maldonado].

“After a tough weekend in Canada, we’ll be looking for a stronger showing in front of the team’s home fans. We are steadily making progress – I’m hopeful of a better showing next weekend.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“The Santander British Grand Prix is an extremely special race for everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Of course, Silverstone is our home race, which naturally makes it feel different from every other event on the calendar, but, regardless, there’s a unique atmosphere on display at Silverstone.

“It’s a place where Formula 1 encounters both the support and expectation of the most passionate and knowledgeable crowd of the entire season. That can be uplifting and daunting in equal measure.

“The circuit itself is tough to master: it still retains enough of the original wartime layout to successfully link it to the past, but it’s probably the best example in the world of how a track can be updated and re-profiled in order to meet modern safety standards and yet still maintain the challenge required for contemporary Formula 1.

“Most importantly, it’s an absolutely fabulous high-speed challenge that the drivers love, and which provides the opportunity to witness Formula 1 at its unfettered best.”

A McLaren 50 classic moment: British Grand Prix, 11 July 1999

This was one of the pivotal races of the 1999 championship. Mika Hakkinen, starting on pole for the sixth time in eight races, shared the front row of the grid with Michael Schumacher, but their world title fight took a dramatic twist on the opening lap when Schumacher crashed at Stowe and broke his right leg.

The race was stopped while Schumacher was extricated from his Ferrari and, at the re-start, Mika leapt into a convincing lead in his MP4-14. But his domination was short-lived: a faulty wheel-nut resulted in Mika losing his left-rear wheel shortly after his first pitstop and he was forced to retire.

With a pitstop drama also affecting Eddie Irvine in the second Ferrari, David Coulthard took the lead and he drove a faultless race to finish 1.8s ahead of the Ulsterman. It was the first of David’s two British Grand Prix victories (both for McLaren-Mercedes) and prompted him to comment: “This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my racing career.” (McLaren F1)

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