Driver’s eye view of Silverstone
Former F1 driver and sports car ace Anthony Davidson has been exploring the new twists and turns at the British Grand Prix venue
“I think the new Silverstone will be more fun to drive. Although Bridge was fun to tackle, it was just essentially a flat-out right hander, so there wasn’t much skill at all involved for the drivers.
The only corner that I will really miss is Priory, the lefthander before Brooklands. It was really difficult to get right, in any category. It rewarded patience but commitment at the same time to get a clean exit, and it rewarded a good car with good stability. So as a driver, I’ll miss that.
But I think the new stuff offers a lot of enjoyment as well. Silverstone has become a more technical circuit for a driver, which is no bad thing. If you’d never seen the place before, and it was a brand-new circuit for you, with this layout every driver would say it’s brilliant. Yes, I will miss the old track. I’ll miss Bridge and Priory, and the old kerbs at Maggotts. It had such history and it had a real flow to it.
But if you approach this track as a new circuit, you would be astounded by the Maggotts/Becketts complex – as we always have been – you’d love Stowe, and you’d appreciate the technical section that the track throws up, and hopefully gives you more overtaking opportunities as well.
You are probably going to have to run more downforce now. For a high-speed circuit it was always relatively high downforce, but now it will be even higher. You need it for the infield section, for traction and change of direction at slow speed, and braking stability, especially coming into Village.
As a spectator, I’d still go to Maggotts/Becketts. If they had changed that I would have been really upset. I beg whoever is in charge of track design at Silverstone, please never, ever change it, or you’ll break every driver’s heart!”
On the way into Maggotts the inside kerb has changed to a flat profile for the bikes. Whereas it used to be a step-up, it’s now completely flat. The same goes for the right-hander at Maggotts. It used to have ‘grasscrete’ on the inside – that’s now a lush kerb. You’ll be able to use both of those kerbs heavily now, whereas in the past you could only use the right-hand one.
For the left-hander at Becketts, again the inside kerb is now flush with the circuit, the same as the previous two. So you’ll be able to use that kerb much more than you used to. Before you could use it, but it would throw the car out of balance a little. so if anything Maggotts and Becketts have been sped up.
The kerb on the inside of Chapel has changed, so the cars will be able to use that one as well, whereas before you couldn’t. The new asphalt starts on the exit, and they’ve changed the profile of the corner a little.
On Hangar Straight you’re back onto the old asphalt, and it’s the same all the way round Stowe. They’ve changed the inside kerb at Stowe, however, and the kerb on the exit. there’s a big bit of astroturf and it’s a lot easier to tackle in a car now.
The run down to Vale is still on the old asphalt, but the left-hander is slightly tighter than it used to be. There’s a big ‘sausage’ kerb on the inside, the same as at the final chicane in Barcelona. That’s changed quite a lot. It’s going to stop Formula 1 cars running over that bit, because it’s too high.
The right-hander at Club has completely changed, with new asphalt. It used to be one sweeping corner, starting off tight and opening up, but now it’s almost a 90-degree right-hander with a flat kerb on the inside. Then there’s a short straight which has a slight curve to it, before it goes to another 90-degree right-hander, which will be flat out in the F1 car. I guess they’ve changed all of this area so it gives them more room for the new pits complex. But it hasn’t changed the overall feel of Club. the first part is slower, but you have that little straight to get the downforce and traction working before the next part.
It gets exciting here! Abbey is probably the best individual corner on the track. It’s a blind right-hander with a flat kerb on the inside, and it goes up and over the hill slightly, and that really skews your vision before Abbey. They say it’s going to be flat out in an F1 car, but it’s going to be touch and go. It’s a bit like Copse – the same kind of approach, slightly blind, and you’ll be in seventh gear. Definitely a challenge for the drivers.
You go back down the old straight on the International circuit, which feels a bit strange. Farm, the left-hander, is easily flat out. It goes slightly downhill and is cambered in towards the kerb.
Village is similar to Vale in terms of kerb layout, so again you’ve got one of those ‘sausage’ kerbs on the inside. It reminds me of an elongated version of the new Bus Stop chicane at spa. I don’t think it will be an overtaking place in F1 – in Abbey you are relying too much on your front wing to give you grip, and if you’re near another car, you’ll have to back out of it. If Abbey was easy flat out, like Eau Rouge, then there might be overtaking into Village.
You climb the hill towards The Loop left-hander, which again has the same kerb layout on the inside. It’s going to be second gear though Village and the Loop as well.
You’re up through the box all around Aintree, flat out. It’s a kind of Club corner in reverse, going left instead of right. All of the last section has the new surface, obviously, and then that changes halfway down Wellington Straight, under the bridge. This is quite a long straight.
Brooklands is now exactly the same as what we’re used to on the old Club track. So a lot of the F1 drivers will have done this corner before, and some of them would have even done filming days or shakedowns with F1 cars. Compared with how it used to be, you’re approaching it much, much faster. It will be third gear and a much bigger spectacle in terms of speed. But in terms of overtaking opportunities, I would say not at all. I think they should have tightened it up, made more of a first-gear hairpin, and given you a bigger chance of overtaking.
At Luffield and Woodcote it’s the same old surface, although Luffield has this new flat kerb, and another on the exit, so it’s easier to run over. They’ve put a kerb at Woodcote where they used to have cones marking the inside edge of the track. They’ve tightened it up slightly as well for the bikes, and they’ve moved the grandstands back slightly, which looks a bit strange.