Lotus ace guides us round Silverstone
Heikki Kovalainen is currently fighting to make it out of Q1 with Team Lotus, but back in 2008 he took pole position for the British Grand Prix with McLaren. Motor Sport asked him for his thoughts on the track ahead of this year’s race.
“I won my first Formula Renault race at Silverstone, and my first F3 race. I almost won my first Grand Prix as well, or at least I was on pole, and the opportunity was there to win. It’s kind of a home race for me, or as close
as it gets. I know a lot of people there and it’s always a friendly place to go to. “It’s a great track, but I’m not a big fan of the new section. They’ve taken away a couple of excellent corners,
especially Bridge. I probably like it a bit less now, and I don’t think it’s added much overtaking. But it’s still got great sections, great corners.
“The new first corner is pretty much flat out, as is the next left-hander. Then you have two slow corners, which are fairly straightforward. It’s quite easy to defend into the first one, so it doesn’t promote overtaking as much as people were expecting. It’s not a very exciting section. But at the start we could see more action than in previous years. Before, Copse and the first section were high speed, and you just joined the queue. “The corner at the end of the new straight gets tighter towards the exit, and you need to hit the apex at the right point. You can carry more speed than you expect. Because of the high-speed nature of the circuit you set the car up for that, so it
doesn’t feel comfortable at slow speed, and you have to try to manage it as well as you can. You can gain or lose a lot of time in the slow stuff. “I did Copse flat out in a Renault test a few years ago, but in the current cars we
haven’t been able to do that. It’s a lift, but in the race you shift down a gear. “The whole Becketts section is one of my favourite places in F1, together with the Esses at Suzuka. It’s
about high-speed change of direction, getting a good line, hitting the kerbs correctly and having confidence and good car balance. It’s important to get the first bit right so you set yourself up through that sequence. An Fl car feels at its best there, fully loaded with downforce.
“Without DRS Stowe isn’t really a passing place, unless the car in front makes a mistake leaving Becketts. It’s one of the best corners with a high-speed entry and you don’t brake much.
“Vale is a passing place, especially at the start of the race when people are still a bit cautious through Stowe. At Club you’re trying to get the correct line and get the power down early.
“In qualifying we’ll be using DRS everywhere we have a straight, and it will be a big benefit.” British GP preview, p51