The scene of the first ever F1 race 60 years ago, the Silverstone circuit remains one of the championship’s classics. Sure, it’s nice going to mega new facilities like Singapore and Abu Dhabi, but F1’s soul- at least what’s left of it- remains in places like this.
For 2010 it’s undergone some changes, with the new Arena Complex- actually designed for motorbikes rather than cars- hopefully adding some fresh excitement to the track. And after Valencia, which surprised us with a decent race, we’re definietly hoping for excitement here. The action is already underway, with free practice one and two having taken place- here’s how the sessions went.
Free Practice 1
The big news pre-session was Bruno Senna’s absence from the Hispania car this weekend, with the team’s test driver Sakon Yamamoto taking the Brazilian’s place at the struggling squad. The latest on the story is that Bruno will be back in the car for the German GP in a fortnight, providing some financial problems are solved. Hispania say they’re just giving Yamamoto an opportunity to race this weekend. A strange one this, and we’ve probably not heard the end of it just yet.
In other driver-swap-news test drivers Paul di Resta and Fairuz Fauzy got behind the wheel of a Force India and a Lotus respectively, though just for the morning session. Fauzy suffered an engine problem in the pits, but did eventually hit the track. His running was restricted though, hampering Lotus’ evaluation of their latest- and final- 2010 upgrade. The Malaysian was on the phone with Badger yesterday, so keep an eye out for the full interview over the weekend.
Like Lotus, and a fair few other, Red Bull have plenty of new bits on their car this weekend, as they try to keep the opposition in their rear-view mirrors. It’s not like them to show pace in FP1, so this might be seen as a bit ominous for the rest of the grid: Valencia winner Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the first session, producing a best lap of 1:32.280, three-tenths quicker than the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton.
Next up was Renault’s Robert Kubica- who this penned a new contract that will keep him at the team through the 2012 season- followed by the second Red Bull of Mark Webber. An impressive run from Adrian Sutil saw him take 5th spot, with Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Button, Schumacher and Barichello rounding out the top 10. It wasn’t a good session for Ferrari though, whose best placed car was 13th quickest Fernando Alonso, with teammate Massa even further adrift in 17th. Their new blown rear-end clearly isn’t living up to the standard of the Red Bull’s. See below for the times, which are courtesy of the F1 timing app, available on iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Blackberry, from the Official F1 Website.
Free Practice 2
We thought it was looking good for Red Bull in the morning session, and after second practice they look positively peachy. Well, they’re looking pretty peachy.
After Vettel’s p1 in the morning session it was his teammate who shone in FP2. Mark Webber went to the top of the timesheets after just 20 minutes, and improved his time after an hour with a mighty impressive 1:31.234. He’s clearly getting on famously with ‘Luscious Liz’, Vettel’s ex-chassis that the Aussie is now using. Vettel was 3rd fastest, over half a second shy of his teammate.
The RB6- armed with the most developed blown rear-end- was always going to be stellar through Silverstone’s fast corners, and today’s sessions suggest they’ll be tough to beat this weekend.
However Webber’s day was made a little less joyous by a technical problem on his car that kept him out of the final minutes of the session. Is Liz trying to sabotage her new man’s chances? This is getting weird now…
Back to the on-track action. After a poor morning session Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa had a much better time of it in FP2, ending up 2nd and 4th respectively. Next up were the Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, followed by the impressive Vitaly Petrov. The Russian is the only driver to be outqualified by his teammate at every race this season, but his confidence will be up after this session. Hamilton, Sutil and Barichello completed the top ten.
Jenson Button ended the FP2 down in 13th spot, and with Hamilton 8th it wasn’t a great session for the British drivers. But with McLaren focusing on car development fast times were never really on the agenda. There’s more to come from these boys.
The bump at Abbey caused several drivers to have off-track excursions today. An added challenge for these mega talented drivers or a safety hazard- you tell us. Village also proved tricky, with Schumacher, Hamilton and Massa just three of the drivers to make mistakes there. The new section of track is catching drivers out too, as the switch to the newly laid surface and find themselves with less grip.
But will a bump in the track, or even a mysterious car problem, be enough to stop the Red Bulls this weekend? They’re certainly the team to beat in tomorrow’s qualifying session. Badger will of course have full coverage from the British Grand Prix, with our editor reporting from the circuit this weekend- stay tuned.