July 5th, 2012 (F1plus / Chris Cameron-Dow).- Formula One returns home this weekend with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, scene of the very first World Championship Grand Prix in 1950. It is the home race of eight out of twelve teams, as most Formula One factories are based in England.
Although this is a big weekend for Formula One, this week's racing news has been dominated not by the British Grand Prix, but by Maria De Villota's horrific accident that occurred during testing of the Marussia MR-01 on Tuesday. As a result of the crash, she has lost an eye and remains in critical condition in hospital. The thoughts of the racing community are with Maria, her family and the Marussia F1 team at this difficult time.
Who can challenge Alonso?
Fernando Alonso is obviously the form driver thus far this season. He has not had the quickest car, but is the only driver to win two races this season, and consequently leads the Drivers' Championship.
Based on their form in the early part of the season, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are Alonso's major title challengers, and they will be looking to take as many points away from the Spaniard as possible this weekend.
Pirelli are bringing their hard and soft compounds to Silverstone. The large gap between tyre compounds (the medium compound separates them) should result in a substantial performance gain on the softer rubber, perhaps as much as a second per lap. The setup challenge will be to generate enough energy to heat up the hard tyres but not so much that the soft tyres overheat.
With rain predicted, dry setup could become irrelevant, and the teams may choose to focus on wet weather setup instead.
Pirelli are bringing an experimental hard tyre for the teams to test during Friday practice. This allows the tyre manufacturer to evaluate the performance of the tyres on current cars. The rest of Pirelli's track testing takes place on a car that is two years old, and therefore not current in terms of technical regulations.
The Silverstone track is likely to play to the strengths of McLaren and Red Bull - the teams with the strongest aero packages – due to the large number of high speed corners on the layout. However, Fernando Alonso is bullish ahead of the weekend, suggesting that the Ferrari F2012 could be in contention.
It looks likely that the race will take place in the rain, which throws the contest wide open. The teams are already so closely matched that rain can only disrupt the order. It does bear remembering that Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez were strong in rain-hit Malaysia, suggesting that Ferrari and Sauber could be strong this weekend.
Fernando Alonso has been a step ahead of the field in the early part of the season, which makes him the favourite for victory.
Circuit Length: 5.891 km
Race laps: 52
Race length: 306.198 km
Lap Record: 1:30.874 – Fernando Alonso / Ferrari (2010)
Race winner: Fernando Alonso / Ferrari
Pole position: Mark Webber / Red Bull – 1:30.399
Fastest lap: Fernando Alonso / Ferrari – 1:34.908
− Local hero Jim Clark won the British Grand Prix five times from only eight attempts between 1960 and 1967.
− The last driver to win back-to-back British Grands Prix was David Coulthard in 1999-2000.
− Only three of the last ten British Grands Prix have been won from pole position.
In true Silverstone fashion, rain is predicted for the entire weekend. Running is therefore likely to be limited in practice on Friday, unless there is a break in the weather that allows for some serious setup work.