The British Grand Prix is upon us with a barrage of drama expected at Silverstone this weekend, and if the opening weeks of the season are anything to go by, we won’t be disappointed.
The first of two races at the iconic home of the world championship will see Lewis Hamilton aiming for his seventh victory in the British Grand Prix, while there’s a new driver in contention following a COVID controversy.
Most of the country is basking in the glory of the great British summer (well, a whole day of it) but drivers will be feeling the heat more than most as they gun their way around the iconic, turbo-charged track in Northamptonshire.
We caught up with Sky Sports F1 expert David Croft as part of our In The Pit Lane series full of the big talking points ahead of every race this season.
We discuss Nico Hulkenberg’s sensational return to the driver’s hot-seat after Sergio Perez’s inconclusive COVID-19 test ruled him out of the race, Crofty brings us his insight about the rapid Silverstone circuit, and why the weather is such a big deal.
Hulkenberg fairytale could end in an elusive podium
DC: This has fallen into his lap, hasn’t it? Not only was he thinking ‘What particular meat should I stick on the barbecue this weekend?’ rather than ‘Where am I going to be racing?’, he’s now jumping into what could arguably be a podium-contending car to race here and possibly next weekend as well.
For a man who’s had 177 starts and not been on the podium, this could be the chance he’s looking for. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he does that because he’s a fine driver. I hope he takes that chance because this could be a fairytale story.
I don’t think [Red Bull] will be on the podium this weekend, if they are well done, but I fancy one of the Racing Points to get on the podium.
DC: For the Ferrari chairman to come out and say we’re not going to be winning regularly until 2022, the most damning part is that no-one disagreed with his comments.
It was a very, very realistic assessment of where Ferrari are at. Draggy car, down on horsepower, they will get exposed at Silverstone like no other circuit.
The drivers will still give it everything they’ve got but they’re not in a position to be shouting for podiums, they’re racing with McLaren and Renault at the moment. They’ve gone into that midfield group. Carlos Sainz is probably thinking ‘I hope this gets better!’
Why the weather could be crucial
DC: Imagine the track and your car are not inanimate objects, they are living and breathing things. Like a golf course can drastically change from day to day depending on weather conditions, so can a race course.
Any temperature build-up or decrease on the track will change the way tyres interact with that surface. The cooler the conditions, the faster the car will go because cooler air is heavier air and heavier air gives you more downforce. More downforce means you can corner faster. Thicker air keeps you on the ground.
A temperature change of about 10 degrees (from Friday practice to the Grand Prix on Sunday) is massive in Formula 1. Cars need cool air constantly running through them to stop things overheating, so in cooler conditions, cars don’t overheat so much, therefore you don’t get the reliability problems.
Any living, breathing object changes its performance depending on the conditions.
There’s no place like home
DC: I love Silverstone. There’s no place like home. It is the home of the world championship, and it’s where it all started. It’s such a magnificent track to come and watch racing cars at.
For 80 per cent plus of this lap, the driver can take it at full throttle, keep his foot pinned down on that throttle, turn right at over 180mph and know the car is going to stick to the ground, produce speeds of 210mph on the straights with a bit of DRS.
It’s a very fast circuit, beautiful changes of direction where you see driver and machine working together so efficiently. You can marvel at the engineering and the bravery of the drivers to trust the car. It’s like slalom skiing, just not downhill. Once you find the rhythm it’s a proper joy.
How to watch the British Grand Prix
The race starts at 2:10pm on Sunday 12th July live on Sky Sports F1.
For full TV details as well as timings of practice, qualifying and the race itself, check out our comprehensive guide to the British Grand Prix.
For the full breakdown of F1 races coming up check out our F1 2020 calendar guide.
If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV guide.