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The beginning of the end!  
12 July 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 22  

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Silverstone is the first of the fast tracks that dominate the rest of the season. Only Hungary is still slow, the rest are all fast. I always see this as the final term of the year. What is not sorted out by now is unlikely to get sorted before the end of the season. Patterns are in place and pecking order is established, it will take close to an act of God to change the outcome of the driver's championship this year.

At an anticipated average speed of 225Km/H(140mph), it is certainly one of the faster circuits of the season but by no means the fastest. Of the 17 corners that I count only two will be negotiated at under 100Km/H(60mph), 6 between 100Km/H(60mph) and 200Km/H(125mph), 3 over 200Km/H(125mph) and 6 over 250Km/H(155mph).

Seeing that the majority of corners will be taken at over 160Km/H(100mph) where aerodynamics really counts I expect all teams to optimise aerodynamic grip for Silverstone. The wings will be as big as possible.

It is very definitely a horsepower circuit because of the need for maximum aerodynamic grip. Teams who do not have the power to reach the high speed on the straights (I am expecting the leading teams to get close to 325Km/H before braking for Stowe) may have to sacrifice downforce for top speed, which will make them very loose on most of the high speed corners. Apart from risking spins that may end in retirement or worse, I do not believe that the time lost in being slower on the corners can be made up in the straights. Unless power is a real problem I expect to see all teams out there with medium to large wings.

Because aerodynamic grip plays such a big role at Silverstone, overtaking will not be easy. Cars with a distinct power advantage may be able to drag past after Stowe (which is so slow that aerodynamics do not feature). The other opportunities are under brakes into Copse (at the end of the pit straight), Club and Abbey. The challenge will be to be close enough to the leading car in the preceding corners as all of these are relatively fast and grip will depend on good clean air for the aerodynamics to work.

Tyre and brake wear is relatively low but as the cars will be on full throttle for at least 60% of the lap, engines will take a pounding.

Williams could do very well. They have the power to carry bigger wings to maximise aerodynamic grip and still be fast on the straights. Both drivers are fast (although Montoya may not have the patience to conserve his engine) and Williams are strongest on faster tracks.

Their Achilles' heel will be tyres. We have seen in preceeding races that they are forced to go out on well scrubbed (partially worn) tyres to get the best performance, which will be hard to do if the strategy calls for a single stop. On the other hand I am sure that Michelin have been working on improving the performance of their soft compound tyres and they may provide Williams with tyres that are competitive from the start. In that case they will be hard to beat.

This season McLaren seem to have lost their power advantage over Ferrari so I am not expecting them to be faster than Ferrari. They may struggle to stay in touch with Ferrari, let alone beat them.

Coulthard will be a man on a mission as this is as close to a home crowd as he will get and he needs to do well to keep the very slim chance that he has to win the driver's championship alive. His prime objective must be to finish in front of Michael Schumacher. If he does not, and Michael wins, he will have no hope of catching up in the rest of the season (not that he has much hope now).

Hakkinen could go either way. So far, this season his driving has been uninspiring with the exception of a couple of flashes of brilliance. I am not expecting him to be competitive but it would be nice to see him try.

Barrichello has the car to do well but will be expected to finish behind Schumacher, like always.

Michael will win this race against the odds if there is only a slight possibility of doing so. It will be a challenge, especially if Williams have overcome their tyre trouble, but, like so many times in the past, Michael can be relied on to clearly understand what he needs to do to win at any stage in the race and to do it.

The Ferrari may not be quite as fast as the Williams at Silverstone and if Williams have a perfect race they may finish in first and second. But the Ferrari is reliable, their ability to plan and adapt is far superior to any other team and Michael's proven ability to do what it takes when needed cannot be underestimated. My money is still on Ferrari and Schumacher.

The rest of the field is hard to comment on. They all seem to be down on power and will all have to compromise aerodynamics or straight line speed. Jordan may do well and as it is their home crowd, Jaguar will be pulling out all the stops. The BAR cars will again look uncomfortable on the track and Villeneuve will radiate frustration. If Arrows look good at any stage in the race it will be because they are on one more stop than the others and Prost will be pretty but useless (or is that pretty useless). Minardi will be Minardi, down on power, down on budget and down on laps.

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