A lap of Silverstone with Kevin Magnussen
The Santander British Grand Prix is one of the races I’ve been most keenly looking forward to this season – for a number of reasons.
First, it’s McLaren’s home race. Okay, we’re unlikely to win it this year, sadly, but Jenson and I will still do our very best to put on a decent show for our McLaren colleagues, some of whom will be attending their only grand prix of the year. Thanks for all your hard work, by the way, guys; I hope you and your families have a really great day.
Second, the Silverstone fans are among the very best in the world – knowledgeable, enthusiastic and sporting – so it’s always a good feeling to race in front of them. And, since McLaren is the UK’s foremost Formula 1 team, and has been that for many years, a large percentage of the Silverstone fans are also McLaren fans. Thanks, guys. As I say, I promise Jenson and I will try our very hardest for you.
At the end of the day, though, none of what I’ve just said alters the way we’ll prepare for the race, because we always give 100 per cent, every time, everywhere.
2014 Santander British Grand Prix – preview
Moreover, even if Silverstone wasn’t in the UK, it’d still be one of the highlights of the F1 year, simply because it’s a truly fantastic racetrack. Ask any F1 driver which circuits he likes best and, Monaco apart (because that place is awesome even though it’s so slow), he’ll invariably name the quicker ones – such as Spa (of course) and Suzuka (which I’m hugely looking forward to).
Silverstone is right up there too – especially the quicker bits of it, as I’m about to explain.
I’ve already raced there in three different types of single-seater – once in Formula Renault 2.0, once in British Formula 3, and once in World Series by Renault 3.5 – and I’ve also tested there in a McLaren Formula 1 car. So I know it pretty well – the old layout as well as the new layout.
So here’s how I go about turning a quick lap there.
Turn One, a fast right-hand bend, sometimes has a bumpy apex, but I’m hoping they’ll have ironed that out this year. If they have, it’ll be relatively straightforward; if they haven’t, it may be a bit tricky.
It leads very quickly into Turn Two, a fast left sweep, which then leads equally quickly into Turn Three, a sharp right-hander that you have to brake extremely hard for and take in third gear, leading into the new Arena section.
Turn Four is a very slow left, for which you have to drop down to second gear, leading to another left, Turn Five, that marks the end of the Arena section. The exit through Turns Four and Five is rather difficult, because you have to feed the power on with plenty of lock on, which asks a lot of your rear tyres.
14 not out: McLaren at the British GP
There’s a short-ish straight after that, leading to Brooklands, a left-hander. The second half of this left-hander is the old Brooklands from the previous layout, but the new layout provides a wider entry which makes the corner bigger, faster and cooler. Brooklands leads straight into Luffield, a long but not particularly quick right-hander, so I try to enter Brooklands as fast as I can, then brake hard and scrub off speed with my front tyres, so as to set the car up so as to balance the car through Luffield, maintaining a decent minimum corner speed throughout the whole turn while also optimising the exit, because that’s crucial to your speed through the flat-out left at Woodcote and onto the long-ish straight that leads to Copse. You can overtake into Brooklands, by the way, but it isn’t easy.
Copse is a brilliant corner. When I tested the McLaren MP4-28 at Silverstone last year, it was almost flat. This year, though, with the lower downforce levels all the cars have as a result of the new regulations, it won’t be. We’ll approach it extremely fast, and the quickest way through it is to turn in really hard – a very quick steering-wheel movement – then get back on the power almost instantly. As I say, it’s a brilliant corner.
After that, there’s another short-ish straight, but you’re through it really quickly because you exit Copse so fast, and then you arrive at the Maggotts-Becketts complex, one of the most famous corner combinations in the world, and deservedly so.
Someone recently asked me to describe Maggotts-Becketts, and the first thing I could think of saying was “It’s a truly awesome piece of track.” It really is. It’s very, very fast, and when you get it right you really feel the awesome capability of a modern F1 car. The feeling of grip, and the excitement that that grip produces in terms of rapid direction change, is a big, big buzz, believe me.
As you exit Becketts, extremely fast, you flick left through Chapel without lifting and power all the way along the Hangar Straight.
At the end of the Hangar Straight is Stowe, a fast right-hanger, what I’d call a great old-school corner, straightforward but satisfying to get right, and a place where you don’t want to make a mistake but you definitely want to ensure that your minimum corner speed is good. It’s also a place where overtaking is possible.
You then power out of Stowe towards Vale, a sharp 90-degree left for which you have to stand on the brakes, one of only two places you have to brake really hard in fact, the other being Turn Three. Again, similar to Turn Three, which leads to the Arena section, at Vale you turn hard left and then have to feed in the power as you enter the long left at Club. That really tests your car’s traction, because you’re applying as much power as you can with plenty of lock still dialled in. It asks big questions of your rears but it’s a neat feeling when you get it right.
And that’s Silverstone. I hope I’ve given you some extra insights that’ll help you enjoy watching Jenson and me there as much as we’ll enjoy driving there.
See you there!