The 2013 Formula 1 world championship returns after a two week break, with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone the next stop on the calendar. An abandoned World War II RAF airport, this is arguably one of the most historic race venues in the world and, 62 years ago, the site of Ferrari's first ever Formula 1 race win.
That fact is significant because Jose Froilan Gonzalez died in Buenos Aires recently. The 90-year-old Argentine is not, perhaps, a familiar name for modern or younger fans but he wrote his name into the record books in 1951, after beating the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio (in an Alfa Romeo) and taking the chequered flag at Silverstone. Appreciated by British fans (who nicknamed him The Pampus Bull) and revered by the tifosi, Gonzalez's spirit will probably accompany Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa this weekend.
To the present, though. And the race weekend begins, as usual, with the two practice sessions on Friday. On Saturday, the third practice session will be followed by the qualifying session and the race will on Sunday afternoon.
Where to Watch Practice for the 2013 Formula 1 British Grand Prix
Live coverage of the first practice session for the 2013 Formula 1 British Grand Prix starts at 9.45am BST on Sky Sports F1 and at 10am BST on BBC Red Button 1.
Live coverage of the second practice session for the 2013 Formula 1 British Grand Prix starts at 1.45pm BST on Sky Sports F1 and at 1.55pm BST on BBC Red Button 1.
Real-time updates are available on the Live Timing section of the sport's official website.
Silverstone Circuit Preview
- Name: Silverstone
- Length: 5.891km
- No of Laps: 52
- Lap Record: 1:34.661 - K Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault; 2012)
- 2012 Pole Position: 1:51.746 - F Alonso (Ferrari)
- 2012 Winner: M Webber (Red Bull)
Like any other iconic race track, there is a special section at Silverstone - the Becketts complex. Technically this consists of three corners flowing into one another (of which Becketts is the second), much like the sequence of corners in Japan's Suzuka Circuit. A tight and perfect racing line is required going into the first corner here - Maggots - and that will largely govern speed and time through Becketts and Chapel.
The penalty for misjudging the braking point or carrying too much speed through any one of these turns is the car gets pushed further and further away from the apex as you travel through the sequence and exit onto the Hangar straight. And if that happens, not only will you lose time but you will very likely be overtaken turning into Stowe.
The lap starts with Abbey, a gentle right-handed turn taken at 275km/h in sixth. The left-hand kink that follows is Farm and drivers will maintain speed all the way through to Village - a sharp right-hander that drops speed to 100km/h. Village marks a short but tight and slow sequence that will see cars drop to about 80km/h.
Coming out of Aintree, drivers will accelerate all the way up Wellington and into Brooklands. This sequence of Brooklands, Luffield and Woodcote is as iconic as the Becketts complex and makes for fantastic viewing from the grandstands. The cars will sweep through the long right-hander that is Luffield at about 100km/h in second gear, building up speed through Woodcote for the run down the National Pits straight and into Copse.
Cars will approach Copse at speeds in excess of 300km/h in seventh gear. A sharp and fast right-hander, Copse is normally taken in sixth gear, at about 250km/h. A good line through this turn is important because it sets the car up for entry into Maggots and the Becketts complex.
Past Becketts, the Hanger straight and Stowe, the next big challenge is Vale, a slow left-hander that is followed by Club. Once again, speed and control through this section is vital because it sets the driver up for the end of the lap and the run into Abbey, an overtaking point.
The fast and flowing nature of this track means car balance needs to be very good. Tyre wear will also play a role in this regard - if tyre wear is uneven across the four wheels then it presents a balance problem for the driver.
Changing weather conditions will not make it any easier for the teams and the drivers. British weather is famously unpredictable and although the forecasts call for a relatively dry weekend, that could change, particularly with rain forecast for Friday.
This could create a steering problem because colder temperatures mean colder tyres and less bite on the track. Faster corners like the Becketts complex need precise steering to maintain an optimum racing line.
The bulk of a strong lap time is in the sequence of four corners starting from Copse. The average speed through them is 250km/h, meaning tyre and car balance is critical. Webber won last year on two stops but given the nature of tyres this season, expect three or even four stops, if the weather changes on Sunday.
The Canadian Grand Prix was tough on the tyres and Pirelli expect nothing less than a similarly difficult weekend for their rubber. The Italians have confirmed P Zero Orange (hard) and P Zero White (medium) as the two tyre choices for this weekend.
The company's motorsports director, Paul Hembery, also confirmed that the experimental hard compound tyre used during practice sessions at the Spanish Grand Prix. The medium and hard compounds have come under criticism for wearing through far too quickly, creating potential safety issues.
Tyre wear will once again be an issue, with Williams' technical director, Mike Coughlan, explaining: "The track is relatively rough and tyre energy input is high, higher than Barcelona but much more evenly balanced across the left and right hand sides of the car and more towards the front."
Organisers praying for a rain-free weekend will be relieved to know that forecasts, at this stage, show nothing worse than a few showers during Friday practice. The 2012 race was a near-disaster, from an organisational and spectators point of view, after torrential rain left the car park unusable and forced the closure of practice sessions to the public.
The first practice session starts at 11am BST, by which time the heavier morning showers should have eased off. There may still be a bit of rain in the skies and it will be a very cloudy day for the most part but the sun is expected to peek through towards the evening. This will likely be similar weather to that at Montreal in the last race.