Time to come home! It’s the British Grand Prix!
Silverstone is the spiritual home of British motorsport, and 52 laps around this historic circuit awaited. Once the fastest track on the calendar, Silverstone has been amended on a number of occasions, changing the dynamic of the track, but several super-fast, challenging and rewarding sections of track remain.
Of particular interest are the sweeping curves of Maggots and Becketts, a rapid series of jinks to the right and left that can easily lead you off-balance heading into the Hangar Straight. Get it right and you’re going to be very quick, and you can carry a fair bit of that speed through Stowe and Vale.
A more thorough take on the lap is that once the fuel load eases you can hit a fair number of sections virtually flat out. Turn 1 (Abbey) and Copse (where Hamilton and Verstappen tangled in the 2021 British Grand Prix) are fast, sweeping corners that you can take at speed, if you’re feeling brave. The section through Brooklands and Luffield is fun. So for that matter are the last couple of corners. In short, there is a reason Silverstone is one of the most popular tracks among the drivers, and I understand that better after this latest race.
My previous experiences on F1 games at Silverstone have been mixed. On F1 2009, a game I which I mastered enough to turn virtually all the assists off, I could not master Silverstone. Granted, that was an old configuration of the circuit, but I could not handle the Maggots/Becketts section, and generally did not get to grips with the course. On F1 2021 I fared a lot better. Practice went very well and qualifying saw me into Q3 on the mediums rather than softs, which (like the frontrunners) granted me the best strategy. I was surprised by my team recommending a short stint on the mediums and a longer stint on the softs, so I decided to override their idea and set up a long run on the mediums, giving me fresher, better tyres than my rivals when I finally stopped.
I started P6 (I could have sworn it was P7), had my usual slow getaway, and recovered to P7 early on. I could not catch the Ferrari of Leclerc but held the faster, soft-booted Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari at bay, until the car began to respond better as fuel loads lightened, and his tyres began to lose performance. I also managed to remain a few seconds off Leclerc, who was battling with Perez, and P7 became P6 when Lando Norris’ McLaren suffered some form of car trouble and he pulled off the road to retire. As the leaders pitted (in my view far too early), I stayed out, assumed the lead of the race, and tried to pump in some reasonable lap times.
My perseverance paid off, but not without a price. The leaders (Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen) all had soft tyres, and they soon caught up to me. I am not one to usually let cars pass me, so I put up a fight with Hamilton, and his (in my view) unwillingness to back off led to him going into a spin and losing the lead of the race. He (had this been real) might have argued I shut the door too abruptly, but trying to go up the inside of Brooklands (I think) whilst I held the racing line was not a great move, and on the on-board replay he didn’t try to turn all that much. A short time later Bottas in the other Mercedes was on my tail, and though I forced him into some theatrical moves, he got by me, and then I got tipped into a little wobble when I tried to fight back.
Once on soft tyres I realised I was up to P5, ahead of Leclerc, and what was better was that my tyres were fresh. I was some 11 seconds behind Perez with 18 laps to go, and I tried to chase him down. In the end I pulled a comfortable gap to Leclerc but the Red Bull remained tantalisingly out of reach, some 4 seconds down the road. Still, 5th was hardly a bad result, for it meant yet another consecutive points finish. Things were ticking along nicely.
The title fight ended up going still further in Bottas’ favour, quite possibly because of Hamilton’s incident with me. His lead grew yet again, and it was starting to appear as though no one could stop him…