I went to Silverstone for the practice sessions on Friday. As Alex informed you, this will be the penultimate British Grand Prix at the track, and the last one for David Coulthard. I personally am excited about the race going to Donnington (a circuit with much more dramatic changes in elevation), and have only since Coulthard’s move to Red Bull come to really like him, but it will be sad to see both go.
It’s hard to replicate the sensation of hearing the cars as they come out for their first laps – the noise far off at first, like a swarm of bees, out of sight but slowly increasing. You catch a glimpse of one, on the other side of the track, a dash of colour between grandstands, and then it arrives, screaming towards you, wavering as it brakes, punching down through the gears, a flick of the steering wheel and then it’s gone, over the next hill, towards the next corner. The gear changes sound like gunshots, the acceleration like an aeroplane’s.
The first thing you notice is the sturdiness of the Mclaren and Ferrari, how fixed they are to the track, and the uneasiness of the Force India and Honda (Button especially coming out of Vale, although it seems he was doing quick lap-times). The television tends to flatten things; you miss the dips and rises through Becketts, how steep the climb up to Stowe is, and the hundred different approaches to and through a corner that the drivers use. Kovalainen did look hooked-up, not making a single mistake, where we saw Lewis go off at least once – but then that perhaps is his style, always stretching the limits. Vettell looked very quick in the fast corners, and I’m regretting not putting him in my prediction.
We walked around the whole track during the two sessions. It’s fascinating seeing from different angles and elevations the corners and the way the cars take them. The Becketts complex looks different from every direction. The best cars go out wide and flick it in suddenly, keeping as straight a line as possible, where the Williams had to swoop around the corners, understeering all the way. We saw a hare run across the track at Becketts (fast, but not as fast as what almost hit him), and Trulli crash into the barriers right in front of us, then get out and wave to the crowd. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures uploaded to show you soon.