Both cars in the points

Both cars in the points

July 11, 2016

The second pair of back-to-back races saw the F1 circus dash from Austria to England. Our Technical Director James Key looks back at the tenth round of the season at Silverstone.

James Key:
We set a target for this event of trying to have a weekend that was not compromised, because from Monaco onwards there has been something preventing us from performing as well as we would have liked. We felt Silverstone could be a good event for us because it's a track that features high speed corners and we knew the weather could be changeable, even if we hadn't expected the "winter testing" conditions we encountered!

The very windy conditions meant we appeared to be unexpectedly uncompetitive in slow corners, particularly turns 4, 7 and the chicane at the end of the lap. However, the high and medium speed sections were pretty good. The wind was a factor, but the drivers made it clear they had a problem with traction at the exit to corners. We noticed the problems mainly on shorter runs with medium fuel loads, but on heavier fuel loads for longer runs the car's performance was much better.

We opted to go back to a mechanical set-up that was nearer our baseline settings, we looked carefully at the wing levels we were running, as we had previously run a compromise wing level, so overall we went into Saturday with a more conservative approach. This worked, because although the problems were still there, they were easier to deal with and the car proved easier to handle at low speeds. We therefore made a reasonable step forward in FP3 and by qualifying, at least with Carlos' car we were by and large back to normal and Daniil was close. Qualifying produced a mixed result for us: Carlos got through to Q3 without too many issues, but then didn't quite get the lap time we were hoping for in Q3. It was a very close battle with Force India and McLaren. We were P8, which became P7 on the grid thanks to Vettel's penalty. Daniil was building up speed during qualifying, quicker every lap and getting his confidence back. He was on a very good lap when he got held up by another car and lost several grid positions as a result.

It was a tough race, in terms of trying to get the strategy right after the entire field had to start on extreme wets behind the Safety Car. Everyone was trying to do the same thing and you had to be quite brave in making the right calls in terms of tyre management. We had some debate on the pit wall about this and felt the extreme wet would wear out quite quickly as the track was drying rapidly so you would need intermediates before switching to dry tyres. Therefore we decided, as did other teams, to stop early with one car, which is what we did with Carlos. We brought Daniil in one lap later and that seemed to have been the right call, but then, on the next lap, came one of those things you cannot predict in racing and that was a Virtual Safety Car, so that the cars ahead of us that hadn't pitted earlier effectively got a free pit stop. It gave them a substantial advantage while we lost out, even though we'd done the right thing. In the drying conditions we were quite quick on Intermediates, in P7 with Carlos, with Daniil being part of a queue that was forming behind, while Carlos tried to close the gap to Perez.

Once we were on the Medium tyre, the plan was to go to the end of the race, requiring good tyre management over a lot of laps in those cool conditions. We managed it: sadly Daniil was just 0.9 of a second outside the Vettel 5 second penalty, which meant he just missed out on being classified ninth, but to start 15th in a tough race, it was pretty good to finish tenth and in the points. Carlos drove really well to finish eighth and his pace was good. Unfortunately, he was one of many drivers to get caught out at Turn 1 where he spun, losing a couple of places. Overall it was good to not have any major issues from Saturday morning onwards to deal with allowing us to concentrate on performance levels and tyres etc rather than being distracted with problem solving. We got both cars into the points in a tough race which was positive, we feel we could have scored a little better in an ideal world, but ultimately we came away satisfied that we had given this race our best shot.