British Grand Prix PreviewJuly 14, 2021
Formula 1 is coming home for one of the staple fixtures on the calendar, the British Grand Prix, held at Silverstone Circuit, marking Round 10 of the 2021 season.
Formula 1 now travels all around the world but a converted airfield in rural Britain is where it all began back on May 13, 1950. Attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the British Grand Prix marked the start of the Formula 1 World Championship, spawning legends, and creating heroes. Over seven decades and 1,000 grands prix have since passed but Silverstone remains the spiritual home of Formula 1, with eight of the 10 teams having operations set up in the country, including Uralkali Haas F1 Team.
The fast and flowing layout provides a spectacular challenge for teams and drivers alike, with iconic corners such as Abbey, Copse and Maggotts/Becketts taken at phenomenal speed, while the venue frequently lends itself to close side-by-side competition in race trim. And, in one of the biggest shake-ups to the format in Formula 1’s 71-year existence, drivers will have two opportunities to race across successive days.
The British Grand Prix will mark the first of three appearances in 2021 for the Sprint Qualifying trial. A sprint, of 100km length, will take place on Saturday afternoon and the outcome of that will determine the grid for Sunday’s usual grand prix. The grid for Sprint Qualifying will be set by the tried-and-tested three-part qualifying session, the scheduling of which has been moved from Saturday to Friday evening. As part of the changes only two practice sessions, one apiece on Friday and Saturday, will take place.
Uralkali Haas F1 Team rookies Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher both have race-winning experience of Silverstone from their junior careers. Mazepin stormed to his maiden Formula 2 victory at the circuit last August while Schumacher scored a win at Silverstone during his title-winning European Formula 3 campaign in 2018.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Uralkali Haas F1 Team
The Austrian Grand Prix saw driving standards, and rules and penalties, very much debated in the aftermath of the race. Do you think drivers need clearer guidelines or should they be allowed to get on and race?
“I don’t think we need clearer guidelines; I think we need consistency and I’m always in favour of letting people get on and race. Some of the decisions taken, I don’t fully agree with but so it will be.”
You’ve spoken in the past about Formula 1’s need to give things a go in the interests of the sport to see if they work – which includes this weekend’s Sprint event on Saturday. Are you excited to see how it plays out at Silverstone and how will you define the success of the Sprint format?
“I am looking forward to it because it’s something new and something new always gives opportunity and hopefully we can be a part of that. I think the success will be if the fans like it. At the moment I think it’s a good format but if there’s something we can enhance, and the fans embrace it, that would be good and then I would say let’s do more of it.”
Just how hard do you think drivers will push in the Sprint to secure a higher grid position for Sunday’s race and what’s the briefing to Nikita and Mick – play it conservatively, knowing the limitations of the VF-21, or push regardless to see what gains can be made and what opportunities might present themselves?
“I think for sure the drivers will race hard because in qualifying everyone races hard and this is like a sprint race which defines the qualifying positions. On Sunday, when points are at stake, you want to be in the best position to start the race as you can. From our side, this year it’s all about learning so running the race, having a few more race starts during the year because of sprint qualifying format will be an advantage next year. On the sprint, I will tell them to keep their noses clean and keep the cars on the track.”
With the recent cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, and the need for a fluid approach to the calendar in the second half of 2021, what impact does that have on a team in terms of logistics and forward-planning?
“With the Australian Grand Prix cancelled this early, it doesn’t have any real impact. Obviously, it has an impact on the budget, it could be beneficial or not, but we will find that out later on in the season. At the moment, on what people are doing, it has no impact because nothing was commissioned yet. Now we are waiting anxiously to find out what will replace Australia.”
With the mandatory summer shutdown looming in two races time, has the ability to have a relatively normal first half of the season impressed you, and just how significant is the break in allowing team personnel – both at track and in the factory, an opportunity to recharge?
“It's been a relatively normal first half of the season and with already one triple-header - people can feel the strain of it. We all look forward to the shutdown in August which is not far away – just two more races to go. We also know after the shutdown, we will have a very tough second half of the season, with quite a few triple-headers so I hope everyone takes some rest over the summer and comes back recharged because we need it.”