For automotive sport fans and car enthusiasts alike, Sunday, July 18th is an important day as it marks Formula 1’s annual return to the famous Silverstone circuit in Great Britain. Seven-time World Champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is expected to feel the pressure at his home grand prix next Sunday as he fights for victory in the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship – currently led by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. Verstappen sits at a comfortable 32 points ahead of Hamilton; the likes of which haven’t been seen since Nico Rosberg’s Drivers’ World Championship victory in 2016.
There are two variables viewers should keep an eye on during next Sunday’s race: tire wear and Sergio Perez. Silverstone is famous – and unforgiving – for causing tire wear given the extreme turns and intense heat. Drivers on the track will need to preserve their tires for as long as possible, and their management of the treads will determine whether a one-stop or a two-stop pit strategy is needed. Famously, during the 2020 Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton experienced a full blowout in the front left tire only a few laps before the end of the race. Losing between ten and twenty seconds longer a lap, he crawled to the finish line for a P1 and a comfortable lead in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Will we see this drama again next week? Yes. Look at Baku earlier this year when both Max Verstappen and Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll experienced a puncture from tire wear on the main straight. Though it could have been anything – possibly even debris left on track – both drivers had a puncture in only the rear left tire in practically the same spot on the circuit. This proved controversial as drivers all around the paddock questioned the 2021 tire compounds Pirelli regulated. If the Baku circuit – a circuit not famous for its tire wear– can produce two tire blowouts in a single race, one must wonder the effect Silverstone will have on the drivers’ and teams’ abilities to manage tires and strategies.
Sergio Perez is Red Bull’s second driver on the track with Max Verstappen. After signing the contract with Red Bull during the winter break before the season, the experienced veteran of Formula 1 has proved an asset to his team. Why? Tire management. Perez in several of the previous races managed his tires to the point where he only needed one stop in the pits whereas his teammate needed two. This tire management, along with his capability as an experienced driver – as proven in his maiden Red Bull victory in Baku earlier this year – is a clear and present danger to the other drivers on the grid.
Most interestingly, Silverstone is introducing a new form of qualifying on Sunday. Normally, Formula 1 has a three-stage qualifying session, where the lap times of a car determine their place on the grid. Instead, there will be a Sprint Qualifying session this upcoming weekend, where drivers will race for thirty laps without pitstops, and the finishing order will determine grid positions the next day and the possibility for valuable Drivers’ World Championship points. This new qualifying method has sparked excitement, concern, and confusion among Formula 1 fans worldwide, and it will be interesting to see how drivers behave on the track for this skirmish before the battle on Sunday.
You can watch the race at Silverstone on ESPN live or Sky Sports F1, or you can follow along with the live updates on the Formula 1 website.