The sequence on Silverstone's Grand Prix track which is Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel has always been exciting because like much of the rest of Silverstone, it's fast. Not quite as fast as it was - a right/left after Maggotts was inserted in 1990 - and the Silverstoners are a bit vague as to where one corner finishes and the next begins. Being picky, there are now five turns in the sequence and only three names, but this is a rare instance where slowing a track down a bit to keep the Formula Ones in check has actually made it more interesting for the rest of us. And like most sequences, success at the exit depends on sacrifices made earlier on. It's how much speed you give up, knowing full well that you could go faster, that is the key. Give away too much and you will be slow. Don't give away enough and you will be slow, but for different reasons...
Maggotts is still the gentle left after Copse, the corner after the Old Pits Straight and it's easy flat in anything, but only because there's just enough space to lose the speed before No Name right that follows - something which is usually not true on the Club Circuit. Today's Formula Ones barely need to brake for the right but the driver will knock it down a couple of gears and they still have to judge just how fast they take it, otherwise they too will mess up No Name Left and more important, compromise the next right (which is probably Becketts...), costing the 10ths or so which determine whether they make it through to the next phase of qualifying.
It's been a while since I stood there and the cars have moved on a bit since then but there’s a great spot to watch on the bank opposite the No Names. It's not often you can see A Grand Prix car from directly behind and witness the energy gathered in the blast down from Copse, a bundle large enough that even a Formula One car rolled first one way, then the other. I watched during the test session weeks before the 2000 British Grand Prix and saw Jenson Button’s Williams fly through Maggots faster than most, then go into a monster wobble as he tried to haul the car back across the road through No Name and open out the turn into Becketts. Lightning reflexes and the arrogance of youth saved him time after time but he kept prodding the tiger, and you know why? Because it’s tempting. He was in a car with more capability than he had been used to and his self-belief meant he might get away with it. If he stayed out of the barriers, that one lap that might come together and be The Quick One. But here’s how it can go wrong for you and me.
Make a near straight line all the way through Maggots, the first left hander. Steal an extra foot of kerb because the car will ride it – then brake hard and late for No Name right… There’s a yelp and a twitch from a front end confused by synchronised brake and steering, but already No Name looks tempting… Easy too. It’s wide and open and the wide, flat kerb at the apex invites you to steal a little extra road. Something says, don’t wait. Go for it… Release the car fast and early and rasp across the sawteeth. And Oh Yes, it’s quick. But wait… Looks like there’s a price to pay. You’ve come out way to the left. Half a car’s width from the kerb on the wrong side of a road which is already bending left for No Name Two, running away from you when you need to be following it. Must lose some speed, even though you’re still turning. Squeeze the brakes… Damnation, the tail is slewing wide. Haul it back. Still need to get into that left…Damn again. Why does it take so long to settle... You make it. Scrabble through, out of balance and with the accelerator trailing. And now, the road is bending away yet again. This time to the right for Becketts. You’re way over to the right when you need to be on the left but it hardly matters now. You’ve lost so much speed you’ll need to go down a gear…. Use it to drive sheepishly through the curve at Chapel and on to the Hangar Straight, 20 miles per hour slower than you should…
Next time... Next time will be better. You won’t be so late on the brakes into No Name. Shed a bit more speed and just wait that nanosecond before easing to the right. Aim that bit further round the turn and exit in the middle of the road. Open out the entry to the second half and look right towards the apex at Becketts. It's always further round than you think, but you want to get on the power early. Use it to make a really good blast though Chapel and onto the Hangar Straight. You can do all this, but only if three corners before, you lopped five miles an hour from that second entry… Sometimes, to be quick, you have to travel more slowly.
Charlies 1 and 2 are a brilliant challenge. Blind on entry, you use the gradient to slow the car and make it point.
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