Drivers praise Silverstone's fast-flowing changes

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The Independent Online

Mark Webber, who set the fastest time in yesterday's practice session, gave the new Silverstone "Arena" layout the thumbs-up after lapping it close to the team's simulator prediction time.

"I think a few of the other teams were sandbagging a bit," the Red Bull driver said. "But we're happy with our programme and looking forward to qualifying. The new section of the track is pretty difficult, but they got it right, I think. It's a good challenge for the drivers."

Webber's team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, joined the chorus of approval. "It's quite low speed, but not as slow as we expected and it doesn't kill the rhythm," he said.

Lewis Hamilton added: "It was fun to try the new track configuration for the first time. The new section is very fast and flowing, and I don't think it interrupts your rhythm too much. It still feels a little weird turning right at Abbey rather than left, and there's a big bump there too, but that just makes it more exciting."

The reigning world champion, Jenson Button, agreed. "I think the new layout works. I put this circuit up there with the best in the world like Spa and Suzuka, and getting a good balance around here is such a good feeling," he said.

"There are a couple of new grandstands down at Turn 13 [the first part of the Arrowhead], where there's a good opportunity for overtaking, particularly if somebody gets out of shape at Turn 11 [Abbey]. If I was a spectator around here, I think I'd want to be at that corner, because there could be a lot of action there."

The majority of Silverstone's iconic straights and high-speed corners were retained in the revamp, which was originally intended for the MotoGP and World Superbike two-wheelers when the car grand prix seemed scheduled to go to Donington Park.

The most significant change alters the direction of Abbey corner which now goes sharp right instead of left and leads, via a gentle left-hand curve, to a third gear right-hander which is quickly followed by a very tight second gear left and a more open left that goes on to the Wellington Straight. This links the new section up with the old one at Brooklands, a third gear left-hander which leads into the old Luffield and Woodcote corners to complete the now 5.891 km circuit.

The new track design retains the essence of Silverstone – a flowing, yet technically challenging circuit that drivers love. Calculations suggest that it will continue to be one of the quickest circuits on the Formula One calendar.