GELAEL LOOKING AHEAD TO SILVERSTONE F3

Silverstone, 9th April 2013 - The first round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship was extremely promising for 16-year-old Indonesian Sean Gelael.

Among a 30-car field of talent from all over the world, all of whom are older and more experienced, he finished all three races at Monza and took a best finish of 14th. Not only that, but he kept cool among an enormous slipstreaming fight in the first race, then stayed calm in torrential rain in the second and third races.

So now that the first steps are out of the way, it is time to look forward to the second round: on the British Grand Prix circuit of Silverstone on 12th to 14th April.

Like the Italian track of Monza, Silverstone has a glorious history. The original track was formed in 1948 on the layout of a Second World War airbase, using the aeroplane runways, with straw bales to mark the corners! It hosted the first ever World Championship Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1950, with no less a luminary than King George VI in the crowd.

It is now almost recognisable from its early days, but still retains its character of extremely fast corners. At Silverstone, these corners tend to feed into one another in long sequences, making driver concentration and the car’s aerodynamic set-up absolutely critical.

Anthony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt set up the Double R Racing team that runs Gelael’s Mercedes-powered Dallara Formula 3 car in 2005. Hieatt is also the engineer for Sean, who follows in the wheeltracks of superstars such as Jenson Button, NarainKarthikeyan, Takuma Sato, KimiRaikkonen and Bruno Senna – all of whom Hieatt has worked with in Formula 3.

“Silverstone is a circuit with high-speed corners,” says ‘Boyo’. “Because they link into each other, you have to carry the speed through them.”

Monza, where Sean raced last time out, is all about long straights and slow chicanes, so the most important thing is straight-line speed. The teams run what is called very low downforce there, and this is achieved by adjusting the wing angles.

The wings on a racing car have the opposite effect to those on an aeroplane: the idea is to push the car down onto the track – this is called downforce. At Monza you want as little of this as possible, but at Silverstone, because the corners link into one another, it is important to add more wing angle for greater downforce. On the front wing, this is done by adjusting the main plane and the two flaps either side; on the rear wing there are two planes at the top and one at the bottom. Aerodynamics are also affected by settings on the floor of the car, which is shaped only after hours of wind-tunnel work.

“We run a moderately high-downforce setting at Silversone to give good grip,” Hieatt explains. “This way, the drivers can take Copse Corner flat-out at 240kph and also Becketts is flat on entry, before slowing for a series of corners. At around 220kph the F3 car produces between 550 and 575 kilos of downforce – which is more than the weight of the car and driver. That means that at this speed you could drive it upside down without falling off the ceiling!

“It’s vital that you carry the speed, but it’s tough at Silverstone – you pull more than 3g of forces through Becketts. It’s a real challenge with the quick changes of direction. You need maximum fitness for your head and neck, running in the slipstream of other cars, because as soon as you start to feel tired your concentration goes.”

On Sean’s progress, Hieatt adds: “He had quite a few incidents happening in front of him at Monza but he maintained concentration. He is a good kid with a really nice driving style. Everything is new to him, including running on cold tyres – I bet that never happened to him in Indonesia!”

Gelael is very excited about Silverstone: “I gained lots of experience at Monza and we take that forward to Silverstone. Hopefully the sun will shine this time! I’m really keen to race there, especially as I went to the Grand Prix there when I was very young but have never yet driven on the track.”

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10/08/2013
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