Flat, fast, and free-flowing, Silverstone is one of the most challenging circuits on the Formula 1® calendar. The “home of British motorsport” celebrates its 70th birthday this year. Learn more about the British Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend.
The British Grand Prix was first staged at the Brooklands oval circuit near London in 1926. The first two events were won by French drivers before the Great Depression, and then World War II, saw the event mothballed for some 20 years.
Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix for the first time in 1948. Built on the site of a former RAF airfield in the Northamptonshire countryside, the original circuit wasn’t much more than runways and strategically-placed hay bales. Among the competitors in the 1948 British Grand Prix were a Thai prince, a British lord, an ex-WWII prisoner of war and an 18-year old Stirling Moss! The race was won by Italian Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati.
The Modern Era
Watched on by King George, Silverstone hosted the first race of the modern Formula 1® World Championship in 1950. From the mid 1950s until the mid 1980s, the hosting of the British Grand Prix was alternated between Silverstone and two other circuits; Aintree and Brands Hatch. Since 1987 however, it’s been all Silverstone. The circuit has been modified several times over the years, mainly in the name of safety. After Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed at Imola in 1994, a chicane was added to the high-speed Abbey Corner and speeds were limited at Stowe Corner. Silverstone, which has hosted the British Grand Prix 51 times, is one of four circuits from the first year of the modern World Championship in 1950 that’s still part of the F1® calendar today.
With five victories at Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton jointly holds the record for the most British Grand Prix wins alongside Jim Clark and Alain Prost. Nigel Mansell won four times on home soil, with Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher taking three British victories apiece. The only other driver on the current Formula 1® grid with multiple victories in the British Grand Prix is Fernando Alonso, who won in 2006 and 2011. Ferrari is the most successful constructor in Britain, with 15 victories, while Mercedes has won the last five races in succession.
The British Grand Prix has been a happy hunting ground for local drivers, with twelve Brits having recorded a win in their home event. Jim Clark swept to five victories for Lotus in the 1960s, including four in a row from 1962-1965, while Nigel Mansell owned the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning four times. After winning for the first time in his second season in 2008, Lewis Hamilton has stamped his authority at Silverstone, winning the last four races in succession. Other multiple winners include Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard (all 2 wins each). By contrast, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button didn’t fare so well at Silverstone. In seventeen starts, the best finish the Brit could manage was a handful of fourth place finishes.
Did you know?
The European Grand Prix was hosted at British circuit Donington Park only once, in 1993. The race is remembered for a stunning wet-weather masterclass from Ayrton Senna in an underpowered McLaren-Ford, who overtook four cars for the lead on the opening lap and went on to record victory by almost one lap from Damon Hill’s Williams. Watch that first lap here.