The British Grand Prix is back this weekend at Silverstone – the track we’ve come to know and love. However, the usual buzz is tinged with uncertainty. With talks underway about the future of British Grand Prix, we can’t help but look back at how far Silverstone has come. Explore the pivotal moments that made Silverstone what it is today.
The End of WW2
After WW2 ended, unsurprisingly, the country was left without a major race track. However, what it did have was many disused airfields. One airfield in particular, centrally located in the UK was right beside the village of Silverstone. The Royal Automobile Club decided to arrange a lease with the Air Ministry in 1948 and hired an ex-farmer to turn the airfield/farm into a racetrack for the first RAC International Grand Prix or as we’ve come to know it, the British Grand Prix.
When race day finally arrived, around 100,000 people showed up to witness the epic race, with only hay bales and ropes cordoning off the circuit from its surroundings! This race was won by the Italian legend Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati.
The Track Starts to Take Shape
The British Racing Drivers’ Club took over RAC’s lease for Silverstone and began to work on improving the track itself. This meant raising spectators off of the ground to improve safety and allow them to see more of the action. The track hosted the first event in the World Championship for Drivers during this time and the British GP began to alternate between Silverstone and Aintree racetracks.
British Racing Drivers’ Club acquired the lease for the surrounding land to allow them to develop the track further to improve safety – predominantly at pit stops. A pit lane was created after several accidents occurred at the previous area; this was located on a raised platform alongside the main track.
Some notable races around this time include Graham Hill’s unfortunate stalling race. After stalling at the start line, he managed to redeem himself, climbing to first position… only to spin off just before the finish. Ouch. Meanwhile, in 1963 Clark won his 4th British GP in a row despite losing oil pressure!
A New Lap Record
The legendary Jackie Stewart not only dominated the British GP, he set a new lap record. He went on to win 6 races in the World Championship, leaving him with his second world title.
Introduction of the Woodcote Chicane
To slow the cars down, the Woodcote chicane was introduced in 1975. No more 150mph sliding anymore, shame.
Major Track Changes
A major refurbishment of the track in 1991 added sweeping curves, smoothing over Becketts Corner and adding in Priory and Vale sections of the track. A stadium area was also implemented.
Mansell Takes Senna for a Ride
Potentially one of the most memorable moments in British GP history – in 1991 Nigel Mansell gave Ayrton Senna a lift back to the pits on his car after he ran out of fuel. What made it even more iconic is the fact Mansell was closely pursued by Senna the entire race. It would never be allowed today, which is perhaps why we look back so fondly.
Further Track Changes – Senna & Ratzenburger Deaths
Following the sad passing of Senna and Ratzenburger, further changes to the track took place, completed within just 18 days. Many of the corners were re-profiled and the Abbey Corner chicane was included.
Schumacher Breaks His Leg
During the 1999 British GP, Schumacher’s brakes failed at Stowe corner, the painful-to-watch impact left him with a broken leg and sadly meant he had to step out of the Championship.
Lewis Hamilton Makes His Mark
Starting 8th after Saturday’s GP2 race, Lewis fought his way to first position during the Sunday race. This was the start of a promising career for the British legend.
Massa Spins 5 Times in One Race
An embarrassing time for the Ferrari driver… Massa managed to spin his car not once, twice, or even three times… he span it five times during the 2008 British GP.
The Last Ever British GP at Silverstone?
Negotiations are currently underway between Silverstone and F1 regarding the future of the British GP. John Grant, chairman of the British Racing Drivers hopes a deal can be agreed, however there is the possibility this could be the last ever British GP, not just at Silverstone, but ever. We remain hopeful a deal is agreed!
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