The end of the Second World War had left Britain with no major race track but an abundance of airfields. One of these surplus airfields was located outside the village of Silverstone and being roughly in the middle of England was seen as an ideal location to bring back international motor racing to Britain.
By 1948 The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) had arranged a one year lease with the Air Ministry in the spirit of optimism and possibility which characterised the time. An ex-farmer, James Wilson Brown, was employed by the RAC and given just two months to turn the site from a wartime airfield and farm into a race track for the first RAC International Grand Prix.
On the 2nd October 1948 an estimated 100,000 people flocked to see Luigi Villoresi beat a field of 22 others in his Maserati. Hay bales and ropes protected the piggery and crops in the middle of the circuit, and canvas barriers stopped drivers from being distracted by cars coming the other way. Silverstone racing history had begun.
A Royal Presence
The one and only time a reigning monarch has attended a British motor race, King George VI helped the crowd to celebrate the status of European Grand Prix at the Silverstone race.
BRDC takes over
The British Racing Drivers’ Club took over the lease of Silverstone from the RAC and set about changing the airfield track into something more permanent, raising the spectators up for a better view.
Fangio bashes his way round
Argentinian legend Juan Manuel Fangio struggled at the 1954 British Grand Prix. The all-enveloping bodywork of the car meant he couldn’t see much of the circuit and he repeatedly dented his Mercedes on the oil drums which marked the edge of the track.
Hill goes from last to first – and loses
Graham Hill stalled his BRM at the start of 1960 Grand Prix but went from last to first, only to spin off at Copse. He was just five laps from the finish, breaking the hearts of his fans and handing victory to Jack Brabham.
Clark wins at cruise
Jim Clark’s Lotus 33 was leading comfortably before he started losing oil pressure. So he cruised the last lap in top gear in a desperate attempt to keep the car running.He won his fourth British Grand Prix in a row celebrating with an all British top five.
Rindt and Stewart Battle for victory
The 1969 Grand Prix was won by Jackie Stewart in a Matra. The race is best remembered for an epic duel between Stewart and Jochen Rindt. The pair were in a class of their own swapping the lead of the race until Rindt had to pit to fix his rear wing.
Jackie Stewart dominates
Jackie Stewart wins the British Grand Prix, setting a new lap record on the way to a dominant victory. The World Championship title race was a similar story with Stewart winning six of 11 races to take his second world title.
The Woodcote Chicane
A chicane was introduced at Woodcote before the 1975 British Grand Prix to slow the cars down. The corner had previously been renowned for Ronnie Peterson sliding his Lotus through at approximately 150mph.
The 1977 British Grand Prix saw the reigning Formula 1 World Champion and crowd favourite, James Hunt, take a popular win in his Marlboro McLaren-Ford M26.
Prost takes his first silverstone Win
Alain Prost wins his first British Grand Prix. Prost would go on to match Jim Clark’s record of five British Grand Prix victories. However, whilst Clark claimed two of those victories at Aintree, Prost won all five of his at Silverstone.
Mansell mobbed at finish
Nelson Piquet had to concede going into Stowe and Nigel Mansell won one of the greatest races of all time. When he ran out of fuel on his slowing down lap it sent the home fans into delirium – they flooded on to the track in celebration.
Senna conquers all
1988 will be remembered for the monsoon-like conditions that enabled Ayrton Senna, in his first Championship year, the opportunity to show his extraordinary skills in such appalling conditions. He dominated to win the race, while Mansell again caused considerable excitement with his drive to second in his now normally-aspirated Williams.
The Silverstone Circuit has always been one of the fastest in the world. Two major overhauls were required to maintain the Grand Prix.. The first was in 1991 and included a new ‘stadium’ area between Abbey and Woodcote as well as new sweeping curves instead of the old Becketts Corner. Extensive changes were also implemented, in just 18 days, in 1994 following the deaths of Senna and Ratzenburger at Imola. This included putting a chicane at Abbey Corner as well as re-profiling various corners.
Top of the Hills
Damon Hill came to the 1994 race with a point to prove having lost out to teammate Alain Prost the previous year. In winning the British Grand Prix Damon won a race that his father had never quite managed.
Schumacher breaks duck – then leg
Michael Schumacher finally won the British Grand Prix in 1998, having but broke his leg the following year when his brakes failed at Stowe corner.
DC’S EASTER EGG
Forced to accept an earlier date for its race, Silverstone became the fourth race of the season in April on Easter Sunday. After rain had made life miserable on the practice and qualifying days, by race day the sun was shining, particularly on David Coulthard who, despite a gearbox problem, held off McLaren team mate Mika Hakkinen to win by just 1.5 seconds.
LEWIS HAMILTON’S GP2 DOUBLE OVERTAKE
After winning Saturday’s GP2 race, Lewis Hamilton started eighth on Sunday morning. Soon up to fifth, Lewis then made a great re-start after a safety car to go fourth. A lap later, three abreast into the ultra-quick Becketts esses, Hamilton emerged in second place. This just left Felix Porteiro who was soon overtaken at Brooklands. A new British superstar had arrived.
LEWIS HAMILTON IS THE MASTER OF SILVERSTONE
Alternately wet, dry and damp track conditions in the 2008 British Grand Prix were supremely challenging, but Lewis Hamilton was the master in his McLaren. After taking the lead from team mate Heikki Kovalainen on lap 5, and calling his tyre changes perfectly, Hamilton won his first British Grand Prix by a monumental 68.5 seconds from Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber.
WEBBER – NOT BAD FOR A NUMBER 2 DRIVER
Following a mechanical failure on Sebastian Vettel’s car in FP3 on Saturday Red Bull made the decision to allocate him the only newly developed front wing available. Mark Webber felt the team were giving Vettel preferential treatment which left him fuming. During the race Vettel suffered a puncture early on and Mark Webber went on to win the British Grand Prix . Webber made his feelings clear on the cool down lap by stating over the radio “not bad for a number 2 driver!” The 115,000 fans in the crowd would have liked to see a British win but a win from Mark Webber was the next best thing as he is extremely popular with the Silverstone fans.
The 2013 British Grand Prix was made all the more challenging for the teams and drivers due to a series of tyre failures which saw 6 cars retire and resulted in 2 safety car interventions. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg held off Red Bull’s Mark Webber to win the race while Lewis Hamilton thrilled the British fans by coming from the back of the pack, after his tyre failed on lap 8, to finish his home race in fourth position.
TWO GRANDS PRIX AT SILVERSTONE
2020 was an unprecedented year for Formula 1 as the season was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a revised 2020 calendar of 17 races which featured two back to back races at Silverstone across two consecutive weekends in July and August. The events were run without spectators and under very strict COVID-19 guidelines but did not fail to provide thrills for the audience at home. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the first Silverstone race of the season on three wheels after suffering a puncture on the last lap. The following weekend, at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, named in recognition of the first F1 World Championship race having been held at Silverstone in 1948, Max Verstappen took his ninth Formula 1 win and the first Silverstone win for Red Bull since 2012.