An image from the first major race at Silverstone

A lap through the ages: Silverstone celebrates 75 years of memorable moments

Silverstone is celebrating 75 years as the home of British Motor Racing in 2023. During that lengthy tenure, a lot has happened on the hallowed 18 corners and 3.666 miles (5.9 km) that make up the Northamptonshire circuit. From Formula 1 to the British Touring Car Championship and everything in between, Silverstone has played host to countless motorsport series and events over the years.  

It seems pertinent then, to look back at some of the most memorable Silverstone moments from across the decades, and what better way to do it than by going on a lap of the circuit in its modern-day layout?


It’s lights out and away we go!


AbbeyWe start the lap with a short blast from the grid down to the first corner: Abbey. The first moment we’re revisiting will still be fresh in the mind for many having happened less than 12 months ago, we are of course referring to the dramatic incident at the start of last year’s British Grand Prix. Following contact with George Russell, Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was pitched into a roll that sent the Chinese driver on a collision course with the distant catch fencing. Fortunately, Zhou emerged from the wreckage unscathed, but this dramatic crash is one that won’t soon be forgotten. The run-off area for Turn 1 has since been modified to avoid a repeat incident in the future. 


Farm Curve As we round the high-speed left-hander at Farm Curve, we are transported back to the World Endurance Championship (WEC)’s 6 Hours of Silverstone in 2016. As the clock ticked over to two hours of running completed, the reigning champions of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley held a convincing lead. Hartley had recently got behind the wheel of the #1 car when he came up behind the slower Gulf Racing Porsche car of Michael Wainwright in the GTE AM category. The New Zealander spied a gap on the outside of Farm and went for it, but the slightest misstep saw the two cars connecting and calling an early halt to Hartley’s victory hopes.


Village As is to be expected, the name Sir Lewis Hamilton is mentioned a lot when great Silverstone moments are the topic of conversation, but this is not one the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion will remember particularly fondly. On the very first lap of the 2018 Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Brit was on the back foot heading into Village – the first braking zone of the lap – side-by-side with 2007 title rival Kimi Räikkönen. Uncharacteristically for Räikkönen, he locked his front right tyre heading into the right-hander and speared into the side of Hamilton sending him tumbling down the order, ending any hopes of a home victory that day. 


The Loop Immediately following Village is another slow-speed corner, the left-hander known as The Loop. At the height of the WEC hybrid era in the mid-2010s, three powerhouses reigned supreme in Porsche, Audi and Toyota. Two of those manufacturers went wheel-to-wheel continually throughout the 2015 6-hour event and, relatively early on in that race-long skirmish, the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro swept around the outside of the #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid at Village, lining up a clean move down the inside at The Loop to seize the lead. The Porsche would snatch the lead back on the following straight, but the battle would go the distance and rage for the majority of the race. 


Aintree, the Wellington Straight and Brooklands We’ve grouped the Aintree, Wellington Straight and Brooklands sequence together for a simple reason; pulling off an overtaking manoeuvre here requires a faultless execution of all three. That’s exactly what Mark Webber did in the closing stages of the 2012 Grand Prix as he got fantastic traction out of Aintree, utilised the slipstream of Fernando Alonso and his DRS to get alongside down the Wellington Straight and finally completed a spectacular move around the outside of Brooklands to take the lead.

A superior run onto the straight often starts as far back as Village when the leading driver compromises their line to defend the position which, in turn, compromises their run through The Loop, Aintree and onto the Wellington Straight. This was the exact strategy Hamilton utilised against his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas during their memorable duel in 2019, ultimately resulting in a switchback move at Brooklands giving Lewis a clear run around the outside of Lufield to take the lead, albeit briefly. 


Luffield Feeding straight out of the exit of Brooklands we head into Luffield, a double-apexed right-hander introduced in the late eighties as the last realistic overtaking opportunity before the 1952-2010 start/finish straight. Luffield was immortalised in the British Touring Car Championship season finale of 1992 when – amidst an intense championship-deciding battle between the trio of Steve Soper, John Cleland and Tim Harvey – Soper ran into the side of Cleland taking them both out of the race and securing Soper’s team mate, Harvey the title that year. 


Woodcote Just beyond Luffield lies the flat-out curve of Woodcote. To most, a piece of tarmac that barely registers as a corner and one that doesn’t present an overtaking opportunity, but nobody told Alex Rins ahead of the 2019 Moto GP round at Silverstone. With an epic run out of Luffield to the line on the final lap of the race, Rins pipped Marquez to the timing beam by just 0.013s.


National Pit StraightThe National Pit Straight has seen many memorable moments over the years having housed the start/finish line and pit buildings from 1952 to 2010 before Silverstone’s iconic Wing building had been created. To this day it remains the paddock hub for race weekends in the BTCC and BSB among other series. 

Perhaps one of the most significant moments to take place here was at a sodden 1998 British Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher controversially served a stop-and-go penalty having already crossed the line on the race's final lap – a contentious end to a classic Schumi wet weather masterclass. 

The humble beginnings of Martin Brundle’s now-legendary grid walk took place at the 1997 race featuring chats with Rubens Barichello, Damon Hill and some microphone-related technical difficulties to boot. In 2010, Mark Webber made a statement of his own on the National Pit Straight with his “not bad for a number two driver” remark. Webber won the race having bested Red Bull Racing team mate Sebastian Vettel with an inferior, old-spec front wing. 


Copse There are few camera angles in motorsport as iconic as the exit of Copse, staring down the barrel of the National Pit Straight. Shades of Hamilton’s renowned 2008 drive in challenging conditions are now synonymous with this corner. It is, however, his clash with Max Verstappen that has come to define Copse in the modern era. On the opening lap of the 2021 Grand Prix, the two title rivals went wheel-to-wheel throughout the first and second sectors, but it wasn’t until Copse that the pair came to blows, with Verstappen’s race ending in the tyre barrier. 

Double World Champion Fernando Alonso and quadruple World Champion Sebastian Vettel had a memorable duel during the 2014 running of the Grand Prix, punctuated by several bold overtakes at Copse. Rewinding the clock further to the British round of the 1979 500cc Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing World Championship, we find Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts embroiled in one of many intense battles during their popular rivalry. The exit of Copse and the run down to Maggotts produced an unforgettable moment when Sheene, in the words of Murray Walker, ‘waved’ at Roberts after a particularly enjoyable overtake. 


Maggotts and Becketts At a circuit with as many noteworthy corners as Silverstone, it takes something truly special to stand out, and the Maggotts/Becketts sequence does just that. Having lost very little speed at Copse, these corners – especially Maggotts – are taken at some of the highest speeds seen round the track. The Hamilton name appears yet again here, but not in an F1 car as we’ve come to expect. No, this time he’s at the wheel of a GP2 car in 2006, going three abreast into Maggotts alongside Clivio Piccione and Nelson Piquet Jr. in a heart-stopping double overtake that contributed to his notoriety prior to his F1 debut a year later. The high-speed nature of this section of track also played its part in Matt Neal’s seemingly endless barrel roll in his Mazda Xedos 6 at the 1994 BTCC race at Silverstone. 


Chapel Curve In comparison to the corners that preceded it, the kink of Chapel Curve seems somewhat tame and yet, drama still managed to unfold here. Some overtakes seem to bend the laws of physics (such as Nelson Piquet going round the outside of Ayrton Senna at the Hungaroring in 1986) and at the 2016 Grand Prix, trackside fans were treated to one such move. Max Verstappen was in hot pursuit of eventual champion Nico Rosberg, displaying his infamous wet weather prowess to swoop to the outside of Rosberg at Becketts and hold his nerve into Chapel to claim second position. 


Hangar Straight For most, the Hangar Straight is the favoured overtaking spot at Silverstone. As one of only a handful of straights or corners to feature on the original 1948 layout, it has seen myriad position changes through the years, but one moment in particular stands out. The final lap of Race 1 at the 2012 World Superbike meeting has been lauded as one of the best in the championship’s history – five riders were in contention for the victory heading into the final lap. Exiting Chapel, Michel Fabrizio was at the head of the pack with Jonathan Rea, Loris Baz, Ayrton Badovini and Carlos Checa in hot pursuit. Unbelievably, it was four-wide for the lead on the approach to Stowe, but it was Baz who seized the advantage and held it until the line, followed by Fabrizio and Badovini.  


Stowe At the fastest point on the circuit – the end of the Hangar Straight – it’s time for a jab of the brakes and an abrupt turn in on the way into the right-hander at Stowe. This corner boasts perhaps the most iconic overtake in Silverstone’s history; with three laps to go at the 1987 British Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell had overcome a 25-second deficit to Williams team mate Nelson Piquet. On the run into the corner, Mansell positioned his car perfectly, feigning a move to the outside line then darting back to the inside, for a pass that is still talked about whenever the topic of greatest ever overtakes is brought up. Stowe would also see a first lap incident for Michael Schumacher in 1999 which would take him out of the title race with a broken leg. Meanwhile, in 1950 at the first official Formula 1 World Championship race, His Royal Highness King George VI, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Lord and Lady Mountbatten would occupy the royal box situated at Stowe.


ValeThe final, slow-speed sequence begins with the left-hander at Vale. As the first significant braking zone for more than half a lap, its unsurprising that it catches many a driver or rider out. In 2019, Vettel retaliated to a move Verstappen made at Stowe, attempting to switch to an outside line as Verstappen defended under braking. The Ferrari driver locked his brakes and crashed into the back of the Red Bull sending both drivers into the gravel. Despite managing to escape the gravel trap and continue the race, the resulting damage and penalty took them both out of podium contention.


Club The exit of Vale immediately feeds into the final corner on the track: Club. As a fixture on the first iteration of the circuit, Club has undergone many changes throughout the years and in its current form, is a double-apexed right-hander. Amidst a titanic battle between three of Formula 1’s all-time greatest drivers in 1993, Alain Prost utilised the exit of Club corner to masterfully set himself up for a move on Ayrton Senna. Michael Schumacher used a similar tactic a few laps later, but had his work cut out for him thanks to the Brazilian’s aggressive defending. Two years earlier, after the chequered flag has fallen on the 1991 British Grand Prix, famous scenes of Nigel Mansell giving Senna a lift after he had broken down were etched into F1 folklore. In the modern era, Hamilton capitalised on the duelling pair of Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc to pull off a sensational double overtake in the dying moments of the 2022 Grand Prix, a move which was met with a thunderous roar from the British crowd.


Hamilton StraightWe round out the lap by crossing the start/finish line on the Hamilton Straight, aptly named after the eight-time Silverstone winner. It seems fitting that we finish the lap with a Hamilton moment on the straight that bears his name; the 2020 Grand Prix finished under the most dramatic circumstances when he picked up a puncture on the final lap of the race. Pursued until the very end by Verstappen, Hamilton limped across the line on three wheels to take a truly unbelievable victory.