Welcome to the spiritual home of British motorsport, and the venue of the very first world championship race (with the important caveat that ‘world championship’ and ‘Formula One’ weren’t necessarily the same thing at the time). Silverstone is a circuit that’s undergone many changes over the years, but it has retained the qualities that make it popular among drivers and fans alike.
The British Grand Prix has been held at the venue on a permenant basis since 1987 (prior to that, it rotated with other tracks, such as Brands Hatch). Silverstone first hosted the GP in 1948, and hosted the inaugural World Championship race in 1950.
Like a lot of circuits, Silverstone has different configurations depending on the type of race. The current international configuration is used by F1 and Moto GP, and looks like this:
It’s a far cry from the original layout…
Under the current layout (and some of the more recent ones), the Maggotts/Becketts complex is one of the most enjoyable and challenging sections of track for the drivers. It’s a fast, sweeping area of track that the drivers like to attack. The Brooklands/Luffield/Woodcote section can, if the racing line is judged correctly, open up opportunities to overtake into Copse, though with current F1 cars and their speed, this isn’t easy. There’s been a fair bit of drama into the chicane at the end of the Vale straight as well, with cars rapidly decelerating and sometimes misjudging the braking zone.
So I’m going to focus on F1 here. If you read this and want to add a noteworthy race from another series, please drop me a comment and I’ll add it.
The 1987 GP
To some, this could be considered Nigel Mansell’s greatest victory. He’d qualified second to teammate and title rival Nelson Piquet, and ran behind him for the first half of the race. Back then tyre stops weren’t mandatory, and the original plan was to run to the end, but on lap 35 Mansell spoke to the Williams team and pitted. He emerged 29 seconds behind Piquet with 28 laps left, and proceeded to break the lap record over and over again, closing in rapidly. On lap 63 he sold Piquet a famous dummy down the Hangar Straight, slipping onto the inside line of Stowe and edging his teammate out.
Mansell won the race, having pushed his car to the very limit of its endurance. In fact, his car broke down on the cool-down lap!
The 1992 GP
I confess that I put this race in here not because it was necessarily a classic, but because it was the peak of Mansell Mania and a dominant performance from the man. He won comfortably, but at the end of the race fans broke onto the circuit to mob their hero – exuberant scenes of delight, but ones that can be considered dangerous, seeing as other cars were still completing the race!
The 2008 GP
It doesn’t always happen, but often the British Grand Prix is a damp affair, despite being held in the summer. Variable and inclement weather was the case in 2008, that saw Lewis Hamilton qualify only fourth, but in wet conditions he was up behind his McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen after making a good start, and on lap five he was past.
The rain would start and stop throughout the race, but in these changing conditions Hamilton and his team would judge them perfectly, and Hamilton’s skill in the wet was on full display. He would win by over a minute from Nick Heidfeld, a terrific performance.
I can list many more, especially given Silverstone’s rich racing history across different types of motorsport. When people call it the home of British racing, they are not wrong.