Rule Britannia: Five facts about the British Grand Prix


World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Sunday 5th July 2015, F1 British GP Race - Grid, Silverstone, UK. Digital Ref: 1340LB5D9822

The British Grand Prix has now been part of the Formula One calendar since 1950, with Silverstone being the host venue for every race since 1987. Brands Hatch and Aintree have also held the now iconic event across the decades, but Silverstone has remained the favourite haunt in recent years. This season will welcome the 50th grand prix to be held at the circuit.

The first official race run at the Northamptonshire track was in 1948, and was called the Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix, which took place before the Formula One championship existed.

A former WWII airfield, Silverstone is a high-speed track – one of the fastest in the world – with long fast corners and sections where overtaking is a distinct possibility. The rapid complex of Maggots, Becketts and Chapel is legendary, and consists of three left-right turns in immediate succession, which generate g-forces that go unmatched elsewhere on the calendar, whilst allowing the true performance of the car to shine through – a real favourite for the drivers!

Jim Clark and Alain Prost have taken the most victories at a British Grand Prix with five a piece, four of which Clark won in succession between 1962 and 1965, whilst Scuderia Ferrari are the most successful team with fifteen wins to their name.

Many a great battle has been played out at the British Grand Prix across the years, here are some interesting facts from races gone by:

Trendsetters

Silverstone was the location of the inaugural world championship race held in 1950, although on that occasion it was officially known as the Grand Prix d’Europe, as it was in the UK it included the British Grand Prix.

The field for that very first race, included a Swiss baron, a Thai prince and a jazz musician. The musician finished a respectable 11th of 21 drivers, albeit six laps down on race victor Giuseppe Farina, the first ever Formula One world champion, and the average age of the drivers that day was 39.

It was also the only time a monarch has been present at a British motor race, with King George VI in attendance along with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and guests Lord and Lady Mountbatten.

He wins it by ….a pit stop??

It was a controversial victory for Michael Schumacher at the 1998 British Grand Prix, when the German won the race from the pits!

The Ferrari driver was handed a late stop/go penalty when, under the safety car he completed an over take on the Benetton of Alex Wurz. The time taken by the stewards to make a decision on the maneuver however, allowed Schumacher to build up a strong lead over the McLaren of second placed man Mika Hakkinen.

That gave Ferrari time to plot a cunning plan, and on bringing the German in to take his penalty on the final lap, they ensured the win was in the bag, knowing their man would pass the finish line before reaching his pit box.

The result was contested by McLaren, however the stewards decided just to add a ten second penalty to the German’s race time instead, which had no bearing on the overall outcome, Schumacher having won the race by 22 seconds!

One of Senna’s finest

The 1988 British Grand Prix is considered by many to be one of Ayrton Senna’s best ever displays of driving.

In appalling weather conditions, the Brazilian was a supreme master at work. Having qualified third on the grid, Senna charged through to take the lead, and from there on in there was no catching him.

His precision and skill in the wet were second to none, and whilst others struggled to keep their cars on the road, Senna was flying like he had all the grip in the world.

The Brazilian was simply in a class of his own that day!

Mercedes monopolise

In the 1955 British Grand Prix, held at the Aintree circuit, Mercedes-Benz dominated the race by coming home in first, second, third and fourth place. Stirling Moss pipped Juan Manuel Fangio to the line to take victory on home soil, and that result saw Moss become the first ever British driver to win the British Grand Prix.

Mercedes did not triumph again as a manufacturer at the British Grand Prix until Nico Rosberg’s victory in 2013, after reforming as a works team in 2010, though they did win as an engine supplier in 1999 when David Coulthard took victory in the McLaren-Mercedes.

Jenson Button’s Bogey Track

Twelve drivers from the home nation have gone on to taste victory at the British Grand Prix, in a list which includes: Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, John Watson, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, James Hunt and Peter Collins.

Surprisingly, Jenson Button is not one of them, with victory at the British Grand Prix having so far eluded the 2009 world champion. The Brit has never even made it onto the podium in the sixteen races he has contested at the Silverstone circuit, and that run is quite likely to continue this year too, as the McLaren-Honda F1 team still do not quite have a package to allow its drivers to fight for race wins.

2016 Race weekend

Going into the 2016 British Grand Prix, we wait with bated breath to see if there is any fallout from the collision between Mercedes AMG PETRONAS drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at last weekend’s race in Austria. Will the German squad decide to bring in team orders to ensure no further incidents of this nature occur, or will they continue to let their drivers race?

With the gap between the team-mates now down to just eleven points, victory at his home race, could take Hamilton back into the lead of the world championship. Can the Brit take advantage of home support and cruise ahead at Silverstone? Can Ferrari and Red Bull Racing come to the party and take advantage of any Mercedes ructions?

Hold onto your hats race fans, we should be in for an exciting race!