When you think about motorsport, more often than not Silverstone will spring to mind. Why? Why is Silverstone a world-renowned race circuit, and how has it evolved to become so special?
When the news broke earlier on in the week that the 2017 Silverstone Grand Prix could be in danger, I decided to look into why we couldn’t lose this special circuit from the Formula 1 Calendar.
My 8 reasons are as followed.
One: It is the home of British motorsport.
Silverstone is often regarded as the home of British motorsport, and one of the most prestigious events on the Grand Prix Calendar. The track has it all – fast corners, long straights and demanding sectors. It’s no wonder the drivers and fans love it. It’s a classic – and it’s more than special. It’s hard to imagine that it was once a fully functioning military airfield!
Two: It’s important for the economy.
The small, quaint English town of Towcester and the surrounding villages rev into life come summer, with thousands of racing fans embarking on the journey to the British Grand Prix. Racing fever strikes the county as Motorsport hurtles into town. From an economic perspective, the Grand Prix is vital for local businesses and the county’s tourism industry.
Three: It is a historic event.
Silverstone held its first Grand Prix event in 1948, but its official start, under the new reformed Driver World Championship system, was 1950. From then on the British Grand Prix alternated among Northamptonshire, Aintree and Brands Hatch until, finally, in 1987, Silverstone became the permanent home of the yearly extravaganza. And in that time it hasn’t disappointed.
Four: It has seen unforgettable racing.
There is no doubt that the iconic track has been the setting for some unbelievable racing moments. Who can forget Nigel Mansell giving Ayrton Senna a lift in 1991 after Senna’s McLaren ran out of fuel on the last lap? Mansell, winning in front of a home crowd, transported his rival back to the pits of the newly reformed circuit. Sportsmanship at its strongest and outright best.
Pre the Formula 1 World Championship days, 1948 hosted a formidable duel on the much-changed race track. The hospitality units and gravel run-offs were rudimentary, the track making use of the old airfield runways. The start/finish line was before Woodcote Corner and the turns in the Copse and Stowe section were much tighter than would be permitted today. The favourites for the race, Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, started from the back of the grid. After a race of nail-biting moments, Villoresi was the first man to cross the line with Ascari second.
Five: It’s Hamilton’s home race.
Fast forward 60 years to 2008, where Brits were treated to local-boy Lewis Hamilton mastering the wet conditions to take the victory. He drove sensationally on a sodden circuit, after what had been a tough period of mistakes and poor results, to take the chequered flag, a minute in front of the next best man. Brits go to the Silverstone GP to see Hamilton. Simple.
Six: It has always been a favourite.
The fast flowing and technically challenging circuit has been a firm favourite among drivers throughout history and many of them praise the track today for its uniqueness. There’s an abundance of overtaking at this mecca of motor racing, too. Since 2010 the first corner now sees cars two abreast at full throttle as they fight for position. Copse is one of the most unforgiving corners on the circuit – even the most experienced driver, taking Copse, flat out, with speeds in excess of 170 mph, can be daunting. Maggots-Becketts-Chapel is also a hair-raiser. Buckle up because the cars enter flat out, and exit the roller coaster ride in fourth gear. The right- left- right formation is up there with the likes of the Eau Rouge in Spa-Francorchamps. Now THAT is special.
Seven: Money has been poured into it.
2010 saw some major changes to the circuit with several fundamental alterations being made. The updated course brings a new dimension of challenge to the drivers and enables the fans to get even closer to the action. Racers turn right at the old Abbey Chicane and head towards the new Arena section in what was formerly the infield, turning left onto the National Circuit straight and then rejoining the original Grand Prix circuit at Brooklands.
Eight: It is a real gem.
From a fan’s point of view, Silverstone is one of the best races on the calendar. The atmosphere cannot be replicated anywhere else on the planet. Fans travel from all over the world to experience a British Grand Prix weekend. More often than not Britain does live up to its reputation for unpredictable weather. Regardless, the weather doesn’t dampen the festival mood. It may rain but that won’t affect the spirits of some 120,000 avid Grand Prix fans who travel the length of the country and beyond to watch a brilliant weekend of racing.