Silverstone: The Ultimate Track Guide

Other circuits have all played their part in British motorsport history but none more so than Silverstone, the home of British Motor Racing. The much-loved track delivers high excitement year on year to a passionate and knowledgeable crowd.


FIRST F1 RACE 1950
TRACK LENGTH 3.659 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 42
NUMBER OF TURNS 18
MOST POLES Lewis Hamilton (7)
MOST WINS Lewis Hamilton (7)

Silverstone’s story begins in 1943. RAF Silverstone was built at a cost of over £1 million, with 5 hangars and three intersecting runways. The area of land is situated in the village of Silverstone, near Towcester, and straddles two counties – Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. The runways were surrounded by a 3 mile perimeter track which would later serve as part of the race track. The base operated for two years as a training establishment during World War II and was home to a range of Halifax, Lancaster and Wellington bombers. It fell into inactivity in 1946.

Despite the hard times faced by Britons post-war, enthusiasm among certain groups for motorsport didn’t die. There was, however, no major race track in Britain. Brooklands had been handed over to the war’s aviation, as had Donington Park which now acted as a dumping ground for military vehicles. It was in 1947 that the first race was held at the former RAF aerodrome. The first attempt didn’t go entirely to plan, however. An impromptu race meeting had to be abandoned as sheep invaded the track in what became known as the ‘Mutton Grand Prix’. Maurice Geoghegan ran over a sheep which was killed upon impact and the car was written off.

Silverstone’s central location was seen as an ideal location for international motor racing. In 1948, Silverstone held its first official Grand Prix – the RAC International Grand Prix. James Wilson Brown, a farmer, was employed by the RAC and in August 1948 he was given two months to transform the airfield into a fully-fledged race track. 100,000 fans witnessed Silverstone’s inaugural offering, as crops and piggery were bundled into the centre of the circuit and shielded by hay bales. As would become the custom at Silverstone, traffic jams plagued the weekend as fans made their way to the circuit. Luigi Villoresi was the victor of this race. The 1949 race at Silverstone was the first to be titled the ‘British Grand Prix’. It was run on a different track configuration, which was the full three mile perimeter road of the former airfield. It promoted flat out, high speed racing and can perhaps be considered as the birthplace of modern motorsport. It was run over 300 miles, with Toulo de Graffenreid taking the win after 100 laps.

1950 saw the first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix held at the circuit and thus started a magnificent motor sport history. It was titled the ‘Grand Prix de Europe’ and was attended by the British Royal Family, along with 100,000 spectators. More changes were made to the track by the organisers for the next season’s event, including moving the pit area.

The British Grand Prix hasn’t always been held at Silverstone. It moved around the country in its early years with Brooklands and Aintree alternating with Silverstone from 1955 until 1964, when Brands Hatch took over as Sivlerstone’s alternate host.

In 1975, a chicane was added at Woodcote as a result of a huge accident at the corner in 1973, which eliminated eleven cars from the race. In 1987, with the ever rising speeds of modern machinery, a further chicane was added on the straight between Abbey and Woodcote, named Luffield. 1990 and 1991 saw major renovations to the track, including the addition of the Bridge, Priory and Brooklands corners. The iconic Becketts esses were also added to the track at this time. A few more changes followed as a result of F1’s pursuit of safety after the tragic events of the 1994 season, and a chicane was added at Abbey.

Silverstone has been the permanent home of the British Grand Prix since 1987. The 2009 British Grand Prix looked set to be the last at Silverstone after a controversial deal to make Donington the new home of the British Grand Prix from 2010 was signed. The deal was later scrapped, and Silverstone signed a long contract to host the race until 2026. As a result, the track was upgraded and a new pit complex, known as the Silverstone Wing, was built. The track was changed once again to feature a new infield section, with the pits having moved to the straight between the Club and Abbey corners.

The future of the British Grand Prix had been in doubt, with Silverstone activating a break clause in its contract to host the event back in 2017. However, just before the 2019 British Grand Prix, it was announced that Silverstone had signed a new deal with F1 to host the event until 2024. In 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Silverstone hosted two races – the British Grand Prix and the one-off 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. It was the first time two races had been staged in Britain in a single season since 1993.


FAST FACTS

  • Cornelius Horan, a priest, interrupted the 2003 Grand Prix at Silverstone by running out on to the track mid-race. He was jailed for two months following the incident.
  • Rain often affects the British Grand Prix. In 2000, the race was held in April and there was torrential rain all weekend- leading to farcical parking issues for fans attending the race. Similarly, the 2012 event was hit by abnormal levels of rain, leading to some fans being told to stay away for the Saturday action.
  • Silverstone is one of the circuits that takes the most lateral energy out of the tyres all year.
  • Ferrari scored their first Formula One win here in 1951.
  • The British Grand Prix is one of the most well attended of the season with around 140,000 fans expected to flock to the circuit on race day.
  • Maggots is one of the fastest corners on any racing track in the world, taken at speeds of up to 180mph.
  • Almost two thirds of the lap is spent at full throttle, with the drivers performing 34 gear shifts per lap. The longest flat-out section of the track goes on for 1034 meters.

🇬🇧 70th ANNIVERSARY GP RECAP

After their tyre woes one week previously at the British Grand Prix, Mercedes struggled with Pirelli rubber once again at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix – allowing Red Bull and Max Verstappen to take their first win of 2020.

Nico Hulkenberg replaced Sergio Perez for a second successive race at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. The German impressed in qualifying, lining up third on the grid – behind only the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Hulkenberg was passed by Max Verstappen on the opening lap, while Bottas and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel. Hamilton challenged Bottas into Brooklands, but the Finn remained ahead. As Verstappen told his engineers that he would not wait behind the Mercedes “like a grandma”, the Mercedes’ tyres began to show signs of wear. Bottas pitted first, with Verstappen hunting down Hamilton for the lead. Hamilton pitted soon after, leaving the Red Bull in clear air. While team-mate Alex Albon pulled off brave moves on Kimi Raikkonen around the outside of Stowe and on Pierre Gasly at Luffield, Verstappen continued to lap strongly. Once again, Mercedes’ tyres were beginning to grain with over half distance still to run. Verstappen pitted on Lap 27, emerging from the pit lane just behind Bottas. With the Mercedes now split, Verstappen wasted no time in passing Bottas and re-assuming the lead of the race. Just five laps later, Bottas and Verstappen both pitted again. Hamilton pitted from the lead ten laps later, allowing Verstappen to lead once more. With Verstappen now way out in the lead, Bottas and Hamilton fought for second place – with the reigning champion eventually coming out on top. Verstappen secured the win – his and Red Bull’s first of the 2020 season.

🇬🇧 2020 BRITISH GP RECAP

Nothing could stop Lewis Hamilton from taking another home victory at the 2020 British Grand Prix – not even a puncture on the final lap!

Ahead of the British Grand Prix weekend, Racing Point announced a positive COVID-19 test for Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver was forced to miss the race weekend, and was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg. The German driver failed to take the start due to a mechanical issue. Lewis Hamilton took pole position with a new Track Record at the Silverstone circuit. The two Mercedes went side by side at Turn 1, but Hamilton stayed ahead. On the second lap, Alex Albon collided with Kevin Magnussen, sending the Haas spearing into the barrier on the main straight. The Safety Car was called out as a result, with Albon opting to make an early stop. The Red Bull driver was handed a five-second penalty for causing a collision. Racing had barely resumed when the Safety Car made another appearance, this time as a result of a heavy crash for Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat collided with the barriers due to a rear tyre failure. The leaders pitted under the Safety Car, before racing resumed on Lap 19. In the closing stages, Valtteri Bottas – who was running second – picked up a puncture which dropped him well down the order. Max Verstappen made a precautionary pit stop at the start of the penultimate lap. On the final lap, Carlos Sainz also ran into tyre troubles having been in fourth place. This was followed by a puncture for race leader Lewis Hamilton half way around the final lap. Verstappen, now with no tyre concerns, closed in on the ailing Mercedes but Hamilton held on to take a record-breaking seventh home win in the most extraordinary circumstances.

🇬🇧 2019 BRITISH GP RECAP

On a weekend where the future of the British Grand Prix was secured until 2024, Lewis Hamilton became the most successful driver at the event, taking a commanding sixth Silverstone win.

Valtteri Bottas took pole position at Silverstone in the most closely-fought qualifying sessions of the hybrid era. He lapped the circuit just six thousandths quicker than team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas covered off his team-mate on the opening lap, as Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo went wheel to wheel for seventh place. Hamilton continued to be hot on the heels of his team-mate in the opening stages, finally pulling off a move into Brooklands on the fourth lap. But Bottas fought back, and re-took the lead through Copse corner. Leclerc and Verstappen diced for third place, with Vettel joining in on the fight. The two youngsters pitted at the same time and went alongside each other down the pit-lane, Verstappen eventually winning the place. But Verstappen went wide just after exiting the pit-lane, and Leclerc took the position back once again. The Safety Car was called on Lap 20 as Antonio Giovinazzi slid into the gravel. Hamilton pitted under Safety Car conditions, gaining an advantage over his team-mate and taking the lead as a result. At the Safety Car restart, Sergio Perez lost his front wing in a battle with the Renaults. Verstappen and Leclerc’s battle continued, with Leclerc barging his way through – but Verstappen once again took the position back. After the pit stops, Verstappen battled with the other Ferrari and overtook Vettel – only to be hit from behind by the German. The pair were both able to continue, but Vettel picked up a ten second time penalty for the incident. Hamilton cruised to an unprecedented sixth British Grand Prix victory, finishing 24 seconds ahead of his team-mate, and Leclerc picked up the final podium position.

🇬🇧 2018 BRITISH GP RECAP

Lewis Hamilton took pole for the British Grand Prix, but Sebastian Vettel spoiled Hamilton’s home party on Sunday as he took victory in one of the season’s most enthralling races.

Brendon Hartley was left unable to compete in Qualifying following a huge crash in the final practice session as a result of a suspension failure. The Williams cars had difficulties in Qualifying due to a new rear wing, leaving Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll starting the race from the pit-lane alongside Hartley’s Toro Rosso. Lewis Hamilton started from pole at Silverstone for a record-breaking sixth time, but a tangle with Kimi Raikkonen left him down at the back of the field at the end of the first lap. Sebastian Vettel had struggled with a pain in his neck earlier in the weekend, but that failed to stop him taking the lead before his team-mate and Hamilton collided. Raikkonen was handed a ten-second penalty, while Bottas pursued Vettel for the lead. Charles Leclerc was having a strong race, but an incorrectly fitted tyre at his pit stop brought an early end to his race. Sauber’s bad day continued as Marcus Ericsson crashed at the first turn prompting a Safety Car period. As Vettel took the opportunity to pit for a second time, Mercedes opted to keep their cars out on track, meaning Bottas took the lead. Raikkonen duelled with Max Verstappen for fourth place after the Safety Car restart, with the Finnish driver ultimately getting ahead some laps later, before Verstappen retired with braking troubles. Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz collided, ending both of their races. Back at the front, Vettel snatched the lead back from Bottas with five laps to go. Hamilton soon cruised by his team-mate for second, while Raikkonen passed his fellow Finn for third place in the closing stages.


🇬🇧 WHY WE LOVE SILVERSTONE

It’s hard not to love the birthplace of Formula 1. Though plenty has changed over the years, what hasn’t changed are some of the legendary corners – Stowe, Copse, Maggotts, Becketts, Brooklands, Luffield to name a few. The challenge of these corners, along with the high speed Wellington and Hangar straights remains year on year, making Silverstone one of the drivers’ and fans’ favourite tracks.


🇬🇧 SILVERSTONE WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
1950Giuseppe FarinaAlfa RomeoGiuseppe FarinaAlfa Romeo
1951José Froilán GonzálezFerrariJosé Froilán GonzálezFerrari
1952Nino FarinaFerrariAlberto AscariFerrari
1953Alberto AscariFerrariAlberto AscariFerrari
1954Juan Manuel FangioMercedesJosé Froilán GonzálezFerrari
1956Stirling MossMaseratiJuan-Manuel FangioFerrari
1958Stirling MossVanwallPeter CollinsFerrari
1960Jack BrabhamCooperJack BrabhamCooper
1963Jim ClarkLotusJim ClarkLotus
1965Jim ClarkLotusJim ClarkLotus
1967Jim ClarkLotusJim ClarkLotus
1969Jochen RindtLotusJackie StewartMatra
1971Clay RegazzoniFerrariJackie StewartTyrrell
1973Ronnie PetersonLotusPeter RevsonMcLaren
1975Tom PryceShadowEmerson FittipaldiMcLaren
1977James HuntMcLarenJames HuntMcLaren
1979Alan JonesWilliamsClay RegazzoniWilliams
1981Rene ArnouxRenaultJohn WatsonMcLaren
1983Rene ArnouxFerrariAlain ProstRenault
1985Keke RosbergWilliamsAlain ProstMcLaren
1987Nelson PiquetWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1988Gerhard BergerFerrariAyrton SennaMcLaren
1989Ayrton SennaMcLarenAlain ProstMcLaren
1990Nigel MansellFerrariAlain ProstFerrari
1991Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1992Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1993Alain ProstWilliamsAlain ProstWilliams
1994Damon HillWilliamsDamon HillWilliams
1995Damon HillWilliamsJohnny HerbertBenetton
1996Damon HillWilliamsJacques VilleneuveWilliams
1997Jacques VilleneuveWilliamsJacques VilleneuveWilliams
1998Mika HäkkinenMcLarenMichael SchumacherFerrari
1999Mika HäkkinenMcLarenDavid CoulthardMcLaren
2000Rubens BarrichelloFerrariDavid CoulthardMcLaren
2001Michael SchumacherFerrariMika HäkkinenMcLaren
2002Juan Pablo MontoyaWilliamsMichael SchumacherFerrari
2003Rubens BarrichelloFerrariRubens BarrichelloFerrari
2004Kimi RäikkönenMcLarenMichael SchumacherFerrari
2005Fernando AlonsoRenaultJuan Pablo MontoyaMcLaren
2006Fernando AlonsoRenaultFernando AlonsoRenault
2007Lewis HamiltonMcLarenKimi RäikkönenFerrari
2008Heikki KovalainenMcLarenLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2009Sebastian VettelRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2010Sebastian VettelRed BullMark WebberRed Bull
2011Mark WebberRed BullFernando AlonsoFerrari
2012Fernando AlonsoFerrariMark WebberRed Bull
2013Lewis HamiltonMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2014Nico RosbergMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2017Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2018Lewis HamiltonMercedesSebastian VettelFerrari
2019Valtteri BottasMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020 (British GP)Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020 (70th Anniversary GP)Valtteri BottasMercedesMax VerstappenMercedes