British Grand Prix - The first race of Formula 1 faces uncertain future
The British Grand Prix is one of just two Grand Prix races which is held continuously since 1950, the first season of the Formula 1 World Championship.
Nevertheless, the history of the British Grand Prix dates back 1926 when it was held for the first time at Brooklands oval circuit near London. The race was held for the second time at the same venue in 1927 and that was the last British GP before the World War 2. Several non-championship Grand Prix races, dominated by the German manufacturers and drivers like Bernd Rosemeyer and Tazio Nuvolari, were held at Donington Park during the 1930s.
The British Grand Prix was re-established in 1948. Silverstone circuit hosted the Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix in October and the winner of the race was Italian Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati. In the following year the layout of Silverstone circuit was heavily modified. The venue in Northamptonshire became similar to modern racing tracks while the race was won by the Swiss driver Emmanuel de Graffenried in Maserati.
Beginning of the new Formula 1 era at Silverstone
When the Formula 1 World Championship was introduced in 1950, the British Grand Prix was the first race ever held. Silverstone circuit hosted the race which was won by the Alfa Romeo driver Giuseppe Farina. Silverstone was the host of the following four British GPs. Ferrari was dominant from 1951 to 1954, so Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Alberto Ascari scored two wins each.
In 1955 British Grand Prix for the first time was held at Aintree circuit near Liverpool. Local fans were delighted after the victory of Stirling Moss who was behind the wheel of Mercedes. Until 1963 the race was alternated between Aintree and Silverstone and that was the period when British manufacturers and drivers were very successful.
Lotus, with Jim Clark, and Cooper, with Jack Brabham, scored two wins each while Vanwall won the race in 1957. Interestingly, that was the only race won by two drivers – Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks. A year earlier at Silverstone, legendary Juan Manuel Fangio won his only British GP driving the Lancia-Ferrari.
Brands Hatch became a third circuit to host the British Grand Prix
In 1964, Aintree fell out of favor and until 1986 the race was switched between Silverstone and Brands Hatch. Jim Clark was the first winner at Brands Hatch while the same driver recorded his fourth consecutive victory at British Grand Prix in 1965. Two years later, Clark scored his fifth victory and so far he is one of two most successful driver in the history of the event.
In 1971 British Racing Drivers Club bought the entire plot where Silverstone sits what was the beginning of the big development. Many new facilities were built, track layout was changed and became more attractive, with more opportunities for overtaking. During 1970s British manufacturers Lotus, McLaren, and Tyrrell dominated the British Grand Prix. Interestingly, Emerson Fittipaldi was the only driver who was able to win more than once during that period. Among the other winners were many legendary champions, including Jackie Stewart, Jody Scheckter, Niki Lauda, and James Hunt.
Alain Prost was the master of British GP during the 1980s
Williams and McLaren ruled the Formula 1 world during the 1980s, so it wasn’t a surprise that the cars of two manufacturers were most successful at British Grand Prix. Two teams shared nine wins between them but among drivers Alain Prost was the one who marked this decade as he scored three victories – in 1983 as Renault driver and in 1985 and 1989 when the Frenchman was McLaren driver. Niki Lauda and Nigel Mansell, who won the last race at Brands Hatch in 1986, stepped twice to the top of the podium while Ayrton Senna scored his only win in 1988 at Silverstone.
Since 1987, Silverstone Circuit is the home of the British Grand Prix. The circuit went through another development and over the years track layout again has been changed several times. Nowadays, Silverstone Circuit offers a great driving challenge while the spectator facilities are at the highest level.
Williams team dominated during the 1990s
Alain Prost recorded another two wins in the first half of the 1990s and equaled Jim Clark’s record of five victories at British Grand Prix. While Clark recorded all wins driving a Lotus cars, the Frenchman triumphed with four different manufacturers – Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams. The latter ruled the Silverstone Circuit in the last decade of the 20th century and triumphed on six occasions.
Nigel Mansell also won twice during the 1990s, both times with Williams, while Jacques Villeneuve triumphed in 1996 and 1997, also as a driver of the Williams team. English fans enjoyed that period after their compatriots Johnny Herbert, Damon Hill, and David Coulthard were among the winners of the British Grand Prix. Coulthard recorded two consecutive wins and was the winner of the last race held in the 20th century.
Ferrari and Schumacher were the best at the beginning of the new century
At the beginning of the 21st century there were attempts to reinstall Brands Hatch as the home of the British GP but that never happened. Silverstone continued to host the race. British manufacturers weren’t s dominant like in the previous decades but McLaren still was able to win on three occasions. Mika Hakkinen won the 2001 British Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya triumphed in 2005 while Lewis Hamilton was the winner of the 2008 British GP.
However, Ferrari was the most successful team from 2001 to 2010. The Scuderia pilots won in four events. Michael Schumacher triumphed twice while the other two wins were scored by Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen. Interestingly, during his supremacy, the Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel won only once at Silverstone while his teammate Mark Webber triumphed twice (2010, 2012).
Lewis Hamilton scored his fifth win in 2017
Mercedes scored four consecutive wins at British Grand Prix from 2013 to 2017. Nico Rosberg began that streak and Lewis continued it with four wins in a row, joining the prestige club of drivers with five wins in total. The British driver will have an opportunity to surpass Jim Clark and Alain Prost few more times before.
Unfortunately, the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone doesn’t look bright. The British Racing Drivers Club has announced that the costs of the organization are too high and in the last they recorded big losses. That’s why they activated the break clause and will now only hold the race until 2019. There are currently no other circuits in the UK with the classification to host Formula One and there are no credible alternatives.
If the BRDC fail in an attempt to make a new arrangement with Formula 1 there is a genuine possibility there would be no British Grand Prix after 2019 what will be a huge loss to the sport.
Multiple winners of the British Grand Prix (1950 - 2017)
|5||Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Lewis Hamilton|
|3||Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher|
|2||Jose Frollan Gonzalez, Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber|
British Grand Prix multiple constructor winners (1950-2017)
|3||Red Bull Racing|
|2||Cooper, Tyrrell, Renault|