British Grand Prix

It may not be the location of the first ever Grand Prix but the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone Circuit is definitely the oldest of the most consistently held Grands Prix in the Formula 1 series. The first British Grand Prix was won by Louis Wagner and Robert Sénéchal at the Brooklands Course in 1926. It was first held in Silverstone in 1948, only two years before it hosted the British Grand Prix in its participation in the very first Formula 1 World Championship in 1950.

Grand Prix Car
Photo Credit: Nic Redhead

The race would alternate between Silverstone and Aintree, and later with Brands Hatch, until 1987, where it would be the permanent home of the British Grand Prix. Silverstone was originally the site of a WWII airfield and bomber base, with the first track actually laid out on one of the runways.

Silverstone was once one of the fastest tracks in the Formula 1 series, so dangerous that officials had the circuit renovated in 1991 and again in 1995, although some criticize that the new safer track had lost its edge. Before then, the tight hairpin corners were some of the most challenging, separated by long straights, which allowed drivers to go at very high speeds, even when several chicanes were added to the circuit through the years. In 1985, Keke Rosberg held a 16-year record for the fastest qualifying lap in the Formula 1 Championship series at the British Open, clocking in an average speed of 258.9 km per hour.

France’s Alain Prost won that year, one of his 5 wins at the British Grand Prix. He ties with the Britain’s very own Jim Clark for most multiple wins, followed by Nigel Mansell’s four, and three wins each with Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher. Aside from Clark and Mansell, many British drivers have been triumphant at the British Grand Prix, including Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard, who won the GP twice each, and Peter Collins, James Hunt, John Watson, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert.

Despite the modifications to the track, Nigel Mansell had a very memorable win in 1991, finding enough time to give his stranded rival, Ayrton Senna, a ride on his way to the finish line. But after Coulthard’s win in 2000, a Briton has yet to win another British Grand Prix, with Fernando Alonso winning in 2006 and Kimi Räikkönen in 2007.

Silverstone is actually a village not far from the circuit, found in Northamptonshire in England. International fans get to Silverstone by flying into London, then driving to Silverstone, rather than taking a train, which still requires a half hour drive to the circuit. Given that, a few drivers are known to take the long ride from London each day of the GP because they would rather stay in a London hotel during the duration of the race, rather than in a slightly less upscale hotel in the nearby towns.But if you don’t mind rural hotels, those at Northampton, Towcester, Oxford and Buckingham will do nicely, as with several Bed and Breakfasts in the surrounding area.

Other fans also resort to camping near the circuit, although there have been problems with rain when the race was moved to April in 2000, especially for fans wishing to find parking and getting stuck in the muddy fields. Many have resorted to finding helicopter rides to the circuit after this parking fiasco.

There are four different price ranges for British Grand Prix tickets on the grandstands, and to accommodate the many spectators, it is not unusual for the officials to erect extra temporary grandstands for the race weekend. Views are also quite good for holders of general admission tickets, but make sure you find yourself in a spot where you can catch the action between Copse and Beckett corners.

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