A history of the British Grand Prix 07 Jul 2004
The Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, England holds a unique place in the history of Formula One racing, having staged the very first round of the official world championship back in 1950.
It actually hosted its first British Grand Prix two years earlier in 1948, the airfield track using both perimeter roads and runways as part of its lap. By the time the circuit joined the championship it employed only the perimeter roads. The venue has been altered numerous times since, but has always remained one the fastest and exciting on the Formula One racing calendar.
The winner of that first championship round in 1950 was Giuseppe Farina, who steered his Alfa Romeo to victory on his way to the inaugural drivers' title. Ferrari then dominated for the next four years, with Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Alberto Ascari taking two wins apiece.
From the mid 1950s the British Grand Prix alternated between Silverstone and the all-new Aintree circuit, where in 1955 Stirling Moss became the race's first home victor since it joined the championship calendar. He repeated the feat two years later, again at Aintree, this time sharing the winning car with fellow Brit Tony Brooks.
The run of home winners continued at Silverstone in 1958 when Peter Collins took the honours for Ferrari. Australian Jack Brabham then had back-to-back wins, one at each circuit, in 1959 and 1960, before German Wolfgang von Trips took his sole British Grand Prix victory in 1961.
In 1962 another Brit, Scotland's Jim Clark, began a run of four successive home wins, taking victories at Silverstone, Aintree, and Brands Hatch, which staged its first British Grand Prix in 1964. With Aintree dropped from the calendar after 1962, the race then alternated exclusively between Brands Hatch and Silverstone until the mid 1980s.
Over the next ten years winners of the British Grand Prix included famous names such as Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi. Then in 1975 Silverstone made its first significant revisions in a quarter of a century, when a new chicane was added at Woodcote in a bid to slow the cars.
However, in a rain-soaked race, Woodcote wasn't the only problem, as cars slid off everywhere in the treacherous conditions. The event was eventually cut short with the McLaren of Fittipaldi declared the winner.
James Hunt became another popular home victor at Silverstone in 1977 after battling it out with fellow Brit John Watson, who was eventually victorious at the circuit four years later in 1981. Meanwhile, the 1979 Silverstone race saw the Williams team take their very first Grand Prix victory, with Clay Regazzoni the man behind the wheel.
Brands Hatch staged its last British Grand Prix in 1986, while the 1987 Silverstone round saw more revisions to the circuit, with the Woodcote chicane replaced by a new complex. The race provided another home winner, with Nigel Mansell edging out Williams team mate Nelson Piquet. Mansell went on to win a total of four British Grands Prix during his Formula One racing career.
Major rebuilding work was carried out at Silverstone in time for the 1991 race. Becketts Corner was replaced with a new series of esses, while new complexes were added at both Stowe and Club. The biggest change was at Woodcote where a new section introduced Bridge Corner and Luffield to the lap. The alterations effectively slowed the cars, as well as adding around a quarter of a mile to the lap distance.
Mansell won that year and the next, before Alain Prost broke his run for Williams in 1993. However Damon Hill put a Brit back on top of the podium the following season, just weeks after the tragic death of his team mate Ayrton Senna at Imola.
Senna's passing prompted further safety improvements at Silverstone ahead of the 1994 race. A slower infield loop section was added before Woodcote and revisions made to the fast Becketts section. In 1995 the Stowe and Copse corners were also re-profiled, with Johnny Herbert taking victory for Benetton.
Jacques Villeneuve scored back-to-back wins for Williams in 1996 and 1997, before Michael Schumacher took his first British Grand Prix triumph in 1998. The next three years were all McLaren affairs. David Coulthard was victorious in 1999 and again in 2000, while a delighted Mika Hakkinen won the 2001 event against his season's run of form.
In 2002, Silverstone was the venue for Michael Schumachers 60th Grand Prix victory, the German winning in changeable conditions after a thrilling battle with Juan Pablo Montoya in the opening stages. But the champions luck deserted him last year after he lost out following two safety car periods, the second prompted by an errant spectator invading the track. It was left to Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello to score an excellent win in a thrilling race that featured more overtaking than in the rest of the 2003 seasons races put together.