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WATCH: 12 sizzling Silverstone moments

06 Jul 2016

Venue for the inaugural world championship race in 1950, Silverstone has hosted 49 Grands Prix, including every British round since 1987. Here’s our pick of some of the standout moments from recent years…

Mansell sells Piquet a dummy, 1987

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Nigel Mansell has always maintained that racing on home soil gave him a few extra tenths – and on the evidence of the 1987 race at Silverstone you’d be hard-pressed to argue with him. Cheered on every step of the way by a huge partisan crowd, the bloody-minded Brit brilliantly overturned a 30s deficit to Williams team mate (and bitter rival) Nelson Piquet. But Mansell saved the best for last, roaring into the lead with three laps to go after selling the Brazilian an almighty dummy on the Hangar Straight. Truly heroic stuff.

 

Hill and Schumacher collide, 1995

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“I think what Damon did was totally unnecessary. In fact, it was really stupid...” Michael Schumacher pulled no punches in his appraisal of title rival Damon Hill’s somewhat optimistic passing manoeuvre at Priory during the latter stages of the ’95 Silverstone race, which came as the British driver sought to grab the lead.  "I thought I saw an opportunity that I could take advantage of, but I am afraid that Michael is a harder man to pass than that and we had an accident,” explained Hill. “I was a racing driver doing what racing drivers do - which is to try and get past the bloke in front and win. The fact is, you’ve got an alternative of a rock and a hard place. He refuses to finish second to anyone.”

 

Schumacher takes controversial win in the pits, 1998

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Was this the most bizarre finish of a Grand Prix ever? Quite possibly. When race leader Michael Schumacher was issued with a late stop-go penalty for passing Alex Wurz’s Benetton under safety-car conditions, it looked as though the German’s title rival Mika Hakkinen would re-assume the lead he’d previously spun away. But after a lengthy debate with the stewards, Schumacher built a healthy lead, and when Ferrari finally called him into the pits to serve the penalty, they made sure to do so on the final lap of the race, safe in the knowledge that their man would have to cross the finishing line - and thus win the race - before stopping to reaching his pit box. McLaren, up in arms, protested the result, but after more deliberation the stewards decided simply to add the ten-second stop-go penalty to Schumacher’s race time - a somewhat meaningless punishment given that the German had won by 22 seconds…

 

Hamilton walks on water, 2008

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At times during the 2008 British Grand Prix conditions seemed more suitable for a powerboat race than an F1 race, but while other drivers struggled to keep their cars on the road - Ferrari’s Felipe Massa spun no fewer than five times, while Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Robert Kubica all pirouetted off - Lewis Hamilton was in his element. The McLaren star passed team mate Heikki Kovalainen for the lead on lap five and thereafter was never headed, surviving one downpour after another to win by well over a minute from Nick Heidfeld’s BMW-Sauber. "Today was not a physical challenge," Hamilton said afterwards. "It was just mental. I don't know how I've done it, but I did it and that's the most important thing."

 

Senna battles Prost and Schumacher, 1993

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With an underpowered customer Ford engine in the back of his McLaren, Ayrton Senna had little chance of holding off Alain Prost’s Renault-powered Williams or Michael Schumacher’s works Ford-engined Benetton after jumping the pair at the start of the 1993 Silverstone race - but that didn’t stop the Brazilian legend from giving it his best shot. For corner after corner Senna brilliantly kept his old nemesis Prost at bay, but in the end he had to cede the higher ground, and Schumacher soon got past too - but only after a similar tussle. A great display of hard but fair defensive driving from a driver not accustomed to being passed.

 

Villeneuve spins, Watson wins, 1981

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From Gilles Villeneuve’s dramatic early spin at Woodcote to Rene Arnoux’s late engine drama, the ’81 race at Silverstone was filled with incident, and the big beneficiary was home star John Watson. The Ulsterman started as the highest placed non-turbo driver on the grid, but after losing places at the start he soon moved up the order thanks to Nelson Piquet crashing his Brabham and brilliant passes on both Carlos Reutemann and Didier Pironi. Subsequent engine problems for Alain Prost lifted Watson to second, and that’s where it looked like he would stay until Arnoux’s engine also began to fail, allowing Watson to sweep by with seven laps to go to score the first McLaren win of the Ron Dennis era and the first for a Formula One car with a carbon fibre chassis.

 

Senna dances in the rain, 1988

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The 1988 race at Silverstone is regarded by many at McLaren as one of Ayrton Senna’s finest ever - and that’s saying something. Outqualified by both Ferraris, the great Brazilian had to settle for third on the grid, but in torrential conditions he soon surged into the lead. Once there he was simply immaculate, his incredible sensitivity and delicate touch making a mockery of conditions so abysmal that others - including Senna’s team mate Alain Prost, whom he lapped on the 25th lap - had their hands full simply keeping their cars pointing in the right direction. A masterclass by any definition.  

 

Rapid Rosberg races to record average speed, 1985  

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Keke Rosberg frequently laid it all on the line, but in an extraordinary qualifying session at Silverstone in 1985 the ballsy Finn pushed himself further than he’d ever been before - all in the pursuit of previously unattainable speed. With his first effort Rosberg clocked 1m 05.967s for an incredible average of 160.007mph (257.506km/h) around the 2.93 mile circuit - a new high water mark for Grand Prix machinery. No one could get close to that, but rather than stay in the garage Rosberg boldly decided to do another run. “It was probably one of the few occasions when I felt I had lost my self-control,” the Williams man said later. “I should have stayed in the garage and said: ‘I’ve got pole, thank you very much.’ But sheer enjoyment overtook professionalism…” The end result? 160.924mph and an average speed record that would stand for 17 years.

 
Trulli rolls out of contention, 2004

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There’s never a good time to have a car failure, but if a driver could pick when and where it would happen, he certainly wouldn’t choose the exit of Silverstone’s 160mph Bridge Bend. That’s exactly where the left-rear suspension of Jarno Trulli’s Renault let go in the 2004 race, pitching the Italian into the barriers at high speed before a couple of barrel rolls brought it to a welcome standstill. “Everything happened very quickly,” said a relieved Trulli after escaping the crash unscathed.

 

Vettel and Alonso go wheel-to-wheel, 2014

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They may not have been fighting over the lead, but Sebastian Vettel’s thrilling – and often bad tempered – duel with Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso lit up the 2014 race at Silverstone. In the end the Red Bull driver emerged with fifth place, but only after several wheel-banging moments and a whole heap of disgruntled radio messages. “It felt very close with Fernando - maybe a bit too close!” said Vettel afterwards. “It got a bit silly when we both started to complain about the other going off track; I’m not sure who won the list keeping…”

 

Damon does what his father didn’t, 1994

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Graham Hill tried and failed to win his home Grand Prix on 14 occasions during his illustrious career - and when an engine failure cost him the lead in the 1993 race it looked like the family curse might have struck son Damon too. But on a sunny July afternoon the following year, the younger Hill finally bagged the one trophy missing from the family cabinet when he raced to victory at Silverstone as chief rival Michael Schumacher - who’d overtaken the Briton twice on the parade lap - was controversially black flagged.

 
Raikkonen crashes out in spectacular fashion, 2014

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Having been a surprise casualty in the Q1 stage of qualifying, Kimi Raikkonen was desperate to make up ground from the back of the grid on the opening lap of the 2014 race - but the Finn wouldn’t even make it as far as Turn 6 after losing control on the Wellington Straight. The resulting impact with the barriers was measured at 47G and sent the Ferrari spewing back across the track, where an unlucky Felipe Massa then got caught up in the mayhem. Thankfully Raikkonen escaped with just a few bumps and bruises.