Currently reading: British GP: 70 years of racing magic at Silverstone
This year’s F1 double-header marks a milestone for the British Grand Prix. We recount its 70-year history
Andrew Frankel Autocar
News
14 mins read
9 August 2020

It’s not just the Formula 1 World Championship that’s celebrating its 70th anniversary this year but our own British Grand Prix’s role as part of that championship, too. Indeed, the very first race of that championship was the 1950 British Grand Prix, fittingly held at Silverstone. Since then, it has only ever been held there, at Aintree or at Brands Hatch. The British and Italian grands prix are the only races to have been held every single year since.

Last weekend, Silverstone hosted the 70th F1 British Grand Prix, and this weekend it will host a championship F1 race for the 54th time, with the one-off 70th Anniversary Grand Prix running at the track as part of the hastily rescheduled 2020 season. To celebrate both, this is our potted guide to every British Grand Prix and their winners. All races were held at Silverstone unless marked with an asterisk (Aintree) or two (Brands Hatch).

1950 Giuseppe Farina (Alfa Romeo): A total yawn fest with which to begin motorsport’s new premier championship. Four Alfa Romeo 158s entered; one retired and the others finished first, second and third. Everyone else got lapped. Twice.

1951 José Froilán González (Ferrari): Not just the race in which Alfa’s stranglehold was broken but also the first F1 victory for Ferrari. Its short and stocky winner, José Froilán González, also became the first person to lap Silverstone at more than 100mph. Ferrari’s hunch that its 4.5-litre V12 would be more frugal than Alfa’s supercharged 1.5-litre straight eight was right, but it had the pace to take pole, too. Only Alfa’s Juan Manuel Fangio could keep up in the race.

Having won every race of the 1950 season, Alfa triumphed just once in 1951 and hasn’t won again since. By contrast, Ferrari became the most successful constructor in F1 history.

1952 Alberto Ascari (Ferrari); 1953 Alberto Ascari (Ferrari); 1954 José Froilán González (Ferrari): Two years, two displays of domination by Alberto Ascari: the Italian started from pole and led every lap in both races. In 1954, González dominated for his second British GP victory, and these proved to be the only wins of his F1 career. This was the only grand prix of the season in which the dominant Mercedes team was genuinely off the pace.

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1955 Stirling Moss (Mercedes-Benz)*: Aintree wasn’t a memorable circuit, but this was a memorable race, because it was not only Stirling Moss’s first championship win but also the first time a Brit had won the British GP. Moss spent the rest of his life wondering if team-mate Fangio had given him the win (they were 0.2sec apart at the flag), but the truth is he’d built a healthy lead and was told to slow by his team manager. Taking pole and fastest lap as well, Moss won on merit alone.

1956 Juan Manuel Fangio (Ferrari): Curiously, this was the only British GP won by arguably the greatest driver of them all, and even then scored in fortuitous circumstances after Moss had to retire his Maserati from the lead.

1957 Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss (Vanwall)*: Moss led again at Aintree but retired – only to take over the sister car from Tony Brooks (who was recovering from serious injury) and win. The only F1 British GP won by more than one driver was also the race in which Vanwall became the first British team to win an F1 championship race. Fitting that it did so in Britain with a pair of British drivers.

1958 Peter Collins (Ferrari): A superb win from sixth by underrated Brit Peter Collins. Three weeks later, he died in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. He was just 26.

1959 Jack Brabham (Cooper-Climax)*; 1960 Jack Brabham (Cooper-Climax): Jack Brabham dominated at Aintree in 1959 but was more fortunate at Silverstone the following year. Graham Hill stalled at the start, fell to 22nd and then fought through the field in his BRM to take the lead on lap 55 out of 77. Sadly, he binned it with six laps to go, handing the win to Black Jack.

1961 Wolfgang von Trips (Ferrari)*: In wet conditions, von Trips held off rain master Moss at Aintree until the Lotus driver retired, to lead a one-two-three podium lockout by the Ferrari squad. The German would most likely have become champion had he not been killed, along with 14 spectators, at Monza two months later.

1962 Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax)*; 1963 Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax); 1964 Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax)**; 1965 Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax): Four wins at three different circuits for Jim Clark. While the first two were relatively comfortable, the Scot was challenged by Graham Hill in 1964, with the BRM finishing just 2.8sec behind. It looked to be another clean sweep for Clark in 1965 until his Climax V8 got sick, forcing him to switch it off through corners. Hill, while battling brake problems, cut a 34sec lead to just 3sec at the flag.

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1966 Jack Brabham (Brabham-Repco)**: A dominant one-two for the Brabham team, with founder Jack leading home Denny Hulme.

1967 Jim Clark (Lotus-Cosworth); 1968 Jo Siffert (Lotus-Cosworth)**: The 1967 race should have been Hill’s. Clark was on pole but couldn’t escape his hard-charging team-mate; Hill overtook on lap 25 and held the lead until lap 51, when his rear suspension broke.

Another unlikely classic followed. It was initially led by Hill and then Lotus team-mate Jackie Oliver, but both retired, triggering a furious dice between Jo Siffert’s privately entered Lotus and the works Ferrari of Chris Amon. The Swiss prospered for his first F1 win, the last for both Rob Walker Racing and indeed the last for a true privateer using an off-the-peg customer car.

1969 Jackie Stewart (Matra-Cosworth); 1970 Jochen Rindt (Lotus-Cosworth)**: The 1969 race was the day when Stewart and Jochen Rindt proved themselves a breed apart. Their titanic battle lasted 63 of the 84 laps, during which both lapped the entire field. But when Rindt had to pit for repairs, Stewart was home and dry.

A year later, Rindt seemed set to again finish second after an epic duel, this time with Brabham. But Brabham ran out of fuel, so Rindt won. Or did he? His car failed its technical inspection and Brabham was given the win; Lotus appealed, the Austrian was reinstated and the result stood.

1971 Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell-Cosworth); 1972 Emerson Fittipaldi (Lotus-Cosworth)**: After a brief tussle with the works Ferrari cars in the opening laps of 1971, Stewart sped off in the all-conquering Tyrrell. The next year presented a fine battle between the old master and young pretender Emerson Fittipaldi, not to mention the stubby Tyrrell 003 and the gorgeous JPS Lotus 72D. There was just 4sec in it at the end, but it set the Brazilian on his way to becoming F1’s youngest champion.

1973 Peter Revson (McLaren-Cosworth); 1974 Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell-Cosworth)**: The 1973 race was made infamous by a huge pile-up, caused by Jody Scheckter spinning at 150mph at the end of lap one. Nine cars were unable to take the restart. In the decimated field, it looked like Stewart would win – until he uncharacteristically drove into a cornfield. A terrific race ensued, finally won by the great American Peter Revson, but with Ronnie Peterson, Hulme and James Hunt (in only his third F1 start) all within 3.5sec behind.

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The year after causing that chaos at Silverstone, Scheckter calmly stalked Niki Lauda for almost the entire race at Brands Hatch and swept to victory when the Ferrari got a puncture with six laps left.

1975 Emerson Fittipaldi (McLaren-Cosworth): Maybe the most bizarre British GP of all, an event dominated by the weather that at times left some parts of the circuit drenched and others bone dry. A race with no fewer than seven leaders and 16 retirements. Staggeringly, 12 happened on the same lap, eight of them in the same pile-up. The race was stopped nine laps short, leaving Fittipaldi the winner. Carlos Pace and Scheckter completed the podium, despite the fact that both were buried in the catchfencing at Club corner as the flag fell…

1976 Niki Lauda (Ferrari)**; 1977 James Hunt (McLaren-Cosworth): Another race mired in controversy. After a first-corner shunt halted the race, Hunt was barred from restarting in his spare car. In the ensuing protest, his original car was repaired and he hopped back in it. After chasing Ferrari’s Lauda for 44 laps, he got past and won. But Ferrari protested, Hunt was excluded and his rival was declared the winner.

Hunt went on to win the 1976 title in such dramatic fashion that a movie was made about it. He finally got his British GP win in 1977 after a great battle with Brabham’s John Watson.

1978 Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari)**: After both all-conquering Lotus cars retired, this race came down to a battle between Brabham’s Lauda and Ferrari’s Carlos Reutemann. The Argentinian took the lead in a breathtakingly brave, opportunistic, out-of-nowhere manoeuvre at Clearways on lap 60, then held Lauda to the flag.

1979 Clay Regazzoni (Williams-Cosworth); 1980 Alan Jones (Williams-Cosworth)**: Williams’ first F1 win came at Silverstone in 1979. It looked easy and would have been a one-two had Alan Jones’ water pump not failed. But it spoke nothing of Frank Williams’ decade-long struggle to get to the front. The next year, Jones took a clear win on his way to the title after an early threat from the initially front-running Ligier cars subsided.

1981 John Watson (McLaren-Cosworth); 1982 Niki Lauda (McLaren-Cosworth)**: A terrific win in 1981 for McLaren’s never-say-die Ulsterman, who was 10th on lap three but fought through the field, capitalised on his opportunities and finished a deserved winner. Significantly, this was the first race won by a car with a carbonfibre chassis and McLaren’s first win since 1977. It won again a year later with ease, courtesy of Lauda.

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1983 Alain Prost (Renault): Ferrari looked the class of the field in qualifying as it locked out the front row, but its Goodyear tyres were no match for Renault’s Michelins in the race, allowing Prost through for a commanding win.

1984 Niki Lauda (McLaren-Porsche)**; 1985 Alain Prost (McLaren-Porsche): The 1984 race had three leaders: Nelson Piquet early on, then Prost after a restart on lap 12 and, after the Frenchman retired on lap 37, Lauda.

In 1985, Ayrton Senna led for Lotus but faltered and then ran out of fuel, leaving Prost a clear run. It was a weekend most notable for Keke Rosberg’s astonishing 160.925mph pole lap in his Williams, which remained F1’s fastest lap until 2002.

1986 Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda)**; 1987 Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda): Both of these races featured incredible battles between the Williams of Piquet and Nigel Mansell. The Brit’s win in the final F1 race held at Brands Hatch was rather fortuitous; his car broke on the grid, but the race was halted due to a first-corner crash, allowing him to restart in the spare.

The 1987 event was simply one of the great races of all time. With 30 laps to go, Mansell was 28sec behind Piquet in the same car. He broke the lap record nine times as he hunted down the Brazilian before selling him a dummy and sweeping past at Stowe with two laps to go. A mesmerising chase.

1988 Ayrton Senna (McLaren-Honda); 1989 Alain Prost (McLaren-Honda); 1990 Alain Prost (Ferrari): In a season that McLaren absolutely steamrollered, no one was ever going to hold onto Senna in the wet after team-mate Prost retired with handling issues. The year after, it was Senna’s retirement after 11 laps that left Prost with a clear run. Prost won again in 1990 after gearbox gremlins forced Ferrari team-mate Mansell to give up the lead.

1991 Nigel Mansell (Williams-Renault); 1992 Nigel Mansell (Williams-Renault): Two Mansell masterclasses here; he took pole, set the fastest lap and led every lap to secure his third British GP win in 1991, then the next year he took his fourth in an even more dominant fashion.

1993 Alain Prost (Williams-Renault): This looked set to be Damon Hill’s first F1 win as he led team-mate Prost with confidence until his engine failed with 18 laps to go. This was the last time Britain held two races in a season, with the European GP won by Senna at Donington Park.

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1994 Damon Hill (Williams-Renault): Damon won the British GP – one of the few claims to fame to elude his illustrious dad, Graham. Benetton’s Michael Schumacher fought him all the way before having to serve a stop-go penalty. The German was later excluded for ignoring a black flag.

1995 Johnny Herbert (Benetton-Renault): When Hill and Schumacher clashed (again), it was time for their wingmen, David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert, to take their places up front. A stop-go penalty for the Williams for exceeding the pitlane speed limit resolved the issue, giving Herbert his first F1 win at the 74th time of asking in front of a wildly cheering crowd.

1996 Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault); 1997 Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault): Polesitter Hill retired on lap 25, gifting an easy win to team-mate Jacques Villeneuve in what was far and away the best car on the grid. The following year yielded another win for the Canadian, but in different circumstances; a long pitstop left him well down the order, with Schumacher running off at the front, but the Ferrari failed at half distance.

1998 Michael Schumacher (Ferrari): A fluky and controversial win. McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen had a huge lead cut to nil by the safety car after he’d damaged his car in an off-track excursion. Schumacher then had it in the bag until he was given a stop-go for passing under yellow flags. Häkkinen should have won, but the stewards were sufficiently late in notifying Ferrari of the penalty that Schumacher was able to win the race while serving it, motionless in the pitlane.

1999 David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes); 2000 David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes); 2001 Mika Häkkinen (McLaren-Mercedes): David Coulthard finally got his home win in 1999, but the race is remembered primarily for Schumacher breaking his leg and losing all chance of the title. DC won again in 2000 after a duel with Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari, before McLaren team-mate Häkkinen swept them all aside in 2001.

2002 Michael Schumacher (Ferrari); 2003 Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari); 2004 Michael Schumacher (Ferrari): Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya took pole in 2002 and looked like he could win until rain intervened; thereafter, his Michelin tyres were no match for the Bridgestones used by the Ferraris.

The following year, Barrichello produced one of the finest drives of his long career. A track invasion by an insane priest left the Brazilian down in eighth, but a series of dazzling overtakes had him back into first just 21 laps later. Schumacher’s 2004 win had none of that drama.

2005 Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren-Mercedes); 2006 Fernando Alonso (Renault): The first of three victories in Montoya’s final full season came after a typically assertive start took him from third to first. He was never headed, even though Fernando Alonso was rarely far away. The Spaniard enjoyed Silverstone glory the year after.

2007 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari): McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton led early on, raising hopes of a home victory for the 22-year-old from Stevenage in his first season. But he was very light on fuel, so once the pitstops were all played, Kimi Räikkönen was able to control the race to the flag.

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2008 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes): If anyone doubted Hamilton before this race, they did no longer. In torrential rain, he appeared to be on a different track from the rest. He won by more than a minute, despite easing off towards the end.

2009 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault); 2010 Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault): Brawn GP surprised by dominating the start of 2009, and this was only the second race it didn’t win that year. Sebastian Vettel was just too good.

In 2010, though, he picked up a puncture when running wide at the first turn, leaving Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber to hold off Hamilton by 1.4sec in a race most famed for his “Not bad for a number two driver” comment on the team radio.

2011 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari): This looked like Vettel’s race until a botched pitstop let Alonso through into a lead he kept to the finish.

2012 Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault): The final win of Webber’s F1 career, achieved after an intriguing battle with pole-sitter Alonso in the Ferrari and Red Bull team-mate Vettel.

2013 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes-AMG): A race highly influenced and overshadowed by a series of six unexplained Pirelli failures, robbing Hamilton of victory, eventually bringing out the safety car and handing victory to Nico Rosberg.

2014 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG); 2015 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG); 2016 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG); 2017 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG): The hardest of this quartet was the first, when Hamilton started sixth after a rain-interrupted qualifying. He was soon second and inherited the lead when team-mate Rosberg’s car failed on lap 29.

With a grand slam (pole, fastest lap, every lap led and the win) in 2017, Hamilton joined Clark as the only people to win four British GPs on the trot. No one else has yet managed more than two.

2018 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): Hamilton started slowly, got tapped by Räikkönen, spun and rejoined in last place. Fairly impressive, then, that he was just 2sec behind Vettel at the flag.

2019 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG): The early battle between Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas could end only one way. Hamilton won for a record sixth time and, but for him being spun the previous year, it would have been six on the trot. This race was also notable for the fastest F1 pitstop yet, with Red Bull taking just 1.9sec.

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Lines they are a-changin'

Silverstone’s layout has changed substantially since it first held a grand prix in 1948. That event utilised both the perimeter roads and the main and second runways – which at one point meant cars driving towards each other separated only by hay bales. The following year, the event switched to a new layout using purely the perimeter roads, and this outline remains recognisable today.

That layout mixed a long straight with ultra-fast corners. A chicane was introduced to slow cars into Woodcote in 1975 and another was added at Bridge in 1987. The major change began in 1991, with the creation of the epic Maggotts-Becketts sequence and a new ‘stadium section’ at Club.

Further tweaks followed until a substantial change in 2010, with the introduction of the new infield Arena section and revived use of one of the runways. The pitlane was then moved in 2011. James Attwood

The British Grand Prix before Formula 1

The British Grand Prix began in 1926 as the Grand Prix of the Royal Automobile Club at Brooklands and was won by the French Delage team of Robert Sénéchal and Louis Wagner. Robert Benoist won in a similar car in 1927.

There was then a break for more than 20 years before the race, now known as the RAC International Grand Prix, relocated in 1948 to the new track at Silverstone, where Luigi Villoresi won in a Maserati. The following year, it took another name – the RAC British Grand Prix – and the rather wonderfully titled Baron Emmanuel ‘Toulo’ de Graffenried won in a Maserati, in what the Swiss would later describe as the greatest race of his career.

Other Grand Prix and F1 events held in the UK

The official FIA F1 World Championship hasn’t always been the only series for F1 cars. For many years, races comprising grids full of the greatest cars and drivers took place across Britain.

Notable among them is the Race of Champions, held at Brands Hatch 14 times from 1965 to 1983 and won by drivers as great as Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Gilles Villeneuve. Oulton Park held the Gold Cup 12 times from 1959 to 1972, with winners including Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, John Surtees and Jackie Stewart, while Goodwood hosted the Glover Trophy from 1949 to 1965.

There was also the British F1 Championship (often recalled as Aurora AFX, after its sponsor), which ran from 1978-1982 and in which Desiré Wilson became the first woman to win an F1 race.

Until this week’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the only championship F1 race held here apart from the British GP was the 1993 European GP.

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9 August 2020

 Well, I'm glad it wasn't another last ten Lap race at Silverstone, oh?!, wait a minute!

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