Great Britain

8, 9, 10 July

Track: Silverstone Circuit
No. of Laps: 52 Length: 5.891km
Distance: 306.227 km
Lap Record: 1:30.874 – F Alonso (2010)
2011 Winner: Fernando Alonso

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Grand Prix motor racing was first established in Britain by Henry Segrave at Brooklands in 1926 after his winning of the 1923 French Grand Prix and the San Sebastián Grand Prix the following year, which raised interest in the sport. The first ever British Grand Prix was won by the French team of Louis Wagner and Robert Sénéchal driving a Delage 155B. The second British Grand Prix was held at Brooklands in 1927. It was designated the European Grand Prix five times between 1950 and 1977, when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one grand prix race in Europe.

Before it was heavily modified in 1991, Silverstone was one of the fastest tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. The drivers loved the challenge of the sweeping and extremely demanding Copse, Stowe and Club corners (which in its last years, each corner was taken progressively faster than the one before it). 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg held the all-time Formula 1 qualifying lap record for 16 years after posting fastest time for the 1985 British Grand Prix with an average speed of 258.983 km/h (160.92 mph).

Twelve British drivers have won the British Grand Prix, with Englishman Stirling Moss being the first and Scotsman Jim Clark winning 5 times, the most of any driver other than French driver Alain Prost, who also won the British Grand Prix 5 times (all of them at Silverstone). In recent times Silverstone has produced many race wins by British drivers, such as John Watson (1981), Nigel Mansell (1987, 1991, 1992), Damon Hill (1994), Johnny Herbert (1995), David Coulthard (1999, 2000) and Lewis Hamilton (2008).

A dispute between Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), and the Formula One authorities in 2003 over the funding of necessary improvements to the track’s facilities led to doubts over the future of the race.

In October 2004 the British Grand Prix was left off the preliminary race schedule for 2005 because the BRDC refused to pay the race fee demanded by Bernie Ecclestone. However, after months of negotiation between the BRDC, Ecclestone and the Formula One constructors, a deal was made for the Grand Prix to be held at Silverstone until 2009.

Despite the controversy and political bickering that has surrounded the future of the race in recent years, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone remains one of the world’s premier motor racing events.

On 4 July 2008, it was announced that Donington Park had been awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix for 10 years from 2010. However, Donington failed to secure the necessary funding to host the race, and its contract was terminated in November 2009. On 7 December 2009, Silverstone signed a 17 year contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards. The 2010 race will see a new circuit configuration being used, using the brand new “Arena” layout.

Location

The British Grand Prix is a race in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. It is currently held at the Silverstone Circuit near the village of Silverstone in Northamptonshire. The British and Italian Grands Prix are the oldest continuously staged Formula One World Championship Grands Prix. Silverstone is a village and civil parish in Northamptonshire, England. It is about 4 miles (6.4 km) from Towcester on the former A43 main road, 10 miles (16 km) from the M1 motorway junction 15A and about 12 miles (19 km) from the M40 motorway junction 10, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Banbury. The A43 now bypasses to the south-east of the village, between the village and the race circuit.

Description

The circuit has a total length of 5,891 km with 18 turns and consists of 5 constructions. The major construction is the Arena Circuit where the British MotoGP and the British Formula 1 Grand Prix are held. This site uses the Arena section which was added in 2009 and used since 2010. The section was added to increase the challenge level of the circuit which was a success as it offers multiple overtaking opportunities. The Grand Prix Circuit used to be the venue for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix before the Arena section was added and has a length of 5,141 km and 17 turns. The International Circuit has a length of 3,619 km and 10 turns. The small National Circuit has a length of 2,638 km and 6 turns. The Stowe Circuit is the smallest configuration and part of the of the original World War II airfield the Silverstone circuit is built on. It has a length of 1,281 km and 5 turns. The last 3 constructions are used for the smaller race events.

Ahead of the 2011 Grand Prix a new pit complex and grandstands were scheduled to be completed as part of a deal for Circuit Silverstone to host the F1 Grand Prix for the next 17 years. This made the straight between the Club and Abbey corners the new Pit Straight. Along with these changes, the Arena section has been renamed ‘Village’.

History

Silverstone has hosted the race regularly since the start of the F1 championship in 1950 (in which it was the first race of the first ever official World Championship) and every year since 1987; it alternated with Brands Hatch between 1964 and 1986, and with Aintree (better known as a horse-racing course) between 1955 and 1962. Silverstone is built on the site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, RAF Silverstone, which opened in 1943. The airfield’s three runways, in classic WWII triangle format, lie within the outline of the present track.

Silverstone was first used for motorsport by an ad hoc group of friends who set up an impromptu race in September 1947. One of their number, Maurice Geoghegan, lived in nearby Silverstone village and was aware that the airfield was deserted. He and eleven other drivers raced over a two mile circuit, during the course of which Geoghegan himself ran over a sheep that had wandered onto the airfield. The sheep was killed and the car written off, and in the aftermath of this event the informal race became known as the Mutton Grand Prix.

The next year the Royal Automobile Club took a lease on the airfield and set out a more formal racing circuit. Their first two races were held on the runways themselves, with long straights separated by tight hairpin corners, the track demarcated by hay bales. However, for the 1949 International Trophy meeting, it was decided to switch to the perimeter track. This arrangement was used for the 1950 and 1951 Grands Prix. In 1952 the start line was moved from the Farm Straight to the straight linking Woodcote and Copse corners, and this layout remained largely unaltered for the following 35 years. For the 1975 meeting a chicane was introduced to try and tame speeds through the mighty Woodcote Corner, and Bridge Corner was subtly rerouted in 1987 before the track underwent a major redesign between the 1990 and 1991 races, transforming the ultra-fast track (where in its last years, every corner was taken in no lower than 4th or 5th gear (depending on the transmission of the car) except for the Bridge chicane, which was usually taken in 2nd gear) into a more technical track. The reshaped track’s first F1 race was perhaps the most memorable of recent years, with Nigel Mansell coming home first in front of his home crowd. On his victory lap back to the pits Mansell even found time to pick up stranded rival Ayrton Senna and give him a lift on his side-pod, after Senna’s McLaren had run out of fuel on the final lap of the race.

Following the deaths of Senna and fellow Grand Prix driver Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994, many Grand Prix circuits were modifed in order to reduce speed and increase driver safety. As a consequence of this the entry from Hangar Straight into Stowe Corner was modified in 1995 so as to make its entry less dangerous and, as a result, less challenging, and the flat-out Abbey kink was modified to a chicane in just 19 days before the 1994 GP.

Recent Developments

Bernie Ecclestone stated that he would only negotiate the future of Formula One at Silverstone post-2009 if the BRDC gives up its role as promoter of the event. In an Autosport interview he said “I want to deal with a promoter rather than the BRDC. It is too difficult with the BRDC because you get no guarantees with them. We’ve said that unless they can get the circuit to the level expected from so-called third-world countries we are not prepared to do a deal. They know what we want them to build.” A new pit-and-paddock complex is the minimum redevelopment required. Maurice Hamilton has described the attitude of the BRDC as “[appearing to be] inflexible and sometimes arrogant”. During testing ahead of the British Grand Prix, Damon Hill likened the relationship between the BRDC and governing body as that of Aladdin’s Cave: “The genie says give me the lamp and Aladdin says get me out of the cave and I’ll give you the lamp. You’re in this constant cycle whereby in order to get our plans implemented we need to have a Grand Prix contract, and in order to get the Grand Prix contract we have to have our planning.”

On 1 August 2007 it was announced that a £25m redevelopment of the circuit had been approved, with new grandstands, pit facilities and a development centre planned. However, on 4 July 2008 it was announced that the event will move to Donington Park from 2010.

On 12 January 2009 it was announced that Silverstone will host the British MotoGP from 2010 after signing a five year deal to hold this event.

On 18 February 2009, the first pictures of the MotoGP Layout emerged (this has since changed to the layout now being constructed). The track will be slightly longer than the Grand Prix circuit, as it uses parts of the three main configurations at Silverstone – the Grand Prix circuit from the start-finish to Abbey corner, then turns right to go up part of the International layout in reverse, before joining the National Circuit’s straight from a left-hand hairpin known as the Arrowhead. Having negotiated the straight, the bikes will rejoin the Grand Prix circuit at Brooklands.

On 20 June 2009 Bernie Ecclestone stated that there would be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010 if Donington was not ready to host it. When asked why he had moved from his previous “Donington or nothing” standpoint he cited changes in the structure of the BRDC meaning there was a better way of negotiating with them over future commercial rights. Furthermore during an interview with the BBC about the Formula One Teams Association threatening to break away and form their own series, FIA president Max Mosley said it was “highly likely” the 2010 British Grand Prix would return to Silverstone. On 24 October 2009, BBC News reported that Donington had failed to raise the £135 million needed to stage a British Grand Prix and that Donington’s bid ‘looks over’ and the F1 supremo has offered the race to Silverstone, but the terms appear to be the same as those that the Circuit rejected first time round.

On 7 December 2009, Silverstone was awarded the rights to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years. Part of the deal is for a new pit lane to be built.

On 11 February 2010, it was announced that the British Grand Prix would use the “Arena” circuit configuration, thus increasing the track’s length by 759 metres. Ahead of the 2011 Grand Prix, a new pit complex is scheduled to be completed, making the straight between Club and Abbey corners the new pit straight.

On 1 March 2011 Silverstone Circuits confirmed that the Bridge section of the track had been decommissioned and would not be used again. Large scale earthworks are currently taking place to open up this area for spectators. “the old Bridge section of the circuit has been decommissioned and this has been sanctioned by the BRDC – however please note that the tarmac will still remain intact and not be removed. This decision was not taken lightly but with the development of The Silverstone Wing and the new pit lane exit, the Bridge section of the Grand Prix Circuit has been made redundant. The banked area that you have shown in your photo will open up the track at Luffield and will become a new spectator area bringing fans closer to the action.”

Memorable Moments

 

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