Race Facts – British Grand Prix at Silverstone

The home of British motorsport, Silverstone hosted the first World Championship race in 1950 and has since staged the British Grand Prix more than 50 times.

Built on the site of a World War II airfield, Silverstone first hosted the British Grand Prix in 1948, a race which attracted a reported 100 000 spectators. Two years later in 1950, Silverstone was chosen as the venue for the first race on the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship and the track is one of only four Grands Prix from the first year of the World Championship to remain a part of today’s F1 calendar (the others being Monaco, Spa and Monza). The layout of Silverstone has undergone significant changes over the years, mostly in a bid to reduce speed and increase safety.

After almost losing the rights to the British Grand Prix to rival Donington Park circuit in the late 2000s, the owners of Silverstone (the British Racing Drivers’ Club, or BRDC) signed a new 17-year deal in 2010 which should have guaranteed Silverstone’s place on the Formula 1 calendar until at least 2027. Unfortunately, the contract included an ‘escalator clause’ that increases the hosting fee payable to the Formula 1 group each year, and the circuit struggled to make a profit despite attracting the second highest attendances on the current calendar (almost 350,000 on race weekend in 2017.) A few days before the 2017 British Grand Prix, the BRDC activated a break clause in their contract with Formula 1. After a period of uncertainty, it was announced before the 2019 running of the race that the event would remain at Silverstone until at least 2024.

In 2020, due to calendar changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Silverstone hosted two races in August. Both events were held without fans in attendance. The first race – the British Grand Prix – saw Lewis Hamilton take a record-breaking home victory, despite suffering a puncture on the final lap. One week later, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was held, marking 70 years since the first round of the World Championship. Max Verstappen was victorious in that race, which marked the first of Red Bull’s two wins in the 2020 season. 

British Grand Prix: Did You Know?

  • At 5.891km, Silverstone is the third longest F1 circuit on the current calendar. Only Spa Francorchamps in Belgium (7.004km) and Baku City Circuit (6.003km) are longer.
  • Together with Italy, Britain is the only country to have held a Grand Prix in every year of the World Championship since 1950.
  • In 2019, Lewis Hamilton set a new record for most victories at the British Grand Prix. With his sixth win at the event, he eclipsed the totals of Jim Clark and Alain Prost. He extended his record to seven wins at the event in 2020.
  • A total of twelve British drivers have won the British Grand Prix. Other multiple British GP winners include Nigel Mansell (4 wins), Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard (both 2 wins). Read more about Silverstone’s Home Race Heroes
  • In 17 races, Jenson Button never won the British GP, or even stood on the podium.
  • In both 1963 and 1965, the British Grand Prix podium at Silverstone was comprised exclusively of British drivers. Jim Clark won both events, and he was joined on the rostrum by John Surtees and Graham Hill both times.
  • The lowest grid position a podium finish has come from at Silverstone is 28th. This happened at the 1954 British GP, when Onofre Marimón finished third having started from 28th in a 30-car field.
  • There is yet to be a British GP at Silverstone in which all of the top three on the grid finish the race in the same order.
  • As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 British Grand Prix was moved from a provisional July date to August. It was the first time that the event had been held in August since the inaugural British Grand Prix was held at Brooklands on August 7 1926. 
  • Lewis Hamilton set a new record for most poles at his home event in 2020. His pole position at the 2020 British Grand Prix was the seventh time he has taken pole at his home race. He previously shared the record with Ayrton Senna, who started the Brazilian Grand Prix from pole six times.
  • Nigel Mansell once claimed that racing in front of a home crowd can be worth tenths of a second off the lap time and, while there’s a lack of scientific fact behind the claim, Mansell certainly did excel at the Silverstone circuit and set the fastest lap of a race here six times during his career – more than any other driver!

Silverstone’s Memorable Moments

  • 1991: Taxi for Senna: Some of the most iconic images in F1 were produced at the conclusion of the 1991 British Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna had run out of fuel at the end of the race and was stranded on the circuit as a result. Race winner Nigel Mansell stopped for the Brazilian and gave him a lift back to the pits on the side of his Williams car!

  • 2003: Track invader:The 2003 British Grand Prix was interrupted by a track invader. Irish priest Cornelius Horan ran on to the circuit on the Hangar Straight, where the cars reach over 200km/h. The incident brought out the Safety Car, and Horan was subsequently arrested after being dragged from the track by a marshal. He was sentenced to two months in prison.

  • 2008: Hamilton reigns in the wet: Lewis Hamilton took his first home win in extraordinary conditions at Silverstone in 2008. Starting from fourth, Hamilton was up to second before the first corner. Heikki Kovalainen was leading – but not for long; Hamilton scythed his way past at Stowe corner on the fourth lap. While other slipped and slid in the tricky conditions – including Felipe Massa who span no less than five times during the afternoon – Hamilton was peerless; aside from a short run across the grass. He ended up winning by over a minute, with only two other drivers able to stay on the lead lap!

  • 2013: Pirelli’s bad afternoon: Tyres were the major talking point at the 2013 British Grand Prix, with multiple failures raising safety concerns. Polesitter Lewis Hamilton was first to suffer a failure, with his left-rear tyre exploding on the Wellington Straight just seven laps into the race. Felipe Massa’s tyre gave way in the same area four laps later, and another failure Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso saw the Safety Car called out. All of this left Sebastian Vettel leading, until Lap 42 when he retired with a gearbox failure. After another Safety Car as a result of the incident, Sergio Perez’s McLaren was next to suffer a tyre blow-out. Nico Rosberg won the race, but the headlines were all about Pirelli and the unsafe conditions which the drivers faced.

Silverstone Facts

Circuit NameSilverstone
Race first held1950
Track Length5.891km (18 turns)
Race Distance52 laps (306.198km)
Lap Record1:27.097, Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 2020
2020 Result1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:28:01.283
2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +5.856s
3rd Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +18.474s

2 thoughts on “Race Facts – British Grand Prix at Silverstone”

  1. martin comyn

    In your article headed “British Grand Prix: did you know?”, the following statement doesn’t seem to make sense! Should there be a third driver?

    • In both 1963 and 1965, the British Grand Prix podium at Silverstone was comprised exclusively of British drivers. Jim Clark won both events, and he was joined on the rostrum by Jim Clark and Graham Hill both times.

    1. Thanks for pointing this error out Martin. I’ve updated the post. John Surtees and Graham Hill joined Jim Clark on the podium at the British GP in ’63 and ’65.

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