- Circuit type Race
- Circuit Length 5.141kms
- Circuit Turns 17
- Circuit Direction Clockwise
- Capacity 150,000
- Established 1947
|First race||British Grand Prix||May 13, 1950||Nino Farina (ITA)||full results|
|Last race||British Grand Prix||July 5, 2015||Lewis Hamilton (GBR)||full results|
Like many UK historic tracks, Silverstone was built on the site of an old RAF airfield with the original circuit making use of the three runways in a triangle formation, so common to World War Two airfields.
The first race at the circuit is reported to have taken place in September 1947 between local resident Maurice Geoghegan and 11 friends who raced on a two-mile ad-hoc circuit. The race was plagued by sheep wandering onto the circuit; the event was nicknamed the 'Mutton Grand Prix' after Geoghegan hit one of the unfortunate creatures, signalling the end for both car and sheep.
The following year the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) took a lease on the airfield and set out a more formal circuit marked by hay bales. The layout still retained use of the original runways and led to a circuit consisting of long straights joined by hairpin corners. In 1949 the layout was revised to use the perimeter track and this layout formed the circuit for the first Grand Prix held there in May 1950. In the presence of King George VI, the race was won by Nino Farino in his Alfa Romeo, finishing two laps ahead of team-mate Luigi Faglioli.
The start-line was moved from Farm straight to the current location for the 1952 Grand Prix and the layout remained largely unaltered for the next 35 years. The circuit continued to host grand prix events but shared hosting duties with Brands Hatch and Aintree up to 1986. As the speeds of the cars began to rise, a chicane was introduced in order to slow the competitors through Woodcote corner, Bridge was also subtly altered in 1987, also for safety reasons.
After the 1990 Grand Prix, Silverstone underwent a major redesign in time for the 1991 race which proved popular with fans. The circuit's cause was no doubt helped when local hero Nigel Mansell won the race. At the end of the race Mansell stopped to give stranded Ayrton Senna a lift back to the pits on the side pod of his car, a now iconic F1 image.
Following the death of Senna at Imola in 1994, many F1 tracks were modified in a bid to drastically reduced speeds and increase safety. For Silverstone this meant modification to Stowe corner and the flat-out Abbey kink converted to a chicane.
Having hosted the British Grand Prix permanently since 1987, rifts began to show between the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), who owned the facility, and the FIA. It came to a head when in September 2004 BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart announced that Silverstone would not feature in the 2005 provisional F1 calendar. A last-minute agreement was reached in December, securing the race's future at Silverstone until 2009.
The circuit's future post-2009 looked rocky when Bernie Ecclestone said that he no longer wanted to deal with the BRDC and instead wanted an official promoter appointed. He also said major redevelopment was required for them to regain the race, including a new pit and paddock complex. In August 2007 Silverstone got the go-ahead to start renovations; however on July 4, 2008 Ecclestone dropped the axe on the Northamptonshire venue by announcing the event would move to Donington Park in 2010.
As Donington's plan appeared more and more shaky Ecclestone softened his "Donington or nothing" policy and admitted that Silverstone may get a chance to host the event. When Donington failed to raise the £135million it required for renovations Ecclestone once again opened discussions with Silverstone.
In December 2009 British Racing Driver's Club (BRDC) president Damon Hill announced that they had agreed a 17-year deal to keep the race at Silverstone, and a £5 million refurbishment, which involved changes to the track layout, followed.