Friday 12 July 2019

The Evolution Of Silverstone, by Leasing Options

Now that the future of Silverstone as a Formula 1 track has been assured, it’s a perfect time to look back at how the track has changed since 1948.

Leasing Options has created an animation to show all of the many changes that Silverstone has undergone since racing began on the track, explained what the key changes were and listed our top five Silverstone Formula 1 moments.

The evolution of the Silverstone track

Key dates in Silverstone’s history
1948 - The First Grand Prix
The first grand prix at Silverstone took place in 1948, but the course was somewhat different and more terrifying than it is today.

The course used both of the runways left over from Silverstone’s days as an airbase. The course itself was marked out with oil barrels and straw bales, and the only thing protecting spectators was a rope.

The layout of the track meant that at one point the drivers found themselves hurtling towards each other at top speed. To ‘help’, canvas screens were erected so the drivers were unable to see each other as they flew towards each other at top speeds.

1950 - The First F1 World Championship
Silverstone hosted the first F1 world championship race in 1950. The victor was Dr Giuseppe Farina for Alfa Romeo, a win witnessed by the Queen. This was the only time a reigning monarch has been in attendance at a British motor racing event.

1975 - New Chicane Added
A new chicane was added to the track in time for the 1975 grand prix.

By Tony Underwood, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.
1987 - S-Bend replaced by sharp left-right
In 1985 top speeds had gotten a little too fast for comfort, with Keke Rosberg setting a 160mph average lap. By 1987, the S-bend chicane had been replaced by sharp left-right on the approach to slow down the track.

1990 - Further Changes to Copse and Becketts Corner 
Further significant redevelopment happened over the winter of 1990, designed to take the circuit through the rest of the decade. The entry at Copse was tightened and the corner rerouted. The original Becketts corner was bypassed by the new Maggots-Becketts-Chapel curve sequence, a move that was widely lauded, among other changes.

1994 - Further Safety Improvements Made
Following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, the world of motor racing was increasingly concerned with safety. This led to increased run-off at Copse and Stowe was remade to be slower and safer.

To further improve the safety of the track, a chicane was added to the Abbey and Stowe was tightened.

1996 - Alterations to Stowe Corner and a New Stowe Circuit
A gradual kink near the end of the Hangar Straight was added and the track was moved further towards the infield. More run-off room was added, meaning Stowe could be a faster part of the track.

The new, self-contained Stowe Circuit was built to be used for the Silverstone Racing Driving School.

Another addition was the International course, which has since become one of the most popular courses.

2003 - Track Slowed Again
In 2003 a tighter loop at Luffield was added as well as a flip-flop chicane. These were due to requests from World Superbike racers.

Planet Labs, Inc. [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://]
2010 - New Course Created
The new course was completed, to be unveiled in time for the 2011 grand prix. The circuit now had a choice of start and finish locations. Also, the International circuit could be used independently due to the Wing pits.

Five historic Silverstone F1 moments
We also thought it a good time to reflect on some of the most memorable moments the track has given us.

1. 1977 - James Hunt's Only Silverstone Victory
Racing icon James Hunt only won one grand prix at Silverstone, and this was it. Hunt was already a fan favourite and this year the fans got what they came to see. Hunt finished ahead of his long-time rival, Niki Lauda, by 18 seconds.

2. 1987 - Nigel Mansell Overtakes Piquet for the Win
After being forced to pit on the 35th Lap of the 1987 Silverstone grand prix, Nigel Mansell found himself 28 seconds behind his Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet.

Mansell then produced one of the great charges through the field, moving past backmarkers and beating the lap record multiple times. This came to a head on the penultimate lap, when Mansell made his move to overtake Piquet. He feinted to the left then, when Piquet adjusted, cut inside. This meant being, some would say, dangerously late on the brakes and could have led to trouble when Piquet cut back across. But, the move worked and Mansell went on to win the race.

3. 1998 - Schumacher Wins a Race in the Pitlane
Sometimes you can win by acting to the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

In 1998 Michael Schumacher looked in position to carry the day until, with three laps to go, he was hit with a 10-second stop-go penalty. This left him with, everyone thought, too little time to take a penalty and then regain the lead. So, on the last lap, Schumacher went into the pits and served his penalty there. Therefore, he won the race in the pitlane as the finish line was before the Ferrari pit box.

This led to a lot of confusion over what was the correct application of the penalty. The stewards ultimately decided that no accurate penalty could be applied. So Ferrari won, when it possibly shouldn’t have.

Photo: Octane Photography
4. 2018 - Lewis Hamilton Recovers for the Win (Almost)
Okay, so he didn’t end up winning the race but this was still a very impressive performance.

Lewis Hamilton was overtaken twice, by Sebastian Vettel and then Valtteri Bottas, at the first corner. Then he ended up spinning off the track and facing the wrong direction after getting knocked by Kimi Raikkonen, meaning he was in last place.

What followed was extraordinary. Hamilton raced back through the pack in thrilling style to finish second. 

5. 1991 - Mansell Gives Senna a Lift
Sometimes you need a friend to get you where you need to be. Senna was second in the 1991 grand prix until the final lap, when his car unexpectedly ran out of fuel. He was still waiting by his McLaren when race winner Mansell stopped to give him a lift back to the pits. It was a move that probably broke every health and safety rule there is, but has become one of the most iconic and endearing images in F1’s history.

What's in a name?
Photo: Octane Photography
Most of the features of the Silverstone track have their own names. If you’ve ever wondered what they are and what they mean, you can find out now.
Abbey and Luffield - because the remains of Luffield Abbey were found 200 metres from Stowe Corner.
Becketts and Chapel Curve - the ruins of the Chapel of Thomas Becket lie close to the circuit (the BRDC changed the spelling for the corner name though!).
Stowe Corner - the old public school Stowe school is two miles south of the circuit.
Maggotts - this charming name is because Maggots Moor Field is adjacent to the circuit.
Copse - simply because a copse (a small wood) sat next to the corner.
Club Corner - named to honour the RAC Club, Pall Mall.
Woodcote - named for the country club at Woodcote Park,Surrey.
Hangar Straight - unsurprisingly, given the course of history, this is where two aircraft hangers once sat.
Village - named due to Silverstone village.
Ireland -named in honour of Innes Ireland, a former  grand prix driver and President of the British Drivers Racing Club.
Wellington Straight - named because Vickers Wellington bombers were based at RAF Silverstone.
The Loop - because it’s a loop.

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