With England being home to the majority of Formula 1 teams, it’s a home race for most and a circuit that the drivers – many of whom raced regularly in England when they were younger – know well. It’s a track that tests every aspect of performance: requiring downforce as well as a good chassis and engine, with plenty of power and torque.
Cars often accelerate through corners, placing heavy demands on the tyres as well as on the drivers’ necks. That’s because of the high speeds through all the long corners, where the cars and drivers experience a mind-blowing mix of combined forces: intense sideways forces as the cars negotiate the corners, but also vertical forces as the cars get pushed into the ground by the downforce.
Silverstone has recently been resurfaced a couple of times as the first resurfacing resulted in a number of bumps on the track: these have now largely been smoothed out. This year’s experience should feel a little different to previous years for the drivers though: the new generation of cars was specifically designed precisely for flat-out circuits such as this one (one of the reasons why the 2022 show car was presented at Silverstone last year) so epic corner combinations such as Maggotts and Becketts should deliver an extra thrill.
Put simply, Silverstone is one of the classic venues of Formula 1. In fact, it’s the oldest in the history of the world championship, having hosted the first ever race back in 1950. Since 1987, the British Grand Prix has been held there every year without interruption (despite moments of doubt over its future), adding numerous chapters to the circuit’s considerable heritage.
The high-speed layout is loved by drivers and fans alike, and with several long straights connecting the many fast corners, it often produces some pretty exciting action. The typical British summer weather regularly plays its part too, and Silverstone has seen some of the great wet races in the history of Formula 1.
Some of the most memorable moments have centred around British drivers. Nigel Mansell in particular was so strongly connected to success at Silverstone and the adulation of the home crowd that the term ‘Mansell Mania’ was coined – peaking when his fans invaded the circuit after his third and final win there in 1992. More recently, Silverstone has been all about Lewis Hamilton, who took a dominant first home win soaking wet conditions in 2008. He didn’t win at Silverstone again until 2014, but since then has claimed seven British GPs in eight years.
You go to Silverstone for the racing: there’s nothing much else to do in this rustic corner of Northamptonshire – although the historic university city of Oxford is the closest tourist attraction, about 45 minutes away, and is well worth a trip. Most local people don’t move though: instead coming to camp over the whole British Grand Prix weekend (nearby accommodation is in short supply) and turning the race into a mini-festival: tents and caravans and barbecues and beer, unconcerned about the rainstorms that sometimes spill over into the British countryside. And there are always plenty of nearby pubs to take shelter in, especially in Silverstone village. For an alternative activity after the race try visiting Bletchley Park nearby: it was home to the codebreaking division of the British secret service during World War II, and there’s a fascinating museum that tells the story of the real-life James Bonds. Another great museum is the newly-opened Silverstone museum at the circuit: here you’ll see a replica of the Stella Bianca tyre that won the first-ever British Grand Prix in 1950 (which of course was also the first race valid for the world championship).
Shane Richmond is a technology writer and...