Maybe that’s a slightly clichéd way of looking at Great Britain and its love of tradition, as well as its slight isolation from the rest of the world – which is only underlined by the fact that it is an island.
But this popular image seems tailor-made to tell the story of what Great Britain means to the automotive world. Or rather, to the highly international world of Formula 1.
On a summer’s morning 68 years ago, Formula 1 as we know it got underway at Silverstone, with the very first round that counted towards a world championship.
Who knows how many people present on that day knew that they were witnessing not just the start of a grand prix, with those brutal front-engined cars that stank of petrol, but the start of a championship. Or rather, an uninterrupted series of championships that would power their way through the 20th century and then roar triumphantly into the next one, becoming the most popular global sporting spectacle on earth, aside from the World Cup and Olympic Games.
Today, nearly 70 years later, Silverstone welcomes its grand prix with the same the same frenetic independence as was the case back then. Because this is not only the 10th grand prix of the season but for the many British people who love Formula 1, their home race.
And while Silverstone may not quite showcase the same outright speed that was once the case, back when the corners were token gestures and the straights recalled the airfield at the track’s origins, the fans who crowd the venue continue to celebrate peak velocity. Of course, questions of safety and circuit upgrades, as well as the demands of television, have transformed Silverstone. There are some corners that are a shadow of their former selves, but others such as Stowe and Copse – which are still taken at more than 250kph – remain. So the legend stays alive and well.