As the long-time home of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone is one of the best-known circuits on the Formula 1 calendar. But what many may not know is that the United Kingdom is home to a wide range of different race tracks, each with their own character. Here we look at five other circuits that we’d love to see host a British Grand Prix, even if their prospects might not be very realistic.
An obvious one to start with. Brands Hatch couldn’t be much more different to flat and wide open Silverstone, with huge amounts of undulation from corner to corner – take the first turn, the steeply downhill Paddock Hill Bend, as an example. Then there's the rolling and fearsomely-quick grand prix loop through the woods, with a series of fast corners and little margin for error. Located just outside London and handy for anybody coming from mainland Europe, it would be a promoter's dream, but F1 outgrew the track long ago, last racing there in 1986. Making the necessary changes for a return, namely increasing the run-off area around the GP loop, probably wouldn’t be possible without demolishing the housing estate just the other side of the trees.
Oulton Park is similar in character to Brands Hatch: undulating, narrow and twisting. It's a true parkland circuit, laid out in the grounds of a former manor house, giving it an authentic British feel. It’s got history too, having hosted a non-championship F1 race until 1972, won by names such as Moss, Clark, Brabham, Surtees and Stewart. Situated in the north-east of England, the big race meetings there always attract a large crowd from the nearby cities of Manchester and Liverpool and beyond, but much like Brands Hatch, safety would be an issue for modern-day F1, such is the proximity of the barriers to the race track. Enaam Ahmed, who won all three races at Oulton Park on his way to becoming British Formula 3 champion in 2017, even said it prepared him well for the Pau street circuit in France when he went on to race there. And much like a street circuit, overtaking opportunities are limited at best.
As an airfield circuit, Thruxton bears a similarity to Silverstone, but probably more so to the original Silverstone layout than that of the modern day. It’s even quicker – it’s Britain’s fastest circuit, no less, with Damon Hill having once lapped it in 57.6 seconds in his 1993 Williams, averaging 237 km/h. The racing is usually thrilling, with the long, mostly flat-out runs between two chicanes making for plenty of slipstreaming. But while the limited facilities and extremely cramped pit garages could perhaps be overcome, safety concerns probably couldn’t: Even in a touring car, a Thruxton crash is usually a big crash.
Knockhill takes the idea of an undulating circuit to new heights. Situated in the hills of the Fife region in Scotland, it’s Britain's answer to Austria's Red Bull Ring, with some great scenery to boot. The track is popular with drivers and has been likened to a rollercoaster because of its elevation changes and blind corners. Cutting the kerbs is key to a good laptime – although F1 cars probably wouldn’t spend as much time as two wheels as the touring cars do. With Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard among its greatest exports, Scotland could certainly make a strong case for deserving an F1 races, but Knockhill is a long way even from Britain's own motorsport valley back down south.
Talk of a grand prix on the streets of London seems to come around every year. If it did ever happen, it wouldn’t be the first major motor racing event within one of Britain's biggest cities. Back in the late 1980s, there was the Birmingham Superprix, held on public roads in the centre of England's second city with Formula 3000 and British Touring Cars in action. It wasn’t the most exciting street circuit ever designed, consisting mostly of dual carriageways, and the surroundings were not exactly Monaco, but it’s remembered fondly by British fans deprived ever since of watching racing on their own streets. There’s an appetite locally to revive it too, with talk of Formula E making Birmingham its UK home in the near future. With Birmingham perfectly situated in the middle or the country and home to a large and young population, it’s probably the most feasible of our five alternative British Grand Prix venues.