Image: Nick Farnhill
Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, is one of the most iconic venues on the roster. And while it enjoys historical significance, it has also hosted some most exciting races of all time.
Thanks to his stellar ability to convert pole positions into race wins, Lewis Hamilton shares the record for most wins at Silverstone (five) with compatriot Jim Clark, one of motor-racing’s greats.
Over the years, especially in the last two-and-a-half decades, Silverstone has made a habit of delivering thrilling racing spectacles.
Let’s look back at five Silverstone Grand Prix that put fans to the edge of their seats.
1 Johnny Herbert’s surprising win - 1995
A contest that shall always be remembered for producing arguably the best career win for Johnny Herbert.
The British driver excelled in a grid that featured big names such as Michael Schumacher, Jean Alesi and Mika Hakkinen.
While the result of the 1995 British Grand Prix was surprising, the likes of Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes failing to take the top step on the podium, it was a race where the team that kept its cool throughout the pressure-laden competition emerged on top.
At no stage, until the crucial moments, did the Benetton of Herbert seem dominant enough to contest for a win. Damon Hill, who clinched the pole in his Williams, proved that his drive on Saturday was no flash in the pan, as he dominated the first 37 laps. At one stage, around Lap 12, Hill’s lead was well over six seconds and his position seemed unassailable. Meanwhile, Jean Alesi pressured him in his Ferrari, driving better than he had ever driven.
Hill’s second pit stop on Lap 41 was botched by his team forcing him to play catch up with Benetton’s Michael Schumacher who had assumed the lead. Having failed to pass the German at Stowe corner, Hill tried again at Priory where a defensive move from his rival led to a collision.
With both drivers reeling in the gravel, the race was thrown wide open. Coulthard, who’d taken lead of the race in his Williams, had to undergo a stop-go penalty for speeding in the pits opening the door for Herbert to take the lead.
Alesi tried to pressure Herbert but fading oil pressure ruined the Ferrari driver’s chances. Johnny Herbert hung on for one of his three career wins and his seventh podium finishes at Silverstone.
2 Jim’s Clark’s final British Grand Prix win - 1967
One of the best races ever held at Silverstone came five decades ago, in an era where drivers won through pure skill and daring rather than technological advantage.
Silverstone is among the few races on the F1 calendar that has a timeless presence in motor-racing history. And nothing could pay a better homage to this characteristic than the dominant 1967 triumph by one stalwart of motor-racing, Jim Clark.
Running around 80 laps on a circuit whose shape was as dissimilar to the current racing track at Silverstone as an olive tree is to a palm tree, the Grand Prix would register among the best for the Englishman.
The fifth and final British Grand Prix win of Jim Clark’s career came at the back of a dominant showing in a Lotus. On race day, the team looking all set to unfurl a 1-2 with Jim Clark and Graham Hill, but Hill did not finish due to a rear suspension failure.
Chased all race by Brabham’s Denny Hulme, who finished seconds behind, Jim Clark essayed an instance of world class defensive driving protecting his Lotus from being passed by the Brabham through several corners in the run up to the chequered flag.
3 Nigel Mansell’s stellar drive - 1987
F1 in the 80s was all about great drivers such as Mansell, Senna, Prost and Piquet. One of those noted legends clinched his best career win here at Silverstone, his home Grand Prix.
Overcoming a gap of around 28 seconds to catch and eventually pass Williams-Honda teammate and championship rivals Nelson Piquet, Mansell registered his greatest win at the British Grand Prix in 1987.
On pole position and looking destined to win, Piquet looked sluggish early on was under attack from Mansell and Frenchman Alain Prost in his McLaren.
By Lap 25, Mansell, displeased with his car’s balance, the lead between the first-placed Brazilian and the Briton widening.
By Lap 35, Mansell had no choice but to pit for a fresher set of the Goodyear tyres, by which time Piquet had extended his lead by 29 seconds.
The leader then experienced tyre wear issues that set the nerves jangling by Lap 63 as Mansell closed in.
Now, only a second ahead, Piquet defended a move by the Brit, who instead of diving into the inside lunged to the left at Chapel. Within a split second, Piquet moved to cover him but Mansell dodged back to the right to pass him with just 2 laps to go.
Playing a classic dummy move, Nigel Mansell won the race in front of an ecstatic home crowd and reaffirmed his position as a great of the sport.
4 The ‘Iceman’ keeps it cool - 2007
Ferrari's last world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, clinched a belter of a race at Silverstone in 2007, closely followed by Fernando Alonso and his teammate, Lewis Hamilton in their McLaren-Mercedes.
Having led the Grand Prix from the very start, Hamilton pitted early on Lap 16 for a fresh set of tyres, rejoining the race in fifth place while Kimi Raikkonen, took the lead. Three laps later, Raikkonen dived into the pits and emerged clear of Hamilton and the duo set about pursuing Fernando Alonso. When Alonso pitted on Lap 22, Raikkonen regained the lead after the Spaniard had been held up by traffic.
Ice cool Raikkonen, on a fresher set of compounds, extended his lead over Alonso who was busy battling teammate Hamilton for second place, to take the race win.
5 Hamilton trumps with a dogged drive - 2017
A titanic battle was expected but Mercedes ultimately triumphed in a race where anything that could have gone wrong for Ferrari, did.
Hamilton’s Silverstone win was important from a strategic point of view as it allowed the Brit to cut his championship deficit to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to just one point. Thus blunting the German’s advantage and aiding the English driver with a comforting mental superiority.
If there were a Grand Prix that defined just how much importance modern tyre compounds hold in deciding a race, then this was it.
If Vettel had finished the race, and P3 looked certain with just a lap and a half to go, Ferrari would have still kept Mercedes under check. But a slow puncture caused the German dropped from third to seventh, resulting in just six points instead of 15.
Considered by many to be the turning point of the 2017 driver’s championship, Silverstone pulled the plug out on Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s campaign and handed the initiative to Hamilton.
What was your favourite British Grand Prix at Silverstone? Let us know in the comments below.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?