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Special feature
Formula 1 British GP

10 things you didn’t know about Silverstone F1 circuit

Silverstone’s history runs deep and its legendary status includes many weird and wonderful stories from the past. Here are some facts you might not know about the long-lived home of the British Grand Prix

A scenic view of Silverstone from the pit straight grandstand

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Former airfield

Everyone knows Silverstone is a former airfield – but did you know it was home to the legendary Wellington bomber? The site opened in 1943 during WWII with five large hangars, three intersecting runways and perimeter track. It was a training base for the No 17 Operational Training Unit but when that shut in 1947, it was then converted into a racetrack by the RAC in just two months and held its first Grand Prix in 1948. The original runways still cut through the centre of the circuit.

The first F1 race ever

It’s also fairly well known that he first F1 race was held at Silverstone – but did you know that outside the UK it was officially titled the Grand Prix d’Europe. The average age of the drivers was 39 and the field included a Thai Prince, a Swiss baron and a London-born Belgian jazz singer named Johnny Claes, who qualified last and finished 11th.

Giuseppe Farina, Alfa Romeo 158, Luigi Fagioli, Alfa Romeo 158

Giuseppe Farina, Alfa Romeo 158, Luigi Fagioli, Alfa Romeo 158

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Corners of saints and monks

The track has eight left turns and ten right, and there are several interesting names. Two corners are named after the Luffield Priory, which housed Benedictine monks between 1116 and the late 16th century, while Becketts and Chapel are named in honour of medieval Saint Thomas A’Becket, whose chapel stood nearby. The third corner in that section is named after nearby Maggots Moor and is the fastest of all, with drivers experiencing lateral G-forces of 4.5 at more than 180mph.

Sharing the spoils

Silverstone has not always been home of the British Grand Prix – it was shared with Aintree between 1955 and 1962 and Brands Hatch between 1963 and 1986. It was only in 1987 that it became venue of choice and will be so for at least 10 more years.

So good they did it twice

In 2020, when Covid-19 decimated the F1 calendar, Silverstone hosted back-to-back rounds – the British Grand Prix on July 26 and, a week later, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix to commemorate F1’s landmark on August 2. They ran behind closed doors and the race only happened thanks to the last-minute waiving of lockdown restrictions.

Hare-y moments

The open farmland around Silverstone is home to a lot of fast-moving hares but against F1 cars they have not always fared well. In the first race, Briton Reg Parnell hit one in his Alfa Romeo and in 2002 Allan McNish did the same in his Toyota.

First prize

The winner of Silverstone’s first F1 race, Giuseppe Farina, claimed a prize of £500 – equivalent to around £21,500 today – but now the prize money is zero! Nowadays, teams get a share of the total prize money based on Championship positions at the end of the season, but individual Grand Prix winners only get a trophy – and recognition.

 

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Two counties

The circuit has an identity crisis when it comes to determining exactly where it is – because it sits across an English county boundary – so as the cars drive around, they are switching from one county to another. The section between Becketts and Abbey, including the pits and start-finish straight, is in Buckinghamshire, while from Farm through to Maggotts is in Northamptonshire.

Changing tracks

The track has had six different configurations over the years. Its high-speed layout was retained – aside from the addition of a chicane at Woodcote – until 1991, when Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel became a thrilling swerving sequence, Vale was added between Stowe and Club and Priory, a slow ‘stadium’ section was added. In 2010, the stadium became the Loop and finally in 2011, the start-finish straight between Woodcote-Copse moved locations (and counties – see previous reference) to the new ‘Wing’ pit complex on the Hamilton Straight.

Ten home heroes

Ten different British drivers have won an F1 race at Silverstone. The first was Peter Collins in 1958 then Jim Clark took three (63, 65, 67), Jackie Stewart two (69, 71) and James Hunt (77) and John Watson (81) taking one each. Nigel Mansell had a good run of success (87, 91, 92) with Damon Hill (94), Johnny Herbert (95) and David Coulthard (99) winning one each before Lewis Hamilton began an astonishing haul of eight victories (2008, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21).

And now for 2024…

The British Grand Prix returns to Silvertone from 5th July – 7th and MoneyGram is giving one lucky fan and their guest the chance to soak up the iconic Silverstone atmosphere this year as part of the MoneyGram Silverstone Dream Weekend competition. With VIP hospitality, round trip travel, accommodation, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team merchandise and more available to the winner, it is a truly incredible package. To enter, just answer ‘What drives your dreams?’ at dreams.moneygram.com.

The Silverstone Dream Weekend with MoneyGram Haas F1 Team competition is for residents of the UK only. Entrants must be of majority age. The competition opens on May 26, 2024 and closes on June 23, 2024. The prize draw will be made on June 26, 2024 and the winner will be notified on June 27, 2024

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