F1 British Grand Prix: Top 5 races of all time at Silverstone

2017 British Formula 1 Grand Prix Race Day Jul 16th
Silverstone is among the most iconic racing tracks ever

Nestled in history and untouched by the changing vagaries of time, Silverstone is pure gold for its sheer significance to F1 racing.

This is a signature F1 event where the fighting instincts unveiled at the track pay homage to the sweltering heat and bustle of World War- II.

Back then, the track was but an airfield used by the giants serving Britain in one of the most tectonic events of the world. Victory and prevalence of the brave are therefore sacrosanct in the DNA of this belter of a track, spread over 5.8 kilometres, sprinkled by 18 turns and ignited often by humid and sometimes wet weather conditions.

Today, the motor-racing circuit is bejewelled by feisty achievements claimed by legendary names in the annals of Formula 1.

First opened way back in 1947, a time in the history where some nations hadn’t yet been formed while some hadn’t yet claimed independence, the Silverstone is a track that unites motor-racing lovers like few other tracks can.

In an age where F1 has spread it’s global feathers in wider destinations such as Central Asia and dived in the midst of Europe, Silverstone sits calmly in the heart of the sport as a destination one can’t turn a blind eye to. One that can’t be ignored for the sheer thrill it offers- where speed matters just as much as high-speed corners determining team strategies.

You could call it the Ulysses seeped in the heart of this great sport of ours that respects tradition and serves surprises through a template that’s constantly embracing technology.

Hamilton has ruled here. And so have Senna, Mansell and even, Johnny Herbert.

But which are 5 of the best Grands Prix held at Silverstone, since 1948 onward?

#5 The 1995 British Grand Prix: Herbert clinches a surprise Grand Prix

Johnny Herbert, Grand Prix Of Great Britain
The Grand Prix Of Great Britain, 1995

If there were a Grand Prix that enabled the triumph of surprise over stoicism then perhaps, it would have to be Silverstone’s 1995 run that saw Johnny Herbert collect his finest racing moment.

It’s not always that drivers of the class and élan of a Schumacher, Alesi and Hakkinen are thumped on the grid.

One of the more dramatic races in Silverstone’s decades of history, at no stage, till the final dying moments did it seem that the McLaren and Ferraris of Mika and Jean Alesi would despair in front of the winning Benetton of Herbert, perhaps making the 1995 British Grand Prix, even more surprising.

A race where the team that kept pressure amid suddenly changing tides to win saw the track position changing hands from the onset of Lap 37, going from the grasp of Hill to Alesi and then briefly to Michael Schumacher before things would change even further.

At one stage, where it seemed pole-sitter Hill was destined to win, having maintained a near-unassailable lead of over 6 seconds at the front saw his race compromised thanks to a botched up stop of his Williams in Lap 41.

From thereon, as Hill would play catch up to Schumacher, then in contention for a podium, fans would see a two-way fight between a fast Benetton and an able Williams in the run to the checkered flag.

This is when things would turn on their head by Lap 46.

Hill would try to pass Michael, forcing his way this time having failed once at Stowe and right then a defensive hold-off from Michael would lead to a collision.

With both drivers now at the gravel, the race was left wide open for the other takers. Coulthard, Hill’s teammate, who’d then taken the lead would soon undergo a stop-go penalty having speeded up in the pits.

This would bring in Johnny Herbert into contention. He would mount a staunch chase to the checkered flag and would defend brilliantly from Alesi who tried to counter attack for the track position.

Alas, a terminal woe in the form of an oil leak in his engine would exacerbate Alesi’s woes as Herbert held on bravely to claim one among his three race wins and seven Grand Prix finishes on the podium.

Was this also his best, you bet?

#4 The 1967 British Grand Prix win: Jim Clark excels in final British GP

Formula One Motor Racing - RAC British Grand Prix - Silverstone
Formula One Motor Racing - RAC British Grand Prix - Silverstone, Jim Clark on top

What happens when a legendary racing track and an iconic motor-racing hero get together?

The end results are fireworks.

Jim Clark dominated one of the best races ever held at the Silverstone, at least five decades back in time.

This was, interestingly, a time where the car was still much in the driver’s control and where technology hadn’t yet begun to engage in a decisive foreplay with Formula 1.

Silverstone is among the few races on the F1 calendar that have a timeless presence in motor-racing history. And nothing could possibly pay a better homage to this character than the dominant 1967 triumph by one of the stalwarts of motor-racing - Jim Clark.

Clark winning a Grand Prix propelled by the challenge to dominate 80 laps- imagine the number- showed his dominant Lotus take the top step of the podium.

But things wouldn’t go as smooth for Clark’s teammate, Graham Hill, enduring a rear suspension failure in the other Lotus, particularly when it had seemed the British Grand Prix would witness an enthralling Lotus 1-2 saga.

In keeping his cool despite an obdurate challenge posed by Brabham’s Denny Hulme, Jim Clark’s Lotus kept up the pace and consistency to run around in circles with arguably better balance and agility to display a master-class in defensive driving.

In pure racing terms, Clark’s 1967 epic was right up there with Senna’s brave defending from Mansell, witnessed in 1992 at the Principality of Monte Carlo.

There were several corners in the run to the checkered flag where Hulme would come right on the tail of the Jim Clark’s Lotus, only for the car to not yield the track position.

The legendary British driver winning in front of ecstatic fans nearly led every single lap in his 1967 Lotus to emerge victorious in a cliffhanger.

#3 The 1987 British Grand Prix: Mansell claims a stellar win

1987 British Grand Prix
At 1987 British Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell clinched his finest race among home fans

This might be the era where aerodynamics and tyre-compounds stake a claim in defining the Hamilton-versus-Vettel saga, but back in the day, Silverstone in the 1980s was largely about the grit and mental toughness of stalwarts like Senna, Mansell, Prost and Piquet.

And none among them held onto a great 1987 triumph better than one of England’s finest racing-heroes: Nigel Mansell.

A race that right from the start belonged to his Williams teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr., a champion of the sport, what made Mansell’s win at Silverstone special and in a league of his own was the sheer mind-boggling gap he truncated and overcame to register a furious win.

Which was the last Grand Prix where you saw a driver get the better of a margin of around 28 seconds to reach the race-leader and claim the track position?

But in so doing, Mansell not only overcame a hell hole of a gap to his teammate and title rival for the 1987 season, the Brazilian eventually winning the crown (despite Mansell clinching more races in the year), but also successfully won what is considered his greatest ever win at Silverstone.

Piquet, despite clinching pole seemed sluggish on the start and found Mansell registering way faster laps in the same car from the onset of Lap 12.

Thereafter, Mansell would have to deal with other pursuers of the track position, including “The Professor” Alain Prost in a domineering McLaren.

Suddenly as lap 25 arrived, Mansell, it seemed, begun losing the grasp over the race shocked with a car showing signs of recalcitrance to overall balance. The gap between Piquet and him ever widening, saw the two holding on somehow.

The real shocker would arrive in Lap 35, with Mansell’s chances of reducing the gap to his teammate shrinking considerably, thanks to waning tyres. As Mansell would pit for a new set of the “Goodyear’s” Piquet, seeming dominant would extend the lead by 29 seconds.

Nothing too drastic would unfurl until Lap 63 would arrive, wherein Piquet would experience a real test of nerves.

At all this time, Mansell, who had recovered well, having driven speedily for 28 laps (since the pit) was now a tiny one second off from the lead.

It was at this very moment that Silverstone produced a heart-stopper.

Piquet, who had just blasted ahead of Mansell at the Chapel, was under attack from the Briton once again.

But instead of initiating a move onto the inside, Mansell dived onto the left of Piquet. Within a split-second, as the Brazilian moved instinctively to cover Mansell, the British driver would dive right back to the right and clinched the track position.

With under 2 Laps to go, Nigel Mansell ran a classic dummy and held on to the lead to win his greatest drive at the Silverstone.

#2 The 2007 British Grand Prix: The "Iceman" keeps his cool to win hearts in England

Formula One Motor Racing - British Grand Prix - Race - Silverstone
The Iceman clinched a famous win at the Silverstone in 2007, is that Kimi 'smiling'?

Few drivers are admired as much as the “Iceman” of Ferrari, whose cool, it seems, is melting a bit where past few races are concerned. But that’s normal for Kimi Raikkonen, who, back in 2007 delivered an excellent drive in his maiden season for the Ferrari to elope with a feisty win at the Silverstone.

Back in the day, as the final grid unveiled arguably three of the finest current drivers in Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton, the greatest moment would be Kimi’s to savour.

Although the lead belonged to Hamilton, who clinched a great pole and led every lap until Lap 16, where he’d pit for a fresher set of tyres, Raikkonen would gain command of the track position and turn things into his favour, thereafter.

As Hamilton, rejoined the grid on fifth, having pitted, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was hitherto trailing the Briton by under a second at the start, would dominate at the front.

Suddenly, by Lap 19, as Raikkonen made his scheduled pit stop, he’d emerge ahead of Hamilton’s McLaren-Mercedes but would be defied by the Briton’s teammate, Fernando Alonso.

The race would soon embrace another change of leadership up in the front. By Lap 22, as Alonso pitted, Raikkonen would dive ahead and occupy the very front of the grid, benefitting largely from the traffic that disallowed the Spaniard to challenge the Finn despite having a fresher set of tyres amid waning temperatures and rising track temperatures.

Kimi, icy cool in his defensive manoeuvres, would gain over Alonso, who’d lose several seconds of time in beating the back-markers.

Holding the better of Alonso and Hamilton, Raikkonen would win a classic 2007 British Grand Prix to assert strength in a season he’d ultimately bag.

#1 2017 British Grand Prix: Hamilton delivers a dogged drive to deride Ferrari

Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP...
A crowd-favourite at Silverstone, Hamilton roars following his famous 2017 win

Ferrari might not have expected to lose out on the race ever since Vettel, despite qualifying behind Raikkonen on P3, maintained under a second’s worth of difference to pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton at the start.

But on most race-days, Silverstone and math do not go hand-in-hand.

So when Hamilton made most of a superior tyre management, against Ferrari’s horror show wherein Vettel and Raikkonen both suffered a horrible tyre burst right in the closing stages, although the Finn limping to clinch a podium, the strategic advantage, as well as the psychological edge, remained with the Mercedes driver.

But perhaps the 2017 British Grand Prix will always be remembered for the importance that modern tyre compounds hold in a circuit suited to corner speed and strategy.

Hamilton’s win at Silverstone was important from a strategic point of view that it allowed the British multiple world champion to cut his deficit to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to just 1 point. This blunted the German’s advantage and aided the English driver.

Eventually, as Vettel, who dropped from running in 3rd to 7th, with only a couple of laps to go, collecting only 7 points instead of maintaining what would’ve been a handy lead over the 2017 championship winner, Hamilton would use the edge to hold the driver’s championship by the scruff of the neck to turn things around later.

Keeping his teammate in check, Hamilton ran fast and furious in a classic 1-stop strategy to emerge a defiant winner at Silverstone, gaining significantly from the tyre bust up that so solidly compromised Vettel’s race.

But destiny often favours the brave, does it not?

Which was favourite Silverstone race of all time? Sound off in the comments below!

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Edited by Raunak J
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