The British Grand Prix witnesses Formula One return to the home of motorsport; Silverstone. The challenging track is a fan and driver favourite and always produces excitement.
Weather is another unknown variable that can cause havoc both on track and off it – as shown last year after rain turned campsites and car parks into mud baths. It’s a typical British summer and it brings yet another variable to the racing.
The high speed, sweeping circuit was part of the first Formula One World Championship season back in 1950 where it actually kicked off the series as the season opener. Now, 63 years later, the sport returns to the Northamptonshire track as Sebastian Vettel continues to extend his advantage, Lotus attempt to find their feet and Mercedes continue to make progress.
In recent years we have witnessed some fantastic British Grand Prix’s. The first race that I actually watched was the 2000 British Grand Prix back when I was just six years old. From 2000 to present day, here are my Top 5 British Grand Prix’s of the last 13 races.
5) 2005 British Grand Prix – Montoya’s flying start helps him take race win
Fernando Alonso was on pole for the 10th round of the 2005 season ahead of Jenson Button’s BAR Honda. It gave the British fans hope of a home victory for Button but it was not to be. Montoya started third in his first British Grand Prix for McLaren with his team-mate dropping to 12th after an engine change. Montoya made a flying start to take the lead into Becketts after running side-by-side with Alonso’s Renault. The safety car emerged briefly to allow the stalled car of Takuma Sato to be recovered and on the restart continued to be hounded by Alonso. The Columbian would eke out a gap before Alonso would close back in.
The battle for the win was close until the closing stages where the continuous one second gap started to be extended. Montoya crossed the line to take the win with Alonso three seconds back in second and Raikkonen recovering to third. Fisichella finished fourth despite a stall in the pit lane and Button dropped to fifth after showing poor race pace in comparison to qualifying. Schumacher, Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher rounded out the top eight. There was plenty of mid-field action throughout the race but there was only one retirement; Karthikeyan’s bright yellow Jordan car.
4) 2002 British Grand Prix – Schumacher and Ferrari dominate proceedings
The 2002 British Grand Prix saw the closest qualifying session of the season with just 0.044 seconds separating the top three. Montoya took pole for BMW Williams ahead of Barrichello and Schumacher. The German was promoted to an effective second thanks to his team-mate stalling on the warm up lap, having to start from the back of the grid. Button jumped from 12th to seventh off the line for Renault but McNish retired with clutch problems in his Toyota. An erratic Felipe Massa took to the grass on the run to turn one and spun off track into Copse, dropping to the bottom of the pack. It proved to be the first of four spins during the 60 lap race.
Schumacher hounded Montoya until lap 12 when rain started to fall, kicking off the first pit stops. With the Bridgestone intermediate tyre advantage, the German soon forced his way into the lead. He continued to extend his lead throughout the race to an eventual 14.578 seconds, beating team-mate Rubens Barrichello who made a stunning recovery from the back of the grid. Montoya finished third and was the final car on the lead lap – pure Schumacher dominance but an exciting race behind with Rubens making his way through the pack along with plenty of retirements that just prove how reliable the cars are today.
3) 2010 British Grand Prix – Webber waltzes to debut Silverstone win
The 10th round of the 2010 world championship saw Formula One return to Silverstone. It was strange after many had said their goodbye’s to the track in 2009 when plans were for Donnington Park to take over. However those plans fell through and the Northamptonshire track returned with a new in-field loop. The race was a dramatic one from the start with pole-sitter Vettel attempting to fend off Webber from a challenge. The Aussie made it through but his team-mate made contact with third placed man Hamilton and slithered off track with a puncture at Maggotts. Hamilton kept in touch with Webber early on and Button made his way through the field until the safety car was deployed for debris on track. Alonso was given a drive-through for overtaking Kubica off the track and despite the Renault car retiring; he still had to complete the penalty and dropped down the field.
Webber managed to hold off the challenges of Hamilton to take his debut British Grand Prix victory at his second ‘home’ race – he lives close to the track and has done for some time – with Rosberg fending off the second McLaren to take third. Barrichello and Kobayashi finished fifth and sixth with Vettel barging his way through to seventh after making some forceful overtakes. Sutil, Schumacher and Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 and the Ferrari duo could only manage a 14th and 15th place finish respectively.
2) 2003 British Grand Prix – Barrichello wins disrupted race
Rubens Barrichello took a stunning victory at the British round of the 2003 Formula One World Championship. He took pole and started alongside Jarno Trulli’s Renault. It was an incident free first lap that saw Barrichello drop to third after a poor start. On lap six Coulthard’s McLaren headrest flew off and he had to pit for a replacement but the debris brought out the safety car. On the restart Barrichello passed Raikkonen for second before a bizarre event happened on the following lap. The track was invaded by a man wearing a kilt and waving banners with statements like “Read the bible”. It was a worrying event as he ran towards cars before being tackled by marshals and later was arrested.
The safety car emerged once again and many pitted for fresh tyres and fuel. Raikkonen and Ralf Schumacher jumped Barrichello in the pits and the Toyota duo who had yet to stop lead the race on the restart. The Brazilian managed to make his way through the slower cars and was on the gearbox of Raikkonen – who was leading at the time – later in the race before passing to take the lead. Montoya also overtook Raikkonen for second with the Finn dropping to third. Schumacher, Coulthard, Trulli, Da Matta and Button rounded out the points scorers.
1) 2008 British Grand Prix – Hamilton takes dominant wet-weather win
Hamilton had started the 2007 British Grand Prix on pole position but it wasn’t to be come Sunday afternoon. However he only had to wait 12 months to get that debut home victory. He qualified in fourth place but managed to take Mark Webber’s Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari off the line. He even briefly touched wheels with team-mate and pole-sitter Heikki Kovalainen as they swept through Copse. Webber’s race started badly enough after dropping down the order but he then fell to the back of the back after spinning onto the Hangar Straight – he had to wait for the remaining 14-odd cars to sweep past before he could return in the right direction.
Hamilton soon took the lead and extended his advantage. Raikkonen challenged briefly before Ferrari made a poor strategic decision that dropped him down the order. Hamilton was flawless throughout and only made on error after going off at Abbey. His advantage was so big when he crossed the line that he had an advantage of over one minute and lapped ever car up to Rubens Barrichello’s Honda in third. Heidfeld finished second with Raikkonen and Kovalainen finishing behind Barrichello in fourth and fifth. Felipe Massa had a torrid day after spinning numerous times to finish last.
This is just a pick from the 13 British Grand Prix’s that I have witnessed, what are your personal favourites? There are certainly a fair few dramatic ones from back in the day, this is just my opinion, leave a comment with your thoughts.