While commentating on the celebrations of Lewis Hamilton’s seventh win at Silverstone last weekend, I felt a strong impulse to mention Sir Stirling Moss who so sadly passed away in April this year.
I could imagine Stirling looking down with a wry smile on his face as Lewis nursed that Mercedes home with a front tyre in tatters; the late great racing genius would have applauded every aspect of Hamilton’s race weekend.
So we were looking through the data from yesterday (don't @ us, we know we're nerds) and Lewis did 230 km/h down the Hanger Straight on the final lap... 😮
Moss wasn’t only the first British driver to win the British Grand Prix, he did it in a Mercedes. And like Hamilton he went on to more than a single victory.
While 12 drivers from the UK have held that beautiful winner’s trophy, only six have won it on more than one occasion. As we look forward to celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first World Championship race this weekend, at the same track where it all began, it seems appropriate to recall some of those other heroes.
Scotland’s Jim Clark dominated the British Grand Prix in the 1960s, when the event switched between three different circuits. He won at Aintree in 1962, Silverstone in 1963 and then at Brands Hatch a year later.
Each track had a very different character. Aintree sat alongside the Grand National racecourse and was tough on brakes, Brands Hatch flowed and swooped through Kentish woodland while Silverstone was fast and furious, even more so than today.
Clark in a Lotus was sublime everywhere in all conditions. He won twice more at Silverstone and it was only last year that Hamilton surpassed his total number of victories on home soil.
Twice a World Champion, tragically Clark was killed in a racing accident in Germany while still at the peak of his strength. Many people still list him as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.
He also acted as an inspiration to fellow Scot Sir Jackie Stewart who went on to win at Silverstone in 1969 after an incredible battle with the Max Verstappen of his day, Jochen Rindt.
Stewart would win again in 1971 in a controlled performance that gave him a lead of over 30 seconds.
The next 15 years saw just two home wins; James Hunt in 1977 and John Watson in 1981, but Nigel Mansell grabbed the challenge a few years later and rung its neck.
At Brands Hatch in 1986 his World Champion teammate at Williams, Nelson Piquet, put his car on pole position and as they started the race, Mansell’s car broke down. He was saved by a red flag stoppage because of a crash, and in those days he was able to jump in the spare Williams for the restart.
The car was actually set up for Piquet, so it wasn’t ideal, but he hounded the Brazilian for lap after lap, and when the Brazilian missed a gear change, Mansell flashed past and went on to a hugely celebrated victory.
One year later, he did it even more dramatically at Silverstone. Piquet led from the start and Mansell dropped 28 seconds behind after having to make an unscheduled pit stop.
But after a blisteringly fast set of laps, and with less than three to go, Mansell dummied his teammate into moving the wrong way and pulled off an overtake which gets played out virtually every year.
Mansell’s subsequent two victories were utterly dominant, one with Ferrari and the other in his title-winning year back at Williams. And the support he generated in the grandstands and from the grass verges was truly epic.
Only one other British driver achieved multiple victories at Silverstone between the Mansell and Hamilton eras, and it’s the guy who stands next to me in the Channel 4 commentary booth.
David Coulthard made the most of incidents and reliability woes for others to salvage victory in 1999 but in 2000 he celebrated the Easter weekend by making a great move around the outside of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari to earn a second straight win.
And then it all went quiet until Hamilton arrived…. His much-lauded win in the wet of 2008 remains one of his greatest races ever, and since 2014 he has only been beaten once.
There is definitely a connection between him and this fast-flowing circuit which others struggle to match. And if he can win a seventh race on just three wheels, imagine what he can do on all four.
Join the C4F1 team for highlights of Qualifying for the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Saturday 8th August at 7:30pm with the Silverstone race highlights on Sunday at 6:30pm.