The Drivers Who Shaped British Grand Prix History

The British Grand Prix marked the start of the inaugural drivers’ World Championship in 1950 and it has been on the calendar every season since – one of only two ever-presents, alongside the Italian GP.

Over the past 70 years it’s become a highlight of the F1 schedule – and not just for racing fans on these shores. With such a long and storied history, the British Grand Prix has thrown up some remarkable moments and provided motoring enthusiasts with memories to last a lifetime.

And three men have done more to shape the race’s history than anyone else. But before we come to that totemic trio of British Grand Prix drivers, let’s take a look at some of the background of this iconic staple of the F1 calendar.

Where is the British Grand Prix held?

Since 1987, the British GP has been held exclusively at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire. Early editions were held there and at Aintree, before Brands Hatch in Kent made its bow in 1964. Over the next couple of decades, Brands Hatch and Silverstone alternated as hosts before the race settled at what is set to be its home until at least 2024.

How long is the British Grand Prix?

Those different tracks have meant the length of the race has changed many times down the years and even at Silverstone it has varied due to alterations in the circuit’s layout. However, since 2010 the British GP has been contested over 52 laps of 3.667 miles. Typically, a lap in a leading car takes around a minute and a half – that means travelling at an average of approximately 150mph.

Who has won the British Grand Prix the most times?

There have been 17 men in British Grand Prix history to win the race on more than one occasion. The likes of Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss and Sebastian Vettel are all two-time victors, while Niki Lauda, Jack Brabham, Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell all topped the podium three times or more. One man stands above all British Grand Prix drivers, however, and that is Lewis Hamilton. With seven wins, he’s two clear of his nearest rivals – the two men who make up the rest of our illustrious trio…

Jim Clark

Clark was far and away the biggest star in the sport in the 1960s, a decade which saw him etch his name into British Grand Prix history with five victories between ’62 and ’67. He was capable of winning anywhere – he is one of only two men, alongside Brabham, to have topped the podium at all three circuits to have hosted the British GP. His triumphs at Silverstone in ’63 and ’65 helped him to claim his two world titles for Team Lotus and Clark is still regarded as arguably the best “driver’s driver” in F1 history, given his success came when the sport was at its most dangerous.

Sadly, Clark died in an accident during an F2 race at Hockenheim, shortly after he’d won the South African Grand Prix to kick off the 1968 F1 campaign. His passing greatly affected the racing community and he left behind a lasting legacy that inspired future generations.

“He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do,” was how fellow Scot and three-time world champion Stewart described one of the finest drivers to ever grace the grid.

Image received from Wikipedia under the CC SA 4.0

Alain Prost

The man known as ‘The Professor’ stands alongside Clark in the list of the most successful British Grand Prix drivers with five wins in the 1980s and 90s. The Frenchman enjoyed a remarkable career that bridged the gap between iconic eras. His early days saw him competing with legends such as Lauda and Emerson Fittipaldi, while his peak years were spent going wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Mansell and Ayrton Senna – taking on the latter in a defining rivalry the likes of which have not been seen since.

He was even around long enough to see a young Schumacher coming through, before the German went on to dominate the sport in the 1990s and 2000s. Prost’s first British GP win came in 1983 for Renault, before further successes with McLaren in ’85 and ’89. He then made the switch to Ferrari and topped the podium again in 1990, before his final hurrah in ’93 for Williams. That victory was his 50th in F1 – making him the first man to reach that milestone – and helped him on the way to what was then a record-equalling fifth world crown.

Image received from Wikipedia under the CC SA 4.0

Lewis Hamilton

And so to the driver who completes our trio of those who have done the most to shape British Grand Prix history. It may surprise some that Schumacher isn’t listed, but by his standards, the German did not always fare well at the British GP, including a broken leg in an accident in 1999 that scuppered his title hopes. Schumacher did of course go on to lift seven world crowns – a tally that only Hamilton can match after his 2020 success was confirmed in Turkey in November.

The first of Hamilton’s seven British GP wins was arguably his most memorable – an expert drive in the wet for McLaren that helped him to his maiden world title. It would be another six years until Hamilton stood atop the Silverstone podium once more, but since then he has been the dominant British Grand Prix driver. His 2020 victory was his sixth in the past seven years, all for Mercedes, ensuring home fans have gone home happy while simultaneously cementing his place in the annals of British Grand Prix history.

Image received from Wikipedia under the CC SA 4.0

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