This year's F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone will be a landmark occasion in the circuit's illustrious history, and the venue is ready to celebrate.
The 2014 season will see the 50th British Grand Prix to be held at the famous track since Luigi Villoresi won the first ever event on 2 October 1948, two years even before the inauguration of the FIA F1 World Championship in 1950.
During the Second World War, many of Britain's existing circuit layouts had become unusable, which lead the Royal Automobile Club to take out a one-year lease on the newly-redundant RAF Silverstone airfield site in 1948. The original race track was created using the two longest runways as straights and large sections of the perimeter road, which were narrowed in parts by hay bales to funnel the cars through the corners.
The inaugural 65-lap Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix, run under the then-new Formula One regulations on the long 3.7-mile (5.9km) circuit in front of 100,000 spectators, was won by Italian Villoresi in a Maserati, with his team-mate Alberto Ascari in second, ahead of British driver Bob Gerard.
Although 20 out of the 28 drivers that took part in that first ever race were British, an Italian took the honours, but more British drivers have gone on to win their home race than any other nationality. To date, twelve British drivers have won their home grand prix over the years, ten of them doing so at Silverstone. Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and David Coulthard have all taken the chequered flag at the Northamptonshire circuit, and Lewis Hamilton – the last British winner in 2008 – will be pushing for victory again in July, with the support of his home crowd at Silverstone.
To commemorate this special milestone in Silverstone's history, the circuit is organising a number of events for fans attending this year's British Grand Prix, including a Heritage Village, which will feature displays of memorable moments in the circuit's history and iconic F1 cars from Silverstone's 50 British Grands Prix.
“2014 is a very special year for Silverstone as it marks the 50th British Grand Prix to be held at the circuit,” Richard Phillips, managing director of Silverstone Circuits Limited, confirmed, “To commemorate this milestone, we are celebrating Silverstone's rich motor sport history with fantastic displays of F1 cars from eras gone by in a one-off Heritage Village area at the circuit for fans to enjoy.
“The British Grand Prix is the jewel in the crown of British motor sport and one of the most important races on the F1 calendar. The drivers often comment that Silverstone is up there with circuits like Monaco, Monza and Spa as a race they really want to win. 2014 will be extra special with plenty of commemorative events and activities for fans to look forward to, as well as the race itself, which promises to be as exciting as ever as the teams fight to get the most out of their cars under the new regulations.”
Former F1 driver Martin Brundle, commenting on Silverstone and its 50th British Grand Prix, told crowds at the recent Autosport International Show that 'classic events like Silverstone mean so much'.
“It's a really important race for British F1 drivers,” he insisted, “Not having a British Grand Prix would be like not having a Monaco Grand Prix or Monza. It has a massive halo effect on everything we do, including helping to develop young drivers into F1, NASCAR, IndyCar, rally or Le Mans drivers. Look how important the British motor sport industry is to this country; we have this incredible business, history, heritage that is British motor sport, and the British Grand Prix is at the heart of it all.
“But thank goodness we have such amazing fans,” he added, “The spectators keep the British Grand Prix alive, because we don't have government funding. It is driven by selling tickets.”