Preview: British Grand Prix is here!

Friday 31 July 2020

Motorsport UK play an important role in the organisation of the Grands Prix, with 420 personnel trained, managed and choreographed by the governing body for British motorsport  in order to make the British F1 races, run like clock work.

70 years ago in May, Silverstone hosted the very first round of the FIA Formula One® World Championship, an event we would have been celebrating in suitable style at the circuit this July, were it not for the current circumstances.

Obviously, our day to day lives have changed beyond anyone’s imagination and the racing will be taking place behind closed doors. But every cloud has a silver lining and this year we will be treated to a double dose of F1 action at Silverstone, with an abundance of British teams and drivers for the home crowd to cheer on, albeit from the sofa rather than the grandstands.

And, after a long, hard lockdown, not to mention a considerable amount of work behind the scenes by Motorsport UK, FIA, Silverstone and F1 to ensure the racing can take place safely, the return of Formula One to the circuit where it all started is something to celebrate. Accordingly, we will all be at Silverstone at the end of July, if not in body, then in spirit, for the British Grand Prix, ready to support the teams based here in the UK.

Mercedes’ Brackley base is, of course, just down the road, and the team has already shown dominant pace in the opening three races of the season. Lewis Hamilton will be hoping for a seventh victory on home asphalt, with few doubting his chances of doing so. But Hamilton could have a fight on his hands, not least from his former team, McLaren, and another home-grown hotshot looking to follow his path to the top step of the podium.

It has been a long time since the Woking-based team has been in top-three contention, but the sight of Bristol-born Lando Norris taking huge chunks of time out of Hamilton en route to a podium in the first race of the season demonstrates the former Motorsport UK Academy driver’s star is in the ascendancy.

Norris’ emphatic third place finish displaced Hamilton as the youngest ever Brit to stand on an F1 podium. George Russell of Williams is another home driver with a British team and has been showing true grit and determination, despite a challenging start to the season. With his seat at Williams settled for 2021, he will hopefully be channelling that home support to show what he is capable of, and offer the team a boost for the races ahead. Meanwhile, British-born Alex Albon of Red Bull will be keen to make Hamilton work hard for his hoped-for seventh win, not least after the first-race tangle at Austria that seemingly cost Albon a podium position.

A week later we get another opportunity to cheer on the Brits as Silverstone hosts its second F1 event of 2020. The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix will celebrate that historic race on 13 May 1950, when polesitter Giuseppe Farina triumphed in his Alfa Romeo to win the inaugural round of the first FIA Formula One World Championship. In the intervening years, the British Grand Prix has presented us with many memorable moments.

On 16 July, the Aintree Circuit Club hosted a celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the first British Grand Prix to be held at the circuit, now better known for its famous racecourse. There, Sir Stirling Moss’s Monaco Grand Prix winning Maserati 250F car was the star of a 65-car parade and evoked the sights and sounds of Formula One’s rich history when it completed four laps of the historic Grand Prix track. In total, 12 British drivers have won the British Grand Prix: Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks (shared with Moss), Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton. Between them, they have won the event an astonishing 25 times over the 70 years.

While much has changed in this time, with the sport constantly seeking to innovate and teams always pushing the technological boundaries in order to find the quickest route to victory, its capacity to thrill has never waned. If the 1950 event signalled the birth of F1 as we know it, the 70th Anniversary edition will stand, in part, as a symbol of motorsport’s rebirth after the COVID-19 lockdown and a wonderful milestone for everyone involved to savour.

And that will be all the more poignant if it involves domestic success at the home of British motorsport. Follow all the action this weekend on Channel 4 and Sky Sports.