Best of British: The Pick of Silverstone's home race winners

Posted on 28 June, 2022

The UK has a rich pedigree of race winners, with almost 29% of all grands prix being won by a British driver. As the third-most visited F1 circuit of all, Silverstone's roll call of home triumphs is mightily impressive.

Nigel Mansell is mobbed by fans after winning at Silverstone
Image credit: Formula 1®

Lewis Hamilton

Silverstone winner in 2008, 2014-17, 2019-21

It’s no surprise that the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time has achieved huge success at his home grand prix. Ever since his 2007 debut, Hamilton has enjoyed rapturous support from the Silverstone crowd, and in return, he’s delivered some of the most memorable performances by a British driver on home soil.

Silverstone’s love affair with Hamilton was cemented almost immediately with a stunning pole position on his debut F1 appearance there. While he could only manage third on race day, he went one better the following year with a wet weather win that’s still today regarded among the very finest of his career.

With heavy and persistent rainfall in the hours leading up to the 2008 British Grand Prix, the race took place in extremely difficult conditions with many drivers struggling to stay on track.

While several experienced drivers were seen spinning off multiple times, rookie Hamilton revelled as the rainfall intensified. As soon as he’d passed polesitter and teammate Heiki Kovailanen five laps into the race, Hamilton’s pace was difficult to match.

For a brief period approaching the pit stops it appeared as though Kimi Räikkönen might pose a challenge in the second half of the race, but Ferrari’s decision not to change his intermediate tyres played into Hamilton’s hands.

Just a few laps later, Hamilton - who had stopped for fuel and fresh inters - was down the road and out of sight. In the closing stages of the race, McLaren even called on their driver to slow his pace such was the size of his lead, but even had he dropped five seconds a lap there was no one catching him.

Hamilton took the chequered flag by over a minute from the second-place driver, Nick Heidfeld. Such was his dominance, only the two other podium finishers had avoided being lapped by him.

Surprisingly, Hamilton had to wait another six years before he was able to add to his 2008 Silverstone victory. His 2014 British Grand Prix win was his first since joining Mercedes and the first in a run of four consecutive. He added two more to his tally in 2020 and 2021, overtaking Jim Clark for the most successful British driver to ever race at his home grand prix.

Lewis Hamilton

David Coulthard

Silverstone winner in 1999, 2000

In the late 1990s and early ‘00s, McLaren’s David Coulthard emerged as Britain’s leading Formula 1 driver, with 1996 champion Damon Hill having left Williams and Eddie Irvine only achieving sporadic success at Ferrari.

Coulthard’s victories at the 1999 and 2000 British Grands Prix came during a period when his teammate Mika Häkkinen was locked in a tense battle with Michael Schumacher for the world title. While Coulthard had been unable to muscle in on the championship battle, he did enjoy considerable success at his home grand prix.

There was an element of fortune to his 1999 victory with Schumacher suffering a leg-breaking accident at Stowe and his teammate retiring from the lead at half distance, but his win a year later was all his own doing.

The Scot pulled off a brilliant overtake on polesitter Rubens Barrichello, before building up a gap and then fending off a late challenge from teammate Häkkinen.

Coulthard never reached the podium again at Silverstone, suffering rotten luck at home until his retirement in 2008. He was forced to retire from the 2001 and 2008 races and managed just two points finishes in the intervening six races.

Johnny Herbert

Silverstone winner in 1995

Like Coulthard’s 1999 Silverstone victory, Johnny Herbert’s one and only home win owed as much to the misfortune of others than anything else, but Herbert certainly won’t care! The likeable Englishman was a popular winner of the 1995 British Grand Prix for Benetton while teammate to Damon Hill’s main title rival Michael Schumacher.

The 1995 race featured a staggering SIX British drivers. Herbert was joined on the grid by polesitter Damon Hill, David Coulthard who was then at Williams, Ligier driver Martin Brundle, McLaren’s Mark Blundell and Ulsterman Eddie Irvine who was at Jordan.

Herbert started from fifth but benefited from a Lap 46 incident that left both Hill and Schumacher in the gravel. While the two title rivals squabbled over who was at fault, it was left to their teammates - Coulthard and Herbert - to battle it out for the win.

The pair enjoyed a great battle for several laps with the Scot holding the lead before a pit lane speeding infringement dropped him to second, allowing Herbert to take the flag much to the delight of the vocal home crowd. It was Herbert’s only podium finish at home during his 11-year F1 career.

Damon Hill

Silverstone winner in 1994

For a driver who enjoyed two title-challenging seasons in the mid-'90s, one of them victorious, you’d expect Hill to have more than just a single home win to show for his efforts.

What’s often forgotten is that Hill made his grand prix debut for Brabham at Silverstone in 1992. Having qualified 26th and last, he took the flag in 16th place on Sunday for the struggling team’s first classified result in eight rounds.

Hill generally suffered pretty poor luck at Silverstone after that, retiring from the 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1998 races, but he did manage to go one better than his father, who famously never won his home race, with victory at the 1994 British Grand Prix.

While driving for Williams, Hill took pole position for the ‘94 race, just 0.003s ahead of Schumacher, but was perplexed to see the German attempt to overtake him during the formation lap.

Schumacher was handed a stop-go penalty which was later upgraded to a black flag during the race when the German failed to stop when asked to do so. His team argued that their had been a misunderstanding and Schumacher was allowed to take a stop-go penalty and rejoin the race.

Fortunately for Hill, who had led the opening 14 laps from pole, the German’s chance of winning had gone and the Williams driver was left to take the flag for a famous win in front of his loyal home support.

Damon Hill

Nigel Mansell

Silverstone winner in 1987, 1991, 1992

Arguably the most popular driver ever with the Silverstone crowd was Nigel Mansell, or ‘Our Nige’ as he was affectionately known. Mansell won at Silverstone three times, in 1987, 1991, and again during his championship-winning year in 1992.

The former Lotus, Williams and Ferrari driver is synonymous with two truly iconic British Grand Prix moments that earned him cult hero status in his home country.

The 1987 British Grand Prix saw Mansell fighting teammate and fierce rival Nelson Piquet for the world championship. The pair did not get on and the rivalry was as tense as ever at Mansell’s home race.

With the battle for victory expected to be a straight fight between the Williams drivers on Sunday, the win was almost decided before half distance when a wheel issue caused Mansell to pit early due to vibrations. This left the home favourite 29 seconds adrift of race leader and rival Piquet with 28 laps still to run. Surely too big an ask for Mansell to reel him in?

Mansell used to say that hearing the roar of the Silverstone crowd was worth as much as “half a second per lap” to him. This race was perhaps evidence of that.

As he set about catching the Brazilian, Mansell set no fewer than eight lap records as he carved chunks of time out of his rival’s lead. With two laps remaining, Mansell made a do-or-die move on Piquet, selling him a dummy before drifting passed him at speed through Stowe corner.

The crowd erupted, spilling onto the track once Mansell had taken the chequered flag. It turned out he had not a drop of fuel left in the tank and his car ground to a halt. Talk about fine margins!

Mansell made it back-to-back wins at Silverstone between 1991-92, with the latter victory coming during his 1992 world title season with Williams. It was a landmark victory for Mansell as it meant he surpassed Jackie Stewart to take the outright British wins record, placing him third on F1’s all-time winners list.

The 1992 British Grand Prix came at the height of “Mansell Mania” and once again, the packed Silverstone stormed the track to celebrate their hero’s dominant victory. Mansell’s car was mobbed by fans so much so that he needed a marshal’s escort to get him back to the pits in time for the podium ceremony.

Silverstone may never see such a euphoric display again.

Nigel Mansell

John Watson

Silverstone winner in 1981

The British Grand Prix alternated between Silverstone and Brands Hatch during much of John Watson’s time in Formula 1, however, the Northern Irishman did manage to score a Silverstone win at the 1981 British Grand Prix while driving for McLaren.

With Frenchman Rene Arnoux having held the lead for 43 of 68 laps, the British crowd let out a deafening roar upon seeing Arnoux’s Renault slow with an engine failure, allowing “Wattie” through to inherit the lead and eventually the race win with seven laps to go.

It was a landmark win for Watson - his first in F1 for five years, McLaren’s first since James Hunt in 1977, and the first-ever win for a car with a carbon fibre monocoque.

James Hunt

Silverstone winner in 1977

James Hunt was a British racing legend and was adored by the home crowd at Silverstone. He raced at six British Grands Prix during his F1 career - three at Brands Hatch and three at Silverstone - but notably, he only ever scored points at the Northamptonshire circuit.

He made an instant impression during his first Silverstone appearance in 1973, finishing an impressive fourth for minnows Hesketh, but four years later, he was back with McLaren as the reigning world champion.

At the 1977 British Grand Prix, Hunt started on pole with fellow Brit John Watson alongside him on the front row. He dropped to fourth with clutch problems but fought back to re-pass Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter and Watson to secure his first win of the season, and his only F1 win in front of his home support at Silverstone.

Jackie Stewart

Silverstone winner in 1969, 1971

At the time of his retirement in 1973, Jackie Stewart held the record for most wins in Formula 1 with 27, but only two of them were at Silverstone. Both wins came during his F1 championship years, one apiece for the March and Tyrell teams.

His victory at the 1969 British Grand Prix was surely the most memorable, and perhaps one of the finest of Stewart’s career.

Stewart and his friend and racing rival Jochen Rindt were in a league of their own that day as they battled for the lead, swapping positions countless times throughout the race until around 20 laps from the finish.

Seeing that a loose piece of bodywork was cutting into Rindt’s tyre, Stewart signalled to the Austrian in fear that he may suffer a high-speed tyre failure - which in those days often proved fatal.

Rindt spotted the damage in his mirror and stopped for repairs before returning to take the chequered flag in fourth. Stewart meanwhile kept up his ferocious pace to take victory with the record books showing that he finished a lap clear of second-place Jacky Ickx

A result which did little to tell the story of what was a remarkable British Grand Prix.

Jackie Stewart

Jim Clark

F1 legend Jim Clark raced on three different British circuits during his time in the sport; Silverstone, Aintree, and Brands Hatch, but it was at the Northamptonshire track where his three British Grand Prix victories came.

One of Clark’s most important career wins arguably came at the 1967 British Grand Prix. It was his fifth win at home, and third at Silverstone. At the time it set a new record for the most home victories of any driver in Formula 1, a record that stood until 1993 when Alain Prost took his sixth French Grand Prix victory.

Clark’s record of five British Grand Prix wins (three at Silverstone) stood until Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth home victory in 2019.

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