This week sparks Britain’s biggest motoring event of the year, the Formula 1 British Grand Prix. Beautifully crafted, state of the art cars reaching unfathomable speeds, battling one another to be crowned the king of the iconic Silverstone Circuit – it’s what racing is all about.
However, Silverstone in particular is much more than that. The Grand Prix is an opportunity to celebrate Britain’s contribution to the motoring world, a legacy that is as longstanding as any.
Drivers such as Graham Hill; the only man to secure motorsport’s highly-coveted Triple Crown, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Nigel Mansell, John Surtees, James Hunt, Jackie Stewart, and of course the most successful British F1 driver of all-time, Lewis Hamilton, have all successfully promoted motoring around the globe and conquered inspiring feats in order to do so.
But it’s not just individuals who have taken centre stage during this rise within the automotive arena. Renowned manufacturers like Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, McLaren and Rolls-Royce, who all at one point or another were founded on these shores, have gone on to become world-leading inspirations in high-quality motoring and brands that ooze class and high value.
And today is no different.
Seven out of the 10 current Formula 1 teams base themselves within the boundaries of the aptly-named Motorsport Valley, a petrol-headed Promised Land stretching from the West Midlands to Oxfordshire housing Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren, Williams, Haas and Force India.
This seems strange, but the dominance and appeal could be owed to the origins of F1, with the British Grand Prix holding a unique and historic past within the sport.
Sunday marks the 72nd time the pinnacle of open-wheeled racing will be showcased in the UK, however, it’s 1950 that holds greatest significance, 13 May 1950 to be precise.
This marked the day the Formula 1 Championship was born, the same trophy that has sparked infamous and long-lasting rivalries such as Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, Hunt and Niki Lauda, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and Hamilton’s duo of disputes whilst challenging Fernando Alonso and more recently Nico Rosberg.
F1 owes a lot of its success to the British Grand Prix, with the original 2.88 mile ribbon of driving excellence helping propel the sport to become one of the most watched and recognised in the world.
That dependence is still there today, with Silverstone still drawing in the biggest crowd compared to any other on the calendar. Last year 350,000 fans over the course of three days packed into the Northampton-based circuit to witness home-grown Hamilton secure his fourth chequered flag at the track, leaving the Mercedes man just one win away from equalling both Prost and fellow Brit, Clark’s current record of five.
The three-time world champion will be hoping he can clinch the milestone victory this Sunday, however will have to overcome teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Vettel, who sit either side of second-placed Hamilton in the Driver’s Wold Championship standings after a duo of winless-weekends for car number 44.
But it’s not all bad news in the Mercedes garage, as the Silver Arrows still currently hold top-spot in the Constructors’ Championship. However, Toto Wolff and co. will be wary of the red Italian’s charge, the team that currently lead the way in manufacturing success around the 18-turns of Silverstone having clinched the win 15 times previously.
It will no doubt be another sensational instalment of the 2017 Formula 1 season at Silverstone, however fans may want to savour every moment as it could be one of the last in Britain for some time.
On Tuesday, just three days before this year’s British Grand Prix weekend begins, the British Racing Drivers’ Club; the owners of the circuit, formally announced their intentions to activate the break clause in the track’s contract with F1, meaning 2019 currently stands as the last championship race to be held in this country.
The thought that the birthplace of the Driver’s Championship will no longer feature on the Formula 1 calendar is almost unbearable to think about, especially considering the history held at the heart of Motorsport Valley.
Also, what will this decision mean to the seven teams that will soon reside within a nation that doesn’t even promote their purpose or their world-leading mechanical and engineering knowledge? Failing to even mention the futures of the thousands of people who are currently employed by these motoring giants, or the extensive inward investment spent within the economy in what is an extremely expensive sport. Where exactly will this go?
Yes, there will still be the Goodwood Festival of Speed, MotoGP, the British Superbike Championship and the Touring Car Championship, however, none of these eclipse the excitement, interest and sheer passion that surrounds the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
If no new deal can be negotiated between Liberty Media; the owners of the motorsport, and the British Racing Drivers’ Club this F1-loving country is set to lose a key piece of its heritage, as will the organisation itself. There will be no opportunity to emulate Hamilton, Clark, Prost, Lauda, Michael Schumacher, Mansell, Moss or Stewart, all of which have held the unparalleled feeling of taking Championship Points at Silverstone; where it all began.
So fast forward to three years’ time, it’s the height of summer and the gladiatorial roar of 130,000 motorsport fans on a Sunday afternoon combined with the grunt of an internal combustion engine have been replaced by long silences littered with short spells of applause and the opening of wicker picnic baskets.
The smell of burning rubber exchanged for one of freshly cut grass, strawberries and cream with the endless dull drone of a hallow rubber sphere coated in luminous nylon ricocheting from one catgut to another appeasing the middle-class, BBC-leeching, modern-day gentry.
Instead, let’s save the British Grand Prix and secure the future of a brilliant, talented and world-leading motor industry.