|The Nostalgia Column|
|Looking back at the history of the British GP||by Marcel Schot, The Netherlands;|
images provided by Rainer Nyberg
The history of the British Grand Prix in the Formula One starts right at the very beginning of the World Championship series - the very first race of the very first championship was held at Silverstone, on May 13th, 1950.
In many ways the race was incomparable with today's Formula One. First of all, Ferrari wasn't present. After having scored disappointing results in individual Grands Prix during the previous year, the team decided not to travel to England for the first race of the World Championship.
The second eye-catcher was the age of the dominant Alfa Romeo team's drivers. The legendary threesome Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli were aged 44, 38 and 53 respectively. With 38 year old Damon Hill retiring now, this seems almost an impossible old bunch. However, these old men in their Alfas completely humiliated the rest of the field, together with their British, 38 year old one-off teammate Reg Parnell, who had been included in the Alfa team as couleur locale. The four took the first four positions on the grid and if it weren't for Fangio's oil line failing, they would have taken the first four positions in the race easily, for the first non Alfa (Yves Giaraud-Cabantous' Lago-Talbot) finished two laps behind winner Farina.
A year later, it was at the very same Silverstone that the Alfa domination was finally broken. After having won nine straight Grands Prix (not including the Indy 500, in which non of the regular contestants participated), Alfa Romeo was beaten by Ferrari. Argentinian Jose Froilan Gonzalez beat Fangio from pole, striking an impressive 51 second gap at the chequered flag.
For Ferrari, this was the beginning of a string of victories at the British Grand Prix. In the years after the historic first victory, Alberto Ascari (twice) and again Jose Froilan Gonzalez brought home victories for Ferrari. Although Ferrari was still strong in 1955, the British Grand Prix became one Enzo would gladly forget. Qualifying already showed signs of deterioration, since Eugenio Castellotti was the fastest driver of the Scuderia at a disappointing tenth place. In the race the Daimler Benz team gave Ferrari a tough hit in the face by scoring the first four positions with Stirling Moss, Fangio, Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi.
One fact in this race is truly unique: the fastest lap was shared by as many as seven drivers. Gonzalez, Mike Hawthorne (both Ferrari), Alberto Ascari, Onofre Marimon (both Maserati), Moss, Fangio (both Mercedes) and Jean Behra (Gordini) all clocked 1:50.0, since Silverstone timing was run in seconds and not tenths of seconds as was usual in those days.
Through the years not only Ferrari was going strong in Britain. With eleven victories the rampant horse stands on top, but only one win in front of Williams. McLaren and Lotus are the other two strongholds at the British Grand Prix with respectively nine and eight wins. No other team has won more than two events.
Especially Lotus has one man to credit for its success on home soil. Of the eight Lotus victories, five were of Jim Clark's. Clark was nearly invincible at his home Grand Prix for six years. From 1962 until 1965 he won four races in a row and after being beaten by Jack Brabham in 1966, he won again in 1967. The 1966 race was a different one in another aspect too. Because of a strike of metalworkers in Italy, the Ferrari team was unable to make their cars ready for the British Grand Prix and had to miss the event altogether.
In what makes them even more amazing, all of Jim Clark's victories were achieved from pole position, while the Scotsman took a start to finish win in two of the occasions (1962 and 1964). Clark's advantage wasn't due to the track too, since his five victories were scored on three different tracks: Aintree, Brands Hatch and Silverstone.
Besides Clark, there's one other driver who scored five victories in the British Grand Prix. French ace Alain Prost took home five wins over a period of eleven years with four teams. In 1983 the Frenchman, driving a Renault, scored the first turbo victory in the British Grand Prix, four years after Jean-Pierre Jabouille first won with a turbo at Dijon. Later on, in 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1993, the professor scored wins in a McLaren twice, a Ferrari and a Williams, scoring British wins for the three most winning teams on Albion ground.
Of the races held in recent years, the 1994 race stands out. Of this race, the warm up lap was the most talked about lap of the season. Benetton driver Michael Schumacher briefly overtook, against the regulations, pole-sitter Damon Hill (Williams). After 18 laps, the German was shown the black flag, which he promptly ignored for three laps, after which he came in to serve the five seconds penalty which was issued. After the race, he was disqualified for not stopping in time and subsequently the German was banned for two races, allowing Damon Hill to catch up in the championship.
Last year Michael Schumacher scored a much anticipated win at Silverstone. In an extremely controversial race, the German finally managed to bring home victory from England, finishing in the pitlane because of a late issued stop 'n' go penalty. In a very wet race, by some compared to a powerboat race, Schumacher's biggest rival Mika Hakkinen went off the track and on again, thus giving the German the lead (along with the help of the pace car, which allowed the Ferrari driver to catch up). Schumacher's win also brought an end to a seven year winning streak by Renault powered cars.
|1998 Race Results|
|1.||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||1h 47:02.450s|
|2.||Mika Hakkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||+ 22.465s|
|3.||Eddie Irvine||Ferrari||+ 29.199s|
|4.||Alexander Wurz||Benetton-Playlife||+ 1 lap|
|5.||Giancarlo Fisichella||Benetton-Playlife||+ 1 lap|
|6.||Ralf Schumacher||Jordan-Mugen Honda||+ 1 lap|
|Pole Position:||Mika Hakkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||1:23.271s|
|Fastest Lap (12):||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||1:35.704s|
|Marcel Schot||© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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Images are kindly provided by Rainer Nyberg