10 British Grand Prix home heroes

01st July 2018
Damien Smith

For a Formula 1 driver, there’s nothing quite like winning your home grand prix in front of a large, partisan crowd. Max Verstappen doesn’t have a Dutch GP to experience such satisfaction, but winning on Red Bull’s home turf in Austria at the weekend in front of a travelling ‘orange army’ is probably as close as it gets to that home-winning feeling.


As for Lewis Hamilton, he knows exactly what it’s like as he heads to Silverstone this week bidding for a sixth British GP win, which would move him ahead of Jim Clark and Alain Prost to hold the outright record for victories at this historic race.

The record is unlikely to be much on his mind right now, following the disappointment of his retirement at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday. Instead, Hamilton will be intensely focused on Mercedes putting its problems behind it, working out how ‘normal service’ can be resumed and snatching back the world championship lead from Sebastian Vettel. But if he achieves what incredibly would be a fifth consecutive win at Silverstone, he’ll surely take a moment next Sunday evening to take some satisfaction from another new record.

Hamilton is one of 10 home winners of the British GP. This exclusive club has between them won 24 of the 68 world championship races held at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Aintree since 1950, each one special for their own particular reasons. And if you were lucky enough to be there for any one of the following, you’ll have your own cherished memories of witnessing what has to be a British driver’s proudest achievement.

1 Stirling Moss (1955, ’57)

‘The Boy’ cut two slices of British GP history in the 1950s, becoming the first British driver to win his home race in the world championship era and, two years later, sharing with Vanwall team-mate Tony Brooks to become jointly the first British drivers to win a points-scoring GP in a British car.

Both were important landmarks, but the first was probably the most dramatic given that he beat Juan Manuel Fangio by a nose at Aintree, better known as the home of horse racing’s Grand National but also a regular host of the British GP during the 1950s and early ’60s.

Moss was teamed with Fangio at Mercedes-Benz in ’55, the pair sweeping through a season, in sportscars as well as in F1 that is largely overshadowed by the Le Mans disaster, in which more than 80 spectators died when Pierre Levegh’s 300SLR was launched into the crowd. At Aintree just a month later, Moss and Fangio found themselves locked in a duel that kept the crowd in Liverpool rivetted throughout the afternoon. Stirling always suspected Fangio backed off at the line to allow the Englishman his moment of home glory, but the Maestro graciously denied such generosity – although it would have been entirely in keeping with the character of F1’s finest gentleman and sportsman.

2 Jim Clark (1962, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’67)

Clark and his Lotus seemed almost unbeatable on home soil during much of the 1960s, at any venue: his five victories include one at Aintree, one at Brands Hatch and three at Silverstone.

The ’65 race at Silverstone is arguably the most memorable and sits among Clark’s greatest ever performances, during a season in which he dominated F1 and claimed the Indianapolis 500, too.

At Silverstone, Clark as usual established an early lead and seemed set for a serene afternoon. But in the closing stages his Lotus-Climax started to misfire and Graham Hill sniffed an opportunity. The BRM charged on to Clark’s tail, but the Scotsman brilliantly nursed his ailing car to win by just three seconds.

It’s an oddity of the era that while Clark conquered the British GP five times, he couldn’t win in Monaco – while Hill dominated the principality with five victories, but never won at home.

3 Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971)

For some, the abiding memory of Jackie Stewart at the British GP was his trip through the Silverstone cornfield in the 1973 race after losing his Tyrrell at Stowe. But the Scot also claimed one of the finest of his 27 GP victories at the former airfield during his first world championship season.

In ’69, Stewart and his close friend Jochen Rindt went toe to toe throughout a mesmerising race, in which the Matra and Lotus traded the lead lap after lap in one of the greatest British GP battles. The duel was sadly cut short by a loose wing problem for Rindt, which Stewart signalled to his friend – as no one had a better view of the Lotus 49. Rindt was forced to pit and Jackie was set free to win from Jacky Ickx by a full lap.

4 James Hunt (1977)

For most British fans, Hunt actually won his home race twice and the first at Brands Hatch in ’76 was the most unforgettable. That was the incredible day he damaged his McLaren’s suspension in a collision after the start, limped back to the pits and found the race had been stopped. Officials looked set to stop him taking the restart, only for a wound-up crowd to come close to rioting, such was their boiling fury on a scorching Kent day. The officials wisely relented and Hunt went on to pass arch rival Niki Lauda to win on one of the most dramatic days in F1 history.

But that victory is not among our 24. Months later, Ferrari’s appeal was upheld and Hunt was stripped of his win, which was handed to Lauda, who by then was in recovery from his fiery Nürburgring crash and was locked in an intense title duel with his English friend. The stuff of Hollywood scripts – literally.

A year later, Hunt won the British GP again for McLaren, this time at Silverstone – and this time he kept his victory. But even if the record books say differently, he always knew it was his second home win – and rather less dramatic than the first.

5 John Watson (1981)

Back in ’77 ‘Wattie’ had led Hunt at Silverstone and looked set for a second career GP victory in his Brabham-Alfa, only for reliability to once again prove his undoing. But four years later, now at a rejuvenated McLaren led by Ron Dennis and designer John Barnard, the Ulsterman had his day in the Silverstone sun.

In a race of high attrition and drama, Watson survived an early-race pile-up and found himself leading when it mattered most to send the home crowd into delirium. Post-Hunt, British F1 fans had found little to cheer, so this victory really meant something, and it was also historically significant too. For Dennis, it was his breakthrough success after taking over McLaren from Teddy Mayer, while for Barnard it marked the first F1 victory for an all-carbon monocoque design – and the start of a special era for the cars in Dayglo and white.

6 Nigel Mansell (1986, ’87, ’91, ’92)

These four victories – the first at Brands, the others at Silverstone – represent an era of their own for the British GP as Mansell inspired a new national interest in F1 that brought an almost rabid mania to spectator banks and grandstands.

Mansell had already broken his long F1 apprenticeship on home soil by winning the European GP at Brands in 1985, raising expectations the following year on his return to the circuit for the British GP proper. Beating team-mate Nelson Piquet that day, just months after Frank Williams had been paralysed in a road accident, would surely be hard to top. But Mansell being Mansell, he managed it.

The ’87 race at Silverstone was the performance that to many would define his career. Locked in battle once again with Piquet, Mansell was forced to stop for tyres and rejoined in a fury, 28 seconds down on the Brazilian with 29 laps remaining.

How he closed that gap and pulled of an audacious pass, complete with dummy feint to the left at 190mph, remains imprinted on the hard-drives of anyone lucky enough to have been at Silverstone that day. The greatest British GP moment? It’s up there.

7 Damon Hill (1994)

In 1992, as Mansell scored his final British GP win, Graham Hill’s son made a low-key Silverstone F1 debut as a backmarker in his slow blue and pink Brabham. Now here he was, leading Williams after the death of arguably the greatest F1 driver in history, pitched into a world championship battle with a precocious German rival with a growing reputation for gamesmanship.

Hill had retired from the lead at Silverstone in ’93 during his first year at Williams. This time, leading the team in the wake of Ayrton Senna’s terrible loss, Michael Schumacher threatened to undermine his moment, only to be black-flagged for overtaking poleman Hill on the formation lap. The controversy opened the door for Damon to achieve what his father was never able to. The satisfaction, as Princess Diana handed him the trophy, couldn’t have been sweeter.

8 Johnny Herbert (1995)

Herbert had been tipped as ‘the next Jim Clark’ before his legs were shattered in a terrible Formula 3000 crash at Brands Hatch in ’88. That Johnny even started a grand prix at all was remarkable in itself, but by the mid-90s he was deemed worthy of a front-running ride at Benetton as team-mate to Schumacher.

After Damon Hill took the German out in a clumsy move for the lead, Herbert and the Williams of David Coulthard found themselves duelling for a home win. The Scot appeared to have the edge on pace, only for a penalty for speeding in the pitlane to hand the advantage back to Herbert. DC’s time would come. But for Johnny, who was never quite the F1 driver he should have been thanks to those injuries, this was surely a day of destiny. No one has deserved a home win more.

9 David Coulthard (1999, 2000)

After leaving dominant Williams for a McLaren team in rebuild during the mid-1990s, Coulthard found himself in the shadow of new team-mate Mika Häkkinen as the Finn took a pair of world titles from under the nose of Michael Schumacher. But he was too good not to enjoy his share of glory during nine seasons at McLaren, and to his satisfaction two of those occasions occurred at Silverstone in consecutive years.

The first was a race mostly remembered for Schumacher breaking his leg in an accident at Stowe. The second was the year Bernie Ecclestone connived to run the race in April, ensuring a wash-out and quagmire car park misery for the Silverstone faithful. Coulthard’s win, after a great pass on Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari to take the lead, at least gave them something to smile about.

10 Lewis Hamilton (2008, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17)

And so we come bang up to date with the latest darling of the Silverstone crowd. Hamilton splits opinion with his fashion preferences and prickly personality, but each year at the British GP all that seems irrelevant. The fans love him, and as his memorable crowd-surfing celebrations show, he loves them back.

In terms of performances, the string of successes with Mercedes have all been important, but his first British GP win, in his second season, is always likely to stand out. That day in 2008 his performance in the rain for McLaren rubber-stamped what we already suspected: here was a driver who should be considered among the true greats.

At the flag, he was more than a minute up the road from Nick Heidfeld’s BMW on a day when rotten conditions caused havoc down the field. Lewis was in a different class and his victory, on the back of a string of mistakes in recent races, set him on course for his first world title.

Yet again, he needs another big performance this weekend, to put Vettel back in his place. Will all be right with the world once again for Hamilton and Silverstone’s enthusiastic masses on Sunday night? We can’t wait to find out.

  • British Grand Prix

  • Silverstone

  • Aintree

  • Brands Hatch

  • Stirling Moss

  • Jim Clark

  • Jackie Stewart

  • James Hunt

  • John Watson

  • Nigel Mansell

  • Damon HIll

  • Johnny Herbert

  • David Coulthard

  • Lewis Hamilton

  • silverstone_grand_prix_brits_goodwood_list_13072017_02.jpg

    Formula 1

    Top 10... Home-grown Silverstone superstars

  • johnny_herbert_audi_alms_video_plau_19012017.jpg


    Famous five... British aces on a busman’s holiday

  • moss_monaco_61_video_20122017.jpg


    Super Six... Motorsport's BBC SPOTY winners