F1 British Grand Prix: How to win at Silverstone

Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, Jenson Button and Martin Brundle share their secrets...

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Damon Hill
Winner: 1994

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Winning at Silverstone isn’t just about technical skill; it’s about bravery. That’s what drivers love to be challenged on. I remember the old circuit, and was lucky to have driven around it in that configuration.

I was also very lucky to have survived it, because in those days it was not what we’d call safe. Even now, it’s still mind-blowingly fast, with corners like Beckett’s, Copse and turn one having very fast entry speeds of up to 180mph.

I’d been coming to the British Grand Prix since I was a baby. It’s been like an annual ritual for me, but to have won Silverstone myself is beyond anything I could have dreamt of. My dad [Graham Hill] never won the British Grand Prix: he won a lot of races, but this was the one that evaded him.

Remember, too, that Silverstone was a Second World War airfield. It’s not a purpose-built track, and that throws up its own, unique challenges. It means a lot of British drivers were used to driving round extremely fast, extremely scary tracks. These kinds of circuits are fast disappearing.

The future depends on whether Formula One wants Silverstone. New venues come and go, but this one’s been here since the beginning. It has that continuity, and the sport needs to re-invest its income back into the infrastructure of the sport. F1 doesn’t do that properly. Some tracks deserve appreciation for their loyalty.

Johnny Herbert
Winner: 1995

What’s the secret to winning? Having a good car for one. That competitiveness enabled me to be in a position to mix it with the top cars in 1995. I was third, with Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher going at it at the front until they had their “coming together”.

I only realised I was in the lead as I was going up the Hangar Straight – I’d passed them both in the gravel. I thank Damon nearly every time I see him for taking off Schumacher! I remember it was Steve Rider doing the interviews after the ace, and I was one question away from crying. If he had asked me one more question, I would have broken down.

Today’s cars need to be really well balanced to do well here, but drivers now can also adjust their Kers [Kinetic Energy Recovery System], so even if they don’t have that balance at the beginning, they can fine tune it. The clever ones can keep adjusting it to keep the car at maximum.

I’m not quite sure Mercedes will be able to pull it off this year. Out of the British drivers, Lewis Hamilton has the best car.

Martin Brundle
Podium finish: third, 1992

Drivers enjoy Silverstone; they love challenging themselves against high-speed corners like Copse, Beckett’s and Stowe. You need a car you can trust.

Tracks keep their character, by and large. I won a lot of races here in Formula Three, and world sports car championships with Jaguar, and you need a car that you can believe in and trust because you’re carrying huge speeds through corners. Whatever the layout, Silverstone has always had a flavour of speed – it’s a theatre of speed, if you like.

Lewis Hamilton has a chance, Paul di Resta too, but you fear for Jenson a bit because if they don’t find improvements in the car, I’m afraid this place will show up its deficiencies.

Eight of the current 11 F1 teams are based here in the UK. We gave up building cars and motorcycles – we can’t afford to give up our motorsport industry. And Silverstone is its centre of gravity.

Jenson Button
Best finish: fourth, 2004, 2010

There are many things that a driver needs to be good at to win here, but he also needs to be driving a good car. With us, this Grand Prix is going to be a difficult one. Yeah, a win is going to be very difficult. Even a podium.

I remember my first year here in 2000: David Coulthard won the race. It was my first British Grand Prix and I overtook Michael Schumacher, the world champion, round the outside at the start at turn one. I finished fifth. It was a great weekend, and to see the crowd going crazy for DC as well is something I’ll remember for ever.

The Farm, where we “camp”, is great because we can actually live inside the circuit. It reminds me of the good old days of karting when you used to go camping before a race. I’m not camping now, I’ve got my motorhome here, as most of the drivers will have, but it’s a nice atmosphere. Here there’s more of that proper local racing vibe.

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Standing here by the pit-lane wall watching all these amazing cars go by, it still takes my breath away seeing the speed – 180mph – a Formula One car carries into turn one. It reminds me of being 14 and coming to the British Grand Prix. The smell of the tyres, the cars, the sound – I feel like a kid again.