Until recently the F1 season wasn’t complete until we’d had the obligatory row about the future of the British Grand Prix.
An exchange of verbal barbs between Bernie Ecclestone and the British Racing Drivers’ Club became an almost traditional part of the annual build-up to the race.
But Silverstone’s place on the calendar has been secured for the long-term with the signing of an unprecedented 17-year contract in 2010. That makes it an appropriate time for some reflection.
Chas Parker’s new book on the circuit follows the same format as his earlier history of Brands Hatch. The 288-page hardback takes each decade of the track’s life in turn, breaking up the prose with brief notes on the major races that took place at the track each year.
It is lavishly illustrated with a rich selection of photographs which capture many of the dramatic and memorable moments to have taken place at the circuit over the years.
The opening chapters which explore the foundation of the circuit are particularly illuminating. New interviews and a rummage through the BRDC’s archive reveals how the search for a stopgap track in the post-war absence of Donington Park and Brooklands ultimately led to the creation of a track which deserves to call itself “The home of British motor racing”.
That home came under serious threat in the 1990s and 2000s as Bernie Ecclestone persistently threatened to take the race elsewhere or off the calendar completely. Parker gives an even-handed account, explaining how Ecclestone became frustrated by his dealings with the BRDC.
The bitter Ecclestone-versus-BRDC row tends to dominate the later parts of the book. I would have appreciated more detail on how the roster of events at the circuit has changed over the years, leading to Silverstone hosting most of Britain’s major international races.
And although the photography is mostly excellent, some more thought should have been put into how to depict the many changes in circuit configuration which have taken place since 1948. There are some excellent period diagrams for the earlier layouts but the final one showing the current circuits is particularly poor quality.
However the author has done a fine job in tracing Silverstone’s development from a former World War Two airfield, where illicit races were held in the late 1940s, to the sprawling racing complex it is today. Niggles aside, this is an easy book to recommend.
F1 Fanatic rating
Silverstone: The home of British motor racing by Chas Parker
Author: Chas Parker
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