Silverstone track breakdown: F1's historic track makes drivers feel like jet pilots

The British Grand Prix offers one of the most iconic tracks on Formula One’s calendar, rich in history and a thrilling high-speed drive.

Nestled in the heart of the UK’s motorsport valley where seven teams are based, Silverstone Circuit hosts the home race for three drivers: Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Lando Norris (Alex Albon is British-born but races under the Thai flag). It’s seen epic showdowns over the years, like Michael Schumacher vs. Ayrton Senna in 1993, Rubens Barrichello vs. Schumacher in 2003, Sebastian Vettel vs. Valtteri Bottas in 2018, Max Verstappen vs. Charles Leclerc a year later and Sergio Pérez vs. Leclerc vs. Hamilton in 2022.

“That was very reminiscent of the karting days,” Hamilton said of the battle after the 2022 grand prix. “And I feel that that’s Formula One at its best. The fact that we were able to follow and dice like that, lap on lap, is a testament to the direction I think that we’re now in.”

This circuit, built on a former Royal Air Force base, is known for its high-speed nature, so much so that Hamilton once said, “The faster this track gets, the better it gets. It has to be the best track in the world, it feels like driving a fighter jet around the track.” Wind is a fairly significant factor, given how open the circuit is. Alex Albon noted, “It’s changing the balance so much, so to be on the limit throughout the whole corner, it’s very easy to underdrive a part of the corner which has a bit of a headwind, and you can use a little bit of that wind to push a little bit more into a corner.”

The track, which crosses the county line between Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, has seen a few layout changes over the years, but the character has remained, with new names of corners and straights being added to pay homage to its heritage and culture.

Here’s what to expect from Silverstone Circuit as the British Grand Prix kicks off.

Key Specs

Map of Silverstone F1 circuit with key specs noted

Silverstone’s royal history

Long before it became a circuit, Silverstone operated as an RAF base during World War II. The airfield opened in 1943 and served as the base for the Wellington bombers.

When the war ended in 1945, the United Kingdom was left with a surplus of airfields, and RAF Silverstone was converted into a race track. The Royal Automobile Club hosted the first British Grand Prix in Oct. 1948, with around 100,000 spectators in attendance. When the Formula One World Championship began in 1950, Silverstone kicked off the calendar.

Another notable fact about the first world championship race: It’s the only time a reigning monarch attended a British motorsport race. King George VI attended with then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret as well as Lord and Lady Mountbatten. And the royalty extended onto the track, with a Thai prince and a Swiss baron competing on the grid.

Aerial view of the Silverstone motor racing circuit, located beside the Northamptonshire villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury, 8th July 1965. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Aerial view of the Silverstone motor racing circuit, located beside the Northamptonshire villages of Silverstone and Whittlebury, 8th July 1965. (Photo by Victor Blackman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM. JUlY, 2018. Aerial View of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, on 8th July 2018. Aerial Photograph by David Goddard/ Getty Images

(David Goddard/ Getty Images)

Points of interest

One of the unique aspects of Silverstone is that nearly everything on this track has a name, but do the drivers remember them? Kevin Magnussen said Thursday, “I always forget the names. There’s a couple of them I know, but I always forget.”

Here’s your crash course on what numbers correspond with which name and how we got here.

Turn 1: Abbey

This right-hander is named after Luffield Abbey, founded before 1133 and whose remains were discovered near the corner. Drivers approach this turn flat out in a modern-day F1 car, which can become dangerous, as seen by Zhou Guanyu’s 2022 wreck.

SILVERSTONE UK Woodcote turn1

Turn 2: Farm

Still in full throttle, drivers hit a slight kink to the left, more of a lazy bend. The origins of Farm aren’t complex: The cars used to zip past a nearby farm back when it was a straight between Abbey and what was known as Bridge Bend.

Turn 3: Village

This corner entered the layout in 2010, named after Silverstone Village just north of the track. Drivers have to brake hard for the 45-degree right-hander, and they’ll need to keep to the right for the left-hander ahead.

Turn 4: The Loop

Welcome to the hairpin, one of the slowest points on Silverstone Circuit. It is the only point on the track named for its shape.

Turn 5: Aintree

Drivers go flat out through this left-hander onto the next memorable straight. Aintree has racing origins, both for motorsports and horses. Not only is it the home of the Grand National steeplechase, but Aintree Racecourse also hosted the British Grand Prix for five years.

Kimi Räikkönen crashed his Ferrari during the 2014 British Grand Prix coming out of Aintree, which is a tad amusing given the nickname for the Italian team is the Prancing Horse.

Wellington Straight

Formed from one of the old RAF runways, this straight is named after the Wellington bombers. It was initially called the National Straight until the track layout was changed, and it was renamed in 2010 as part of the new layout.

Turn 6: Brooklands

Out near Weybridge in Surrey, England, rests the old guard of British motorsport. Brooklands opened in 1907 and also served as one of the country’s first airfields and an aircraft manufacturing facility. Its last race was held in 1939, but the track’s legacy lives on in the form of Brooklands Museum (which sits on part of the track) and as part of the British GP — at least in name.

Turn 6 is a mid-speed left-hander at Silverstone Circuit, the modern-day “home of British motorsport.”

Turn 7: Luffield

Another long right-hander with a similar history to Turn 1. This one is named after Luffield Chapel and entered the circuit layout in 1991. Initially, it was two separate turns — giving off Dr. Seuss vibes with the names of Luffield 1 and Luffield 2.

Turn 8: Woodcote

This corner serves as an ode to the Royal Automobile Club, specifically the Surrey-based club of Woodcote Park because RAC used to organize the track’s races in its early days. Though it is now a flat-out right turn, this original corner previously ended the layout.

A significant pileup happened here during the 1973 grand prix, when an opening lap accident triggered by Jody Scheckter led to nine cars being knocked out of the race and injuring a driver.

SILVERSTONE UK Woodcote turn8

Turn 9: Copse

Named in honor of the English countryside’s surrounding woodland, this corner isn’t known for its similar peaceful nature. Back in 2021, title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided here, a moment that sent the Red Bull into the barriers at the exit of the high-speed right-hander and landed the Mercedes driver a time penalty. It became a defining, controversial moment in their story.

Turns 10-14: Maggots, Becketts and Chapel

Iconic is a fitting word for this high-speed, twisty sequence. It begins with a full-throttle left-to-right zig, and the track gets tighter as speed decreases. The cars navigate another left-to-right sequence before launching into the straight. These used to be three distinct moments, but now, they’re far too interlinked.

As for the history of the names, Maggots is in honor of the marshy wetland Maggot Moor. Meanwhile, Becketts and Chapel come from the medieval church in honor of Saint Thomas à Becket, the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury. The buildings, though, were torn down when the airfield was built.


Turn 15: Stowe

With his DRS wing open down the Hangar Straight in 2022, Pérez got right on the rear of Leclerc’s Ferrari and moved side-by-side as they rounded this hard right-hander.

It’s a tricky corner, coming at the end of a DRS zone and going long and straight. Like a good portion of the track, Stowe’s namesake is said to have come from a nearby landmark — a school.

Turn 16: Vale

In 2022, Pérez and Leclerc were wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton hot on their tails as the cars barreled through the left-hander. Its namesake isn’t as apparent, but some point towards this section of the track being in the Aylesbury Vale district.

Turn 17/18: Club

Like Woodcote, this final stretch tips a hat to RAC’s clubhouse in London. But more modern-day fans may recall the appearance of this portion thanks to Sky Sports’ David Croft saying in 2022, “Through goes Hamilton!” Though the battle didn’t end there, the Mercedes driver slipped past the Red Bull and Ferrari in the final corner last season.

(Track video courtesy of EA Sports F1 — learn more about “F1 24″ here.)

Top photo: Peter J Fox/Getty, Joe Portlock/Formula 1 via Getty Images; Design: Drew Jordan)

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