During WW2 Silverstone was a bomber station and it was pressed into service as a motor racing circuit in 1948. The three prewar British circuits, Brooklands, Donington Park and Crystal Palace were all out of commission and ex-military airfields offered ready-made road surfaces, other basic facilities such as drainage systems, and they were usually a long way from densely populated areas.
Numerous airfields were used for racing in Britain. Some hosted only a handful of meetings, while others (Snetterton, Croft, Goodwood and Thruxton among them) became established fixtures.
Silverstone was chosen for special attention by the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) because of its location - it was within easy reach of both London and the Midlands. It was a clear sign that British motor racing was set on reaching a wider public than had been the case prewar.
The first Silverstone circuit was formed by using a combination of runways and perimeter tracks, and the second layout in 1949 did the same, but arrived at a different layout. Other, shorter, circuits were constructed for club events.
In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged until 1974 and, with the main circuit (2.927 miles), came a shorter Club circuit which shared the same start/finish straight. The names of the corners came from local associations: Stowe from adjacent Stowe School; Becketts from a one-time chapel dedicated to St. Thomas a Beckett, and so on.
In its early days, Silverstone was considered to be a merely a medium-fast circuit, but it emerged as a high-speed venue when cornering speeds and engine torque increased. A chicane was added at Woodcote Corner in time for the 1975 Grand Prix (the length increased to 2.932 miles) but even so, in qualifying for the 1986 race, Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) was able to lap at a shade over 160 mph.
Silverstone first ran the British GP as a Championship event in 1950, indeed it was the very first WC race. Between 1955 and 1962, Aintree hosted the race on five occasions and, between 1964 and 1986, Silverstone alternated with Brands Hatch. After 1986, it was awarded the British GP on a long-term basis and the BRDC became sufficiently secure to carry out a development programme.
An additional corner, Bridge Bend, was added just before Woodcote for 1987, and the chicane was removed. This altered the length to 2.969 miles. A major revision of the layout was undertaken for 1991 which tamed the awesomely fast Maggotts curve and Stowe and Club corner and added a sequence of bends prior to Woodcote.
In the aftermath of the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994, many circuits were modified in order to reduce speed and increase driver safety. As a consequence of this the entry from Hangar Straight into Stowe Corner was modified in 1995 so as to make its entry less dangerous and, as a result, less challenging, and the flat-out Abbey kink was modified to a chicane in just 19 days before the 1994 GP.
In the years that followed there was bitter wrangle between Bernie Ecclestone and the BRDC which threatened the future not only of F1 at Silverstone but the British Grand Prix.
One deal that saw Ecclestone sign a contract with Brands Hatch fell through when the owners couldn't get the necessary permission to develop the Kent circuit. However, the writing was clearly on the wall with the F1 supremo never missing an opportunity to hit out at Silverstone and its owners.
In August 2007 it was announced that a £25m redevelopment of the circuit had been approved, with new grandstands, pit facilities and a development centre planned. However, less than a year later it was announced that the Grand Prix would move to Donington Park from 2010.
A £5 million renovation plan was put forward in February 2009, the most notable change being the addition of a new Arena section that would see drivers turn right at the Abbey Chicane and head towards a new section in what was then the infield, turning left onto the National Circuit straight and then rejoining the original Grand Prix circuit at Brooklands, just before Woodcote and the finishing straight. The new Arena would consist of three new grandstands.
As the Donington move ran into problem after problem, not least the failure to raise the necessary funding, in June 2009 Ecclestone stated that there would be a British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010 if Donington was not ready to host it.
In October 2009, it was revealed that Donington had failed to raise the £135 million needed to carry out the necessary work to stage the British Grand Prix and that Ecclestone had offered the race back to Silverstone, but that the terms appeared to be the same as those the BRDC had rejected the first time around.
In December 2009, Silverstone was awarded the rights to host the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years. Part of the deal was for a new pit lane to be built.
The British Grand Prix started to use the Arena circuit configuration in 2010, thereby increasing the track's length by 759 metres. Ahead of the 2011 Grand Prix, a new pit and paddock complex was completed, making the straight between Club and Abbey corners the new pit straight.
The bump at Abbey was 'addressed' in 2011 after drivers complained of its severity, making this a much simpler corner than previously.
Minimising understeer through Luffield is essential to ensure good speed down the straight, as this leads on through Copse, then subsequently into the Becketts complex and on to Stowe.
Taken almost flat out, Copse is one of the most daunting corners of the season and a real test of nerve for the drivers.
Overall car balance is essential through the high-speed Becketts complex, which is entered at over 185 mph (300kph) with only minor throttle lift through the entire series of corners.
Vale is one of the slowest corners on the track – taken at around 62 mph (100kph) - and precedes the final right-hander of Club before the drivers pile down the start / finish straight.