British Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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The British Grand Prix, held at Silverstone Circuit in the Northamptonshire area, is a highlight on the FIA Formula One season calendar. Henry Segrave first established the British Grand Prix in 1926, after he had won the French Grand Prix in the year 1923 and the Spanish Grand Prix in the following year – achievements which fueled interest in auto racing in the UK.

Since 1950, and the beginning of the Formula One Championship, the Silverstone Circuit has annually been the host of the Formula One British Grand Prix. The French team, with Robert Senechal and Louis Wagner, behind the wheel of a Delage 155B, won the first British Grand Prix. Between the years 1955 to 1962, the race was held at Aintree and between 1964 and 1986, it was at Brands Hatch. But in 1987 the British Grand Prix returned to Silverstone Circuit, where it has remained. The Silverstone Circuit is raced in 60 laps and the total race distance is 308.46 kilometers. In 2003, the Formula One authorities and Silverstone owners entered a heated debate with regard to the maintenance of track facilities. This led to the British Grand Prix being left off the racing schedule for 2005, and great doubts started immerging for the future of British Grand Prix. After heated negotiations, it was agreed that the Silverstone Circuit would host the British Grand Prix, till 2009.

A Formula One street parade that was held in 2004 led to speculation regarding using London as a street circuit venue for the Formula One British Grand Prix. The parade that attracted approximately 500,000 people, also raised speculations that if a London street circuit were to host the British Grand Prix, that it would either alternate between Silverstone Circuit, or replace it completely. Another alternative is that of a completely separate, London Grand Prix venue. Even though the London Mayor sees the street circuit as being beneficial to the city, there is still a difference in opinion amongst the Formula One community.

In mid-2008 it was announced that Donington Park would be hosting the British Grand Prix for a period of ten years from the 2010 event. However, having failed to secure sufficient funds to host the race, the contract was nullified and was re-awarded to Silverstone for a 17-year period. With Silverstone’s newly renovated and redesigned circuit, the British Grand Prix promises to be even more exciting than before.

Renault F1 Team

February 9, 2009 by  
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In 1977 at the British Grand Prix, Renault made its debut in Formula One racing as well as introducing the first turbo engine to the sport. This was achieved through the Renault Sport subsidiary with Eu Gene Thor as manager of the team. The Renault F1 Team entered five races at the end of the season with Jean-Pierre Jabouille as driver in their one and only car. Two years later the team made its first win when Jabouille won the French Grand Prix in 1979.

In 1985 the Renault team stepped away from Formula One as a manufacturer, but continued to stay involved with the sport by providing engines to Lotus. It was not long after that, when the team withdrew completely from F1 racing for a while, coming back in 1989 to supply Williams with engines. Later on in the 90’s Renault engines began dominating the sport, powering the Williams team as well as the Benetton team in the World Constructors’ Championships. It was here that Renault had its first taste of success as a world champion. Renault again took a break from Formula One from 1996-2000, returning in 2000 when the Benetton team announced that they would be taken over by Renault in the beginning of the 2002 season. It was three years later in 2005, when they achieved their first championship as a constructor and won their first ever drivers’ championship with Fernando Alonso, a former Renault test driver.

For the 2006 racing season Renault F1 retained Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, to drive their new R26 car featuring a titanium seven-speed gearbox. With a number of impressive points wins to its name, the team celebrated its 200th Grand Prix race at Silverstone, a race which was won by Alonso, making the occasion a double-celebration. Alonso went on to win the Canadian Grand Prix, finished fifth at the US Grand Prix, and took second place at the French Grand Prix. Renault took the construction championship title for the year.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen were the race drivers for Renault F1 in 2007, with the livery of the new R27 being the corporate colors of sponsors ING. The season presented some challenges, one of which was a charge by the FIA that Renault F1 was in possession of technical information belonging to McLaren. The outcome of the case found Renault F1 in breach of an FIA rule, but the team was not penalized. Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet, Jr., were the drivers for Renault F1 in 2008, with Piquet securing a second place in the German Grand Prix, an accomplishment that signaled a turn in fortune for the team, as it went on to clock up a number of points-victories. Alonso took first place in the Singapore Grand Prix – the first to be held under lights. 2009 turned out to be a frustrating season, with a variety of car problems for Alonso, and lackluster performance by Piquet resulting in him parting ways with the Renault F1 Team.

For the 2010 F1 Championship season Renault sold a majority stake to Genii Capital, while retaining a 25% share in the Renault F1 Team. Robert Kubica replaced Alonso on the team, with Russian driver Vitaly Petrov signing up as the second driver. The new team principal is Eric Boullier, with Bob Bell returning to his former position of Technical Director. Loyal Renault F1 Team supporters will no doubt be watching with keen interest as the 2010 F1 season progresses.

Formula One Tracks

February 9, 2009 by  
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Formula One is a popular sport the world over. Eagerly watched at live events and on TV, F1 is a sport that continues to attract large crowds. Of course, the highlight of the Formula One calendar is the World Championship. Held at Formula One race tracks across the world, top-notch drivers compete for the opportunity to win the title of Formula One World Champion for that year.

Formula One race tracks, or F1 circuits, are specially designed for high-speed racing – and speed is exactly what Formula One Grand Prix is about. Corners have to be carefully set so as to prevent serious accidents, but remain challenging. Certain Grand Prix circuits have been set in the streets of towns such as Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo and Spa Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium. Over the years that the World Championship has been held, the F1 circuits hosting the event have sometimes been changed. Some have remained hosts to World Championship Grand Prix races, whilst others have been used for just a season or two.

Each Formula One track is uniquely designed with several turns, curves and straights. Amongst the more challenging are Suzuka in Japan and Nurburgring in Germany. Bahrain International Circuit in Manama of Bahrain is set amidst the sand which was sprayed with a special substance to prevent it from blowing onto the track. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola is probably one of the best known in the world, along with France’s F1 circuit of Magny Cours. Other well-known Formula One racing circuits include Australia’s Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Silverstone Circuit in England, Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, Hockenheimring of Germany, Hungaroring in Budapest and Canada’s Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal.

Viewing Formula One racing on television is a popular pastime for many, but F1 is best experienced live at a track. If you live in a country with a nearby F1 Grand Prix circuit, you will be fortunate enough to get several opportunities to watch the thrill of F1. Many make travel arrangements to attend major races at F1 tracks around the world. Imagine yourself standing looking out onto the track, the drivers are pulling up in their stream-lined cars. The engines begin to rev as they prepare to speed off down the road-way. Eventually the tension bursts as the cars race forward. During the race you eagerly watch the top competitors until the final lap comes. Chills shudder down your spine as the team you have been rooting for comes in first place. The excitement, tension and joy of a day at the racetrack is truly not to be missed.

Tracks

James Hunt

February 9, 2009 by  
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A self-confident and competitive person both in and out of the driver’s seat, James Simon Wallis Hunt enjoyed a relatively short and tumultuous racing career. Hunt was born in 1947 to a London stockbroker and from an early age his parents found him unruly and rebellious. He seemed prone to temper tantrums and was terribly hyperactive. Despite his wild and rebellious ways he grew up to become a tall and handsome youngster who enjoyed considerable success with the ladies. His journey to World Champion began on his eighteenth birthday when Hunt saw his first race at Silverstone. On that day he decided that he would one day become World Champion – a goal which took several challenging years to realise.

Though his family was wealthy, they did not support Hunt’s dreams of becoming a racing champion and Hunt started out by working odd jobs and purchasing a wrecked Mini, which he spent two years preparing for racing. Once he eventually did get started on the racetrack, he never looked back – though many of his early races ended in bad accidents. Eventually he managed to stay on the racetrack long enough to win a few races. It is interesting to note that his bogus behavior on the track did not reflect his fear of racing. Often he would vomit in the garage and shake so violently on the starting grid that his car would vibrate. However, James Hunt was a determined, testosterone-driven racer which made him a formidable opponent.

James Hunt’s career took a huge turn when Lord Alexander Hesketh entered his life. Known by the racers he sponsored as ‘The Good Lord’, Hesketh was an eccentric British aristocrat who chose to squander his sizable inheritance on personal entertainment. To this end, he formed his own racing team and hired Hunt as his driver. Though the Hesketh Racing team was mediocre at best, they were well known for consuming copious amounts of champagne and sporting beautiful women. Before long, Hesketh decided to graduate from Formula Three and Formula Two to Formula One. Their arrival on the scene was welcomed with laughter but Hunt soon wiped the smiles away with his 1975 win over Niki Lauda’s Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix. Unfortunately Hesketh decided to leave the game that same year and Hunt was left without a job.

The following year he was called in to fill an unexpected vacancy with McLaren and James’ Formula One career began in earnest. He quickly became known for his bad temper and excessive speed. He became close friends with Niki Lauda with whom he competed for the 1976 driving title. Hunt managed to take the World Champion title later that year – the pinnacle of his success as a driver. After his win, his enthusiasm for racing waned and before long, he decided to retire. He married twice, had two children to whom he was wholly devoted and had just gotten engaged for the third time when he died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 45. However, the charismatic James Hunt has certainly not been forgotten and his memory continues to live on in the sport of Formula One racing.

Silverstone Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Britain’s Silverstone Speedway, with its rich history in the world of auto racing, is incredibly fast with a long complex of high-speed corners that thrill spectators and challenges drivers. In fact, most of its twist and turns leave other circuits in the dust. The change of direction is so quick that driver’s testify to feeling the “speed” of the car. You need good aerodynamics at Silverstone, so this is where all the hard work in the wind tunnel before the race pays off!

Silverstone Speedway was opened as a World War II airfield in 1943, near the leafy village of the same name. Once the war had ended in 1945, Britain was left with a number of sprawling airfields, but without a major racetrack: Donington Park was still a military vehicle storage depot, Brooklands had been sold off, Crystal Palace was in a state of disrepair, and Brands Hatch was still under-developed.

The Royal Automobile Club was interested in Silverstone as a potential site and approached the Air Ministry in 1948 and a lease was arranged. At this time, the centre of Silverstone Circuit was a farm that produced cereal crops and raised pigs! Out of such humble surroundings legends are born: the RAC employed farmer James Wilson Brown to create the first Grand Prix circuit at the site and gave him just two months to build it.

On October 2nd, 1948, amid straw bales and ropes, the first event at Silverstone Speedway took place, the RAC Grand Prix. The crowds came in their thousands, thrilled to see the return of Grand Prix racing after so many years of war austerity. The 3.67 mile course sent the 23 competing cars racing round part of the perimeter track, up the two former runways and back to the perimeter. This layout meant cars were racing towards each other head-on until they turned sharp left and returned to the perimeter. For this reason, canvas screens were erected across the centre of the circuit to stop the drivers being distracted whilst the spectators were not permitted to enter the centre of the circuit because of the potential damage to growing crops.

The winner of the inaugural race at the Silverstone circuit was Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati, who recorded an average speed of 72 mph to claim the first prize of £500. A year later, after the hazardous runways were eliminated and a chicane was inserted on the full perimeter road, Silverstone Speedway hosted a second major event in May 1949 – the Formula One Daily Express International Trophy – virtually a second Grand Prix, won by Alberto Ascari.

Another of Silverstone Speedway’s most famous classics also began in August 1949, the Daily Express International Trophy for Formula One cars and for this meeting the Club chicane was dispensed with and the circuit took up a shape that was to last for a quarter of a century.

Back in 1950, Silverstone Speedway was the birthplace of today’s FIA Formula One World Championship. Today the Speedway remains one of the world’s most historic tracks, but the challenges faced on every corner are no less daunting than any other circuit raced by the greatest names in F1 today.

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