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Great British Masters of Silverstone. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Great British Masters of Silverstone
On the eve of the 2003 British GP, Eileen Buckley reminds us of past masters of the British race.
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For a driver to win his home Grand Prix has always proved difficult, with the added pressures and extra media commitments. There have been more Formula One champions hailing from Britain than from any other country, so some of them must have had a good run of it at home. In fact no one in the history of Formula One has won more British Grands Prix than Scotsman Jimmy Clark. With four consecutive victories from 1962 to 1965 (two at Silverstone, one each at Aintree and Brands Hatch) plus a fifth win at Silverstone in 1967, Clark was a true British master.

But few Brits have had a perfect race weekend at Silverstone. To achieve pole position, fastest lap, and the victory is special indeed. Clark thrice had both the pole and the win, but missed out on the fastest lap due to mechanical difficulties. Ironically, at the two British Grands Prix at other circuits, Clark did have perfect race weekends. But never at Silverstone.

Enter Nigel Mansell. Old Nige managed two consecutive perfect race weekends at Silverstone. Mansell has four British GP victories to his credit, his first in 1986 at Brands Hatch, and three more all at Silverstone in 1987, 1991, and 1992. He is the next greatest British master in F1 history.

In addition to Clark, Scotsmen have had a good showing at Silverstone over the years. Countrymen Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard have each scored two wins at the famed circuit.

And one could not discuss British greats at Silverstone without the mention of gentleman racer Peter Collins, who took victory at Silverstone in 1958, without doubt a curious time in F1 history. Collins likely would have had another Silverstone win but for the car swapping theme of the era that blurred many results.

Multiple Silverstone Winners - British Drivers

Driver Team No. of Wins Year of Wins
Jim Clark Lotus 3 1963, 1965, 1967
Nigel Mansell Williams 3 1987, 1991, 1992
Jackie Stewart Matra/Tyrell 2 1969, 1971
David Coulthard McLaren 2 1999, 2000
Peter Collins Ferrari 1* 1958

"In the cockpit, the excitement of racing lies in controlling the car within very fine limits. You aim at perfection without ever actually achieving it. But every so often you can say: ‘That's it! Now beat that you bastards!' This is the essence of motor racing. In this, Jimmy (Clark) was unsurpassed in his era."
- Graham Hill, WDC 1962 & 1968

Some might say Jim Clark was unsurpassed in any era. Certainly at his home GP he remains so, and the current crew of Formula One masters are a long way from catching the marks he set there. Of course Michael Schumacher is still setting the world on fire and has broken just about every F1 record that exists. But Michael hasn't quite got the knack of the British Grand Prix, now has he? His two wins in his long career do not hold up well against Clark's results in what was far too short a career by any measure.

Jimmy Clark participated in only 72 GPs in his day. He did this while hopping in and out of Indy cars, LeMans cars, F2 cars, and even NASCAR cars between his F1 races, and he did well on most anything on four wheels. How does Michael Schumacher stack up against the old British master? For amusement, let's look at Michael's first 72 participations and compare them to Clark's short career of equal length. Each has a fair mix of strong and weak cars in those periods, so it is a decent enough comparison. The results are interesting:

Clark vs. Schumacher - 72 GPs

Driver Wins Poles Fastest Laps Podiums Points Championships
Clark 25 33 28 32 299* 2
Schumacher 19 10 23 39 307 2

* Points adjusted to same system Schumacher saw in his 72 races - 10 points for a win (vs. 8 or 9 in Clark's era) is the only difference. Without the adjustment, Clark had 274 points.

The two champions are surprisingly close on all measures except qualifying performance, which has never seemed much of a focus for Schumacher. He in fact did not achieve his first pole position until his fourth season in F1 in 1994. Nonetheless, Clark just edges by Schumi on most key measures, a testament to his prowess. Let's face it, Jim Clark skipped a key race (Monaco) on the short GP calendar of 1965 (only 10 races) to participate in the Indy 500 (which he won), and still managed to win the F1 Driver's Championship with 54 points, 6 wins and 6 poles, including a glorious win at Silverstone!

Jim Clark's 1965 victory at Silverstone illustrates his unique qualities as a driver who was one with his car. Clark was legendary for being very easy on his cars, and he never needed it more than at his home GP in 1965.

"He (Clark) was the quickest man in the team, and yet his car would have less tyre wear, less brake wear, and more fuel left at the end of the race than any of the others. He was light on cars and had a mechanical sympathy for things."
- Bob Dance, Race Mechanic, Team Lotus

So let us go back to July 10, 1965, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Clark is on pole after indulging Team Lotus and running their new engine in the last session of qualifying. The race is a breeze, with Clark running away with it by miles until the halfway point, when the unproven engine begins to misfire. Oil pressure is dropping sporadically through the turns, and Clark is losing four seconds a lap. Clark studies the problem and marks the places around the track where the oil pressure is lacking. He decides a unique course of action, cutting the engine at each of those points, which solves the pressure drop but creates massive handling problems through those turns. Clark soon gets the groove of this and manages to cut his losses to only two seconds a lap, just enough to squeak by the finish line in the lead by a mere three seconds - a hair in those days. Fascinating! He just misses out on a perfect race weekend with Graham Hill grabbing fastest lap during Jimmy's time of car woes, but a tremendous win nonetheless. Racer, on-the-fly mechanic, gentleman - Jim Clark is the greatest of British masters.

Clark came a long way from his rural Scotish roots to creating an everlasting name in Formula One racing. His career-long partnership with designer Colin Chapman and Lotus is one of the great examples of teamwork the sport has seen. Jim lost his life in 1968 at the age of 32 while racing in the F2 series at Hockenheim, Germany. He is eternally missed. If you would like to visit one of the several memorials to - - Jim Clark, note the following:
- Jim Clark Grave (Churnside, Berwickshire)
- Jim Clark Stone Cross Memorial (Hockenheim, site of crash)
- Jim Clark Memorial Statue (Kilmany, Fife, Scotland - birthplace)
- Jim Clark Room (Duns, Scotland - hometown - trophies and memorabilia)

For more information about Jim Clark available on the web, visit:

For highlights of some of his greatest races, see:

Colin Chapman brought another British great into Formula One. Rather unlike Jimmy Clark in style and temperament, he was nevertheless tremendously successful. Englishman Nigel Mansell was as hot-tempered as Clark was cool. Mansell roughed up his cars, while Clark babied them. While Jim Clark drove with his head, Mansell was all heart!

Mansell is the second most successful British driver at his home GP. At Silverstone, Nigel equaled Clark's mark of three victories, and reveled in delighting the home crowd.

Mansell's first British GP win came in 1986 at Brands Hatch in the Williams Honda car, a race which marked the return of Frank Williams to F1 following his debilitating car accident. This race also marked the beginning of many exciting duels between Mansell and world champion teammate Nelson Piquet. At this race, Piquet edged out Nigel for pole. At the start, Mansell's drive shaft broke on the grid, but due to an accident elsewhere (which ended Lafitte's great career), the race was red-flagged and Nigel was able to take the restart in the spare set up for Piquet. It was tough for Mansell to drive this spare, and he lost a position to the now-legendary Ayrton Senna during the first few laps. But Nigel soon got into a groove and caught up Senna, passed him, then caught up Piquet, and passed him! Even through the pit stops, Mansell never gave up the lead to a hard-charging Piquet. A great first home victory!

In 1987, the British GP switched to Silverstone, and the WDC battle was hot between Senna and Prost on the one hand and teammates Piquet and Mansell on the other. Piquet was supposed to have number one status in the team, but this is Nigel Mansell we are talking about! Piquet again had pole, and he took the lead in the race with Nigel following close. Not even halfway through, Mansell had a tyre problem and was forced to pit, losing a large chunk of time to his teammate. He emerged 30 seconds behind, almost half a lap. Mansell was on new tyres, though, and was making up the gap swiftly. Ten laps later and the gap was down to 20 seconds. Another five laps and it was down to 10 seconds! Piquet's old tyres must have been dragging him down a bit. Five more laps and Mansell was on his rear wing, with only five laps left in the race. On Lap 60, approaching Stowe, Nigel made what has been deemed one of the best overtaking moves in F1 history, faking out Piquet on the outside and getting him on the inside to take the lead. Mansell pulled away to a magnificent victory, a real home-crowd-pleaser.

Mansell went on to take two more victories at Silverstone in 1991 and 1992, becoming one of its favourite sons. In those two races in the Williams Renault, Nigel had perfect race weekends. He also helped out Senna in the 91 race, whose car died on the final laps, by giving him a ride back on his car during the parade lap.

One remarkable aspect of Nigel Mansell's career was his overtaking acumen, with a notable drive at the 1989 Hungarian Grand Prix. Mansell was driving with Ferrari, as Williams had lost their engine supply, and faced formidable challenges from McLaren Honda teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Mansell qualified his Ferrari a lowly 12th in Hungary that year, but proved all pundits wrong by overtaking nine cars in the first part of the race on a circuit where overtaking was theoretically impossible. It came down to a charging Mansell glued to the tail of the Brazilian master Senna. Nigel took advantage of Senna's lapping of backmarker Stefan Johansson and strong-armed Senna out of the way. Truly awesome. Mansell went on for the win, Senna never challenging past that point. It was only the second time in 1989 that Senna was overtaken in a race.

Throughout his career, Nigel Mansell never had it easy, nor did he make it any easier on himself. Mansell saw some heartbreaking mechanical failures at key points of the season. Adelaide 1986 springs immediately to mind, where Mansell lost the championship due to a blown tyre while leading at the end of the race. Montreal 1991 was another one in a year where the win would have given him the championship - a blown gearbox at the end of the race while leading put an end to that. Nigel also seemed to be on the losing end of things with team owners and pit crews. In fact, Peter Windsor was responsible for the Williams team pit screw-up at Estoril in 1991 which resulted in Mansell being disqualified from the race, and the championship was lost again. Nigel switched teams several times, left Formula One, came back, left again - a bumpy ride in F1. Nonetheless, he remains the most successful British Formula One driver of all time. His statistics follow:

Nigel Mansell - Most Successful British F1 Driver of All Time
Fastest Laps

One of the more telling aspects of Nigel Mansell's career revolves around his dominant championship year, 1992, and what he did after it. Nigel clinched the championship early on in the 1992 season, and found himself at the penultimate race of the year in Suzuka. He had a comfy lead in the race, but wanted to help teammate Patrese secure second place in the driver's championship. Even though it was one of only two circuits that Mansell had yet to win on, more down to bad luck than anything else, Mansell let Patrese through for the win in true gentlemanly fashion. Mansell wound up having mechanical problems later anyway, but his gesture was grand.

The other interesting thing about Nigel's 1992 season is that he abruptly announced his retirement from the sport as soon as he clinched the title. Mansell was deceived by team owner Frank Williams regarding the hiring of Alain Prost for the Williams team for the following season. Nigel felt hugely disrespected - can you blame him? So off to Indy cars it would be for the 1993 season. Mansell had already moved to Florida the prior year, so this was a natural choice. He went to race for actor-racer Paul Newman's team, Newman-Haas.

Mansell's signature mixed fortune from Formula One seemed to carry over into his Indy car life. Mansell's first race in 1993 was at Surfer's Paradise, Australia, where he became the first rookie ever to take a pole in the Indy car series. Way to go Nige! But rookies will be rookies, and Mansell made several memorable mistakes, including passing a car under yellows - that's a no-no Nige! Penalty pit stop for you! Then Mansell surprised the pit crew with what he thought was a blown tyre, but all was well on his rims. That's two extra pits for the rookie! Next Mansell bounced off the wall, but he recovered. After this rocky initiation ride, Mansell not only finished, but won the race! He went on to take the Indy car championship that year, with wins on two road tracks and four ovals, an unfamiliar circuit-type for Nigel. All this at the ripe age of 40. Mansell also came very close to winning the Indy 500 that year, brushing the wall while in the lead at the final laps, ending up third.

With the death of Senna in 1994, the F1 powers-that-be were dreading a lacklustre season with no true challengers for the already-risen Michael Schumacher and Benetton. Bernie Ecclestone negotiated a deal with Mansell's Newman-Haas team that would have ol' Nige race in four GPs in 1994 for Williams, alongside Damon Hill. In those four F1 races in 1994, Mansell had two DNFs, one win, one pole, and 13 points. Not bad for an old man! Mansell would follow it on with two more races in 1995 for McLaren, alongside Hakkinen, but with weather and race difficulties, he finally retired for good.

Nigel is still around the sport and can be spotted at various race venues with his sons. He still seems like a force to be reckoned with no matter how much time has passed! Mansell is a credit to the sport. He drove in an era when people like Senna were booting opponents off the track to take victories and championships, and then complaining about conspiracies. But Mansell kept his head down and just went to work, all the while keeping his dignity and integrity intact. Nigel, you are a better man than many!

For more web insight into Nigel Mansell, visit:

For highlights of some key races, see:

Before circumstances cruelly took the like of the great Jim Clark, fellow Scotsman Jackie Stewart came to race against him. In 1965, Stewart entered Formula One with the BRM team and teammate Graham Hill. Jackie scored points in his first race, and won a race in his first season. Stewart had been awaiting long-time friend Ken Tyrell's entrance into the sport, and when he did come, the partnership proved a winning one.

In Stewart's short (by choice) career, he managed 27 wins from just 99 races. And he grabbed three world championships. After Clark and Mansell, Jackie Stewart holds the most wins at his home GP at Silverstone. Jackie was victorious there twice, in 1969 with Tyrell's Matra-Ford, and in 1971 with the Tyrell-Ford. Jackie won the championship those two years and again in 1973 after which he abruptly retired.

Much of Stewart's success came after the loss of Jimmy Clark, so one wonders just how well did these two stack up against one another? In fact, Stewart never won a British GP while Clark was still around. Here is a head-to-head comparison of the three years that Clark and Stewart raced against each other in F1, 1965 to 1967:

Clark vs. Stewart - 1965 to 1967 Head-to-Head

Driver Wins Poles Fastest Laps Podiums Points Championships
Clark 11 14 11 13 111 1
Stewart 2 0 0 8 58 0

Clark clearly had the upper hand in experience, kit, and results. But Stewart's lifetime achievements still hold up pretty well against many F1 champions.

Perhaps Jackie Stewart's greatest legacy is his effort to bring the sport forward in the areas of emergency procedures and safety precautions. After his own horrific experience at the Spa race in 1966 (where at one stage his ambulance lost its police escort and could not find the way to the hospital in Liège!), Jackie made this a focus of his F1 career. He stood up where others remained still, and we are all thankful to this day. Indicative of Stewart's dedication to this principle was his behaviour while leading the 1969 British GP at Silverstone. He was battling with Jochen Rindt, and noticed Rindt's rear wing leaning and about to cut his tyre. Stewart drove alongside Rindt and gestured to warn him of the danger. Rindt promptly pitted for repairs.

It may not be clear today just how important Jackie Stewart's efforts were in this area, because we tend to take these things for granted in F1. But if you try to place yourself back in time, to the place that Jackie Stewart lived and raced in, you begin to understand.

In the 1950s and 1960s, 50 Formula One drivers were killed on the track at various racing and testing venues. Yes, fifty. In the 1970s and 1980s this number was about halved to 24 fatalities. By the 1990s it was near nothing, with two deaths on the track in 1994 at Imola. Stewart lived through many of those deaths of friends and countrymen, and was visibly affected when he ended his career at Watkins Glen in 1973. Although his impact on the track was formidable with his many successes in few attempts, Jackie Stewart's achievements off the track in the area of safety are his legacy.

For more about Jackie Stewart on the web, see: -

For highlights of his race wins at Silverstone, see:

Equal with Stewart in home victories at Silverstone is current F1 McLaren pilot and fellow Scotsman David Coulthard. DC has yet to win a championship and may be the Nigel Mansell of our generation for all we know, with many seasons passing before the ultimate achievement. Coulthard is now in his ninth full season in Formula One. Mansell did not win his crown until after twelve full seasons. There is yet hope, David!

DC won back to back British GPs at Silverstone in 1999 and 2000 in the McLaren-Mercedes. Both were with superior Adrian Newey chassis and prior to McLaren's switch from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres. In fact, David is the first Brit to win the British Grand Prix since the FIA-mandated change to grooved tyres.

The 1999 victory came at the race marked by the uncharacteristic crash of Michael Schumacher into the barriers at Stowe and subsequent shortening of the Ferrari driver's season, making the WDC race an interesting one indeed! When the race was restarted, Coulthard had a good jump off the line, as did Ferrari's Eddie Irvine and Williams' Ralf Schumacher, the latter clearly motivated by his brother's mishap. Coulthard's teammate Mika Hakkinen was the obvious choice for victory, but he ominously lost a wheel. Hakkinen was okay, though. The race was left to Coulthard and Irvine, both having solid drives, with the McLaren pit crew winning out for DC in the end. The Ferrari pit team was visibly shaken and in disarray after Michael's crash and airlift to the hospital. Ralf was said to have the drive of the day finishing on the podium, but DC got his first home win.

The British GP in 2000 was another odd one in that the brilliant minds of F1 moved it to April and predictably the parking lot and grandstands floated away, but there is always television! Coulthard had a much cleaner win at this spectator-less race at Silverstone. He beat his teammate Hakkinen, who seemed much more concerned with the cause of rival Michael Schumacher's slowness than with the fact that DC and Rubens Barrichello in his new Ferrari ride had just flown by! Barrichello led most of the race while Michael tried to catch up in a mechanically hampered car. In a move reminiscent of the great Nigel Mansell's pass on Nelson Piquet a decade or so earlier, DC got a run on Rubens down Hangar Straight and passed him through Stowe. A wonderful win for DC, the stuff of which WDC predictions are made.

David Coulthard is the next grand prix driver of note to hail from Scotland after Jackie Stewart, and DC has actually racked up a fair number of points and podiums to compare with his countryman. Stewart only raced 99 GPs. In David's first 99 races, he grabbed 265 points and 36 podiums. By comparison, Stewart had 360 points (387 with DC's point system) and 43 podiums. Not too far off. But it is in the wins category that DC lags behind by a lot - only nine wins in those 99 races to Stewart's 27. Coulthard needs to go for the gold more - come on David, kick it up a notch! There is still time.

For more about DC on the web, visit:

For highlights of his race wins at Silverstone, see:

Last but not least, a legendary British GP champ, the magnanimous Peter Collins. Many today overlook the Englishman, but Peter drove in an era that is hard to imagine and impossible to compare with modern Formula One. It was a time when handing your car over to your teammate was the theme of the day. And Peter Collins was luckless enough to have for a time the great Juan Manuel Fangio as his teammate. But Fangio was no ace of the British Grand Prix, with only one victory to his name.

Fangio (thankfully) announced his retirement at the 1958 GP at Reims, France, a race that horribly took the life of Collins' Ferrari teammate Luigi Musso who died while engaged in a wheel to wheel battle with Collins' other teammate Mike Hawthorn.

Peter Collins took full advantage of Fangio's absence from the competition at the next race, his home GP at Silverstone, with a long-awaited and very sweet victory. He battled with teammate Hawthorn, and won by 24 seconds (a rather common margin at that time in F1). Believe it or not, Bernie Ecclestone was an entrant in the race in his Connaught machine, but failed to qualify.

Sadly, the 1958 British GP at Silverstone would be the last race that Peter Collins would finish. The following race at Nürburgring took his very young life (26 years), so full of promise both on and off the track. His fatal accident along with two more that horrific F1 season prompted the ultimate 1958 champ Mike Hawthorn to retire at season's end. Even more tragically, Hawthorn died a few months later in a car accident in England. '58 was a very rough year.

The 1958 Silverstone victory was the third of Peter Collins' career, the first two coming in the wacky and wonderful 1956 season. 1956 - where do we begin? How about with a question: Why did Peter Collins start from grid spot number one at the French GP at Reims, when his teammate Fangio had achieved pole in qualifying? Yes, Fangio and Collins had swapped grid positions in what remains a mystery to this day. All the records show Fangio as the pole winner - Collins never achieved one. Back in those good old days, a driver could qualify various cars and the car got the grid position, not necessarily the driver. But that was not the case here. Someone just messed up! That's just for starters - wait until the 1956 races get under way.

Monaco - May 13, 1956. Stirling Moss is leading in the Maserati, chased heavily by Fangio in the Lancia-Ferrari, whose clutch failed. Teammate Peter Collins was asked to hand over his car to Fangio, which he duly did. Fangio tried and tried and chased down Moss, getting to within 6 seconds at the flag, but no joy for Fangio, and even less for Collins, who could have had his own shot at it.

Spa-Francorchamps - June 3, 1956. Another duel between Fangio and Moss saw them both suffer mechanical problems. This time, Moss took over his teammate's car, but with Collins in the lead, Fangio simply retired. Collins held on to victory while Moss tried to chase him down, never catching even second place, much to the delight of team Ferrari. That was the first victory of Peter Collins' career at the green age of 24, and at Spa no less!

Reims - July 1, 1956. We have already discussed Peter Collins not being on pole, even though he was. This race also saw the one-time running of the Colombo Bugatti - an interesting chassis in search of horsepower. It was quite a three-way battle between Fangio and Collins and Moss, with Collins pulling out the win in the end and placing himself in good shape for the championship. Ah, but this is 1956 - read on!

Monza - September 2, 1956. On the verge of his first Formula One driver's championship, Peter Collins makes history by handing his car over to teammate Fangio enabling the master's fourth WDC title. Even Enzo Ferrari had tears in his eyes when he saw this unparalleled feat of generosity by Collins. Fangio never forgot him for this. This was a race that saw Moss run out of fuel and get pushed back to the pits on the nose of Maserati teammate Piotti's car, enabling Moss to get a splash and dash off to the win. Second place for Fangio-Collins was enough for Fangio to take the title though. But first place for Collins would have shifted it there. What a season!

Other highlights of Peter Collins' Formula One life include helping Vanwall make its debut at the 1954 British GP at Silverstone, and taking that car as high as seventh at Monza that year. Vanwall later became the inaugural winner of the Formula One Constructor's Championship in 1958 at the hands of Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, and Stuart Lewis-Evans. Lewis-Evans would lose his life at the final race of the 1958 season at Casablanca that drove Hawthorn to quit the sport.

Peter Collins was a very special F1 driver and an even more special man. He is the epitome of the "gentleman racer" of that era. The official statistics showing his three GP wins and sole British GP victory at Silverstone do not do him justice. His contributions to Fangio's and Ferrari's success are immeasurable. We know you are resting in peace, Peter.

For more on Peter Collins, visit:

For some of Peter Collins F1 Race Highlights, see:

So there it is, five great British masters, diverse in their experiences and achievements, but common in their prowess at Silverstone.

Eileen Buckley - 19 Jul 2003

    - images

Jim Clark. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Jim Clark. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Nigel Mansell. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Four greats: Senna, Prost, Mansell and Piquet. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Nigel Mansell gives Ayrton Senna a lift. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Jackie Stewart. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Jackie Stewart driving the 1969 Matra. Image by Eileen Buckley.

David Coulthard. Image by Eileen Buckley.

David Coulthard. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Peter Collins. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Mike Hawthorn at Le Mans in 1955. Image by Eileen Buckley.

Peter Collins at the 1956 French GP. Image by Eileen Buckley.

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