With a little under two weeks to go before the British Grand Prix, I thought it would be nice to review some of the past British drivers who have excelled on home soil and proudly stood on the podium while the National Anthem is played. For the next ten days BlogF1 will go through each of the British winners of the British Grand Prix, going back to the first in 1955 and ending with the most recent in 2000. First up is Stirling Moss, a name synonymous with grand prix motor racing and a man who still regularly attends races.
Silverstone had hosted the very first round of the Formula One championship back in 1950, and the old WWII airfield had hosted each British race until in 1955 it was decided to give Aintree a go. Situated in Liverpool, the three mile circuit is actually a horse racing course and hosts the Grand National each year. However, within the confines of the facility is the motor sport course, and the circuit hosted five British Grands Prix in its time. And it also became the host of the first British win at the British Grand Prix.
It was Stirling Moss’s first Formula One victory in the newly formed championship, and while Moss failed to secure the title that year (and indeed, any in his career), the win stood out as a glorious day for British motor sport. Driving a Mercedes W196, Moss took his first career pole, the fastest lap and the victory. Unfortunately, Moss didn’t lead every lap of the race, but importantly he led the final one, winning from Juan Manuel Fangio by 0.2s, also driving a Mercedes. These two great drivers controlled the race from the front and it was over a minute before the third placed driver – Karl Kling – crossed the line. Every other finishing entrant was at least a lap down.
One final point worth noting from this grand prix mirrors greatly the controversies that have occurred in recent Formula One races. Moss and Fangio were great rivals, and all too often the Argentine got the better of the Briton; Fangio famously won five drivers titles in his career, a record only beaten recently by Michael Schumacher. However, after the ’57 British Grand Prix it was rumoured that Fangio had yielded his position to Moss to allow his team mate to win in front of his home fans. Moss asked Fangio if this was true, to which Fangio replied with a fervant “No. You were just better than me that day”.
The next time Stirling would stand on the top step of the British podium would be in 1957, sharing the honour with fellow Brit Tony Brooks. The ’56 British Grand Prix returned to Silverstone, but Aintree came back in ’57 and once again Moss excelled at the Liverpudlian circuit. Driving a Vanwall, Moss and Brooks shared the drive and the eight winning points were split between them. This race also marked another milestone for British motor sport; it was the first time a British driver had won the British Grand Prix in a British-built car. As he did in 1955, Stirling took pole position and the fastest lap of the race, and it was also the first win for Brooks.
Moss would go on to compete in a further three British Grands Prix before retiring. In his final charge in front of home crowds, once again at Aintree, Moss was disqualified for receiving assistance on the track. A few months later just prior to the 1962 season, Moss suffered a serious accident at Goodwood which left him in a coma and partially paralyzed the left side of his body. Although the British star made a good recovery, Moss decided to retire from racing.
Despite never achieving the coveted world championship crown, Stirling possesed great skill behind the wheel of sports and grands prix cars. Moss is often seen at motor racing events the world over and along with others, his achievements will be celebrated at Goodwood this year, the event being themed around the great British drivers of past and present.
Recommended Reading: BBC ‘On This Day’: 17th July 1955 – Moss Claims First Grand Prix Victory
To read more in this series of articles, click the tag ‘British Winners’.