Making his British GP debut in 1991 with struggling Brabham
“The 1991 race was my first home grand prix. Regretfully, we were with Brabham and Martin Brundle will tell you we were having a real struggle with performance and budget.
“But, even then, to turn up at your home grand prix, it felt incredible. Of course, it was wall-to-wall Mansell-mania back then. There’s no two ways about it. You only have to look at the pictures of that time to see the support there was for him. That picture of him and Ayrton [Senna] shows a little bit of the respect and camaraderie between the guys.
“These days there is interaction between the drivers on social media platforms, but back then there was interaction in person. There was a dog-eat-dog attitude on track during the race, but there was a huge amount of respect. For Nigel to slow down to pick up Ayrton and give him a lift back showed the respect between them. They may not have liked each other personally but they respected one another.
"For me, and I think any British driver going to Silverstone to race in the British Grand Prix would tell you the same thing: there is no better feeling. You feed off the energy, the whole occasion, the build-up.
"I had so many memorable moments at Silverstone. 1993, going out in a Ligier and going a step too far and having a big accident in the wet where it turned out I was going 20kph quicker than anyone else through the speed traps.
"There’s a video of Senna and [Michael] Andretti in the two McLarens splitting me over the brow of the hill as I was just about to get out of the car. I was lucky not to get splattered into a million pieces. And then in 1995 I crossed the line on three wheels. I did it before Lewis. Nothing new there! I did mine with the rear wheel deflated. I had had an epic battle with Rubens Barrichello and two corners from the end of the British Grand Prix I didn’t want to give up a spot. So I crossed the line on three wheels and parked it just over the start-finish line. Fifth for McLaren. Great memories.”
First commentary in 1950 when the Royal family turned out in force
“To be able to go and see an international motor race at Silverstone was something very special indeed, especially as it was the royal meeting, with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. There weren’t grandstands back then. They put up little makeshift scaffolding grandstands, which just a few people – about half-a-dozen – could stand on at various points around the course. And they ferried the royals around on closed roads so that they could see the racing from different vantage points. I remember Princess Margaret looked very bored with the whole thing! I don’t think the royal family ever came back to another British Grand Prix. If they did they did it incognito.
"But I got a tremendous buzz out of it. With the exception of the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Unions before the war at Donington, we hadn’t seen the top continental cars and drivers before. And certainly not during the war period.
“To have Giuseppe Farina and Reg Parnell driving an Alfa Romeo was very special. There was something of a royal theme with Prince Bira of Siam competing in the race with his White Mouse Equipe.
“Silverstone holds so many happy and enduring memories for me. Not just cars, but bikes as well. I’ve seen enormous changes to the circuit itself. The first year I was there , they were using the runways and the cars were literally driving towards each other at a cumulative speed of about 280mph and then peeling off just before they hit each other. We’ve now got the current, absolutely superb, and in many ways unique circuit, because there’s nowhere else that’s got the wonderful sweeping high-speed bends that Silverstone has got. The BRDC, which owns and operates the track, and of which I’m a very proud member, have done a fabulous job over the years to get it to the very high standard that it is now.”
Remembering the first lap pile-up that marred the race in 1973
“I was 13 and on the pit wall. It happened right in front of us. Just absolute carnage. A proper Indianapolis-style pile-up. Bits of cars flying all over the place. I was with my Mum. Lynne Oliver [wife of Shadow Ford driver Jackie Oliver] was there and she kind of let out a scream and came up to my Mum for comfort.
“Everyone was waiting for there to be an explosion and flames. Thankfully that never happened. That was a big drama and my dad was involved in it. I watched it all unfold with my mouth open, hoping everyone was going to be OK. It was pretty shocking because it went on the whole length of that straight.
“I’d have to say my very earliest memories of Silverstone are of being brought there as a child and wondering around the paddock with stickers. I used to just roam around the paddock and the track, and literally stand on the inside of some of these fast corners, with no protection. I didn't have a pass. Literally, I could just go where I liked, and if anyone stopped me they just said “Oh, it’s Graham Hill’s son”.
“The funny thing was there was no TV coverage, so you couldn’t see what was happening anywhere else. Inside the circuit wasn’t very good viewing, so a lot of it was just watching cars going past very fast. I didn’t imagine I would be driving around it myself one day. I had no desire whatsoever to be a racing driver. I was intimidated to be honest. I think it’s not the same for a spectator. I was intimately and emotionally involved in it. And I picked up on that anxiety. I knew my dad was doing something very, very dangerous. I was scared.
"When he announced his retirement in 1975, he did it at the BRDC and he asked me to come down and I was like ‘Why do I have to come down?’ I was being a typical 15 year old. But anyway, I went and he said ‘I’m stopping racing. What do you think about that?’ I kind of mumbled ‘Oh I don’t know.’ But inside I was really pleased. We were relieved he wasn’t going to be doing this dangerous job any more.
"Of course, I ended up qualifying for my first ever race at Silverstone, in a Brabham, in 1992. Nigel Mansell won. He lapped me five times but I was just behind him when he crossed the finish line so I kind of a got an inkling of what it might be like to cross the line in the lead a few years before I actually did.
"When I did in 1994 it came up to every expectation I had. It wasn’t the Mansell Barmy Army track invasion. But it was a very much loved memory. Very special. I think that race was the start of my tension with Michael Schumacher as he was later banned for two races for ignoring a black flag in that race. We were all hauled out to Paris to see Max Mosley. It was a complete show-trial. I got done for carrying a Union Jack flag which I picked up off one of the marshals. They said it counted as ‘adding material’ to the car. It didn’t sour the win, though.
"That win was better in a way than winning my championship in Suzuka, because there was no one there in Suzuka. But when we won at Silverstone, driving for Williams, your home race, sitting outside the Williams motorhome in the evening sun signing autographs as the sun goes down with the trophy on the table and Frank with a big grin on his face … you can’t beat that.”
When an Irish priest caused a stir with his on-track protest in 2003
“Oh, I remember the Irish priest in the kilt all right. That was crazy. It actually happened twice in my career. There was a disgruntled Daimler employee who ran on to the track on the old Hockenheim once. It was pretty unusual, though.
"Was it unnerving? Not to sound too cynical, but I think as a driver you are just wired to use any little thing to your advantage so I think I just saw it as an opportunity to catch up to the front-runners. I think I finished fifth that year.
"Obviously I won there twice in 1999 and 2000 which are special, special memories. It’s quite surreal now to think back because when you watched Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost and all these guys you were a fan and they were entertaining you. But when you do it for yourself there is an overwhelming sense of responsibility and desire. It kind of takes away the enjoyment. Of course it was a wonderful feeling, but it was very short-lived.
"Also, Nigel had a level of popularity that was on another level. I was never going to be the nation’s favourite. I mean I had a Scottish helmet and a Scottish flag on my suit – you’re going to alienate half the nation just doing that!
"But I was absolutely thrilled to win twice at Silverstone. It was the natural place to announce my retirement in 2008. That wasn’t a happy race for me as I think I crashed out with Vettel in the wet. I spun into him after Bridge, taking him into the gravel. It was my fault.
"That was a race which underlined the genius of Lewis Hamilton, of course. Races like that are moments for the greats to shine – the Schumachers, the Sennas – they are able to operate at such a high level consistently, They can see the grip before they actually get there.”
Winning his first British Grand Prix in 2008 and delighting the home fans
“It was almost better than winning the World Championship just because it’s your home grand prix. It’s the race you dream of winning. The crowd was incredible. It was raining, but the fans stuck it out. They got through it with me. I’ve got a painting at home of me coming across the line – it’s one of those historic races I’ll never forget.”