Our boys on the black stuff

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Rarely have British Grand Prix drivers boasted more talent than today’s crop. We wanted to know what they thought of their home GP and sent Adam Cooper to ask the questions

David Coulthard

What’s your first memory of the British Grand Prix as a spectator?
I was driving in the Opel-Lotus support race in 1990. I can remember being down at the inside of Stowe on my little scooter, watching the cars head out on the track first thing in the morning. The Ferrari V12 came screaming down Hangar Straight. I was never the sort of person to go to events and hang around unless I was taking part.

What’s your most memorable British Grand Prix as a driver?
It was 1995 probably, because I got into the lead. I could hear the cheers of the crowd when I passed Alesi down the inside. Then of course I had the stop and go penalty for speeding in the pitlane, so that was it.

What’s your worst memory?
Probably finishing only third in that same event…

Is it more important than the other races?
It is important to me. It’s one of the big three — Monaco, Silverstone and Monza are the three big races which you can win as a driver. I’ve won in Monza but not at the other tracks yet.

Are there any extra pressures?
You can’t move anywhere, and everybody expects a little bit of your time. But of course if you give each one 10 seconds of your time, you don’t actually get to go anywhere.

What do you like least about the weekend?

Traffic!

What do you think of the current Silverstone layout?

I liked the old fast circuit, but they’ve come up with an interesting solution to modem day tight tracks. It’s still not the track it used to be, but it is at least still recognisably Silverstone.

What about the atmosphere?
One of the best traffic jams you can find anywhere in the world.

Any predictions?
It will be a McLaren circuit, but Ferrari, Benetton and the rest will be pushing. In Silverstone, Mika has tended to be quicker than me. It’s just our different driving styles suit different tracks better.

Eddie Irvine

What’s your first memory of the British Grand Prix as a spectator?
I went so young and so many times, I don’t really remember which was the first. But I’ve got good recollections of being around the Clerk of the Course’s tower when the Hunt thing was happening in 1976. And I can remember sleeping on South Bank, digging holes underneath the fence to get in, climbing through a hole in the Silverstone fence. I can remember seeing a 246 Dino in dark brown, and a black Jaguar E-Type. Things like that. I can also remember seeing Alvin Stardust…

What’s your most memorable British Grand Prix as a driver?
I’ve had good races, but no real results. Last year’s was pretty good, and I really enjoyed it. I was very close to Villeneuve when I broke down.

What’s your worst memory?
I broke down before the race even started with Jordan in 1994.

Is it more important than the other races?
No, not at all. I don’t really see it like that.

Are there any extra pressures?
No.

What do you like least about the weekend?
The traffic, but I’m bringing the helicopter this year. Hopefully the weather’s good enough to fly it in.

What do you think of the current Silverstone layout?
I think it’s great. They’ve done a really good job. All the changes have been good, and you now have a rhythm.

What about the atmosphere?
You have to say it’s mega. The parade lap is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

Any predictions?
It’s going to be us and McLaren. I’d say there could be a slight advantage for Goodyear. I hope that I finally get to see the chequered flag; there’s no reason why I shouldn’t this year.

Damon Hill

What’s your first memory of the British Grand Prix as a spectator?
It’s very hazy, because I think we went every year up until my dad retired. The one I actually remember most is the International Trophy in 1971, when Arsenal won the FA Cup the same day! I went later on to Brands Hatch when James Hunt got tipped over at the start and they wouldn’t let him restart. It all got very ugly!

What’s your most memorable British Grand Prix as a driver?
I think winning it in 1994. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t say it was one of my best races, but it certainly was the best feeling afterwards. Especially after coming close in 1993, when I could have won it on merit, until we had an engine problem. Alain Prost was convinced I turned off the rev limiter, so I was quite proud of the fact that I was going faster than he obviously thought I should have been. I got presented with the trophy by Princess Diana, and it was a great feeling. The strange thing is that I heard since that the guy who handed me that whopping great flag has died.

What’s your worst memory?
Probably 1996. I wanted to win that one, but I made a complete balls-up of the start. Then a wheelbearing failed and that threw me off the road at Copse. The year I won the championship there were two races I would have liked to have won — Monaco and the British GP.

Is it more important than the other races?
I think so, more or less. It’s different, it’s special, in a way that no other race can be. It’s the British GP and I’m British. It’s like playing football at Wembley.

Are there any extra pressures?
Of course the team is based next door, and there’s always the post-race party. But it’s going to be a bit different this year, with the World Cup final on that day.

What do you like least about the weekend?
It’s not always raining, but it can be bloody cold! So you hope for good weather. That’s the only thing that’s a bit dodgy.

What do you think of the current Silverstone layout?
I’m not a big fan of the way the circuit is. I think it’s mostly good, but the bit I don’t like is Club and Abbey. Speeding up the infield and the changes to Copse did help, but it’s still very difficult to overtake there.

What about the atmosphere?
It’s always good fun at Silverstone. You get a good lot of support, and I don’t mind that at all.

Any predictions?
I think we’ll be better there than we have been at some other places. I think it will suit McLaren down to the ground. Schumacher is always going to be a dark horse, and the weather could play into his hands.

Johnny Herbert

What’s your first memory of the British Grand Prix as a spectator?
Brands Hatch, in I think 1976. It was in the days of the Martini Brabham-Alfa. It had that real screamy 12-cylinder engine. That was really my first impression. I liked that noise. It used to send shivers down my spine.

What’s your most memorable British Grand Prix as a driver?
From my point of view, 1995. It was obviously my first GP victory, and I remember everything. It was mainly the last couple of laps when you could see everybody waving the flags. I never had this Nigel thing, “I could hear everybody!” There was too much engine noise to hear a damn thing, so I never got any of that.

What’s your worst memory?
Probably 1994 when I was still at Lotus, because the car was so dreadful. Doing your home race you want to try and do well, but the car was absolutely useless. I remember getting so bored in the race, when I was about 14th or something, I reverted to left foot braking. I’d never done it in an F1 car, and we still had the three pedals. It was something different to do, just playing around basically, and I did over half the race like it! I told the team a couple of races later…

Is it more important than the other races?
I think you want to do well, but I wouldn’t say that makes it any more important than any other GP. You’ve got to achieve your best at every single one. I think Nigel always said he found 3 or 4 seconds just by being at the British GP but I think you’ve got to have that at every single GP. If you find it just at that one race, then you shouldn’t be doing this! But it does make it a bit more special.

Are there any extra pressures?
No particular pressures from the outside. I think most of the British fans are supportive of all the British drivers, and they’ll expect a good result from say, David this year, like Damon in the past. But for me it never made any difference whatsoever.

What do you like least about the weekend?
Traffic, probably.

What do you think of the current Silverstone layout?
I think it’s good. Copse is almost similar to what it used to be. I always remember watching F1 cars there when it was the old Copse, and the things used to come up from Woodcote, and you almost felt the ground shuddering. It’s still very impressive to watch, and it was very good to go back to a quick layout. Stowe is better, because it was way too tight. Now it’s more demanding again. And the complex is much, much better.

What about the atmosphere?
It’s always fun, because of all the campsites outside and so on. The atmosphere is already there before you get in. It does give you a good feeling, and when you do well they are very supportive the whole way round the track.

Any predictions?
I would imagine it’s a McLaren track. Ferrari have an opportunity to do something, but that will be down to Goodyear. Because it’s high speed it may suit Goodyear slightly more. The problem we have at Sauber is the engine; we’re too far down on power, and it’s an engine track .We could well find ourselves struggling.

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