Many people would immediately think about the main characters stealing the spotlight: Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. The two youngmen put on an unforgettable show by battling each other for 24 laps. The result of the Austrian GP mixed with the years-long rivalry between the Monegasque and the Dutchman made no one of them willing to give even a single inch of room to the other driver, and the leveled performances of Red Bull and Ferrari for sure have helped. But then, why at Silverstone and not in another circuit? And what about the duels between the Silver Arrows pair and the McLaren-Renault ones? For sure this explaination tells just a part of the whole story.
The key factor of such an amazing race has been the track itself: built from an old military airfield, Silverstone is a wide old-school circuit, with run-off areas perfectly balanced between tarmac, grass and gravel. Let's analyse one point at a time.
Width: that's the easiest one to understand. Differently from -for example- Montecarlo, Zandvoort and Canada, the english track provides the drivers with plenty of room for side-to-side action troughout almost the entirety of the lap. That allows cars to fully show their performances and drivers to overtake and go for a 'switcheroo' providing great action.
Run-off areas: through the years Formula 1 has progressively abandoned the idea of gravel traps right out of the kerbs. This decision was mainly led by safety reasons: a Formula 1 car going off the track sideways is for sure going to roll once it meets the gravel/sand, representing a great danger for the drivers. The brillancy of the Silverstone layout is to have put the gravel just in harmless spots such as on the exit of Luffield corner. Max Verstappen last Sunday ran a bit wide there in two occasions, putting two wheels on the gravel and therefore losing time without endangering himself. Instead, on the outside of superfast Abbey and Copse corners, where the danger is real, a 'forgiving' tarmac helps the drivers to find their way back to the track. In Sochi or at Paul Ricard, for instance, drivers never pay for their mistakes.
'Old-school layout': here we get to the most important point. Silverstone is a track without long straights coming to an end in a hairpin. There's not a clear and easy overtaking spot. Drivers have to take huge risks everytime they go for a move and that's something that doesn't happen in most of Tilke's projects. Just to clarify, I'm definetly not a hater of the Austrian's works and I actually find most of them very enjoyable. The main problem with 'Tilkodroms' is that overtakes there are artificially created. Or, even worse, tracks are designed just to be overtaking-friendly. Long DRS straights with a second-gear hairpin at the end for sure provide many overtakes but not exciting ones.
To give you an idea, the 2016 season has been one of the championships with the highest number of overall overtakes, but only few of them were remarkable.
The goal of the DRS shouldn't be to give a free passing manoeuvre, it should instead be to put the following driver just in contention for the move. And that's where Silvertone stands tall: Brooklands and Stowe corners force the driver behind to hold his breath before going for a late dive and provide the overtaken car with a comeback opportunity. This was the main piece of the Silverstone jigsaw.
That's what made the British race so unique. That's what Formula 1 needs and what it should be all about.