Comments made by ex-Formula one supremo Bernie Ecclestone that Silverstone was ‘just a county fair masquerading as a world event’ left the circuits owners in no doubt that a multi-million-pound face lift would be required if they were to keep their place on the Formula one calendar. After many, many negotiations, in late 2009, a 17 year contract was agreed and work began on overhauling the circuit layout, its facilities and surrounding infrastructure in 2010.
Central to these plans was a new pit complex and so the architecture firm “Populous”, responsible for the 2012 London Olympic stadium and Wimbledon’s retractable roof on centre court, were brought in to design something a bit special. Rather than knock down and rebuild the old pits, it was agreed that a brand-new complex would be built between the Club and Abbey corners, at the other end of the circuit.
The new structure would eventually take 27 million pounds, 54 weeks, 260,000 man hours and many, many tonnes of steel, concrete and glass to construct. Luckily it was completed and ready to rock for the 2011 British Grand Prix.
30 meters high at its tallest point, 35 meters wide and 390 meters long, it contains 5 large exhibition halls, 40 pit garages, a media centre as well as numerous hospitality and conference rooms. It also has an instantly recognisable roof design which comprises of 20 differently angled surfaces, including a sharp upturned blade at one end. The blade is intended to evoke sensations of speed, dynamic motion, and flight but may be the reason why, in 2015, a very large section of the roof actually became detached in high winds.
The circuit owners ran a competition to name Silverstone’s new pit complex, offering a “money can’t buy” prize to the winner and received over 4,000 entries. They whittled this down to 20 suitable options, probably removing the likes of Wingy McWingface, and presented them to the British Racing Drivers Club board for a final decision. “The Wing” was chosen and those who submitted this name received invitations to the buildings official opening ceremony, hospitality passes for the 2011 F1 and Moto GP races and Silverstone driving experience vouchers.
Since its completion, The Wing has divided opinion among racers and fans alike on both its styling and its overall benefit to the circuit, since ninety percent of all racing activity at Silverstone is still run out of the old pit complex, but I quite like it. It’s different.