Published: 00:03, 11 July 2016
| Updated: 10:43, 11 July 2016
A family business launched by Gillingham FC’s former captain helped save Silverstone from embarrassment at the weekend.
Lewis Hamilton was all smiles as he posed in front of his winner’s trophy after taking the chequered flag in the British Grand Prix at the weekend.
Bosses at the circuit will have breathed a sigh of relief after the F1 champion bemoaned the standard of the prizes given to winners in an interview last year.
His gold trophy was designed and made by Aford Awards, a small manufacturer in Bearsted, Maidstone, founded by ex-Gills player and former Ebbsfleet United manager Andy Ford.
Making the jagged-edged prizes – given to first, second and third place and the winning constructor, Mercedes – was the culmination of a long-held ambition at the 32-year-old firm.
“They are probably the most-expensive trophies we have ever made but also the most prestigeous,” said managing director Jon Ford, Andy’s son.
“To be making a Formula 1 trophy as a small family-run business is very cool.”
Silverstone appoached Aford Awards in March, nearly a year after Lewis Hamilton slated the “shocking” state of F1 trophies in an interview with the Telegraph.
He told the paper the prizes given to drivers were “just terrible, man”, which raised the stakes as Aford were commissioned to design the 2016 award.
There was some disappointment for the firm as Hamilton was awarded the circuit’s historic gold cup on the podium.
Afterwards, he posed with his Aford-designed trophy, which he is allowed to keep.
Mr Ford said: “They wanted something big which had features of the Silverstone logo, hence the lightning-style design.
“We did them in gold, silver and bronze for the drivers and in Silverstone’s colours for the constructor. We were really hoping Hamilton would win and lift that gold trophy.”
Aford, which employs about 20 people, was bought at the end of 2014 by AIM-listed CEPS and grew by more than 10% last year.
It invested in a new showroom in Bearsted, a new website and new high-tech engraving machines.