My F1 Diary: British Grand Prix

Silverstone, F1, Charlie Wright, KettleMag
Written by F1_Charlie

Easily the weekend I look forward to the most every single year. Either the last weekend in June, or the first in July, heading to Silverstone has become some what of a tradition for me and my Dad in the Wright household.

2015 wasn’t our first visit to the Northamptonshire countryside. We have attended every British Grand Prix since 2011 and one of the rare opportunities that me and my Dad have to spend some quality time together throughout the year. Like most men, sport is high on our agenda. For me it is football and motorsport whereas with my Dad if it doesn’t involve four wheels, he isn’t interested.

Things are a little different at Silverstone in comparison to other circuits. With nothing usually going on for spectators on a Thursday Sky Sports thought that they would put on a special edition of the F1 show open to all three day ticket holders on the pit straight. The show was a great chance for the drivers to interact with the fans before the hard work began the following day for practice as they were interviewed on the grid by the Sky F1 team. No prizes go for guessing who got the loudest cheer from the home crowd. Lewis Hamilton thanked the crowd for their supports, signed a few autographs, then off he went.

One by one the drivers would appear in front of their adoring fans, including Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Will Stevens, Felipe Massa (with his son Felipe Jnr) and last but not least Fernando Alonso. The day was done and it was time to check in at the hotel, I just don’t do camping, it really isn’t for me!

Friday morning. Waking up at a painfully early 7am it was time for an extremely overpriced all you can eat breakfast buffet. After eating twice my body weight in bacon, sausages and all sorts we raced to the car and headed for the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton where we would park the car and get on the shuttle bus. We have done this for the last couple of years and could probably drive to the circuit with our eyes closed (although I wouldn’t recommend it).

After realizing the time, my Dad and I thought we might be cutting it a bit fine. We boarded the bus at 9 with the session starting at 10. Anyone that has been to the British Grand Prix, traffic is a nightmare, but thankfully the buses have their own lanes and can usually sail into the circuit. That is unless your driver misses the turn off!

I had read the previous morning that changes had been made to the traffic operating into the track so when we saw him miss the turning I thought to myself “perhaps the buses have a new route this year.” All hope soon diminished when the driver then failed to turn off at the next exit. When the temporary yellow event signs disappeared, the driver knew his mistake. 

Although the traffic was heavy it looked an awful lot worse than what it actually was. When we finally arrived at the park and ride drop off point we made the short walk to Luffield corner where I was actually quite annoyed that I saw a school trip. The best school trip I ever had been on was to the local zoo yet these kids get the opening day of the British Grand Prix?! Someone please tell me how that is fair.

Luffield provides a great viewing point, watching the cars enter Brooklands and trying to slow the car down for the long right hander is a great sight. Whilst that is all well and good, sitting at Copse corner is something else. Watching the drivers literally chuck the car into the corner at 150 mph is honestly quite something and is also a great way so seeing firsthand just which teams and drivers are lacking that all important downforce. No surprise that the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari stuck to the road like glue with amazing grip, the likes of Marussia and Sauber? Not so much. Driving a car such as a Marussia around the high speed corners of Silverstone must be utterly terrifying.

After FP2 we headed for the F1 village that was located on the inside of the circuit and quite the walk! In recent years there would be team merchandise stalls full to the brim with overpriced team shirts and caps, not so much this year, for what reason I do not know. We had a walk around of what was there to see which was not a great deal, apart from the 65 years of Formula One exhibition which looked as if it had some old cars, helmets, gloves you get the jist. With the queue as long as it was we opted to watch the GP2 qualifying session instead before heading home. “We’ll get here early tomorrow and have a look.” We completely forgot.

Saturday. As the weekend progresses you can really see and feel the atmosphere and expectation building. We got to the circuit just in time for the GP3 qualifying session. F1 really could do without having the GP2 and 3 circus following them, the noise produced by these slower cars puts the hybrid V6 F1 power units to shame, enough to send shivers down your spine and blood from your ears. A feeling only someone that loves motorsport would understand it is quite something.

We took our seats at Club which shows the drivers tackle the final two corners before the start of their lap, one corner that I would highly recommend. The crowd were a lot more upbeat after the final free practice session, Hamilton bounced back after a difficult Friday and managed to top the session from his team-mate Nico Rosberg which set us up nicely for qualifying.

The British crowd are notorious for getting behind the home drivers. Whether is was James Hunt in the 70’s, Nigel Mansell in the 80’s, David Coluthard in the 90’s and now both Hamilton and Jenson Button now, the noise the crowd makes when their favourite drives past is incredible, something that has to be experienced firsthand to be believed.

You would have thought that the crowd would have gone crazy when Hamilton took pole position, but this was not the case. We had no idea what had happened! The guys at Radio Silverstone do their best yet even they seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Rosberg aborted his final effort. There was somewhat of a cheer when the result was confirmed, but people were still left bemused at how.

The crowd was a sea of black Mercedes caps and Mercedes team shirts and flags all in anticipation of a third home win for Hamilton, arriving at the circuit on Sunday morning was very reminiscent of how a child feels on Christmas morning.

The weather had been exceptionally kind on Friday and Saturday, perhaps a little bit too kind on Friday as some forgot to pack sun cream. Sunday arrived and rain was in the air. After a fantastic GP2 sprint race on Sunday morning, the excitement really started to reach boiling point. Much to the delight of 140,000 fans at the track, Alesha Dixon trying to sing the national anthem did not last too long and we were ready to go.

I have said it once I am sure, but the atmosphere was unbelievable, something you do not see at most over tracks throughout the year. I have been to Old Trafford multiple times over the years and don’t get me wrong, walking to the ground, watching the players walk out the tunnel gives me a buzz along with the songs coming from the Stretford End, but it has nothing on the home crowd backing their favorite drivers. They even go crazy on the formation lap!

It was all doom and gloom for the majority of the crowd when we saw on the big screens the Williams of Felipe Massa fly past the two Mercedes to take and keep the lead. Whilst Williams looked good for a win for a number of laps, we just knew it was a matter of time before Hamilton and Mercedes turned on the style and with the crowd firmly in his corner that is exactly what Hamilton did.

Hamilton emerged from his first pit stop in the lead and was looking very comfortable until the rain came. We could see the clouds slowly turning darker and darker as the race progressed. I’m just glad that for Sunday I packed a pair of jeans to wear over my shorts. As the rain came so did the nerves.

It was Rosberg that was catching Hamilton quite drastically towards the end of the race, we could see for ourselves at Stowe who were getting drenched may I add deteriorating rapidly until Hamilton made the brave call to switch to the intermediate tyres at the perfect moment.

That call won him the race and the crowd knew it. Every time Hamilton would come past the crowd would leap from their feet to show their appreciation and gave the championship leader quite the ovation as he drove over to wave to the fans to before taking his place on the podium.

The British Grand Prix never fails to disappoint, yes it is perhaps overpriced in comparison to other venues such as Barcelona where Alexandra visited earlier in the year and Austria where Holly visited at the race before but it is a weekend that is not to be forgotten. We shall be booking our tickets for next year very shortly!