Having followed F1 for pretty much as long as I can remember, I finally got the chance to attend my first race at the British Grand Prix. It was something that I’d been looking forward to for months and it did not disappoint, by any means! The weather was glorious all weekend and there was a huge number of things to do, both on and off track.
I was there with four other members of my family and we decided, wisely or not, to camp at the Camping F1 campsite. This was brilliant for the atmosphere of the weekend and being surrounded by people who are attending, all for the same reason, meant that we had plenty of F1-related conversation with people who would’ve otherwise been complete strangers. It gives you a different perspective on the experience as a whole when you’ve spent time talking to strangers (who seemed like anything but that) about all things F1, whether it’s what Alonso should do next, Red Bull going to Honda, Leclerc’s potential Ferrari move or the new direction of F1 – to be surrounded by people who knew about all that was just amazing. There was one drawback of camping though, basically, don’t do it if you want to sleep as the music is going strong until at least midnight!
Away from the campsite, we had a short walk to the track and were immediately greeted by numerous food and drink outlets where we must have spent an absolute fortune over the course of the four days! Around the grounds, there were lots of merchandise stores and Fan Zones, all aimed at adding to the whole experience of the weekend. We spent the majority of our time away from the track action in the main F1 Village which was around the main stage. Here there was the large F1 Store with plenty of merchandise for all teams (of which I bought a lot!) as well as, for the first time in a long time, a store selling official Michael Schumacher merchandise while the Ayrton Senna stores also returned, meaning there was pa lot to choose from.
Along with this, there was a row of 16 simulators which you could queue up to have a go on as well as the pit stop challenge where, in a team of three, you could see how quickly you could change an F1 tyre. Another part of the pit stop challenge was the leaderboard; over the course of the weekend, fans competed to have the quickest time – the top six times were then invited back for the final on Sunday morning where the fastest on that attempt would win paddock passes, a nice way to immerse fans in a more obscure part of the sport.
It was at the simulators that we met seven of the current F2 drivers: Artem Markelov, Sean Gelael, Jack Aitken, George Russell, Lando Norris, Roy Nissany and Roberto Merhi. The drivers each selected a fan from the gathered crowd to take part in a race with them which Nissany got disqualified from in about 5 seconds and Russell won in dominant fashion. Following this, the staff there came and handed out sheets of paper to the crowd and Sharpies to the drivers, meaning we could all get autographs and photos with them which was one of my highlights of the weekend.
The track action may have only gotten underway on Friday however, there was a very large crowd assembled for the Sky Sports F1 Show which took place on Thursday evening. This was a great event as we got to see the majority of the F1 grid come out onto the main pit straight and have a go at football darts, won by Nico Hulkenberg, with rather amusing consequences. Plenty of t-shirt cannons were also brought out during this with some drivers being more successful than others at firing them over the catch-fence!
For the actual track action itself, I think this year was one of the best showings for Silverstone – every race had a close battle for the lead, from GP3 and F2 to Porsche Supercup and even F1, all the racing was absolutely brilliant. For pretty much every race, bar one which we’ll get to in a minute, the grandstands were nearing full and the atmosphere in them was something else. The only exception to that was the first F2 race which clashed with England’s Quarter Final match in the World Cup so, while we stayed in the stands to watch the race, most of the spectators flocked to the big screens to watch the match. We certainly knew when England had scored by the cheering that actually drowned out the cars!
Sunday brought the race everyone had waited for – F1. Hamilton was obviously the home favourite, so he got a massive cheer on the formation lap, every time he overtook someone and every time he just came past the stand! The tension before the start was tangible while there was a collective disappointment when Hamilton got passed on the start. Our grandstand was Village B so the Hamilton/Raikkonen collision happened directly in front of us and meant that Raikkonen became the pantomime villain for the entire race.
After the race, some of the drivers went up onto the main stage to greet the very large crowd. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were the first to make an appearance, followed by the Williams duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll, Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul and Hulkenberg. Last up in the main slot was the hilarious pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, accompanied by team boss Christian Horner, which involved a lot of jokes and even some singing from Ricciardo… he should definitely stick to driving! Hamilton didn’t show up until after Mel C’s set on the stage which was a bit frustrating but fitted with what he’d been doing all weekend.
Overall, despite a few minor frustrations, a complete lack of sleep and at times unbearable heat, the weekend was incredible – all the negatives were completely eclipsed by the positives, the amazing track action, meeting some of the drivers and being waved at by them on the cool down lap. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve already booked our tickets for next year which, we, along with the 340,000 who attended over the weekend, hope beyond all hopes won’t be the last British GP. The contract has been terminated but there are ongoing negotiations to save the British GP because we can’t lose it, it’s far too good to go!