I figured I’d write a blog post about my experience at the British Grand Prix last Sunday, mainly to encourage any of you tittering about whether it’s worth going to see a F1 race live or not to actually go! Believe me when I say it’s 100% worth every penny it costs, hands down no questions asked. Many people will tell you that you’re better off staying at home and watching all the action on the telly, safe from the British climate with a nice commentary and no risk of missing anything. This is simply not true.
While watching a Grand Prix is different to seeing a football or tennis match live, because you can’t see the whole circuit from where you are standing, at Silverstone there are plenty of large screens situated all over which show the same international live feed that Sky and the BBC get. Also there is an FM station you can tune in to that provides live commentary, and if you don’t have an FM radio (like me) the commentary is broadcast over a tannoy system (or you can hire a FM radio on the day).
Like with any sporting event, the atmosphere is really the killer thing you miss when just watching it on the telly, in your boxers, eating Pringles off your chest… or whatever. And there is no atmosphere like going to your home Grand Prix and cheering on all the British drivers with thousands of other people. And there are a fair few British drivers to cheer on in F1 at the moment: Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Paul Di resta and Max Chilton. And that doesn’t even include all the F1 teams based within 50 miles of the Silverstone circuit. You really can’t help but get carried away with the crowd. After Hamilton’s tyre exploded, there was an air of communal disappointment, but then when Hamilton’s car drove past us heading for the pits, we all cheered and spurred him on… and it was fantastic to be a part of that.
Actually going to see an F1 race gets a lot of flack because of how little you will supposedly see, and how loud it is. I contest both of these points. I saw a lot of action on Sunday, from cars running practically side-by-side during an overtake at 150mph, to the safety car, marshals cleaning debris off the track, drivers sauntering back to the pits with broken tyres… All right in front of my eyes. I may be a simple man, but watching Hamilton overtake someone during the lap, and then cheering him on as he went past is just something every British racing fan should do.
Silverstone also has the added bonus of the Red Arrows air show. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team take to the sky’s above the track an hour before take off and perform a truly breathtaking 30-minute show that you would usually pay lots of money to see at an air show. Almost a reason to go a of itself.
I had a general admission ticket for the day, which means I wasn’t allowed in the grandstands, but I could go pretty much anywhere else. There are loads of designated areas next to the track for General Admission ticket holders, including at the first corner and Luffield, so don’t think that they’re the rubbish bits either! We opted to sit in an area after Stowe corner before the final chicane into the start/finish straight. I would highly recommend this spot for a few reasons…
We didn’t get to the track until about 9:30am on race day, which by all accounts is later than most people would suggest arriving. This was due to getting the Megabus service from London to Silverstone, which was such a great idea because it avoided the hassle of driving and was very painless and cheap. As lots of other websites suggest, getting to Silverstone at this time means all the really good spots have already gone… Luffield corner didn’t have space to breath by the time we got there. However, the spot after Stowe corner has TONS of space for fans to lay out their camping chairs, with room to stretch your legs, so when we rolled up at 10:30am we had no trouble finding a space to set up shop. So that’s reason #1, there’s lots of space for latecomers.
Secondly, there are three large TV screens in the area, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see at least one of them to keep you up to date with the action.
Thirdly, there is a great atmosphere among the crowd here. Because it is such a large area, and on a bit of a hill, it’s reminiscent of Henman Hill at Wimbledon in terms of ambiance… so much energy and excitement even before the race!
Lastly, there’s plenty of action around this part of the track! It’s just after the second DRS zone, so you’ll often see cars completing an overtaking move around Stowe, or setting themselves up for another shot along the start-finish straight. It’s also got the entrance to the pits, so you can see drivers diving off into there too.
And if all those reasons weren’t enough to have you convinced, while we were there during the driver’s parade before the race, all the British drivers were interviewed on the grass just next to us! And at the end of the race they open up the track at this spot so fans can head down to the podium to watch the ceremony. Believe me when I say this is where it’s at.
Two things I would suggest anyone to bring with them are camping chairs (you will not be happy without them) and a picnic. Food outlets are very expensive, so enjoy being outdoors and avoid the queues. One thing not to worry about is ear protection, as earplugs are available at the track for free.
If I haven’t made my point clear by now, the take home message is this: If you love F1, go to Silverstone. You will not be disappointed.
You can see a selection of photos I took during the race day here. Video is here.