The Home of British Motor Racing delivers!
Somewhere on the other track from where my mate Dave took this photo, Martin Brundle and I are stood in the Sky F1 Commentary box with massive grins on our faces. To be fair we weren’t alone in smiling after yesterday’s race, I’m yet to meet anybody who was there that didn’t love what they saw. But for Martin and I, after weeks of insisting that F1 wasn’t all that bad really, finally came a Grand Prix where we could, if we wanted to, say, “We told you so!”
Now we won’t of course, one fantastic Grand Prix does not a great season make. But it does lend a little weight to the argument that it would be wrong to make massive changes to the regulations based on the reaction to the first 8 races of the season.
Either way, for the 140,000 people that were there on Sunday and the 350,000 plus that came through the gates over all four days of the Silverstone weekend; it was a fitting end to a proper festival occasion.
Starting on Thursday night of course where after Sky’s live F1 Show, in front of packed grandstands on the pits straight, I headed straight over to the F1 Fan Village. Busy weekend or not, hell would have to get chilly before I missed seeing Madness live.
I was quite happily standing at the back and enjoying the music when a received a text from a friend who was working backstage, wondering if I fancied watching from the wings? One of the more stupid questions I’ve ever been asked, so in the end, not only did I get a brilliant view of the concert, I also, as you can see, got a pic with Suggs himself and then, along with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, who also wangled a way backstage, got to go on stage for the final song of the night and join the band.
As opening nights to a British Grand Prix go, this is going to take some beating, so full credit to the organisers for booking the Nutty Boys, the crowd loved it, despite our awful dancing at the end. And big thanks to the band for allowing the three of us onto the stage, we were still talking about it the next day, trust me.
Friday came and the sun continued to shine. The traffic jams weren’t brilliant for those who missed the first part of the first practice session, but when was the last time that 85,000 people turned up on a Friday? Whatever F1’s issues at the moment, here was clear evidence of the sport’s continued popularity in the UK.
For the British Grand Prix I base myself at Whittlebury Park where there’s a brilliant campsite for the fans, and luckily for me, a room at their Paddock Suites next door. As lovely as a weekend camping experience is, it’s not a great idea when you’ve got to work as well. I camped over back in 2007 and trust me, sleep was not high on the agenda that weekend. But it’s great to wander around the campsite, chatting to the fans and sharing a beer or two. And after hosting the annual F1 Racing Magazine Quiz on the Friday evening, I even got a chance to relive my ‘rock star’ dreams on Saturday. Bandsubstance were playing at the Beer Tent, and had asked if I wanted to come down and join them. So that’s how I found myself duetting on ‘Glory Days’ and ‘Summer of 69’. Not sure what key I was in, but I had a blast. Although it’s a little worrying that I knew all the words to the latter without needing a lyric sheet.
Thanks to the band for the invite, sorry I couldn’t stay for more than two songs, but I needed to give the voice a little rest ahead of the race.
The British Grand Prix then, just another race for us commentators, just one of the 19 in the season, no more special than any other. Except it isn’t. It’s our race, it’s special. It’s been on the calendar every single year of the World Championship and if there’s any justice in this sport, will continue to do so.
You want it to be memorable because so many in the past have been. When the lights go out, you want it to live up to the expectations of the crowd and provide a fitting climax to a tremendous weekend.
And boy, from the second that the Williams pair blasted clear off the line, did the race provide a fitting climax. Helped by a sprinkling of rain, that for once was welcome at Silverstone, rather than the norm, it joined the ranks of some of the best this famous circuit has staged.
And it provided a fitting way to celebrate the first ever win by a British driver in a Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix. 62 years to the day that Mike Hawthorn won the French GP at Reims, Lewis Hamilton, who had on Thursday been presented with the Hawthorn Trophy by the British MSA, was now spraying Reims most famous export from the top step of the podium, as a British winner of the British Grand Prix once again.
A perfect result for the majority of the fans, I say majority as I’m constantly being told by about three or four prolific tweeters that not all British fans are Lewis Hamilton fans. But all British fans love their Grand Prix, I just have this feeling that with the new management team at Silverstone focusing their efforts on attracting more people at more affordable prices for the future and building a festival, rather than just staging an event, we might be heading into a golden period for our race here in the UK.
We should be heading to Germany for the next race, maybe we could all just stay here and have another Silverstone race instead, anyone up for that?