This weekend, for the sixth time in as many years, I’ll be heading to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. Walking through the gates of Silverstone never gets any less special, no matter how many times you do it. In fact, each year, I get a little bit more excited for the yearly pilgrimage to the Home of British Motor Racing.
To see a sport that you’ve watched and loved for pretty much all of your life unfold in real time right in front of you is a really special feeling.
I always used to be cynical of going to see a Grand Prix in person, convinced that you’d only see a tiny part of the on-track action. I was wrong. If you pick the right places you’ll see plenty of action, and you’ll more than likely be stood or sat near a giant screen. It’s just like watching the race at home, except the cars scream through your living room every 90 seconds leaving the scent of fuel and rubber lingering in the air. You also get to hear the excellent circuit radio, which will help you follow every session as it happens before your eyes.
One year I’d love to go and camp and get the full weekend experience, but the way we do things at the moment – staying at a hotel and travelling by coach to the circuit – seems to be the perfect option for the whole family.
Travelling down the M1 from sunny Scarborough on the Friday morning while excitedly following Free Practice on Twitter on my phone is one of my favourite parts of the weekend.
I’m not much of an early riser but I can easily get up at 5am on the Saturday and Sunday, knowing that a full day of F1 action lies ahead. One condition though: make sure you set the iconic instrumental part of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain as your alarm. Also, have a cup of tea and a sausage sandwich to start the day properly. It’s become a bit of a tradition for me.
Heading to the track on each day of the weekend is also a special experience. I recommend checking out my Ultimate F1 Playlist for your soundtrack for journeys to and from the track. It’s always a bit of a goose-bump moment pulling into the circuit and getting off the coach, hearing the rumble of the GP3 engines in the distance as they qualify for their race later in the day, with helicopters busily hovering over as VIPs arrive while you walk into the circuit.
The atmosphere at Silverstone is always great. F1 fans are generally a friendly and knowledgeable bunch (except the guy last year who complained that it was unfair for the German national anthem to be playing when Nico Rosberg had only finished second….) with plenty of people supporting a wide range of drivers. I think the biggest cheer I’ve ever heard at the track was for Felipe Massa when he approached Brooklands on the first lap in 2015 leading a Williams 1-2.
Every corner at Silverstone is steeped in history. General Admission at the track is great and you can get good views of practically all of those iconic turns. If you’ve ever stood next to the cars as they fly down Hangar Straight, you’ll know just how close you can get to an F1 car as it rockets around the former airfield. We usually watch Third Practice from Copse before heading to Becketts/Maggotts/Chapel for Qualifying and then walking around the perimeter of the rest of the track after the Formula Two race in the afternoon. Of course there’s plenty to witness at Silverstone as you get the full array of support races – F2, GP3, Porsche Supercup – and a whole host of other on-track events. If you can, take a trip to the back of the grid to watch the start of one of the support races on Saturday. Standing behind a 22 strong field of cars as they begin a race is an incredible thing to see and hear. Stay around as long as you can on the Saturday evening to soak up the atmosphere… even if that does result in annoying some of your fellow coach passengers (to be fair, if you’re told to be back at a certain time, eke out every minute you can. It’s not like it’s a cheap day out. If people want to be boring and sit on a coach instead of soak up the F1 universe then that’s their choice.)
Saturday afternoon is also a great chance to seek out a spot to watch the race from on Sunday. It’s generally a good idea to stay in the same place all day on Sunday as it’s the busier of the two days and the good viewing places can be taken quite early. We stand at the entrance to Brooklands/Luffield where we’re always treated to plenty of overtaking action throughout the day.
What about the weather? I think apart from snow, I’ve seen Silverstone in every weather condition imaginable. Rain will only add to the excitement of the day. One of my favourite memories of Silverstone was my trip to the toilet before the Grand Prix in 2016 where in the space of time between going in and coming back out, the weather had changed from blue skies to a full on deluge just moments before the formation lap began. Go prepared with a raincoat, and you’ll have few worries. A wet weather race is always a treat. As well, on the flip side, take sun cream. Don’t get caught out like I did the first time and go home looking like a lobster.
Also be prepared to be knackered for about a week after. It’s well worth it though. The British Grand Prix weekend is a must do for all F1 fans!