The sun was splitting the skies on Friday as the first round of practices took place; we started off at Abbey then changed to sitting in various Luffield stands before we were burned to a crisp. The Ferraris’ were clearly struggling even in the dry of practice, but were they just playing their cards close to their chests, we weren’t sure, and I don’t think anyone else other than Ferrari was either.
In the distance we saw the clouds rise signaling to us were Massa had crashed off, it turned out not to be a good weekend for him at all, he spent most of Sunday doing practices to be a ballet dancer doing pirouettes in the wet.
In-between Friday’s practice sessions we were entertained by the Red Devils and the Formula BMW’s Qualifying session, no pictures of the BMW’s we were eating at that point and the camera was away, but here is one of the Red Devils.
At this point it is worth saying that with the roar of the cars you can’t hear the public address system so it is worth ever penny in hiring a Kangaroo TV, with it you have a choice of commentaries and can also get other information like lap times which while they appear on the large TV’s are impossible to read without a pair of binoculars. We certainly wouldn’t go to see a race again without pre-booking ours.
As the second practice session began and the bright sun continued I had decided to play about with the settings on my camera, it turned out not to be a great idea, once we viewed the shots later but even in black and white you can see the light dancing off the McLaren’s chrome, while the other cars all shone from the polishing that had obviously gone on before.
Practice session over the cars headed back into the pits, we waited around for a bit not wanting to get caught up in all the traffic that was leaving watching dozens of Porsche zoom round the track not knowing the excitement that they would bring further into the weekend.
Saturday and again bright sunshine however there was the threat of rain and Saturday’s practice session began somewhat slowly. Again we had decided to head for the Luffield stands, as you get to see a big sweep of the track, we had plans for the afternoon and qualifying, and for the race itself our seats were in Woodcote.
Again the Ferrari’s were weren’t looking great and it might have only been a practice session but the with DC, just having just announced his retirement, the crowd were behind him, willing him on to end his final British Grand Prix with a flourish so as he undertook a struggling Ferrari the cheers went up, practice session or not.
The McLaren’s, Red Bulls and Toyota’s were all looking good and the makings of a promising Qualifying were on the cards. This time it was Blue Eagles Helicopter Display Team and Porsche Qualifying that were to entertain us during the F1 break, we watched the Blue Eagles who were spectacular and made our move to the Pit Straight for qualifying.
As we made our way to our new vantage point the rain started, slow big fat drops, we weren’t the only ones who had decided that this was were to see qualifying from and it took us a while to find a couple of empty seats opposite the Renault and BMW garages. The noise in the pit straight was even louder than it had been round at Luffield and we were both glad that we had our ear defenders and the trusty Kangaroo TV. There were a few more drops of rain and a strong wind blowing the pit lane opened Q3 was underway but no one made a move.
Suddenly there was movement in front of us and tyre blankets came off as the BMW garage sprung into life.
Soon the roar of F1 engines were filling the Pit Straight as other cars left to join the circuit, others returned back to the garages for tweaking, and some zoomed passed trying to make their laps count and get into the next stage. The safety fencing made it hard to get clear pictures, however the pit lane was clear to see reflected it the windows above, so I was able to capture this picture as the pit crew wheeled Massa back into his garage, avoiding the other traffic.
During Qualifying the rain was on and then off again and the wind raced the cars down the Pit Straight, our Kangaroo TV kept us informed of the times and who was in, who was out, and during all three sessions all too soon it was all over. This picture of Alonso crossing the line and making it on to 6th on the grid is for *M* a big Alonso fan, well someone has to be!
The starting grid was decided with Heikki getting pole and Mark Webber getting the well deserved second spot on the front row. Kimmi had shown that maybe the Ferrari’s were hiding something getting third and Lewis was in 4th, but there was talk of rain for the race the following day so nobody was too bothered about that. Massa had continued his bad weekend struggling to get into the top 10 but finally managing 9th, while Heidfeld and Alonso in 5th and 6th respectively were both looking like they could end the race further up the field.
We made the long walk back to the car, planning the following day and wondering how easy it was going to be to get back to our hotel. It turned out that again we had timed it well tomorrow however would be a very different story.
We awoke early and travelled down a surprisingly quiet A43, shut to all but Grand Prix traffic to arrive at Silverstone and discover that the parking was no better than it had been the past two days despite the fact we had forked out £20 for a parking ticket. Now I know that the drivers love the circuit and that the fans love the spectacle of Silverstone but the parking, the toilets (at one point I had to wait in a queue for 30 minutes), the poor quality overpriced drinks and food, bad seating, and the bad organization overall, have no doubt been a major factor in Silverstone loosing the British Grand Prix. Donnington have a lot of lessons they could learn from Silverstone’s mistakes, I just hope they have the time to put a better experience into place for those who spend their hard earned money on supporting the sport they love. As coincidence would have it we had actually stopped off at Donnington on the way down to see the F1 collection, so it was clear to us how much work they have in front of them.
We sat in the car watching others arrive, including those who did not have a parking ticket and ate our breakfast of Bucks Fizz and smoked salmon, before loading ourselves up with what we would need for the day and making the 2 mile hike to our seats. This time we were in Woodcote with a view of the complex and a view down the pit lane and pit straight. It was raining heavily and despite being under cover the wind was whipping the rain back to were we sat, those on the 10 rows in front of us were getting as wet as those who were in the terraces.
The racing started at 8:30am with the BMW’s but due to the weather they got a timed race rather than their full 13 laps, the GP2 race was exciting to the end with plenty of yellow flags and a race to the chequered flag finally received by Bruno Senna. Then came the Porsche Super Cup and more rain, more excitement, more yellow flags, for most of the drivers in these three races racing in the rain was something new to them and they gave us plenty of excitement. The Porsche Super Cup had the crowd on its feet as the first and second place went to Brits, Edwards first and under a second behind Watts. Excitement was mounting was there going to be another Brit or two, or even three on the podium soon?
Most of the F1 drivers braved the rain for the drivers’ track parade on the back of a flat bed; Lewis and DC were lapping up the cheers and air horns as they pushed the brollys aside.
Next came the demonstration laps and the Red Arrows, most of which I missed as I stood in a queue for 30 minutes, but I did arrive back just in time to see the Red Arrows fly over the Pit Straight unable to complete the most dangerous part of their display because of the bad weather.
The rain continued on and off as the start of the race approached, but as the cars started to form it had stopped, although the track was still very wet and as they set off on their parade lap the crews rushing back to their garages were nearly swallowed up in the cloud of spray. One by one the cars passed by us as they formed up on the grid for the start of the race, as DC passed I snapped this picture, as it turned out it was to be the last time he passed us, as he managed to spin off not even completing one lap of his final British Grand Prix.
The grid was all lined up the red lights were on the waiting was nearly over.
Then they were off and the jostling for position started as the clouds of spray prevented us from seeing them turn into Copse but the faithful Kangaroo TV let us see that Lewis had jumped up to second.
As Heikki and Lewis sped passed us to complete the first lap the Red Bulls race was over. While a lot was lacking in the organisation at Silverstone, the one thing that they have got down to pat is the track marshals, throughout the weekend they were quickly on the scene recovering misplaced cars and helping others back onto the race track. It was down to their hard work that there wasn’t a safety car during the race.
Despite the rain having stopped and us being 10 rows back the spray from the cars as they whizzed passed was reaching us, but we didn’t mind as next time around it was Lewis who was in the lead, unfortunately for Mark Webber his promising pole position had not borne fruit and he was now way down the field with Heikki and Kimmi on Lewis’ tail.
The excitement continued with the noise of the crowd competing with the noise of the engines as the cars raced passed. The field stretches out pretty quickly and soon it was a constant stream of cars passing us, cheers went up every time a passing move happened, gasps every time someone spun on the fast drying track, Massa was by far the chief one doing that. Soon Kimmi had got passed Heikki and cars started to dive into the pits for the first round of pit stops. Lewis and Kimmi appeared from under the bridge and wiggled there way round the complex both of them struggling round Woodcote bend and then together they headed down the pit lane to their waiting crews.
This was now the race to watch, who would emerge first, we could see Kimmi’s team get to work as Lewis continued further down the pit lane to the McLaren garage and for what seemed like minutes rather than seconds, both their red lights flashed as the cars sat motionless.
Kimmi was the first to move, which was no surprise, but was Lewis going to get out before Kimmi reached him, we couldn’t see for sure, again Kangaroo TV came to the rescue (no we aren’t on some kind of commission from them) and we could see that Lewis was still ahead gambling with new tyres, while Kimmi’s gamble was that there would be no more rain and his intermediates would soon turn into slicks and out perform the McLaren on the drying circuit.
For a while it looked as if Kimmi’s gamble had paid off, but soon the rain began again and as he fell back down the field and Massa also struggled on unchanged tyres Kimmi had to return to the pits and change his tyres to try and rescue something from the race.
Jason had spun off in nearly the exact same spot as DC had and the chance of another British one two had passed, but there was still Lewis leading the pack. The crowd was going crazy not only for Lewis as is lead grew lap after lap but also for that all time favourite Rubens Barrichello who had gambled on the severe wets and was moving up the field in leaps and bounds, over taking Lewis to un-lap himself and continuing to climb his way up the field.
The cameras were abandoned as the race passed in what seemed like a flash, Massa continued to struggle, the BMW team put in a good performance but never set the crowd alight like some of the other driving, Alonso kept on looking as if he was keeping something back and would suddenly storm up the field and Trulli kept on showing those glimpses of genius that never quite amount to anything. Before we knew it Lewis was on his final lap having overtaken everyone bar the drivers he would be sharing the podium with. As he entered the complex for the final time everyone was on their feet, the cheers the applause the air horns so loud that surely he must have been able to hear it above the roar of his engine inches away from him. Lewis had done it in style, and with the help of that which is often most moaned about the British weather. The crowd cheered Nick home to 2nd place over a minute later and where back on their feet to welcome Rubens home for a well deserved 3rd place.
If the sound of Lewis on his final lap and his way back to the pits had been loud it was nothing compared to the sound as he mounted the podium and soon the champagne was arching its way onto the crews below.
We decided that we would follow the pattern of the past two days and watch the extra race, this time the Historic Saloon Car Challenge, giving others time to leave, the sun was now out again and with many people having left we passed a very pleasant hour. During that race and over at least the next two hours the sky was buzzing with helicopters ferrying the ‘great and good’ out of Silverstone, there was a constant stream with one taking off at least every minute if not more frequently. Then it was the long walk back to the car, we could see people queued up on the road as we crossed over them but the car parks were looking quiet so we were hopeful that we wouldn’t have to wait too long, how wrong we were. Firstly because it was busy they decided to shut some of the exits, making those which were open even busier, it took us an hour just to get out of Silverstone, then another hour to get along the first section of the A43, meanwhile while we sat in a car park, the other half of the A43 which had been closed for Silverstone traffic had only a few cars occasionally travelling along it!!! Eventually I got out the map and we travelled down some pretty country roads past queues of Silverstone traffic which had exited another way and were now being sent down to join the car park which we had just left and was supposed to be the way out. I have never experienced such bad traffic management for an event as I experienced at Silverstone, and I have been to events which involved far more cars, with lesser road networks surrounding them, if nothing else is improved this is something that Donnington need to get right.