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F1 | A postcard from the British Grand Prix

Last weekend’s British Grand Prix weekend saw safety again become a hot topic after several high-speed accidents, which caused many to wonder about the necessity of the sausage kerbs. Sebastian Vettel dazzled the crowd with his Williams FW14B whilst the unseasonably cold British weather made some feel rather blue in the paddock. All to come in a unique postcard from Silverstone.

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F1 | A postcard from the British Grand Prix
Fuente imagen: Ed Spencer-Motorlat

After three weeks away, Formula 1 returns to Europe for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a circuit steeped in passion and history but one that I’m not entirely in love with due to its rural location and bad weather that typically greets the travelling circus after four to five weeks of wall to wall sunshine.

However, I am willing to give this place a second chance, and so I decided to pack my bags for what looks set to be my third and final Grand Prix of the season. But rest assured, my talented MotorLAT colleagues should be onsite for races in North America and Europe, so stay tuned to their social media accounts.

Thursday

New venue, same old problems; why I bother arriving on Thursday when my pass is never ready bewilders me, but of course, if I don’t turn up for Thursday, a chance to ask questions in media sessions/press conferences goes with it, so it’s a lose-lose situation regardless of what I do. 

With Silverstone’s proximity to absolutely nowhere, I decide to sit around and do some typing as Formula One lurches from one PR own goal to another as Bernie Eccelstone’s car crash interview with Good Morning Britain hits the airwaves.

It seems another lifetime pass is going to be chucked firmly into the furnace after the former head of FOM defended his friend Vladimir Putin and his ex-driver Nelson Piquet in light of his recent racism row before putting the icing on this gateau of verbal diarrhoea by saying Lewis Hamilton should be happy with the three-time World champion’s apology.

Thankfully after only three hours of waiting, my pass is ready, and I jump on an unpainted stagecoach bus to get to the paddock; again a bit strange, but it will pass. However, once I am in the media centre really plays, it’s trump card with an onsite cafe completely free and chocked full of food, a far cry from the thin gruel everyone was getting in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. 

The now jumbled-up pressers mean we now only get half of the drivers, and that means fewer chances to ask questions, but I manage to ask Sebastian Vettel about his excitement about driving his Williams FW14B on track at Silverstone with the legendary Renault V10 being powered by a carbon-neutral fuel that Vettel choose to promote a message of being able to enjoy the things that we previously loved without damaging the environment.

However, the man of the hour is Lewis Hamilton, who elegantly expresses his views on how Formula 1 needs to change regarding equality and race before ripping into Ecclestone’s rather foppish comments. The Brit also swells with pride when asked about the ignite partnership that has this week handed out the first of its charitable grants.

After the pressers, I head to the W Series paddock for an exclusive chat with two-time series champion Jamie Chadwick as she looks to win on home soil for the first time before I return to the main paddock to speak to Kevin Magnussen and the ever hilarious Guenther Steiner and Daniel Ricciardo.

Although a shuttle service is meant to be in place for this weekend’s race, Thursday’s is business as usual in regards to bus times, meaning I have a brisk half-hour walk through the village of Silverstone to catch the last bus back which before getting back to my hotel to finish up for the day. 

Luckily the pathway takes me straight there, and after a quick change in Northampton, I arrive back at my hotel with a bag of Taco Bell in tow. Oh, the glamour of Formula One…

Friday

With the shuttle service now in place, I don’t have to worry about missing the last bus home, meaning I can sit back, relax and enjoy what should be on paper, at least an enjoyable day.

While waiting for a session, I complete part one of my Chadwick interview before the fire alarm goes off, forcing everyone outside. Naturally, I couldn’t be bothered to wait around, so I head to the pits for a quick look at the many updates the teams have brought to Silverstone. Joining me on the walk is my friend Felicia who is in the paddock for the day, so naturally, I want to give her the full experience before she heads back home at the end of the day.

After my walk, I get the Chadwick piece completed just in time before FP1, which turns into a snoozefest as wet track conditions mean that minimal running takes place. To add insult to injury, the wifi decides to go on strike as I am about to publish, meaning that my report is delayed by a good twenty minutes. However, not everything is doom and gloom as I manage to grab a quick photo with Nigel Mansell, who is mobbed by the VIPs in the paddock.

Not long after the session comes to an end, it’s time to head down to McLaren to catch up with Andreas Seidl on all things budget caps and porpoising. At the end of the session, I catch McLaren’s head of comms Sophie Ogg’s eye and ask her if something special can be arranged. Ashley, another friend of mine, is in the paddock this weekend and her daughter, who is a massive fan of Daniel Ricciardo, and with it being the Australian’s 33rd birthday, Ashley tells me that her daughter would like to hand over a gift that she made for Daniel to him personally.

Although it takes a bit of time, I get a text from Ashley to say that her daughter handed the gift to Danny, making her day. He’s a good guy, that Danny Ric fellow…

Anyway, back to the business at hand and with a much more frenetic FP2 out of the way, it’s time for a chat with Mick Schumacher outside of the Haas garage before packing up and heading to the bus shuttle service, which isn’t the best organised as only one bus turns up at a time despite there being a humongous line of people waiting to get on. However, unlike some other promoters who plan their shuttle system on the back of a used fast-food wrapper the day before the crowds arrive, they do eventually come, and, after a bus ride back to Milton Keynes followed by a quick bite to eat, it’s time to relax.

Saturday

Qualifying day and as I arrive at a cold and grey paddock that resembles a ghost town rather than the heartbeat of the Formula 1 circus, I wonder whether the forecasted rain will arrive. Although one man who is in the paddock nice and early is signore Steiner who says a quick hello before joking with me about the cold weather as we scuttle off to our respective workplaces.

The weather doesn’t really improve, and with the heavens set to open before Qualifying, FP3 looks set to become meaningless, and that gives me an idea of how to experience the session.

With it being my last Grand Prix for now, I decided to try and get a tabard to watch the cars up close and personal and luckily for me theirs a tabard in hand. So I head with the photographers via a shuttle to arguably one of the most breathtaking section of corners in Formula 1, Maggots and Becketts.

If you had told 12-year-old, Ed that ten years down the line, he would be watching Formula 1 cars up close and personal, he would have probably wondered what alcohol you had been pouring on your cornflakes but seeing these cars fly through the corners with sparks coming out is truly a money can’t buy experience. I feel truly blessed to be able to enjoy this mechanical ballet, and I hope that this isn’t the last time I get to enjoy it.

Anyway, back to the here and now, and just minutes before Qualifying is due to begin, the rain starts to fall, drenching the circuit and crucially levelling the playing field. The downpour means we get a mixed-up grid with Carlos Sainz on pole and Nicholas Latifi, who had come into this weekend as seemingly a sacked driver walking securing his first Q3 appearance in Formula 1 after a stellar session.

Max Verstappen, who performed arguably one of the saves of the season, is booed heavily by the home crowd, and although Hamilton, a usual recipient of the fans booing, condemns the fans’ rather cold reception but it’s yet another sign that loutish culture fuelled by divisive accounts on Formula 1 Twitter has infiltrated Formula 1. Couple that with reports of a violent and bloody brawl in the fan zone on Friday, and you wonder whether the time-honoured tradition of fans mixing together in the stands will continue as the sport grows.

Next up is a Mercedes media session with Toto Wolff before I dash off to Pirelli for an exclusive interview with Mario Isola, my second chit-chat with the Milanese native. Although I am not exactly an expert on tyres, Mario keeps me interested with his analysis of the 18-inch tyres and the changes that may occur next year. He beams with pride as he talks about the time he got Gilles Villeneuve’s autograph as a little boy whilst candidly discussing the challenges of working in a sport that has an ever-growing calendar.

After one last session at McLaren’s hospitality, I pay a ridiculous amount of money for a taxi back to Milton Keynes for me to pack up for an early checkout.

Sunday

Race day isn’t warm but even at 8 am, the fans are already on the grass, ready for what should be a nail-biting race.

However, we are quickly reminded of the dangers of motor racing when Roy Nissany commits several breaches of basic driving etiquette and causes a colossal accident in the process which he miraculously escapes without injury after Dennis Hauger vaults the Israeli after being launched by the sausage kerbs smashing into the DAMS at over 100mph.

Hauger’s takeoff into the air is made worse by the sausage kerbs, which continue to cause havoc and frankly should be removed before they eventually kill someone.

Before the chaos commences, I head down to the pits and the paddock to go celebrity spotting, and it’s where I find eccentric RTL pitlane reporter Kai Ebel still rocking his funky shirts even if they are much less present in the paddock with him only attending four Grand Prix’s as he focuses on other projects such as writing a book.

Then it’s off to the pits to listen to some relics of the past and watch the teams fire up their engines as the prerace preparations continue in the background. But the biggest treat is the 1992 Williams FW14B and its magical V10 soundtrack with Sebastian Vettel treating the crowd to some hot laps as they wait for the drivers’ parade.

The start of the race is marred by a turn one pileup that sees Zhou Guanyu slide upside down the track after being hit at the start, with the Chinese driver luckily getting unscathed but shaken after coming inches away from ploughing into the crowd. Saint halo to the rescue again.

Naturally, the early retirements see me make an early trip to the media pen just as messers Russell, Zhou and Albon’s wrecked cars are brought back into the paddock, with the Mercedes driver stopping his interview midway through to watch the restart. 

Drivers stopping their interviews to watch the race becomes a theme throughout the day as Pierre Gasly elects to cut his interview to watch a thrilling threeway battle between Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton. I can’t say I will be repeating this experience too many times, but I can at least say I’ve watched a Grand Prix with an F1 driver.

Because of the red flag, the media sessions are delayed, so I get out of the paddock around sevenish, and as I walk through the rapidly deconstructed inner sanctum of Formula 1, I feel satisfied that I’ve completed a childhood dream of being in the paddock and rubbing shoulders with the best in the business. Hopefully, it isn’t my last visit to this weird and wonderful place.

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