This year's race was always going to be one to remember. Biblical rainfall, spectators battling through mud baths and a qualifying session that looked more like Cowes week all contributed to a feint air of anxiety on Saturday evening.
Fans marched in their thousands to the banks and hills with wellies, rain macs and brollies and from the moment the gates opened at 6am on Sunday, queues and tailbacks quickly formed.
It was damp, humid and muddy, but that rock steady British stoicism was in full force. Everyone looked happy, no matter if they were knee-deep in mud or battling for space on the swamped hills. And from what I could see, once people positioned themselves in view of the track, all else was forgotten. As the clouds cleared and the sun even started to shine, the atmosphere changed to overwhelming anticipation.
As the drivers made their way to the grid, a swarm of people positioned themselves to catch sight of the cars. Lewis Hamilton drove past to a chorus of rapturous applause and cheers, while most were out of their seats in the grandstands. Then it was cameras at the ready as the commentators geared up to wax lyrical at near identical revs to the cars. And it was go, go, go for yet another immersive race. The only other British track I've been to is Brands Hatch, and while it’s easy to walk the whole way round, blink and you’ll miss the action. Silverstone, however, offers you a long sweeping look at the F1 car howling past and you can savour the aural delight of those high-revving V8 engines for a good few seconds after the cars have swooped past in a lightning flash. The track looks as wide as a dual carriageway, certainly much bigger than the TV cameras suggest.
Just don't forget your ear protectors. Once you get up close to Club Corner or look over the fence at Copse, that aural delight experienced when the track is out of view suddenly turns into a full on acoustic assault when two or more cars are in chase. A high-pitched wail resonates for a split-second, then the booming exhaust and thud of tyre on kerb fizzles out before it’s all back again for the next lap. It’s a breathtaking experience. A dogfight ensued on lap 18 between Spaniard Alonso and Brit Hamilton that had the crowd on tenterhooks and the team managers biting their nails over whether Hamilton would lose vital grip and go trailing down the leader board.
It took a further four laps for Hamilton to finally pit and rejoin the grid in seventh, but as a spectator, it felt like nano seconds. It was this moment, and the winning maneouvre from Webber four laps from the finish that really made the race come alive. The atmosphere must have been electric in the grandstands when even the po-faced expressions of the world's media changed to smiles and the room was lifted by applause as Webber crossed the line.
What I didn’t prepare for is just how fast it’s all over. 52 laps feel like five and the relentless pace of the cars is shocking even compared to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB.
It's no wonder that people do pay up to £300 for the British Grand Prix. It’s the same for any kind of motorsport; the fans aren’t paying for the race, they’re here for the whole event. For most, it’s worth every penny to catch a glimpse of ‘the top three’ describing their performance to the world’s media or even to see Lewis Hamilton riding his motorbike into the paddock car park and casually strolling into the paddock before the race. Even the chance to get up close to numerous celebrity faces was enough for queues to form for picture and autograph requests. After a full day of just taking it all in I had a two-and-a-half hour traffic jam in front of me before the M1 even came into sight, but it didn’t matter. I was already planning next year’s vantage point. If truth be told, you can’t appreciate the full experience in one weekend. For that reason, I’ll be just one of the 125,000 plus fans making the early morning trip next year to get that dose of race day magic.
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