Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A Non-Fan and Fan's Guide to the Formula 1 British Grand Prix: Three Days At Silverstone

by Tim Bustin

Part Two: Saturday – becoming a commercial slave, F1 qualifying and GP2 and GP3 racing

Saturday emerged at 6:30 in the morning (the git), and with the risk of rain looming in the shape of disturbingly grey clouds above, my dad and I elected to find some good pit straight seats and hog them for the entire day (just as soon as he had got some coffee). I went off when nothing was happening to purchase a programme (for 15 marvellous pounds) and a Hamilton Hat. The latter proved a struggle. There were three for starters: a black flat cap, and then one silver and one black baseball cap. Thankfully, there was a shop assistant who was both bored and rather pretty (what? she was) to help me decide the best way in which to waste £30 on a hat, that will serve a purpose for 2 days before remaining locked for eternity in the dark recesses of one of my wardrobes. The black baseball cap, we agreed, was grand. So I bought it. Hallelujah! Isn’t life splendid?

I felt like such a billboard in this hat
Before too long, F1 qualifying started and I took back to my seat. It is split into three stages, with six of the 22 cars being lost at each of the first two stages, leaving a top ten shootout for the final stage. Rain caused surprises, and the Ferraris and recently strong Williams cars were all knocked out in the first stage. This meant British driver Max Chilton (currently second-last in the world championship) got a great qualifying position (13th, but then a 5-place grid penalty was applied). The last stage also had drama, with Hamilton initially on pole, only to be knocked down to 6th by the end of the session (he was caught out by the rain – his Mercedes team mate, Nico Rosberg, took the pole). I threw down my Hamilton hat in disgust at this result. Then it got actually got sunny for the first time, so I duly put it back on. Result aside, it was incredible to be surrounded by so many fellow Formula 1 lovers, and especially to see so many Lewis Hamilton caps and shirts (my £30 worth of support seemed miniscule in comparison to some who were sporting caps, shirts, wristbands and tattoos – sometimes up to a full £200 worth of support). The spectacle was marred ever so slightly by an annoying woman behind us, in full Red Bull attire, who kept on shouting “Come on Vettel, you’re better than everyone” or “Go Nico!” and finally “Go anybody but Lewis” – it got a laugh the first time, but after six times a little old lady leaned across and said kindly “You’re the only one, dear”.

It should be said here that Hamilton and Rosberg, the two Mercedes drivers, have by far the quickest car this year, and one of them will win the world championship. Before Sunday’s race, Rosberg had 165 points to Hamilton’s 136 (owing to two retirements for Hamilton), and Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo (who is currently outshining four time world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel) is third with 83 points. Now I like Rosberg, and want him to do well. Just not this well. Preferably, the level of well I would like him to have is “Just-below-Hamilton” well. So I was hoping on Sunday that Hamilton would win and Rosberg’s car would fall apart mid race. That would be nice, I thought.

GP2 cars lining up on the pit straight for their first race
Before the day was out, we got to enjoy our first ever GP2 and GP3 races. These were mostly spent in two ways. Firstly, with my iPod tuned into Radio Silverstone to catch the commentary (and turned up extra loud to compete with the roar of the cars). Secondly, staring at the giant T.V. (showing the race) with my binoculars, because nothing ever happened on the pit straight. Still, it was kind of interesting, I suppose.

We stayed at a Premier Inn (for a good night in!) that evening, instead of driving back home. Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s house (not the actress) were nearby so we briefly visited them, before returning back to the hotel to dine on a meal of impressively unhealthy food. Like always, my eyes were bigger than my stomach (an odd expression really?), but seeing as I got three quarters of the way through my chocolate orange cake desert, I still maintain that pudding was only one quarter of a mistake. We decided to turn in at a reasonable time (after watching the first amazing half hour of The Matrix), with the prospect of tomorrow’s race filling my every thought.

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