Silverstone Swampland And A Close Finish
SO happy to be home, out of the rain, wearing warm, dry clothes.
But what a fantastic, yet boggy, four days at the British Grand Prix. I arrived on Thursday with my Fiancée in what I expected to be a very wet weekend, in warm sunshine and blue skies. This turned out to be a short lived relief to the constant downpours over the past few weeks, as a beautiful Thursday afternoon and evening turned into constant rain throughout Friday and Saturday.
The poor weather had already saturated the ground where we pitched out tent and a nice puddle greeted us just outside our door every time we stepped out. We had a nice meet-up with friends down at the White Horse pub in Silverstone village on Thursday evening, purchasing the second round for £15 or so. Eeek. I still hoped the weather forecast would be wrong, as it had been so many times in recent occasions and that we’d have a warm and dry weekend. How wrong I would be!
After an awful night on Thursday in the tent, where the saturated ground made us freezing cold lying on top of the groundsheet and a thin layer of sleeping bag, we woke up to a downpour. Coats would most definitely be needed.
I made a mistake early on the Friday morning by not taking an Umbrella and it was only an hour or so into the day when I realised that was a bad error. Clothes were already soaked, rucksack damp and we were generally chilled to the core. Covered grandstands offered some relief from the rain, but the cold wind blowing through them made you feel even colder.
Meanwhile, traffic backed up all along the A43 as people queued for hours and hours attempting to get into the circuit, eagerly awaiting Free Practice. All the hard standing car parks were full and so the remaining ones were all grass. Bog. Access was awful but Silverstone could never have prepared for a months worth of rain in just a couple of days. Fans waited in line for nine hours or so, ultimately missing all the action and eventually being turned away.
Free Practice was a complete washout, not many people ran. The second session wasn’t too much better either, but it was a nice opportunity for some wet weather F1 photography – my first since Monza in 2008. Ferrari’s pace looked promising from what we could see but nobody really knew what would happen in Qualifying.
Drama unfolded in Litchlake campsite when we returned. Hayley noticed black, acrid smoke coming from somewhere close to us. We went to investigate, presuming someone had stupidly lit a humongous bonfire. It wasn’t a bonfire, but a car on fire. Fully on fire.
People were pushed back as the cars windows, lights and tyres all blew out. The ‘security’ had obviously been picked from the dumbest school in Newcastle, suggesting the “car’s gonna blow” and “we need you 150 metres away” as I exclaimed in a loud voice “how big an explosion do you think it’s going to be? It’s not Hiroshima, it’s a Peugeot 106 which is already burnt out”. The fire started to take a van which was parked closely to it, having already warped a number of tents nearby. Two fire extinguishers did enough to contain it before the a fire engine and firemen on Quad Bikes arrived to put it out. It was a nice drama and thoroughly warming after a day getting frost nip inside the circuit.
We decided it best to sleep in the car on Friday night and it turned out to be an inspired decision as we woke up after much more sleep the following morning. The car was steamed up from all the dampness but we were at least warm and ready for another day in the rain.
I dug the umbrella out of the boot and we set out earlier than on Friday. The ground was now even wetter and all the well trodden paths were now deep gorges of mud and water. The shopping area on the campsite was nearly ankle deep in slippy mud which was un-avoidable no matter where you stepped.
Thankfully the circuit was relatively ok, with tarmac and hard standing ground. Huge lakes of puddles remained and any grassy areas were destroyed from thousands of footsteps but all in all, you could get about without being caked in mud. Qualifying was utterly brilliant. Super dramatic. We sighed when we thought Alonso was out but screamed when he took ninth! Pole position was just the icing on the cake and we left with two very big grins.
Rain came and made the already soaked ground even wetter on Saturday evening and Sunday morning but it wasn’t too long before the sun came out and dried us out as we sat in our un-covered grandstand at Club. The national anthem was cut short after about ten seconds, which was odd and Vitaly Petrov’s engine blew up in-front of us, which was even stranger. Everyone cheered the drivers going to the grid, aside from one of the day-glo McLaren fans in his rocket red (bright orange) t-shirt behind us, who decided it a good idea to boo the pole sitter. Hayley gave him a nice scowl and then he shut up.
Still, what does he know? He thought Raikkonen was Grosjean, he thought Vettel was fifth on the grid and his friend went off for a hot dog and very nearly missed the start of the race. And to top it all off, he suddenly became a Webber fan at the end of the race when his McLaren team were sitting in a lowly eighth and tenth.
The race didn’t end the way we wanted, with Webber passing Alonso with just a handful of laps left. The soft tyres on Alonso’s car were no match for the harder compound on the Red Bull in the final stint. Still, a brilliant race.
It wasn’t more than 20 minutes after the race when rain started to fall yet again. We returned to the tent, packed it up and put everything in the car. Bags were packed ready for the morning and we went down to the White Horse again. When we returned, it was still lovely and warm, not raining. Until within the space of a second, a huge tropical style downpour came over us. No umbrella with us. Again. We were only seven or eight minutes from the tent but it only took a couple until we were utterly saturated. Trousers, underwear, socks, coat, t-shirt, everything. Totally soaked. I hadn’t been that wet since the Lake District in 2010. Five inch deep streams of water ran down the gulleys at the side of the road and a curtain of rain caused everyone to drive at near walking pace just to see the road ahead of them. I sat on a carrier bag in the car for the next two hours while I dried out.
Monday saw hundreds of caravans being towed out by tractors as we waited to miss the rush hour traffic around Northampton. Luckily, I didn’t need a tractor to pull me out. Instead choosing the less beaten path out of the campsite which made it far easier.
So overall, a brilliant weekend. Despite the horrific weather. A great race, good company and a fantastic experience. As always.
Here’s a couple of videos of the burning car for anyone interested.