I spent today at Silverstone doing pit lane reports for the circuit commentary on the PA system.
After days of reading and writing reams about the rancorous division in Formula 1, going to a circuit and watching some action-packed, unpretentious racing was like coming up for air.
The action on offer was a world away from Formula 1: a British Automobile Race Club meeting with a mixture of touring cars, unusual front-engined ‘clubman’ sports cars, and even pickup trucks. Today’s bill packed in ten races in rapid succession.
It began in the kind of heavy rain we saw at last year’s Grand Prix. “The amount of spray those F1 cars kicked up was amazing,” a marshal told me. “You could only see a few metres through it.”
British springtime being what it is, the weather toyed with us all day. Having been there an hour I’d glumly resigned myself to getting soaked to the skin. By lunch time I was peeling off layers and soaking up the sun. But not for long…
Manning the microphone
In my pit lane reporter role I was basically Lee McKenzie/Louise Goodman for a day. Sticking a microphone under a driver’s nose and asking him how his race went may not strike you as the most challenging job in the world, but doing it all day made me appreciate it’s not as simple as the professionals make it look.
I thought I did a reasonable job, and would have done rather better had I been covering a championship I have some prior knowledge of. As it was I spent a lot of time memorising drivers’ names, numbers and past results.
After the Spanish Grand Prix I noticed McKenzie had gone up to Lewis Hamilton and pressed him for his reaction to being lapped by Jenson Button. She must have been hoping for a more effusive response than Hamilton’s curt “nothing” – this was exactly the sort of thing I was trying to avoid. Thankfully, the BARC racers talked a good show as well as providing one on the track.
Rain doesn’t stop play
Today’s Guardian claims Bernie Ecclestone is planning to buy Silverstone. I wasn’t able to get an official reaction to this, but it got me thinking. Ecclestone’s low opinion of the people who run Silverstone is well-known but he should take note of how the race organisers took care not to repeat one of his errors from earlier this year.
With two races left to run I noticed the event was ahead of schedule by around 20 minutes. Another marshal explained: “The weather radar says there’s a huge band of rain coming in about 45 minutes.”
The organisers did everything they could to get the final two races turned around as quickly as possible. As the final Track & Race Pre-93 Touring Care Championship round drew to a close thick clouds had rolled in, casting a gloomy pall across the track.
As I drove back from Silverstone, windscreen wipers at full pelt, tyres cutting tramline tracks through the deep water, I reflected that if Ecclestone could learn a thing or two from the BARC. They might not have the Paddock Club, KERS and nine-figure budgets, but unlike the Malaysian Grand Prix, at least they got their races finished on time.
We’re arranging a ‘meet and greet’ for F1 Fanatic reader at the British Grand Prix this year. If you’re coming to Silverstone and want to meet up read this post in the forum.