Last weekend I went to the British Grand Prix with my mate Stuart. We had gone in 2008 and seen a fantastic race in the wet with Hamilton overtaking through the field to victory in what turned out to be his championship winning year. And although I shouldn't admit it, we had the extra satisfaction of seeing Ferarri spin off more in one race than Mclaren had all year!
As in 2008 we had decided to go for the qualifying and race, missing the Friday practice. Driving to Silverstone and back on two consecutive days was quite enough. I had managed to arrange my morning carer to come at 7-30 to give us enough time. We knew from before that disabled badge holders bypassed other traffic and used the Officials route. It didn't really matter as when we got there on both days there was simply no traffic! Considering the event attracted 160,000 people, it was bizarre.
We arrived just as the mornings final practice session was ending so we made our way to the grandstand to watch the Formula Porsche before the F1 qualifying. We were in the Woodcote B grandstand which gave us a reasonable view of Brooklands, Luffield and the finish line.
We knew from Friday's practice that we were unlikely to see Jenson or Lewis near the front but despite Lewis achieving a respectable 4th, it was very disappointing seeing Jenson end up in 14th.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the GP2 and GP3 from a couple of other locations around the track. As we approached the final race we decided to head back to nearer the entrance. On the way we passed a growing crowd of people standing outside an enclosure where Lewis Hamilton was rumoured to be arriving shortly. Having met and got Jenson's autograph the previous weekend I was keen to get Hamilton's for the boys, maybe getting the Mclaren T shirts bought for the boys earlier in the day signed and even a photo.
Things were looking good when the security guys let us inside the enclosure for an unrestricted view.
So we waited, and waited. After about 20 minutes, a minibus turned up and out stepped Lewis Hamilton. Despite the crowds all shouting for autographs he was ushered straight indoors to what was obviously some sort of PR event with promoters. the minibus was waiting so everyone stayed, hoping that he would have time to meet 'the fantastic loyal fans'. 20 minutes later the PR event finished and Lewis emerged, looked briefly at the crowd and vanished into the minibus and left to the sound of an understandably discruntled crowd booing.
I am sure he had a hectic schedule, but it would have taken 5 minutes to do a few autographs, even just for the kids. In every interview he talks about the fantastic support from his British fans, but the one opportunity he gets to acknowledge that support with some sincerity, he decides that he can't really be bothered. We weren't impressed and neither were several hundred others.
I appreciate that The Festival of Speed is a more relaxed environment but I don't remember him doing autographs there last year either. We decided we would reserve our support for Mr Button the next day.
Race day was a scorcher. As is commonplace, wheelchair seating is at the lowest level and furthest forward position in the grandstand which means little or no shelter from sun. We arrived in time for the drivers parade and the ever impressive Red Arrows display and before we knew it the warmup lap was under way.
As the red lights go off you appreciate the difference between being at the race and watching on TV. The noise as 24 F1 cars hurtle towards the first corner is fantastic. The atmosphere is just brilliant.
I am sure that if you are interested in the following 2 hours you will already know the details so I will spare you reading them here. But I will just mention the enormous cheer that could be heard above the noise when Vettel went off on the first corner. Very unsporting I know but I guess the previous weeks 4 - 1 thrashing hadn't been completely forgotten and he has become rather schumacheresque of late with his arrogant driving style and habit of blaming everyone but himself
Anyway, it was a pretty good result in the end with a second and fourth place for Mclaren. There wasn't much else to see after; the GP2 and GP3 races had annoyingly been run very early that morning. Instead we headed to the infield area where there was a stage on which various drivers were going to appear. However, the wheelchair viewing area at the front had no dedicated access, so unless we had arrived first and were prepared to stay until the end, late into the evening we would have had to get through a crowd of 20,000! We decided not to bother and made our way home.
It was a great weekend and worth all the effort. I want to say a big thank you to Stuart. Not just for the 10 hours of driving but for all his patient assistance positioning drinks, scratching itches, wiping stinging eyes, repositioning ear plugs and countless other tasks. Thanks again.