Saturday, 16 July 2011

About the 2011 British GP


Ann and I landed in (kind-of) sunny Birmingham before meeting up with Jade. After getting suitcases, rucksacks, tents and all the beer and snacks we could carry into the teeny tiny boot of our hired FIAT 500, we made our way to Stowe School, where the Marussia Virgin Weekend was being held. I didn’t shout or lose my rag once while driving there (an achievement), possibly due to the awesome singalong driving mix I had made.

At least 5 trips back and forth to the car later, Ann and I had gotten ourselves settled into our pre-erected tent, which came complete with sleeping bags and air beds. Having only ever spent single nights in a 20 man tent (don’t ask), I was definitely nervous about staying in one for 4 nights. But by the time I had set up my sleeping area, I was feeling less concerned. In the meantime, Jade had managed to assemble hers with absolutely NO help from Ann and I whatsoever.


A quick wander around the campsite revealed to us the shower cubicles, supercar show – including Lightning McQueen… KA-CHOW!, and, joy of joys – the Vanity Tent, which had mirrors and electricity and SOMEWHERE TO PLUG IN MY HAIRDRYER AND STRAIGHTENERS, YAY. Some hardened campers may feel this is a cop-out. I say that it’s a good pay-off for getting weatherbeaten at Silverstone. Without it, I’d have looked even MORE like Stig of the Dump.

For the rest of the evening we lay under the huge awning on some very comfy sofas, eating food from Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts (his outdoor catering venture), and chatting well past 1am about F1 with our fellow campers. It was only after we’d been chatting for a while that Twitter names were revealed, and all of a sudden it was a case of “Ah… THAT’s who you are!”

I do believe there was discussion of David Coulthard’s ‘mince and tatties’ before we all headed to bed. I’d maintained before going that I was NOT staying up until stupid o’clock on the first night, drinking. Oops.


Rain. Oh God, the rain. Waking up in a tent was bad enough. Waking up in a tent and hearing the rain battering down was even worse. Thankfully and amazingly, however, I had no hangover. Even if I had, one of the campsite’s bacon rolls (sorry I mean bacon, cheese and rocket baps… it was Jamie Oliver, after all) would have sorted me out rightly. I would WALK to Stowe School for one of those bad boys right now. If I wasn’t lazy, and y’know, the campsite was still there.

Ann, Jade and I headed to Club where we watched a bit of FP1 before meeting up with Brij.
After that, Ann and I made the sensible, health-conscious decision to eat as much greasy track food as possible. With cider to wash it all down with. On our walk up towards the F1 Village, the rain started. And remained until FP2 and beyond. All the nearby covered grandstands were too full for us to be allowed into by that time, so I watched FP2 from a sodden picnic bench, getting more and more miserable as the rain seeped through my jeans. In fact I’d like to thank the Amazon seller Mountain Warehouse right now for not delivering the waterproof trousers I’d ordered 2 weeks previously, thinking they’d arrive in time. How optimistic of me.

The biblical rain put a dampener on our meeting with Steph and Helen, but we still managed to discuss important F1-related issues – such as stalking Ferrari race engineers, Michael Schumacher’s L’Oreal advert, and why Fernando Alonso has something in common with Jeremy Beadle (honest).

With no sign of the rain easing, and the black clouds getting ever blacker, we admitted defeat and walked back to the gate to catch the minibus. I was grumbling inwardly to myself ‘never again… not worth it… things I do for Felipe… even F1 isn’t worth this… grumble grumble.’

An hour later, I was sitting under the awning of the campsite with rapidly drying clothes/hair/spirit, a beer in my hand, watching the practice sessions on the big screen and waiting for the Marussia Virgin drivers to make an appearance. Maybe this camping lark wasn’t so bad after all.

Finally, David Croft from 5Live came onstage and announced Timo Glock, Jerome D’Ambrosio (apologies for lack of accents), Sakon Yamamoto and boo hiss, Robert Wickens (whom Jade and I gave evils to, on account of his not being very nice about Felipe Massa during one of the practice sessions this year. Us Massa fans never forget, Wickens). The chat involved a Q&A with the audience (‘Can you break Vettel’s finger? Can you break Christian Horner’s shaky leg?’), during which Timo revealed that Felipe had visited him after Brazil 2008 to let him know there were no hard feelings. Then he made a joke about now owning ’10 McLarens’. Too soon, Timo, too soon.

To top off the evening, the drivers then came into the crowd to sign autographs and pose for photos. I, like every other female member of the audience I suspect, developed a crush on the considerably not-ugly Jerome. Of all the times you want to meet someone that stunning, it is not when you have frizzy hair, damp clothes and a face that has had all the make-up washed off it due to the pelting rain.

We then made the most of a break in the rain to brave the showers and Vanity Tent, where I dried my hair, not realizing that Gareth Jones, AKA Gaz Top of How 2 and Get Fresh fame, was blowing up an air mattress beside me. After that, it was time for an early(ish) night before things got any more surreal...


We got ourselves settled in Club again for quali, after being yapped at by an old bint who complained that we were sitting in someone else’s seats. Clearly she didn’t understand the concept of roving grandstand tickets. Resisting the temptation to beat her up the face with her alice band, we moved somewhere else.

Quali was great up until halfway through Q3 when the rain made another appearance, just as most of the drivers were on their second runs. Therefore the end was a bit of an anti-climax, particularly as Red Bull took the top 2 spots yet again, albeit with Mark Webber snatching the pole this time. I was happy enough with Felipe's 4th place - this was the first time I'd been to a race since his accident so it was great just to see him. 

Darren Heath has nothing to fear

The rain then died off long enough for Ann and I to walk up to Luffield to meet Stu, a friend from, for a pint and watch the end of Bianchi’s win in the GP2 on the big screen. Stu and his family had brought along something truly sinister…

Back at the campsite, there were bands like The Scarletz and 50ft Woman playing, followed by a DJ set from Sakon Yamamoto (or ‘Suckoff Yamamofo’ as Crofty announced him as). We sat on the grass until it got dark, nursing our tins of beer and chatting. Magic. 

Gareth 'Gaz Top' Jones also proved himself to be an all-round sport, quite happy to do what I'm sure he gets asked to do every. single. day...


After Sakon’s set was over, the rockier tunes got played and Ann made us all try her disgusting concoction of red wine and diet Coke… and I can confirm that you’d be better off drinking Benylin.

Somewhere around 1am, it turned into ‘An Audience with David Croft’. Having been aware of his presence all evening, it wasn’t until after the music had ended (and we planned to go to bed) that we felt sufficiently pissed enough to go and ask Crofty for a photo. This turned into a chat, which turned into Mrs Crofty dishing out white wine and lollipops, which turned into a crowd of people gathered around him listening to tales about F1 drivers which we weren’t allowed to repeat on Twitter. Best night EVER. We eventually all trudged to bed some time after 2am, faces sore from laughing.


After a l o n g walk to Copse, we got settled into our seats for the drivers parade and race. 2 Massa fans and a Heidfeld fan, trapped amongst a sea of McLaren t-shirts and baseball caps. This made cheering for Felipe as he got past Jenson quite awkward. Similarly, I was sick as a pig at the cheering when Lewis overtook Fernando right under our noses. I have a lot of affection for Silverstone because it’s the first race I ever went to back in 1999, and of course it’s the ‘home’ race, but it’s very tough being a Massa/Ferrari fan at that track now. When I first went, I’d estimate that about 75% of the crowd were in Ferrari gear – but now, that would be less than 10% easily. From what I saw, anyway. It makes for a great atmosphere, with all the cheering for the British guys, but when you have grown up with a natural aversion to All Things McLaren, it can be a bit hard to take. It’s fair to say that parts of the crowd weren’t exactly Schumacher or Alonso-friendly. Having said that, I think that there was a collective sigh of relief when someone other than Sebastian Vettel won.

Heading back to the mini-bus, we had the chance to have a better look at the new Silverstone wing. There’s no doubt it looks good – but I personally think it lacks character. Part of Silverstone’s charm for me was that it was what it was… an old airfield plonked in the middle of the English countryside.  However, if modernization is what it takes to ensure the British GP is kept on the calendar, then it can only be a good thing. Also great to see was fans being allowed to go onto the track at the end; something that I felt was lacking in previous years.

For our final night at the Marussia Virgin campsite (sob), there was a screening of Senna. I’d seen it twice already but was quite content to sit and watch it again. There was a round of applause when the film ended, and as people started to disperse, we were then told that Terry Fullerton, the man whom Senna describes in the film as his favourite person he raced against, was there. A proper goosebumps moment. He said a few words and afterwards spent time chatting to some of the crowd. 

The mood was rather subdued for the rest of the evening after Senna, so a few quiet drinks and a chat were had before everyone headed off to bed, sad to be going home the following day. Ann, Jade and I's travels before going back to reality took us to The White Horse pub in Silverstone village (which has fantastic vintage F1 posters that I covet for my kitchen), and Stratford-Upon-Avon, where we saw a Nick Heidfeld lookalike and Ann got lost (...hang on, were these two events related?)


Then, regretfully, it was time to go to the airport and say our goodbyes. I'm not sure where my F1 travels may or may not take me in 2012, but the Marussia Virgin Weekend surpassed my expectations in many ways. Yes, I got drenched. Yes, I had to traipse across a cricket pitch just to clean my teeth every morning. Yes, my eyes hurt from all the 'rocket red' McLaren baseball caps - but I wouldn't change any of it.

Post Grand Prix blues? Absolutely.

Random points to note
  • Timmy
  • Creepy tree
  • 'It can't be right!'
  • 'It's 2am and I'm in a field in Buckinghamshire - where the fuck am I supposed to get a banana?'
  • Colin Murray. Limelight. Belfast.
  • 'I know we're on a campsite but wash your fucking hair!'

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