Silverstone fans’ mixed views on the rain-hit weekend

From the stands

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The British Grand Prix spectators had to endure dreadful weather and some appalling traffic problems getting into and out of the cirucit.

Despite that, most of those who’ve been in touch with F1 Fanatic seemed to enjoy their race weekend and are looking forward to go again.

But while the majority of fans seemed to have had a good time it’s clear that some people’s weekends were badly hit, particularly by Silverstone’s advice to some not to attend on Saturday.

PaxJes was among those camping at the circuit who saw first-hand the challenging conditions:

“I woke up at 4am on Friday with the heavy rain and went back to sleep hoping it would stop. At 7am, as I was leaving the tent, it was still raining. The grounds were much muddier.

“I headed to the Club grandstand to see the first practice session and the GP3 practice. I must say this grandstand is excellent as you can see all the Stowe-Vale-Club-Straight part of the circuit, including the pits and the podium.

“Nothing much happened during first practice, got to see some cars spinning. I then headed around the circuit and positioned myself at Copse grandstand for the historic F1 cars qualifying and the second practice.

“One of the highlights of the weekend for me was the historic F1 cars. I was in awe of the roar those cars make, the sherr power of the engine is brutal. I can only imagine what a 24 of those cars would sound like.

“Then second practice basically did not happen so I decided to walk to complete the circuit lap. When I was around Stowe the cars decided to come out and I went to Stowe C to have a look, in the rain and wind.”

“Very poor traffic management”

Bleeps_and_Tweaks was only able to go on Friday and suffered in the heavy traffic around the circuit:

“Once I reached the A43 it was obvious there were serious problems at the circuit or car parks judging by the sheer volume of traffic waiting to enter. Unfortunately this meant I missed all of first practice, which judging by the Radio Silverstone commentary included some entertaining moments from Kamui Kobayashi.

“The traffic and general confusion was as bad as everyone has reported it to be, unfortunately. I along with most people was waiting patiently in line for car parks only for a side car park to open up 15m behind me at one point, which meant those behind swept straight in and filled the spaces, and I was almost last in the queue I was now part of.

“There were other examples of very poor traffic management throughout the Saturday morning, interspersed with lengthy stationary delays. However, once I reached an available car park the staff at the venue were excellent.”

“The whole thing was a massive shambles”

Helene Stewart was even more frustrated after following the circuit’s advice and abandoning her plans to attend on Saturday:

“I bought five tickets to the qualifying for my brother’s birthday. I bought them in January and as far as I remember was not given an option about where to park. We were all looking forward to it, especially my brother as he had never been to a live F1 event.

“On Friday I received several emails from Silverstone, one of which asked fans with public parking tickets to stay away. This was the parking pass we had so we watched Twitter for a while and the BBC National and local news. We decided, after seeing the pictures and hearing the horror stories on Twitter, not to try to get to the circuit as we would most likely not get in and spend most of the day in the car.

“We were all very disappointed to have to take this decision but we decided it was for the best. It was then extremely galling to see on Twitter the next day the organisers themselves tweeting that everyone that went got in. I saw one Tweet from someone saying they had been turned away after 9am. We would have got there well before that as we planned to leave at 5.30am from Cambridge.

“If we’d stuck to our plan and not been good citizens and heeded the advice we would have got in and enjoyed the action (despite the rain!). We are all massively disappointed and deflated.

“To hear [Silverstone Circuits managing director] Richard Phillips say he felt very upset about it was also galling. So he should and no one should feel sorry for him. It’s his job to organise this event so that everyone who bought a ticket can get in and out safely and without too much trouble. Obviously we expect some traffic but to be told to stay away was awful. I had no choice about where I parked.

“The whole thing was a massive shambles. It’s not as if it hasn’t been raining since April, they could have predicted the ground would be wet and wouldn’t stand the traffic even without the downpours received Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“It’s pathetic that they can’t organise proper parking for all the people they sell tickets to. For the amount of money they charge and must make in profits, why not spend some money on car parking rather than posh new facilities for the hospitality people who have paid nothing? The fans, as usual, are the last people anyone thinks about and are always the ones who suffer. Drivers and organisers saying they feel sorry for us is not acceptable.

“Do something to fix it for good so that this never happens again.”

Taking a detour

On Friday morning F1vick found herself taking a detour through the Northamptonshire countryside on a double-decker bus:

“I didn’t have many issues over the weekend but that might be as I went via public transport. I got the train to Northampton station early on Friday morning where the first coach of the day to Silverstone was late and then we got stuck in traffic.

“But there was a passenger who knew a shortcut so told the coach driver and we ended up taking the back routes through the countryside in a double-decker bus.

“It was quite a walk carrying my stuff (a heavy rucksack, sleeping bag and a pop-up tent) from Silverstone village down to Woodlands campsite. Once I found my way to Woodlands it was pouring down with rain still and already very muddy but I only had a small tent so found myself a space quite easily.

“For people walking to the campsite it wasn’t obvious where to go, but I asked a few people and the helped.”

Having made it into the circuit Th13teen had their first opportunity to see – and hear – F1 cars at close quarters:

“We went straight to the Luffield grandstand and tried to dry off while watching the GP3 cars, which sounded like karts. Then came the F1 cars.

“I never expected such a scream from these machines. It sounds like what you hear on TV, up until the rear exhaust faces you, then the loudest roar and explosion is exerted, I have never opened my eyes wider.”

In the Paddock Club

PJ was also at his first race weekend, but got to enjoy rather more luxurious surroundings:

“I was fortunate enough to be given VIP passe, courtesy of Lotus and Total. I had done a cover design for a French magazine at the start of the season (for free) and Total were one of the main sponsors. I guess it was their way of saying thanks.

“The weekend overall was surreal. The Paddock Club is beyond fancy, and being a guest of Lotus meant we got to meet lots of famous faces, including Jackie Stewart, who had plenty of time for fans. The views were exceptional; from the Wing we could view everything from the entrance to Vale all the way round to the exit of Village, with a bit of the Hangar straight in the background too, along with overhead views of the pit lane.

“Traffic-wise, having VIP passes meant we could use the East entrance every day, which bypassed all of the traffic woes of Friday/Saturday. It took us roughly 30 minutes to an hour to get from a village near Towcester to the Paddock Club. We’d end up at Becketts, go round, under Copse and into the car park, where a shuttle took us to the Wing. Speaking of which, the shuttle nearly ran over Kimi Raikkonen on Friday morning.

“Highlights included having my poster signed by various drivers and team principals, meeting Jackie Stewart, hanging out with Craig Scarborough in the pit lane on Saturday, the noise of the engines shaking every bone in my body and generally just being there.”

Aka_robyn was sat opposite in the grandstand overlooked the pit straight:

“We sat in covered grandstands, so the rain wasn’t too horrible for us, although it made it interesting when the time came to get food/drinks or use the bathrooms. I can only imagine how rough it was for those who were camping in the conditions we had this weekend. By the time of the after party, there were patches of ankle-deep mud everywhere. That morning we saw people setting up lawn chairs to watch the race in mud that had to be several inches deep.

“On qualifying day, we sat in the grandstand along the pit straight, just across from the McLaren and Red Bull garages. I think that was the best decision I made all weekend, besides wearing my waterproof hiking boots, as everyone by now has heard about the wave the crowd in our grandstand got going in the pits among the team members. That was simply one of the best things I’ve ever seen! The energy in that crowd was pretty amazing.

“It was so crowded along the fence in front of the McLaren and Red Bull garages that you could barely see anything (or we couldn’t, anyway), but it turns out that had something to do with Vettel handing out cans of Red Bull through the fence. I couldn’t get anywhere near close enough to see that for myself.”

“Unbelievable support”

F1vick was one of those camping and had come to regret picking the ‘Lively’ campsite over the quieter ‘Family’ one:

“I’d read that Lively at Woodlands could be very noisy and it was. The concerts in the big tent was expected but I seemed to be near a load of people drinking into the night and shouting names all the time, so I may try for Family next year instead. I’m not complaining about them, I’m glad they were having a nice time but that’s not my scene so, yes, Family next year.”

Come race day, Ciaran was watching at one of the best corners on the F1 calendar – Becketts:

“For the race, there was unbelievable support for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button throughout.

“They got the biggest cheers at the driver’s parade, compared to Raikkonen, who put up a hoodie and hid in a corner. Kobayashi wasn’t too enthusiastic either, he was clearly shivering and hiding from the wind behind everyone else.

“The first half of the race was a complete blur, there were some great battles through the Becketts corners, particularly between Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel, which earned Massa quite a few cheers up in the stands.

“The second half was a lot more settled, but not boring for an instant. The gaps between the top three were changing marginally every lap, and it was great to see all of them pushing to the maximum to catch each other.

“Personally I would have preferred an Alonso win, but I wouldn’t put down Webber for a minute – he was visibly faster in the final few laps, and fully deserved to take the win, even if DRS took some fun out of it. We walked part of the track afterwards, and picked up a few tyre marbles as souvenirs.”

Track invasion

Back at the pits Ads21 was disappointed the podium ceremony got going so quickly:

“Post-race I was really frustrated that they started the podium ceremony before they allowed fans onto the track, by the time I’d gotten on to the track and ran to the near the podium it’d finished.

“If they put the podium off for a few minutes they could have had a Monza-style atmosphere for the podium. After that I walked along the pit lane and saw Button come out to sign autographs much to the delight of the hordes of fans in rocket red outside the McLaren garage.”

PaxJes stuck around for the F1 party but found it not to his liking:

“The party was usually a high point but this year I was disappointed. Firstly the mud – it was everywhere. I couldn’t see any attempt to minimise the effect, like wood chips or straw.

“And then there was the BBC Forum. I am a big fan of the BBC coverage and I don’t miss the Forum when I’m at home. But, was it just me, or was it the worst kind of blabber you ever heard?”

“Murray Walker was brought on stage,” added PaxJes. “When they made him repeat his ‘go, go, go’ like a puppet on a show i decided to leave.”

Traffic problems ease

Kim Mitchell was surprised at how smoothly the traffic ran after the race: “I walked back to car park and waited two minutes for a bus. I was out of circuit within 10 minutes and back in Northampton within 30. The Park and Ride was absolutely brilliant. Thanks to all – you did a great job.”

Chelseano161997 was very pleased with very first race visit: “It was my first GP and I really hope not my last as I think I caught the bug!

“I spent the day wearing waterproofs and wellies which is never a good look. I walked miles. I got hot, cold, wet, dry, muddy, caught a bit of a suntan and ended up with a car that looks like I drove a rally stage inside and out but I would do it all again. Except maybe next time no mud and rain.”

Ads21 had a long trip back to Scotland ahead and waited until Monday before leaving the campsite:

“Getting out on Monday was surprisingly easy for us, again having a four-by-four helped a lot in reaching the wooden planks that passed for roads along much of the field. These were pretty effective and it seems that combined with the presence of local rugby players people were getting out relatively quickly given the circumstances.

“Overall it was a fantastic weekend and well worth going despite the horrible conditions and has made me really want to go again next year.”

Fans’ pictures and videos from the race

Here’s some of the pictures taken and footage shot by F1 Fanatic readers at Silverstone:

Were you at the British Grand Prix this year? Tell us about your experience in the comments below or join in on the forum:

2012 British Grand Prix

Browse all 2012 British Grand Prix articles

Images © Silverstone, PaxJes and PJ

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Silverstone fans’ mixed views on the rain-hit weekend”

  1. They asked us not to leave straight after the race, to help with traffic congestion, and to stay and enjoy Wimbledon on the big screens – Great idea!
    So why show one set, only to switch off the screens at the beginning of the third set?

    1. Maybe they thought you would not want to see Murray lose the final :-)

      I agree that its a great idea to give fans something to do instead of massively rushing out the minute the GP ends. But I cannot stop thinking that all of this could have been thought up before.
      Lets hope the guys from the COTA that were there, learned what situations to avoid, even if rain in Austin is probably less of a worry!

    2. After the race I hung around in the Paddock Club till the rain subsided, but then headed to Luffield where the BBC F1 Forum was finishing up. Was a great idea for them to do it on the stage, the crowd was massive. Also, it’s totally awesome seeing people putting deckchairs into the Luffield gravel trap!

  2. I should mention that the part where I talk about Vettel handing out cans of Red Bull was from after the race, when the crowd went out onto the track. I didn’t even know he was doing that until I saw photos on the Red Bull Facebook page the next day! All I could see was a sea of people.

  3. This is why I still haven’t gone to the British GP even though it’s the closest to where I live. Even the possibility of that kind of hassle just puts me off. I much prefer a nice sunny road trip to a continental GP via France. I’m in Ireland btw.

    1. My travel route was as follows (from Limerick):

      Bus to Shannon Airport
      Flight to London Heathrow
      Drive to Oxford (to pick up tickets)
      Drive to Greens Norton (near Towcester)

      The way back (my friend left Sunday evening as he had to work) was this:

      Lift to Milton Keynes
      Train to London Euston
      Tube to London Heathrow
      Flight to Shannon

      All in all getting to the rough area of Silverstone isn’t too bad, but obviously getting traffic to the track is a different story.

      1. @pjtierney I believe the organizers should launch shuttle services from London. Thts wht is done in India- from New Delhi to Noida

  4. I wonder whether @todfod ,the winner of last year’s Predictions C’ship was at the GP.

    1. Sadly he couldn’t make it @malleshmagdum, but he managed to inform Keith, get a fast contest up so someone else could go in his place. Top bloke @todfod, and a lucky winner who had fun at the race in @benparker

      1. @bascb Top bloke definitely! @todfod had it been any other guy, the ticket would have been sold!

      2. Say what!? Cant believe I missed this! =(

    2. @malleshmagdum @bascb .Yeah had to cancel my entire trip 24 hrs before I was about to leave. Definitely blows… but glad another fan could take my place. Out of all the people who could have won the ticket.. it ended up going to spiderman’s beloved uncle @benparker

      1. @benparker @bascb @todfod My frnd had won a Grand Stand ticket to Indian GP via an internal employee competition in Vodafone. He didn’t go! Why? Because airfares were high!

  5. Great piece! I had to miss everything after the race, because my family were so scared that they would never get the car out of the Glastonbury Camping site, that was Campingf1, So much so that the Australian National anthem was still being played!!! But oh well, I had fun…maybe Spain next year, otherwise I am not that fussed! I have been and done it now!

  6. Would be interesting to have poll on how they would rate the experience like we have rate the race see how that works out! @F1fanatic

  7. I can understand people’s quibbles with regards to this weekend’s race. But at the same time? What do you expect? Over 100,000 people descending on a small patch of land for a few hours on friday, saturday and sunday at the same time, and then that same 100,000 people trying to get out again around the same time. There are only so many roads which can be built due to many reasons (funding, land ownership, green government policies etc). Use public transport. Milton Keynes isnt far, nor is Northampton and other transport hubs.

    Furthermore, re: complaints about the rain. We’re currently in one of the wettest periods of weather for God knows how long in this country. The organisers can plan for wet weather, but the weather that we experienced in the two to three weeks leading up to the event, and the event weekend itself, was unprescidented. There isnt a lot that the organisers can do about it. As far as I know the fields which are used for carparks dont belong to Silverstone? So they cant be tarmaced, and doing so would create bigger issues of flooding elsewhere.

    People are obviously disappointed, but seriously, what the hell do you expect?

    1. @jamesf1 my point too! Also tarmac car parks are bad for the environment. I would prefer multi-storey parking within Silverstone circuit

  8. We had a fantastic weekend at the Grand Prix. The atmosphere was fantastic, there was some great on-track action and we got the next best thing to a British driver winning.

    I can understand a lot of the frustration with the organisation of the event. Whilst I can see the circuit’s point that, to some extent, many of the problems were caused by the unprecedented rainfall – there were some issues that had nothing to do with it.

    For example, the road signs put up by the organisers were dreadful. Whilst there was a sign at Junction 15 telling traffic for the Grand Prix to stay on the M1, there was no sign at Junction 15a telling them then to exit. This is particularly bad by the organisers as the tickets clearly say “Do not follow your Sat Nav, follow signs to the circuit”. It was only because I went last year that I knew to exit there! Also, on the horrifically congested A43 on Friday morning, about 1 mile from the Silverstone exit ramp a sign told you to get into the left-hand lane for the circuit. Lo and behold, when you reached the exit, you found that both lanes exited for the circuit.

    It was irritating for us to miss FP1 on Friday morning but judging by the anecdotes told on Twitter and in the press, we got off quite lightly all things considered. Despite having to leave London at ungodly hours on Saturday and Sunday, we arrived at the circuit in plenty of time on both days and the park & ride worked superbly; in particular, I have to mention the fantastic bus driver who took us away from the circuit to Sixfields on the Sunday evening. Judging by his aggressive driving, he must’ve been a distant relative of Pastor Maldanado! Still it saved us at least half an hour of queuing on the A43 back to Northampton.

    I’ve posted a few of my pictures in the following link. We sat at Luffield for FP2 on Friday, in the International Pit Straight on Saturday and the National Pit Straight on Sunday:

  9. Felt really sorry for anyone that had bought 1 day tickets and were unable to get in. Last year was bad weather wise but nothing like this year. Unfortunately the sheer amount of rainfaill meant this was always going to be a disaster. Our friend’s wipers packed in on the motorway travelling down due to the amount of rain that fell on Friday morning and with all the best will in the world I am not sure that Silverstone could have been prepared for this amount of rainfall. You only have to look at all the floods around the country – no-one was given the severe weather warnings as far as I am aware until Thursday – how can you react or plan for that? I have seen comments re drainage on the campsites, to be honest, even if they had invested in this, I doubt it would have made a difference. We were lucky, we had 3 day tickets and got in all 3 days. One thing I will say is how proud I am to be British and all the stories that have come out from people who were stuck, being helped out by unknown people, and the stoicism of the fans who all turned out for Sunday and supported the Grand Prix. On our grandstand there were just 6 empty seats which as our grandstand was showing as sold out, would I guess mean that they have decided not to attend. We have been lucky enough to go to several other races around the world but the British will always be special – the fans make it and even on Saturday when in most other sports people would have gone home when the action was stopped for 90 minutes, the fans stuck it out. We will definitely be back next year.

  10. Rich (@lebowskif1)
    11th July 2012, 21:37

    It was my first GP. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I was there, the noise, atmosphere and sheer enormity of the spectacle. I had anticipated rain on an epic level and purchased waterproof attire in advance. It took me and my girlfriend 4 hours to get to the A43 from Liverpool, and then 6 more hours to get to the circuit entrance. An official spokesperson on 87.7fm told fans to turn around and go home which I thought was extremely insincere advice. A steward told us that there was no car parking space and that no tents were being allowed in. He even suggested that we sleep in our car. Another steward good us there was an alternative camp site at a nearby golf course, 5 miles away. We drove about a mile down the road and spotted a service exit from Woodlands site being guarded by a solitary steward. He agreed to turn a blind eye to the tent provided we had tickets. We were alarmed at the amount of space, and as seasoned campers/festival goers, we did not find the ground anywhere near as bad as the radio report made out. In fact we have camped in worse, many times. The only down side really was that we had to leave the car on the roadside, but even that worked out great because we had no queues when leaving.

    1. @lebowskif1 interesting experience

  11. “Do something to fix it for good so that this never happens again.”

    Easier said than done. The problem with Silverstone was that the area had been receiving a lot of rain. Consequently, the water table was almost full when the teams arrived at the circuit. It’s all well and good for the BRDC to add drainage to the circuit, but it would have no effect because there was nowhere for the water to actually go, since the place it would naturally go was already full. The problem is compounded by the way the nearest rivers are seven and eight kilometres away over very flat land, and those rivers have to handle the catchment for the whole area, which was inundated with water. As a result, the water table was very slow to drain away, and that is not something that can be fixed easily, if at all.

  12. I’m curious, how did fans who traveled by public transport vote? In 2010 we used public transport as far as Silverstone village and walked the rest.

  13. I personally had a great weekend. Anyone interested can have a look at my photos here.

  14. Even after reading about spectators disappointed with the weather and the transport because if the weather, I am still desperate to go to a Silverstone GP!!!

  15. My first trip to a Grand Prix, and for the most part, my family and I enjoyed it.
    We managed to get in and out of the main car-park OK on Friday (fortunately we just missed getting stuck in traffic trying to get into the campsite).
    At the end of the day, at around 4.30, Radio Silverstone was actually telling people not to leave the circuit as the traffic was still bad, but we didn’t see any problems. At least it meant we knew to wear wellies for the rest of the weekend!

    As the tickets were a birthday present for my wife, we (me/wife/2 kids ages 9 & 11) decided to risk it on Saturday and managed to get into the car-park around 8am, and were under cover in Woodcote shortly afterwards. We left straight after qualifying though as were already cold, wet and tired, and wanted to enjoy the actual race day – no real problems leaving the circuit that day.

    Sunday we made it to the circuit at 7 and were directed onto a muddy field – which at the time was a concern. Seeing the cars bumper to bumper in the main car-park made us feel slightly more optimistic though, and after the race we managed to get out of the field pretty quickly (unlike several other cars who were waiting for tractor assistance).
    The main problem was the traffic stopped on the Dadford road out to Dadford village – for no obvious reason. By the time we gave up and turned round, we hit a lot more traffic on the main exit than we would have done had we just gone that way to start with.

    Also, a lot of problems due to cars dumped by the side of the road on the roads around the circuit – meant traffic couldn’t flow on two lanes, which also looked like it was causing problems for people getting out of the carparks, as no free lane for them to merge into.

    Would I go again? To be honest … at that price … probably not. The F1 cars are definitely something to be experienced, and it’s more fun watching a race when you know who the drivers are (especially in my wife’s case, when she realised the red / yellow tv camera wing on the cars helps you identify who is who!) – but not sure it’s worth that much more than a standard race meeting.
    I had a lot more fun going to the truck racing at Brands Hatch last october with my son, when we went for the weekend, stayed at the hotel nearby, and had access to one of the indoor viewing suites on the Sunday – for a quarter of the price.

  16. Finally got round to replying to this thread, been a busy ol’ week!

    Had a great time at Silverstone over the weekend, despite a few niggles here and there. The weather really was atrocious on Friday and Saturday. I had to get the bus from Northampton station each day as was coming down from Birmingham and that was an experience as we took a rather rural route on Friday! The “bus path” provided at the circuit was silly, as most of it went through fields which obviously was impractical considering the conditions. Only Saturday did I find out that I could just take the road straight up to Gate 5.. Sunday’s journey back was pretty bad too, we were stuck in a jam for two hours which was made worse by the fact that I had some posh toff sat next to me who felt the need to be critical about everything. Did my nut in honestly. These problems however were in pale comparison to those travelling to/from the circuit and camping. You do feel like with all the investment in the Wing and VIP facilities they’ve kinda neglected the fans facilities. Without the fans though, they’d be no sport. Think they needed a wake up call and hopefully they got the message.

    Apart from that though, the racing was great to experience. Having only been to one race at Montreal in 2010 I’d never experienced the cars going through a corner at high speed (was sat at the hairpin there). On Friday we were sat at the S/F straight and Club for practice which was great as despite the weather the fans clubbed together to produce some fantastic mexican waves! Saturday and Sunday I was sat at Becketts, which really showed the awesome direction change of the modern F1 car. The race itself did seem a bit average, I guess a sprinkle or two would have been good to liven it up a bit but it was fantastic to see Webber win, the stand erupted when he passed Alonso! Post-race I hung around for a bit of the BBC forum at Luffield but unfortunately it started to rain heavily mid-way through and we decided to leave. Good thing I did too considering the bus jam at the end of the day!

    Overall though, great experience. Many thanks again to @todford for the tickets. Really appreciated it all and hopefully I’ll get some photos uploaded soon. :)

    1. Might help if I tagged him in spelling it right too! @todfod

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