Force India, Silverstone, 2018

Paddock Diary: British Grand Prix day one

British Grand Prix

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@DieterRencken made a stop-off at Force India’s base to hear the latest on Formula 1’s plans for 2021 ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix – including a “10%” increase in the number of races.

Here’s his first paddock diary from Silverstone.

5:30am Calais

Alarm jolts me at what is 4:30am UK time – relevant as that’s where I’m headed – and prepare for short drive from Kyriad hotel to the Eurotunnel terminal to catch the red-eye train under the Channel and to what is the last British Grand Prix before Brexit. How much more complicated will immigration formalities be from next year, I wonder.

I’d decided to drive across from my village the previous evening for two reasons: Rock Werchter, Belgium’s annual “Woodstock” is staged a few miles from my home and scheduled for this weekend, so massive jams are predicted for early Thursday, plus I’d been invited to attend the Motorsport Industry Association’s Business Growth Conference – hosted by Force India – so need to be in Silverstone by 9:30am at the latest.

I exit the car train in Ashford at 630am BST – by which time I’d been up and about for two hours – so have exactly three hours to sort the 140-mile drive to Silverstone, including a lengthy peak-hour M25 stretch. Using a combination of satnav, Waze plus local knowledge as I approach Silverstone I make it with three minutes to spare.

12:30pm Silverstone

A close look at the Halo
A close look at the Halo
Break for lunch. The first half of the conference has been wonderfully informative. The presentation by F1 CTO (technical director) Pat Symonds about F1’s post-2021 regulations was especially enlightening – we’ll bring you details soon.

Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer spoke about the effects of budget caps on major teams, then revealed that at the previous day’s Strategy Group meeting, a low-key session by all accounts, Liberty announced that it was planning a 10 per cent calendar growth going forward. However, added Pat said, 23.1 races somehow doesn’t work. Isn’t that what red flags are for, Pat?

I wander about the exhibits during the lunch break. Two things strike me. First, the number of people who remark about RaceFans – it’s always encouraging to know we’re read within the industry. Second, an exhibit of Halo, displayed by SST Technology. Interestingly, the company’s senior engineer is the son of Alan Henry, our highly esteemed departed colleague. Seems F1 is in the bloodline.

The company produces thin-wall exhausts for F1, and thus diversification into another lightweight fabrication makes perfect sense. The device weighs 6.7kg and is produced under FIA licence, three of which were granted, with the two other manufacturers being based in Germany and Italy. Identical devices are mandated for F1, F2 and FE, with only their aero shrouds differing by team.

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Although the conference is far from done, I depart for Silverstone to catch some of the late afternoon interviews. My lot is the two Toro Rosso drivers and both McLaren pilots while editor Keith, who has joined me at the track this weekend, hears from Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg. For once we get to communicate face-to-face rather than via phone and instant messaging.


Head for my B+B situated in Charwelton, between Silverstone and Daventry. It’s a glorious summer evening, so I drop the roof down and enjoy the leafy British lanes for the next hour. There are few more pleasures greater than a good British summer day – and this weekend we’re set for three more.

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2018 British Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Dieter Rencken
    Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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    9 comments on “Paddock Diary: British Grand Prix day one”

    1. Wow, what a great read! I love these reports, instead of focusing on the schedule of the First Day of the F1 race “weekend” they really give an feel for the experience of the day. A perfect balance of romanticism, realism and insight.

      Thank you Dieter, I feel like I’ve shared the day with you – I particularly love the sign off:

      “It’s a glorious summer evening, so I drop the roof down I enjoy the leafy British lanes for the next hour. There are few more pleasures greater than a good British summer day – and this weekend we’re set for three more.”

    2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      6th July 2018, 10:25

      Good to see a camera mounted in the Halo

    3. You mean post-2020. Furthermore;
      ”Liberty announced that it was planning a 10 per cent calendar growth going forward.”
      – Increasing the number of races isn’t really on the agenda according to Carey, though. He’s pointed out that a few times, and that they don’t have a ‘target number of races,’ and most recently also that potential new races would come in as replacements for current ones, etc., i.e., the priority according to him is quality over quantity when it comes to the races.

      1. @jerejj, This is F1, remember!

    4. I’m guessing you ended up buying a pie & peas for lunch? If you had managed to bum anything decent we would have heard all about it ;)

      1. Actually, it was a “walking buffet” as they call it, and, no, peas and walking about don’t do well together.

        1. Golly @dieterrencken, even us antipodeans know that pie and peas refers to “mushy” peas.

    5. How’s this weekend going to work for you guys now that you’re both at the track?

      1. @fer-no65, Back at RaceFans headquarters the lights may be out in Keith’s penthouse office but a swarm of worker Robots are buzzing about on the lower floors, directed remotely from Silverstone by Keith using the magic of the internet.

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