Paddock Diary: 2022 British Grand Prix

2022 British Grand Prix

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The Formula 1 paddock breathed a sigh of relief as Zhou Guanyu and Alexander Albon emerged unscathed from a monumental crash at the start of the British Grand Prix.


The official FIA press conference made a welcome return to Thursday, when it had been held until the start of this year. Over the first nine races drivers’ media duties and two practice sessions were crammed into a single Friday. One advantage of holding media sessions on a Thursday is drivers are generally more relaxed than on a Friday morning, presumably because they don’t have to jump straight into their cars an hour later.

The path from our car park at Copse to the Silverstone Wing is a fair trek, but thankfully shuttle buses were laid on. On the way in I saw hoards of fans had already descended on the circuit, with plenty of Lewis Hamilton flags on show.

I spent the evening at an event held on the track and had the opportunity to speak to Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri and Martin Brundle, while fawning over Nigel Mansell’s world championship-winning 1992 Williams-renault FW14B, current owner Sebastian Vettel, sitting proudly out on display. Brundle, ever on good form, regaled us with stories from his past, and in particular a charming story about almost missing his son Alex’s birth due to the fact he was on-track racing.


Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2022

Walking through the paddock on Friday morning with an excited spring in my step at my home grand prix, the fans, who had presumably camped all evening, were already lining the length of the outside of the paddock.

A downpour moments before the first practice session began meant there was little running on the track with a dry race forecast on Sunday. Still, fans cheered when the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and George Russell left the garage amid little reason to run.

Conditions improved in time for the second session though, and the home crowd’s expectations were raised by Hamilton setting the second-quickest time in a much-improved Mercedes, followed by Lando Norris for McLaren. With Carlos Sainz Jnr setting the pace for Ferrari and Max Verstappen fourth for Red Bull just two-tenths of a second behind, the contest looked closer than ever.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2022

After being caught out by traffic in the morning, I was rather sweaty and flustered as I made my way into the paddock, the now familiar beeping noise chiming as I waved my pass at the entrance gate.

Rushing to watch the team principals’ press conference, I accidentally bumped into a man in a baseball cap. Apologising profusely, I dashed up the stairs to take my seat in the media centre. I later heard the person I ricocheted off was in fact the actor Keanu Reeves, who had come to watch proceedings, but I couldn’t swear it was true!

The weather turned wet again in time for qualifying. Walking down to the mixed zone to interview the drivers I once again misjudged my footwear. Turning up to interview those knocked out in Q1 with soggy feet is becoming a regular pastime for me, and today was no different.

Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2022The great thing about the Silverstone paddock is you are surrounded by packed grandstands. You don’t even need to look at the screens when in the pen, or the track, to know when a driver they support is doing well.

When Max Verstappen spun during the session the crowds cheered, and when he qualified second, the public booed – an apparent hangover from last year’s clashes between him and Hamilton.

The roar for Hamilton however was deafening. Seemingly spurred on by the crowds, it looked like we were about to get a glimpse of the ‘Hamilton magic’, but a late rain shower and a mis-timed final run meant he had to settle for fifth.

Speaking to us afterwards, however, Hamilton had a spark in his eye again. It felt like we’d not seen the last from him this weekend.

The day ended with a thoroughly pleasant evening event at Aston Martin, after which I called it a night ready for the main event.

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Silverstone, 2022

Being able to walk into the circuit on Sunday morning was a welcome change from sitting in traffic. Winding my way through the circuit back roads to arrive at gate five, the crowds were piling in by their hundreds of thousands.

I wasn’t sure whether we were on course for a good race, but I never could have anticipated what would unfold over the next few hours.

The media centre at Silverstone overlooks the start-finish straight, and all the media huddled around for all five lights to go out. Rushing back to the television screens as the cars went out of sight, I watched in horror as Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo slid along the gravel on the opening lap, upside down at high speed and struck the barriers with force.

The race was immediately red flagged. In the media centre we waited for what felt like hours to be shown a replay, which would have brought a welcome indication all the drivers were okay. Until then, it seemed the afternoon might be about to take a horrible turn.

Eventually, word filtered through that Zhou and Alexander Albon, also involved in the crash, were largely unscathed. I made my way down to the media pen and met Russell, who had also been involved in the collision and retired.

Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo, Silverstone, 2022Shaken by what he had seen, he spoke slowly as he relayed the shock of standing on the tyre wall and peering down at Zhou’s car behind it. It’s sometimes easy to forget what these drivers go through, and this one clearly affected the 24-year-old. Breaking away from the interview to watch the race restart, he watched his team mate battle it out with the Ferraris and the two Red Bulls, crouched down on the floor with his chin resting on his hands.

We were subsequently treated to a thriller of a race. Pierre Gasly, who unfortunately had come into contact with his team mate in the race, was one of the last to filter through before the chequered flag after retiring.

Unable to take his eyes off the final five laps of the race on the big TV behind us, we had to stop the interview periodically as the many battles played out. Watching the end of a race with a current F1 driver giving us his frank and usually off-record assessment of the action was a real eye-opener. After a disappointing day, Gasly seemed to leave the media pen in a better mood than he arrived.

The sun began to set on the paddock, with a long and frantic day wrapping up. As usual, Red Bull’s Christian Horner was among the final appointments of the day, and it was clear he felt Ferrari and Mercedes had been somewhat conservative with their strategies.

But before he began speaking he took a minute to acknowledge his relief that Zhou and Albon had escaped a fearsome shunt. Motorsport is a dangerous sport, we all know this, but the British Grand Prix was an excellent example of how far we have come to ensure the safety of these drivers.

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2022 British Grand Prix

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Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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