Paddock Diary: 2023 British Grand Prix

2023 British Grand Prix

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Hollywood descended on Formula 1 at Silverstone, but the on-track talk surrounded McLaren’s remarkable leap forward at their home race.


Ahead of the British Grand Prix, I was thrilled to be invited to Williams’ headquarters to visit the historic museum in Grove. Following a chat with team principal James Vowles and some senior members of the team we made our way to the museum.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw our dinner table was set up next to the FW15C raced by Alain Prost to the 1993 world championship title, and an example of its successor, the FW16B, raced by Ayrton Senna just three times before his death at Imola. One of Senna’s crash helmets was placed at the centre, surrounded by decades of historic Williams cars.

Vowles treated us to some fantastic tales – off-record, I’m afraid – and the team laid on some incredible food. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my British GP weekend.


Mike Krack, Aston Martin, Silverstone, 2023

Traffic was unusually heavy in the morning but I arrived at Silverstone in time for an early chat with Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack. The sock jokes have now become a running theme, though most of the chat surrounded the team’s successful protest over the results of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Silverstone, 2023A busy day of media sessions followed, many of which clashed. However this is the home race for editor Keith and assistant editor Will so the RaceFans team were out in full force.

I returned to Aston Martin’s grand motorhome at the far end of the paddock and up to their rooftop terrace to hear from Fernando Alonso. At 41 he is F1’s oldest active driver, so I was keen to get his thoughts on 59-year-old Brad Pitt’s appearance this weekend in character as Sonny Hayes while they filmed footage for an upcoming, as-yet-untitled movie.

Alonso joked he didn’t care too much, before saying it’s good for the women. I hung my head jokingly in despair – before looking up. Alonso had a little twinkle in his eye before asking if I was also excited Pitt was there. “No, I think I’m all good thanks,” I replied with a little eye roll. It was meant as a joke, of course, but I was the only woman asking a question in the entire room of men, and to be asked if I fancied Brad Pitt was a little jarring. Not offended by the comments at all, I continued with the busy day and returned to Aston Martin for a third time later that day to check out the stunning facilities at the new factory the team has recently moved into across the road from the track.

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Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2023

After some long chats with Silverstone marshals, we finally were able to get trackside at Stowe corner for FP1. There was a noticeably increased security presence compared to previous years. In 2020 and 2022 climate activists had used the race to stage protests, and in the most recent example some had gained access to the track, endangering their lives as well as those of drivers and others.

Fans were already surrounding the track, which was once again a sea of orange, albeit a different one to that in Austria a week ago. McLaren hats and shirts were everywhere you looked, and of course Lewis Hamilton merchandise was still everywhere. What I do love about the fans at Silverstone is the variation of support you see. A Red Bull fan was hand-in-hand with a Ferrari fan and their child was wearing a scaled down McLaren race suit.

Later that afternoon as the rain set in I sat down for an exclusive interview with Bernie Collins which will be coming soon on RaceFans. The former Aston Martin strategist opened up about her time in Formula 1 and why she’d love to return in the future.


The clouds seemed unthreatening on the way to the track on Saturday morning but the weather radar told a different story. True to form, the British weather was a big talking point. The paddock was far busier today as celebrities and VIPs had arrived. The (not-so-new) Wing building is vast, so it never feels too cramped but there was definitely a noticeable difference walking through the crowds.

Motorsport UK – which governs British motorsport – gave us a fascinating briefing on some upcoming developments in the morning, which will feature on RaceFans soon.

Rain began to fall ahead of qualifying. McLaren shocked the crowds and Lando Norris sent a roar of cheers rippling across Silverstone as he qualified second, backed up by team mate Oscar Piastri.

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As the drivers began to trickle through after, Alonso came to our group of journalists for his post-qualifying session. As the questioning came to an end I saw a chance to have a little fun.

“Your best mate Brad Pitt was in the drivers briefing,” I started. “As good-looking in real life?” Alonso chuckled and made light of the question, flashed a grin and squeezed my hand, “sorry about that” he said sincerely. That meant a lot.

The day’s work done, I took a detour to the Black Eyed Peas’ concert afterwards. Silverstone has done a fantastic job of making the whole event feel like a festival.


The sun was shining as I made my way in early to the track for our regular race day technical talk with three chosen teams. The grandstands were already filling up, but traffic management coming from my side of the track was a breeze.

Heading to the media centre I heard the unmistakeable note sound of a V10 engine screaming around the track. Later we chatted with Jenson Button who had been at the wheel of the 1992 Williams FW14B. The smile on his face looked hard to wipe off, and he gushed about how he wished he could have stayed out longer. It’s always nice to see even a world champion can get excited about such things.

The grid was packed ahead of the race and celebrities were everywhere. Not just that but at the back of the pack there were two more cars – the APX F1 cars set to be in the Brad Pitt film. Suddenly realising you’re on a Hollywood set is something I never expected to feel, but F1 had told us to treat it as business as normal.

I did however stop to take a quick picture of Brad Pitt lining up next to the drivers. We’re lucky enough to spot many celebrities on the grid, but seeing one acting as a driver was particularly cool.

A huge cheer went up at the start as Norris thundered past pole winner Max Verstappen and spent four laps in the lead. It couldn’t last, of course, but McLaren’s new-found form added welcome intrigue to this season of Red Bull dominance.

With Hamilton taking third place, the British GP podium featured a pair of drivers from the United Kingdom for the first time in 24 years. Afterwards, many of the drivers had kind words to say about McLaren’s breakthrough.

It was a fitting and positive way to finish a busy few days. Now for a much-needed break before another pair of back-to-back races in which we’ll discover if anyone else can make the kind of leap forward McLaren have.

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2023 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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8 comments on “Paddock Diary: 2023 British Grand Prix”

  1. Glad to see Alonso ‘apologised’ for his joke, but it’s an uncomfortable insight into the mentality that still exists in F1. Hopefully that will change with time.

    1. I wanted to comment on the same topic, but from another point of view. Let me preface it: no offence meant.

      These guys have to interact with the public in a thousand different settings. If they must constantly be on high alert not to offend anyone in any possible way, they will eventually opt for playing it safe; will regress to acting as PR droids mouthing empty platitudes. (Perhaps the first high-profile product of this actually happening is the currently active 7-time WDC.) I do not think that is really in anyone’s interest.

      Another aspect is that non-Anglo-Saxons, even the most well-meaning of them, do not have this strict mental programming or social pressure regarding what is politically correct and what is not (which, as recent a phenomenon as it is, seems to have permeated your culture).

      Perhaps Alonso is too old to care, but the next young Spanish/Finnish/Colombian/whatever F1 star may already be conditioned to stay away from speaking their minds, or letting their hair down a bit, as a result.

      So losing a bit of this new-found sensitivity might be helpful, especially on a journalist’s part, who has a professional interest in getting honest opinions, interactions, reactions instead of well-rehearsed nothings – with a certain tolerance for the occasional gaffe or unfortunate remark. Perhaps even trying to lessen such instances instead of making an issue out of them all the time.

      I repeat that I do not mean to offend anyone, just trying to present another way of looking at this.

    2. I thought it was a wonderful tale of a relatively old fashioned guy with a mischievous wit and the way that culture is changing. It had a happy ending too.

  2. People are quick to judge Fernando for the joke but if you ask 100 random women in a non-public setting if they think Brad Pitt is hot, 95+ of them will answer with an immediate “Yes”, so that’s that…

    1. User587 (@)
      14th July 2023, 0:47

      1800s called and want their belittling views of women back.

  3. Pretty sad that there’s only one woman asking questions in the room at Aston Martin. That’s not what the TV companies would like us to believe.

    Perez looks about the same age as Put in that photo!

    1. Pitt. Stupid phone.

  4. I’m really enjoying these diaries. They give a great sense of the variety of settings in the calendar – if you only follow the TV coverage, things get a bit samey and it’s easy to believe all the races are much of a muchness.

    Silverstone really seems like a standout event. I wonder if this is due to years of being talked down by ecclestone – the organisers have gone above and beyond – or is it because the Brits just tend do big events quite well.

    One thing I’d like more of is trackside insights – mark Hughes used to go a great little mini inset column in autosport that highlighted the vagaries of different driving styles at key parts of the track. Something a bit more detailed like that would be awesome in this diary.

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