Going to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone

First race tips

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    Silverstone this year will be my first ever GP and I was just wondering if people could provide some general advice for GP’s, as well as more specific tips for a first race at Silverstone?


    Dont buy ear plugs, appreciate the noise. Bring a camera to capture the moment and remember you will never forget this amazing experience =) enjoy brother

    Keith Collantine

    Do use ear plugs – you can appreciate the sound just as well without damaging your hearing. Pretending it’s ‘macho’ not to is silly – you’re just going to harm yourself.

    My own preference is to wear in-ear headphones so I can hear the circuit commentary, usually with a pair of ear protectors on top (though with some earphones that’s probably not necessary).

    That way you still get the benefit of the atmosphere of being there plus you know what’s going on – win-win.


    Totally agree with Keith – the fact that we are F1 fanatics doesn’t mean that we need to damage our health! I admit that it depends a bit from where you are standing / sitting. The noise at slow corners won’t be as unbearable as the one at the start-finish straight but the ear plugs are still highly recommended. Buy some original ones, some teams include ear plugs in their merchandise.

    If you want to hear the pure sound of F1, you can remove the ear plugs for a minute or so but don’t stand there ‘unprotected’ the whole weekend. Record the sound using a camera or a sound recorder, you’ll be able to catch the feeling later at home.

    Other than that, I would just recommend to arrive early in the morning and take your time. If you really love motor sports, you ain’t gonna be bored. Just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.


    I´m sorry but… although Keith does have a point about damaging your ears… it all depends…. I had my frist experience atending a GP in the SPAIN GP this past season… I never had the oportunity to attend one since I lived in Central America before that and let me tell you… IT IS UNBELIEVABLE to listen to the engines at full roar… I honestly got goosbumps the first time I heard them. And having been seated in the “J” stand, I got a good listen when the lights went out…. I was in shock not because of the noise but because of sheer emotions crashing all at once… and add to that the fact that Fernando Alonso got the lead in the straight and it was just a perfect day for me!!

    Honestly…. You can damage your ears going to a concert or even using your ipod or some other device with the volume too high…. so, 1 weekend of engine symphony is ok in my book… Enjoy the experience and 1 piece of advice would be, GET THERE EARLY!!! Stand in que for the pit lane opening to everyone and try to get as many autographs and pictures as possible…. It is a sureal experience, it was for me at least… Have fun dude!

    Alianora La Canta

    If you haven’t decided on your accommodation for Silverstone yet, do it right now. Accommodation disappears very quickly, especially the good places near the circuit. Buying some on arrival might work for many minor events at Silverstone, but you will be met with laughter at best if you try it on Grand Prix week (unless you’ve got your eye on a place that doesn’t take bookings, in which case get there as soon as they start accepting people). And book as soon as possible once you’ve decided and are in a position to meet any relevant paying arrangements, especially if your preferred option does not involve a campsite at any point. Note that some places ask for payment on arrival even if the booking happened in advance, in which case keep that money separate from your “spending money”.

    For campers, I can recommend Hamilton Fields, even for people who support other drivers and teams, provided you’re willing to accept a 2-mile walk each way – in 2009 it was just the right side of the road disruptions (meaning trips to the local supermarket for resupplies were easy and escaping after the weekend was relatively simple). The staff are friendly and helpful – though from what I’ve heard, many other campsites also have friendly, helpful staff, and some also offer better facilities.

    My position on the hearing protection argument: Buy some ear defenders beforehand (they combine well with radios and similar equipment, enabling one to hear both car noise and commentary better, plus they keep your ears dry if it rains) and look around the entry gate for freebie earplugs on arrival. Many people miss the buckets and nobody seems to mind if you take a weekend’s supply on Friday. The freebies are useful if you want to listen to the car noise without hot round things around your ears (Silverstone can and does get all four seasons in the same day) and also make for nice quirky mementoes of the day.

    The “ear defenders” advice goes double if you have sensitive ears because they are better at getting rid of the most painful parts of the sound than earplugs, while still enabling the rich bass and sweet treble of V8s to be clearly heard. Do take time to listen to the engines properly – it will be one of the highlights of the weekend – but please do so while exercising sense (after all, you will want to experience that noise, in its full effervescent-yet-powerful beauty, many more times in your life).

    Also, keep your protection in after races are done! If the cars don’t hurt unprotected ears, the aircraft Silverstone are apt to fly around on difficult-to-predict demo runs will. (Silverstone’s a great race for aircraft fans; typically at least five different ones will be on display during a given F1 race).

    If you are looking for a particular grandstand, please make sure you’re using the latest map. I could tell you how great the views from Club general admission and Copse E were in 2002 and 2009 respectively, but as a spectator in 2012, your experience of both would differ substantially.

    If you are going to take a terrace seat, please follow the instructions on the letter regarding how much stuff you’re allowed to take. That is there to ensure everyone can get in the terrace. When people ignore the rules, other people can’t get in and then they get upset at the grandstand marshals, which ruins the day for all involved. Small foldaway chairs (including those attached to backpacks) are crude but generally compliant with the rules. Get the biggest bag that will fit under said chair. With that in mind, make sure your supplies for a terrace seat include a nice big pillow (ideally in a waterproof pillowcase, if such a thing exists) so that you’re not aching after a long day in your seat.

    Do bring drinks to Silverstone. Unlike places such as Sepang, drinks are permitted provided they aren’t in glass bottles. While you are likely to want a hot drink at some point in the weekend (in which case hot chocolate is generally a good choice regardless of which stall you use), cold drinks are great if Silverstone happens to be hit by a heatwave. One tip Mum taught me was to take 2-litre bottles of water (or other still drink), empty out 500 ml of the contents and then put in the freezer. The air means it won’t explode in the freezer and you now have home-made coolpacks that will keep your packed lunches/snacks fresh while turning into refreshing drinks over the course of 1-3 days (depending on ambient temperature).

    Unless you are hopeless at using a camera, I’d echo @australian ‘ s advice to take one.

    Keep alert. It took months for Dad to stop reminding me that I’d missed Nelson Piquet Jr doing one of his trademark spins in front of my nose because I happened to be looking at a giant screen at the time…

    How was I looking at said giant screen? With a pair of £1 binoculars from a pound shop. You don’t need anything better than that unless you’ve got some lying around at home that you’re happy to take.

    Try not to take anything really expensive unless you can bear losing it. Otherwise you may take the edge off your excitement reminding yourself where it is at a crucial point, and that’s before taking into consideration the possibility of petty theft… Most types of crime are rare at F1 races, but opportunistic thieves entertain themselves at the races just like us law-abiding citizens, and unfortunately practise their criminal arts on the unsuspecting.

    There are cash machines at Silverstone, thieves generally don’t stick your card in them if they steal the card, but unless you’ve made a FanVision reservation or similar on it, there’s still nothing your card can do that a reasonable amount of well-secured hard currency won’t do better. So if you haven’t reserved anything on a debit or credit card, leave it at home after withdrawing however much you are likely to need.

    Pockets are your friend. Make sure you take an item with plenty of pockets when you go to the track, and an item (not necessarily the same one) with a secure pocket. The secure pocket is for your ticket (unless you have a lanyard, in which case use that), (some of) your money, your radio and/or similar device(s) and your mobile phone. Don’t put anything else in here unless it’s very valuable – that’s when you’ll discover the value of those other pockets.

    When you read “really early”, that doesn’t mean “roll up an hour before the first session you want to see” unless you’ve got a grandstand (in which case your reserved seat awaits, and before 9 am you might get lonely up there). For those of you in general admission or terraces, try arriving at the circuit on 7:30 am for Friday, 6:30 am for Saturday and 5:30 am for Sunday as “latest time of arrival” guidelines. Ideally you should be there half-an-hour before that (which on Saturday and Sunday means you’ll be queuing to get in, or arriving just after the gates open). Not all gates open at the same time, so check the advice and your up-to-date map before setting out.

    If you find yourself in a queue for any reason, feel free to chat to whoever is next to you. F1 fans are a sociable bunch and often love to share their passion. Note that if your favourite team or driver has a bad day, you’ll be dealing with other people sympathising with you all the following morning (unless, of course, the “bad day” was Sunday).

    Try not to enter a queue for anything within 30 minutes of a session unless you’re OK missing the start of it or it’s the queue for the place from where you will watch the race. It will not end well. This is especially important at lunch time; ideally you will bring a packed lunch, which you can supplement with things bought at convenient moments (or, if you decide a hot item is the order of the day, things you started queuing for at least an hour before any session you want to see).

    Take enough reading material to last several hours. You’ll probably spend five hours on Sunday waiting for things to happen, only some of which will be spent chatting to the people around you.

    If you can help answer someone’s question, please do. Sharing information is a great way to bond and it can often be difficult for people to follow the finer data-driven details from the spectator areas, especially if they’re lacking binoculars, radio and/or FanVision. For this reason at least, your essential kit to take to the track should include a notebook of paper and cheap pens (plural – there’s always one dud, no matter how carefully you choose them).

    It is part of the tradition at Silverstone that Sunday concludes with the mother of all traffic jams. Unless you are planning to leave by helicopter, I strongly recommend that you stay in your grandstand to see all post-Grand Prix sessions, even those for series you find boring, right up until the final plane fly-over. Then find a nice bit of grass on which to sit down and watch the world go by (unless it’s been raining all afternoon, then find somewhere relatively dry to sit down and watch the world go by). This is a great time to eat a snack, take a drink and just savour your experience.

    If you’re lucky enough to be stationed anywhere between the pit lane exit and Copse, you may get to see the F1 lorry race. Have fun spotting who gets their first lorry out of the venue and who “wins” the coveted Mechanics’ Grand Prix (first team to get all their lorries out). Chances are by the time any team has their third lorry out, the mass of people will be down to a steady river and you can move without feeling like a sardine.

    Attending the post-race Grand Prix Party is an excellent idea – even if you are too far away to see anything, you will certainly hear the music and it is a great way of passing time (the people pipping their horns and getting lost in the traffic jam will wish they were with you!). It is very well-attended – 20,000 people is a normal attendance figure. Just make sure you go to the toilet before you enter the infield because the queues are much shorter.

    Sorry if this advice is a bit long and rambling.


    Always protect your hearing at an F1 race. In 2010 I didn’t realise how important this was until after about 2 laps when I went almost deaf for a few minutes, I quickly found some ear plugs. There was ringing in my ears for a couple of days afterwards which made sleeping a bit difficult, people have different reactions but don’t risk it. In 2011 I went equipped with ear defenders which did the job nicely, having picked them up for £5 from a stall at Oulton Park.

    Last year there were a few musical performances during the day, I saw Alistair Griffin do a few songs. Go to the Grand Prix Party if you can but if you’re using the Park & Ride then you probably won’t be able to go or you’ll miss most of it.


    Thanks everyone for your advice so far, especially you @alianora-la-canta , I’ve written shorter Uni assignments!

    I’ve got General Admission tickets, and am staying at my cousins some 35 mins up the M1 so it looks like I’ll be getting up very early! Not that I mind.

    One thing I’m unsure about is the Thursday before the race. Is there anything to do at the circuit? I’ve seen plenty of pics from other weekends of fans in and around the circuit, but are these just people with tickets or passes for thursday?


    Il guarantee u it will take longer than 35 mins from the m1 never mind up the m1. I suggest getting on the camping. It’s not even expensive and in the evening it’s always a good atmosphere. As for the Ear plugs they give them out for free and u get some with the program which is always worth buying. Regards Thursday don’t even bother. We tried last year and the security had non of it. Nothing on just wanted to walk around the track. First track entry is Friday morning. Top tip bring wet weather gear even it says nice pack a mack. Last year we had harsh rain to top off burning sun. If camping get down on Thursday they change all the roads on Friday and stay till Monday. That way u miss all the leaving traffic on Sunday.

    Alianora La Canta

    @Jake , when Dad and I went to Silverstone for 2002 qualifying I did it as a day trip from a house nearly 100 miles from Silverstone, mainly using the M1 to get between the two. Two main points can be learned from it:

    a) it’s possible to do so without exploding with stress or missing anything (if you plan well and avoid unusually bad luck)
    b) you’ll be spending a loooong time on the roads.

    To park at the track, you need a car park pass. Most likely you already have one. If not (or if the dog’s eaten it), ring Silverstone Circuit and ask (your ticket number may be needed).

    I’d say the roads for a 2-mile radius around Silverstone are safest assumed to be at a stately walking pace during the busiest times. When Dad and I camped in 2009, we frequently overtook cars on the way to the circuit despite being on foot and carrying heavy bags with integrated seats. In other words, allow for an hour just to do that distance if you really want to drive at the same time everyone else does. If you avoid peak times, you can usually guarantee 5-10 mph (making that stretch 12-24 minutes long) – doesn’t sound much but it could be the difference between being able to bear the journey and pulling your hair out. There are times when the roads in that area are normal speed, but that’s either if you’re very late arriving (as in, you’ve missed much of the morning stuff) or very late leaving (as in, you go shortly before the gates are locked at the track, which is close to or on midnight depending on the day).

    Provided you miss the “rush hour” (which, at least going there, you should if you aim for the arrival times I wrote in my previous post), the rest of the roads within 25 miles of Silverstone can be assumed to be 25 mph, or a little faster depending on exact timing. There isn’t the same near-gridlock as there is in Silverstone’s immediate vicinity, but a certain weight of traffic stops rapid progress. More than 25 miles away and normal speeds can be achieved. So in your case, I’d suggest you’ll be on the road for at least 1.5 hours each way. Probably more like 1.75-2 hours depending on exactly how close your cousin’s house is to the M1. As ballpark estimates 5:30-5:45 should work as a start time for Friday, 4:30-4:45 for Saturday and 3:30-3:45 for Sunday. If you find on Friday that the ballpark times are way out, adjust them with the expectation that the queues get worse as the weekend progresses.

    If you think you will be happy driving that much each day, then don’t worry about changing accommodation – after all, you know your host, you’ll probably get better food and bedding than camping would enable and you won’t get woken up at 11:30 pm by a crowd of drunk people attempting to sing “Wonderwall”…

    “Bad luck” note: in 2002 the car I was in broke its fan belt en route to qualifying. Dad arranged for it to be towed to an independent garage in Lutterworth (nearest garage to where we’d stopped), where the mechanic made it a top priority job… …because we mentioned we were going to the Grand Prix. Yes, we missed most of morning practise, but normally in a situation like that we’d have missed the entire day at best. If you have similar bad luck with your transportation at any time during the weekend, remember there’s a decent chance (albeit no guarantee) you will find a car enthusiast only too ready to help another in need. (Oh, and buying breakdown cover before the weekend is a good idea, if you don’t have cover already. Motorway towing services are much more expensive than a typical one-year breakdown deal).

    Thursday is a great arrival day for campers because it enables everyone to set up in a relaxed manner, but @Stuart is right to say there’s no point going to the track that day. The only reason you’d even want to go on that bit of road on Thursday is to see if you can get a look at the Force India factory (opposite Silverstone’s front gates) through the trees, or to drive through to Brackley to look at the front of Mercedes’ factory. It’s a lot easier to do both on Thursday than later in the weekend because the road diversions are only put in place late on Thursday evening or very early on Friday. Silverstone village looks pretty and it has a nice shop but I’m not convinced it would warrant a 70-mile round trip for its own sake.

    ‘s advice regarding weather gear is also good. I would go further and suggest taking suncream to the track with you, even if the forecast is for three days of torrential rain with single-figure temperatures. I got sunburn in 2002 from that very mistake.


    Thanks for all the FAB tips!
    Just found this forum when searching for Survival tips for Silverstone as it will be our first time to a British GP and I will be 7 Months Pregnant! We live in Northampton so have got the Park & Ride General Admission Weekend passes, looking forward to the Friday but feeling a bit stressed about Sunday!!!!
    When we have been to Silverstone before for other Motorsport events we have quite happiliy sat on the grass on the slopes on first bend (sorry don’t know track as well as you guys!) would you recommend trying to get seats in a stand or will we still be fine on the grass?
    Thanks Again for all the tips :-)

    Alianora La Canta

    If you’re worried about stress or space, getting a grandstand seat (if only for the Sunday) sounds prudent. There are probably other people here who can better advise on the matter.

    Nothing like introducing your child to motor racing early though ;)


    Couldn’t agree more about protecting your hearing but if course it’s your choice, however if you’re taking children to a race, please make sure they’re wearing ear defenders designed to fit kids. Better than ear plugs which a lot of people don’t seem to know how to fit. Little kids don’t have the choice if they want to damage their long term hearing so protect them.


    As someone else who has tickets to their 1st ever Grand Prix at Silverstone this year, where would you folks suggest I try to find a perch with a general admission ticket (and yes i am aware of how insanely early i will have to get there :-) )


    Well for general admission, opposite the podium would be good if they plan on letting the fans onto the track at the end of the race again. Last year I got down there from the grandstand and I had to climb through the scaffolding under the grandstand to get to the track! (That was of course allowed).

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