The 2022 British Grand Prix delivered a memorable race weekend, with mixed weather conditions, a huge first lap crash and a maiden winner. Nicky Haldenby tells us about his trackside experience on his tenth visit to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.
Images: © F1 Destinations
You might think that by the tenth time you attend a Grand Prix it would become an ordinary experience. Yet with Formula 1, every year the excitement in the days leading up to the race seems to build a little bit more. Part of that is because no two visits to Silverstone, or any track for that matter, are the same. The variables in weather conditions, the competitive order and the trackside experience year-on-year make every race weekend unique.
I attended the 2022 British Grand Prix race weekend with my mum, dad and sister. Having set off from Yorkshire on Friday morning at 07:00, we arrived at the circuit around two hours later, just in time for the first Formula 3 practice session. The traffic around the track and entering the car park was certainly busier than it had been in previous years for that time on a Friday, so it was no surprise that there was a lengthy queue to get through the entry gate.
After a quick bag check and ticket scan, we headed to the Luffield grandstand where we stayed for most of Friday’s on-track activities. General Admission tickets allow you to rove around the grandstands on Friday at the British Grand Prix. In previous years, we have explored the grandstands around the track but this year we decided to stick to a single stand. Cutting down on walking miles on Friday was a good way of ensuring our energy levels stayed high for the rest of what was to be an action-packed weekend!
Unfortunately, the weather conditions ensured there was very little on track running during Free Practice 1. The drivers made up for that in Free Practice 2, whetting the appetite for what was to come on Saturday and Sunday. There’s always something special about hearing the air being dissipated as the cars streak towards you, followed by the roar of the V6 engines – even if the roar is a little more timid than in my earliest visits to the track!
From up in the grandstand, you really appreciate how the cars seem to slide around the Luffield corner. There were a couple of hairy moments – Lando Norris in particular seemed to be on the edge as his car twitched on multiple occasions through the corner.
A wet qualifying day at Silverstone
We usually spend Saturday spectating from around the Maggots/Becketts complex, which is undoubtedly one of the best places to see a Formula 1 car at speed anywhere in the world. This year, we opted to stay around Luffield. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, having heard that some sections in the Maggots area of track had been blocked off by advertising, we were sceptical of how good the view would be there this year. Secondly, with bigger than usual crowds, we felt it was wise to claim our spot trackside and stay there for the remainder of the day.
The weather on Saturday was far from ideal and reminded me of my first visit to the British Grand Prix back in 2012, when it rained persistently throughout qualifying day. Staying as dry as possible under my umbrella and raincoat, the rain made qualifying a much more interesting watch. Even the slower speed Luffield turn became a heightened challenge in the tricky conditions. Just like in 2012, it was a Ferrari driver who secured pole position.
The weather brightened up as the evening went on. After Saturday’s F2 Sprint Race came to an end, we headed over to the main stage, where the McLaren and Williams drivers answered questions in the F1 Drivers Forum and were met with a warm reception from the growing number of fans. The largest cheer of the evening was reserved for Lewis Hamilton, who promised a podium finish on Sunday.
We picked a spot to the left of the stage on the banked area, away from the rowdier (drunker) fans. It was a great vantage point and you could really sense how many people had gathered by the time Bastille were due to headline the evening’s entertainment.
It was also a good spot to keep an eye on who was passing by on track. It was funny to see George Russell go largely under the radar as he rode by on his bike and waved to the few who had spotted him. We were just a couple of metres along from the hilarious “George, the ball!” incident which you’ve probably seen on social media since the race weekend.
Keen to avoid the overpriced food offerings at Silverstone, we brought our own food and drink into the circuit each day. You’re fine to do this at the British Grand Prix, so long as you don’t bring any glass bottles into the venue. That being said, we had run out of supplies on Saturday night so bought some chips which set us back £4.50 for a modestly-sized portion.
Bastille are no strangers to playing at Grand Prix weekends, having previously headlined at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2016. I have seen them once before, on their arena tour in 2016, so it was great to see them play a brilliant one-hour concert in a completely different environment.
As the concert finished, there was a rush of people leaving the circuit. Heading out under the floodlights – soundtracked by spontaneous “Lando” chants – there were only a handful of cars remaining in the trackside car park. With virtually no traffic, we got back to the hotel with plenty of time to catch a decent night’s sleep and prepare for race day.
An early start on Sunday
On Sunday morning, we arrived at the circuit at around 07:30. Usually at that time on a Sunday morning there’s a certain calmness around the venue, before the masses arrive. It wasn’t quite the same in 2022, with General Admission areas already packed by the time we arrived. 142,000 fans were at the circuit for race day, making this the best attended British Grand Prix in history. Despite the bigger than usual crowds, we avoided any traffic on Sunday morning and the queues to get into the venue were minimal.
Driver spotting at the Fan Zone
One of my favourite things about this British Grand Prix weekend was finding a new activity to partake in between the support races. If you head behind the Fan Zone, you’ll find the access road which drivers and team personnel use to arrive at the circuit each morning. Among the familiar faces, we spotted Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and George Russell heading out of the driver’s trackside campsite. Kevin Magnussen was driven in from outside the circuit, before Mick Schumacher arrived on motorcycle. David Coulthard followed on his fold up bicycle, while Martin Brundle opted for an electric scooter as his mode of transport for the weekend.
Meanwhile, Eddie Jordan caused chaos as he and Channel 4’s Lee McKenzie arrived to record a piece to camera in the Fan Zone. It may be almost 20 years since Jordan was in the sport, but the team owner remains as popular as ever with a queue of the Irishman’s fans waiting for selfies.
The fan zone itself is well worth a walk around. Aside from the merchandise stores, you could partake in a pit stop challenge, get up close to the championship trophy and have your photo taken on a replica podium, complete with champagne bottles! While much of the F1 team merchandise is priced significantly higher trackside than online, Silverstone’s own merchandise store offers a cool range of reasonably priced motorsport-themed goodies.
A showstopping Grand Prix
Our spot between Brooklands and Luffield was not a great vantage point to see the Red Arrows air display, with the nearby bar blocking the view of the skyline. Nevertheless, the atmosphere continued to build as the drivers headed out to the grid and Sam Ryder gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem. The anticipation reached its crescendo as the drivers passed by on the formation lap.
Of course, it would be a while before we saw any racing in front of us. We were largely unaware of the severity of the opening lap incident when it happened. While the big screen was visible, glare from the sun meant it was difficult to pick out the details of Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo sliding across the track and into the gravel trap, eventually coming to a rest between the tyre barrier and the catch fencing. With Silverstone’s customary dodgy phone reception on race day, it was impossible to get updates online.
It was not until the replays were shown that everyone around realised how violent Zhou’s – and indeed Alex Albon’s – accident had been. A collective gasp from the crowd, reminiscent of that from Lap 1 at the 2021 British Grand Prix, rang out as the replays were played. There were loud cheers as it was announced that both drivers were OK.
The Grand Prix certainly delivered when it finally got going around an hour later than planned. There was action throughout the field unfolding right in front of us, from the Ferrari drivers running side by side, to Hamilton closing in on the leaders and Max Verstappen and Mick Schumacher’s wheel-to-wheel battle in the closing stages.
Soaking up the post-race atmosphere
When the race had finished we headed from our spot at Brooklands on a reverse tour of the opening sector, the main straight being our destination. As we walked around the track, down the Wellington Straight and through the opening corners, it was surprising to see most of the advertising hoarding had been ripped from the barriers by fans keen to take home an unusual memento of their British Grand Prix experience. Unsurprisingly, there were huge piles of these advertising boards (and a few DRS signs) at the exit points, with disappointed onlookers learning that such boarding is re-used at other European venues.
When we got to the main straight, it was shocking to discover the scars on the race track left behind by the huge first lap crash of Zhou Guanyu. A large gouge out of the track surface just after the starting grid, followed by red and white scrape marks left behind by the Alfa Romeo’s paint job, showed the trajectory of the Chinese driver’s accident. There was a large gaggle of fans by the impact zone, taking a closer look at where Zhou’s car had come to rest between the catch fencing and tyre barriers. Alex Albon’s Williams had also left a sizeable mark in the pit wall after his heavy crash at the opening turn.
The pit lane remained a hive of activity after the race, with teams packing up their equipment, mechanics inspecting broken cars, Ted Kravitz recording his famous post-race Notebook show and the BBC Radio 5 Live team recording their Chequered Flag podcast. Meanwhile, team lorries headed down the pit lane, ready to transport the necessities to Austria.
As the pack up operation continued, we found a quiet spot at the exit of Club Corner to sit for a few moments and soak up the atmosphere, watching as fans made their way down the grid similarly enjoying their glimpses behind the scenes of Formula 1. We walked back down the main straight towards the exit, perfectly timed to see newly-crowned Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz head to the pit wall and sign autographs with his fans.
We eventually left the track at around 20:00. The traffic may have eased by that point, but it was still the worst we had experienced over the weekend. It took almost an hour to make the short journey from the car park to the exit gate!
After a much-needed lie in on Monday morning, we began the journey back up north. But not before a stop off at Brackley. Being situated in the heart of so-called Motor Sport Valley, it’s always worth a snoop in the local charity shops, where you’ll often find unusual pieces of Formula 1 memorabilia from years gone by.
Following one last drive past the circuit – where the clean up operation was still underway and team trucks continued to depart the venue – we headed home. It had been an unforgettable weekend at Silverstone and I cannot wait to return again in 2023!