2023 British Grand Prix: Silverstone Travel Report

Change was afoot at Silverstone for the 2023 British Grand Prix. Nicky Haldenby gives us the lowdown on the improved fan experience and his trackside tips from his 11th British Grand Prix visit.

Images: © F1 Destinations

I was pleasantly surprised when I returned home from the 2023 British Grand Prix and took a look at how much my three-day General Admission ticket had cost. I am very aware that I was one of the seemingly few lucky fans who was able to purchase tickets for the weekend before Silverstone’s website encountered technical difficulties on the first day of ticket sales for the 2023 British Grand Prix, and before ticket prices skyrocketed under a new ‘dynamic pricing’ scheme.

Stuart Pringle, Silverstone’s Managing Director has promised that lessons will be learned and the system will be refined when tickets go on sale for next year’s British Grand Prix, presumably in September as it was last year. Fingers crossed all goes well for buying 2024 tickets.

My three-day General Admission ticket for the 2023 British Grand Prix cost me £219. At the price I paid, three days full of Formula 1, F2, F3 and Porsche Supercup action along with an evening concert for under £75 each day is exceptionally good value for money in my opinion. This was my 11th visit to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix and, just like I said last year, the event seems to get better with every passing year. I stayed just outside of Brackley, the town which is home of the Mercedes AMG F1 team, around a 30 minute drive from the circuit.

Changes Made With Fans in Mind

Ticket buying system aside, Silverstone made a number of positive changes to how the British Grand Prix weekend is run ahead of the 2023 event. It was clear to see that these changes had been carefully thought out with the fan experience being the top priority.

The biggest change, at least from a personal perspective, was a reconfiguration of the general admission area at the Brooklands corner. Having attended every British Grand Prix since 2012 (aside from the coronavirus-hit 2020 race), this area has been my customary viewing spot on Sundays. More often than not, the race-winning overtake takes place here.

Previously flat, the land had been raised to create a viewing bank at Brooklands. The bank offered better views of the Brooklands/Luffield complex in its entirety, while also providing views behind to the Main Stage. Personally, I preferred being closer to the cars on track at the bottom of the bank. However, if you’re bringing a fold up chair and want to remain seated for the day, further up the bank is a great option.

It’s really cool to pick out smaller details in this slower section of track – like Nyck de Vries’ damaged and wobbling wing mirror during Sunday’s race or the cars sliding into Luffield as their tyres became more worn (especially in the junior formulae).

Another incredible vantage point is just around the corner from Brooklands, on the Wellington Straight. With the catch fencing pushed closer to the track this year, it was amazing to get even closer to the cars at maximum velocity near the end of the straight. Standing here for a few minutes during Free Practice, it was barely believable to see the closing speeds when a car on a fast lap approached a car on an installation lap.

On another note, it was great to see a number of changes which made the event more accessible. There was a sign language interpreter stage-side for almost all on-stage events over the weekend, while subtitles on the giant screens during the on-track sessions were a nice addition.

It was also good to see an increase in the number of toilets and other amenities, like water refill points. Despite there being more people, queues were smaller than I had experienced in previous years. One of the rare occasions that I was stood in a queue over the weekend happened to coincide with Jenson Button powering the Williams FW14B down the Wellington Straight a few metres away. It was the only point of the weekend that I felt I should have been wearing ear defenders!

Evening Entertainment and a Smorgasbord of Guest Appearances

Another big change for the 2023 British Grand Prix was that the Main Stage (named the Chrome Main Stage, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Google) and the accompanying concert zone (with its Chrome Wheel, on which the Google Chrome logo hypnotically rotated on the wheel’s inner section) was vastly increased for 2023.

The enormous stage had been designed by the same company who designed the Glastonbury Festival’s famous Pyramid Stage and it offered a much better experience wherever you were standing in the concert zone. I stood to the left of the stage for both the Black Eyed Peas on Saturday night and Tom Grennan after the race on Sunday.

Both concerts were awesome and well worth sticking around for. In fact, this was the first time that I stayed until closing time after the race on Sunday. I’d highly recommend doing so to soak up the post-race atmosphere a little longer.

On a side note, attending a Black Eyed Peas concert and it being interrupted by a 40,000 strong crowd of Formula 1 fans chanting Yuki Tsunoda’s name to the tune of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army is quite a unique and highly amusing experience.

In addition to the concerts, there were also driver interviews, team principal interviews and other guest appearances. All of the British drivers made lengthy appearances in front of their fans on both Saturday and Sunday, while the addition of live podcast episodes – from the likes of Formula For Success, with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan, and The Fast and The Curious – meant that there were no noticeable gaps in the day’s schedule between races and qualifying sessions.

What Were the Highlights of the 2023 British Grand Prix?

Aside from the changes mentioned above and the concert zone, one of the best things about the British Grand Prix is the thing that keeps me going back year after year: an almost guaranteed action-packed race. 2023 delivered yet again, with Lando Norris and McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri bringing home an impressive and surprising double top four finish. I’m not sure I’ve heard the crowd cheer louder on any of my visits to Silverstone than when Norris took the lead at the start.

I saw on social media after the race somebody bemoaning the use of canned crowd noise being played into the broadcast on the opening lap. Having stood amongst it, I can assure you that the cheering was very much real!

The racing in the other categories was also fantastic, with mixed weather leading to tricky track conditions for the junior drivers to race on. If you’re attending a race, I’d highly recommend following the Formula 2 and Formula 3 seasons before you witness it live – it makes the racing much more enjoyable to watch when you’re there. It always surprises me how relatively quiet the grandstands are for the support events.

Another trick that I’ve learned in recent years is to head to the roundabout, behind the concert zone and near the footbridge to the fan zone, at around 10am on Saturday and Sunday to see the drivers arriving. Most of the drivers will appear from the BRDC campsite on the inside of the track, while some of the others will arrive from the road leading to the main entrance. George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas, Nyck de Vries, Karun Chandhok, Toto Wolff and Mick Schumacher were among the famous faces I spotted in only 20 minutes standing at the roundabout each day.

Talking of seeing the drivers, this year’s Drivers’ Parade before the race was one of the better ones. The parade is always much better when the drivers are in individual cars. It gives you the chance to cheer for each driver, rather than trying to spot where everyone is when they’re stood together in a group on the back of a faster-moving truck. Every driver is appreciated by the crowd, a fact that is reflected in the diverse range of team merchandise worn by fans over the weekend. The neon yellows of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris dominate but I saw every team represented at some point.

Another one of my favourite parts of the weekend is being able to walk on the track after the race. I take a reverse tour of the opening sector and head to the pit straight, which was particularly busy after the race this year. It’s always fun to see who you can spot here after the race – TV crews, drivers, team principals etc.

For some reason, there seemed to be a desire from the organisers to get the pit straight cleared quickly, less than an hour after the race had ended. A message even popped up on the big screens, telling us that there would be no driver appearances in this area of track and that everyone should head to the concert zone. Ironically, the message appeared just as Lewis Hamilton climbed up the pit fencing to greet the hundreds of fans below him.

Smoother Ticket Protocol – But Longer Entry Queues

At the gate, you needed to display your digital ticket on the new Silverstone Tickets app. The app ran smoothly and – very handily given the poor reception at the circuit across the race weekend – worked offline, providing you’d already downloaded your tickets. Entry was much smoother in comparison to previous years, though thorough bag searches, a result of fears over potential protesters, slowed matters upon arrival. Of course, with 160,000 people packing into the circuit on race day, queueing time should be factored in to your day.

There was a clear increase in police presence and marshals over the race weekend. I even saw some marshals with ‘track protest team’ written on their tabards. It was reassuring to see this and even better to witness the race pass without any unwanted visitors making their way onto the track.

There was a rather funny moment over the weekend when one of the marshals became very inquisitive about what was in my backpack. He still seemed a little suspicious when I got to the end of my list of mundane food items. I’m not sure whether the marshal genuinely believed my family and I to be protesters or if it was just an awkward, and accidentally accusatory, attempt at making conversation.

What Could Be Improved For Next Year?

All in all, I found that the 2023 British Grand Prix was very well organised, especially given the volume of fans attending. Queues to get into the circuit in the morning do become tiresome by the third consecutive day of doing it but it’s to be expected at such a large event. It was quite frustrating, however, seeing a largely unused ‘Fast Track’ entry point with its own dedicated staff.

So what could be improved at Silverstone for 2024? Personally, I’d love to see an additional giant screen between the two Luffield grandstands. The existing one on the outside of the corner can be a little difficult to see from the general admission area, especially when the sun is shining brightly. A giant screen facing the mass of fans in the now expanded viewing zone would make a lot of sense.

Talking of the Luffield Grandstands – a potential word of warning to those purchasing a ticket there for 2024. While both stands at the corner are covered, the original Luffield grandstand was expanded for 2023. For some reason, the expanded section (as you can see in the above photo) was left uncovered! Perhaps this will be rectified for next year.

It was also a shame that ‘Free Friday’ was no longer an option for General Admission ticket holders in 2023. Previously, all ticket holders were able to view the action from almost any grandstand of their choosing on Friday. That was not the case in 2023, presumably due to the increased spectator numbers.

The food stalls in the concert zone seemed to be packed very close together, meaning that the paths became very congested with queues in peak times, making it difficult to navigate the area. I brought most of my food with me (sandwiches for lunch and various other snacks to eat throughout the day), so only needed to top up with chips, at £5 per portion, each evening. On a positive note, it was clear that the food selection had been expanded for 2023. I think it was mentioned that there were over 250 food stalls around the circuit in total.

The Fanzone was a little underwhelming in 2023 compared to previous years. Perhaps its new location – over a footbridge near Turn 1 – made it feel a little more compact and isolated than before. I only visited the area once this year, compared to daily visits in years gone by.

There was a strange situation after the concert on Saturday night where all cars in the trackside car parks were forced to leave the track via the same single exit, despite the usual traffic systems being in place ready for Sunday. It led to an unnecessarily long queue (and a frankly dangerous one at that, given the number of impatient drivers mixed with not-entirely-sober fans in the road) to get out of the circuit.

That being said, this was the only real traffic jam I was stuck in over the weekend. The traffic was a little slow approaching from the north on Friday morning, but the traffic was flowing freely when arriving for 7am on Saturday and 6:30am on Sunday – an impressive feat, especially on Sunday evening, given the number of cars leaving.

Overall, my 11th British Grand Prix experience is one which will live long in the memory. Silverstone have done an excellent job of improving the spectacle with ticketholders in mind, catering to the new generation of Formula 1 fans without alienating its older fanbase.

Hopefully the organisers will continue to learn from its ever evolving event to improve things even further for the 2024 British Grand Prix, which I will no doubt be in the crowd for.

Learn more about attending the British Grand Prix in our extensive Silverstone travel guide.

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