You haven’t really been to Silverstone until you’ve been stuck in traffic.
That’s exactly the sort of fatuous, snarky comment I hate: unfortunately you’ll always find some pompous, full of himself “racing type” throwing a comment like that around a lot in a place like Silverstone, in the process marking himself out as the voice of experience and you as some newbie, still wet behind the ears and who should be grateful to be around to hear his pearls of wisdom.
I had plenty of time to realise how much that sort of thing annoys me when I was stuck in traffic on the way to the circuit today.
On the bright side, it gave me a bit of time to weigh up the weekend gone, and to come. We’ve been lucky with the weather, remarkably so considering I forgot to bring my new rain jacket with me when I packed the other day (no jacket to a race meeting in England: what on earth was I thinking?). When we finally made it in yesterday, fighting manfully through the traffic (well, sitting in the back of the car and sighing while Didier swore in French a lot from the driver’s seat) we were treated to the most glorious weather I can remember here.
Walking down the old paddock, away from the lights and cameras at the other end of the circuit, the GP2 and GP3 teams were mixed together, the ones with a foot in both camp with two trucks sitting proudly side by side, the singletons interspersed in between, and everyone was out enjoying the weather, limbering up with a ball and a trainer like Arthur Pic or just rolling around on a fold up bike like the Arden drivers.
And there were kids everywhere. Most of the teams are British, so it stands to reason that they would bring their family to their home race, and having the entire paddock to ourselves for once meant there was plenty of room to roam. There were less of them around today, with the race meaning we’re at the business end of the weekend, but they were still here and there, picking up scraps of car parts for show and tell when they get back to the school to the envy of all their classmates.
You never know if you’ve gone on the wrong road when you’re stuck in traffic here, I thought to myself. Maybe the other roads are even worse.
After free practice Rio Haryanto was walking through hospitality, smiling at his own efforts to take the top spot, pink sports tape peeking out from under his t shirt on either side of the nape of his neck like the antennae on his engineer’s radio. He was certainly on a different frequency to the others, anyway, as Stoffel Vandoorne skulked around, waiting to eat and trying to ignore everyone.
“P3 today,” I smirked, “is this the start of the championship collapse?” He laughed out loud, but not with his eyes. He went one better in qualifying, but it didn’t improve his mood demonstrably.
“Who’s going to draw the short straw and photograph the start of the race from the top of the ferris wheel?” I asked Sam and Zack when we were back in our room in race control later: I was only joking, but they clearly hadn’t considered it, but were now. “It would kind of suck if you miscalculated and were at the bottom when they got going.”
“You could always ask them to stop you at the top for a minute” one replied.
“Money could possibly change hands” said the other, mysteriously.
I figured it would be a good place to see if the roads were finally clear, too.
Today was a little quieter in the paddock: old men walking around in Sgt Pepper or James Hunt t shirts, eyeing up the wooden undertrays the teams had leaning against the wall behind their pits and wondering if they could snap up a unique souvenir.
After the race there was a new atmosphere to the paddock - charged, electric - as the Rapax guys returned with the spoils. Their team manager Marco was hugging anyone who would let him, while Sergey Sirotkin stood around in hospitality, all zen cool and smiles as everyone came over to congratulate him on his first win. Until I mentioned that he was supposed to have brought his Pirelli cap with him for the press conference.
“Oh, I haven’t got that anymore,” he drawled, “I gave it away to … someone…”
Right on cue, Alexander Rossi turned up: before I said a word he coughed “I know, I haven’t got my hat: he was supposed to tell me”, pointing to his team manager Arnaud, who feigned shock at the betrayal. When I noted that Sergey had given his away he laughed “oh well, at least I can’t get in trouble from Alexa now.”
“You know Stoffel will bring his though: he’s a professional.”
“Yeah, but he’s probably got about 75 of them, so he should remember…”
I looked across at the ART truck just then to see Stoffel jump out and walk towards the pit. “Where is he going?” He re-emerged and started walking towards us, straightening his cap…
And then it was time for dinner, and to write it all up. From my window I can see across the Brooklands complex: Starsailor were playing, although it looks like they might have just finished.
Which is just as well: I wouldn’t know what to do if I had a clear run home.