In two short days I will be arriving at the Silverstone Woodlands campsite, ready to immerse myself in four days of spectacular racing alongside thousands of other passionate Formula 1 fans. It’s the highlight of my year and I’d recommend it to anyone, but to get the best experience it’s necessary to battle against the weather, tiredness, physical discomfort and other fans to strategically make the most of the opportunity. And as a veritable veteran of three British Grand Prix, I hope the tactics I have discovered can help you too to have the mental fortitude to make the most of the weekend.
The golden rule is to remember that you are not here to be comfy. If you want an easy weekend you should be at home on the sofa in your pyjamas, cup of tea in hand. This is a feat of endurance. It’s a challenge to prove your dedication to the cult of F1. You’re not a tutu-wearing member of a stag do or a woefully underdressed late comer who rocks up at the circuit as the cars begin the formation lap. You’ve spent four days living in a field with sub-standard toilets in order to savour every moment of an F1 weekend, thrilling over every glimpse of anyone remotely connected to motorsport, savouring the roar of the engines, delighting over each and every moment of this time so disconnected from everyday life.
So preparation is key. The usual rules of spectating apply- sun cream, comfy shoes, plenty of jumpers, a waterproof- just on a much larger scale. Binoculars are a must if you want to be able to see the timings on the big screens rather than being glued to your phone. Perhaps an even more important item to remember is earphones, without which you’ll have no chance of hearing the circuit commentary as the cars come past. Bring your own radio if you want to listen to Silverstone FM as it can’t be streamed during track action and the radios for sale are all quite pricey.
The International Pit Straight is a fantastic place to sit in terms of seeing into the garages and spotting a driver roaming around (this is where the binoculars come in handy again for spying on teams). Unfortunately it costs far more than most people can afford to sit there on a Sunday but a good use of a roaming grandstand ticket is to bag a seat as early as possible on Saturday morning and not move all day. The same applies with a general admission ticket, plonk that camping chair right at the front at some unreasonably early time and then sit on that chair as if your life depends on it.
Aside from the actual on track action, it’s definitely worth getting down to the main stage where there are driver appearances at the end of the day. Sneaking your way to the front can also pay off when some drivers decide to come down for autographs and photos.
Of course you have to wear as much team apparel as you can, although it is possible to overdo it. As a general rule if you’re wearing bright red Ferrari trousers you’ve gone a step too far and people will assume that you’re a mechanic sent out to get an ice cream for Kimi Raikkonen. The older and more obscure your t-shirt the more respect you’ll earn from your fellow lifelong die-hard fans so it’s time to dust off your 1991 Minardi cap and wear it with pride. And don’t forget to pick up some backmarker merchandise over the weekend so that you’re all ready for Silverstone 2058.
Expect a fair amount of inconvenience to come with the camping. You won’t get much sleep, despite being drained from the excitement and fresh air, as the next tent will have a snoring problem and just because ‘what a wonderful night’s sleep!’ was said by no one camping ever. But it is a small price to pay to have a five minute walk to the track, to fall asleep to the sound of hundreds of fans singing together over in one of the entertainment tents and to wake up to the sound of GP3 cars firing up. It’s best that you accept now that you will leave with some level of sunburn despite the cloud and the sun cream and the drizzle. You’ll miss the one exciting thing to happen in FP2 because it was the only time when there wasn’t a queue for the toilet.
At the end of the race when they allow fans on to the track it is possible, if you are lucky and optimally located, to see the podium presentation, but in all likelihood all you will be able to see is the back of the person in front’s head. It’s a bit of a scrum to peer over the wall into the pitlane and although you have more of a chance of being knocked out by someone’s rucksack than seeing a driver, it’s still incredibly exciting to walk where the cars were racing only minutes before and watching how quickly everyone works to deconstruct a race weekend.
After you’ve walked as much of the track as you can, drivers will be making their way over to the main stage. Don’t worry about attempting to beat the traffic; that’s a pipe dream. It’s much more British to sit in the drizzle watching someone who once came third in the X-Factor in the valiant hope that you’ll get one more glimpse of an F1 star.