Thought I'd make a new thread for explaining my day yesterday in VIP hospitality at Silverstone! It's a bit of a long post so I've broken it down into sections, and make sure you stay for the last 3 sections in particular...
INTRODUCTION AND APOLOGY
The other day I mentioned it was a Force India event I was going to. Well, it turns out the guy I went with mis-informed me a bit. It was actually a general Silverstone hospitality thing, but he got it arranged by Force India through his new friendship with Nikita Mazepin. So unfortunately I didn't get to meet Ocon or Perez, and I obviously couldn't ask your questions, my apologies guys!
THE APEX SUITE
It was located at Woodcote corner, so no prizes for guessing why our suite was called the Apex Suite! We were shown to our table. (which happened to be table 44, so we said it was a good omen for the day, and it turned out to be true when Lewis got pole!) Everyone got a free programme, radio device, a decent quality poncho, and a couple of other goodies. There were tonnes of TV's in the suite so we could tune in to the radio to have the commentary as well!
There was a bloke who was on the microphone in the suite who gave us all a history lesson on the circuit, and he asked us some questions about the history of the sport, with some small prizes for whoever shouted out the answers first. Considering I was definitely the youngest person there, I got about 80% of the questions first, not even kidding. Most people there were in their late 30s / 40s / early 50s, so you'd think they'd know more as they were actually there! But nah, there was nerdy old me reeling off the stats. In the end I had to stop answering so he could give stuff to the other people!
FOOD AND DRINK
There were multiple jugs of water and juices on all the tables, and later in the morning they brought out multiple bottles of wine to the tables. Throughout the day you could get whatever drinks you wanted from the bar, be it beers, soft drinks, tea and coffee, etc. I must've had about 5 Heineken's and a couple of glasses of wine, so to be honest I was a bit pickled at the end of the day.
The food was all a nice buffet sort of thing, you could go up as often as you like. At breakfast I had some real nice hot cheese and ham rolls, about 3 waffles with syrup, and some yoghurts and honey. Real nice. For lunch I had some brilliant chicken in a sauce, a root vegetable salad, couscous, a couple of bread rolls and various other bits and bobs.
THE BALCONY VIEW AND OUR OWN PRIVATE VIP GRANDSTAND
We sat at a table which semi- overlooked the circuit, so to see it properly you had to stand up, you couldn't see it sitting down. But there was a long balcony outside where if you walked up and down you could see from Luffield to the start of Copse. We tended to stay in the middle of Woodcote as there was a big screen opposite, and the view was good anyway.
All people in hospitality had access to their very own grandstand too, which was located just after the bridge on the Wellington Straight (to be honest, I never knew it existed until the day). It was alright, we could see them braking into Brooklands, but after that, you couldn't see much, so we didn't stay there for long, probably about 30 minutes.
Something I thought when we were there though is how big the G-forces must be going into Brooklands. I was stunned at how much speed they take through. It's sometimes easy to forget there's a human being in there, and the forces they're put under are ridiculous. Proper superhumans.
CLASSIC RENAULT AND WILLIAMS CARS
With this hospitality pass, we had access to the National Pits Straight paddock, as well as the garages where they kept the classic cars for Renault and Williams. We could get right up close, and they had the 1982(?) Renault there with all the bodywork off. It was gorgeous. There was also the 1979 Renault RS 01, and then Williams had about 5 cars (2003, 1996, 1992, the un-raced 6 wheeler, and another early 80s car).
I managed to get a photo taken with Mansell's 1992 FW14B, which was just amazing! Such an iconic car, and to be right next to it was immense, such a beautiful design. We were also allowed into a Williams Heritage truck, where they had examples of classic telemetry, various tools, as well as Karun Chandhok's racing overalls just casually hanging there!
F2 / GP3 PADDOCK WALK
Couldn't see much in the garages as they were all covered up, but I did manage to get photos with Oliver Rowland and Norman Nato which was cool! I spotted a few other drivers but they were too far away to get photos with unfortunately, which included Giedo Van Der Garde! There was also Santino Ferrucci, Sean Galael and Antonio Fuoco. I desperately wanted to meet Charles Leclerc but I never saw him about unfortunately.
MAKING SOME NEW FRIENDS
There was a real nice couple from Suffolk who sat on our table, probably in their early 40s, and it was the first time they'd been to the British Grand Prix. She had bought him 3 day tickets as a Christmas present, and they made the most of it by going for the VIP treatment on Saturday! Understandably, they were both really excited about being there, and she in particular was a big fan of Lewis and Alonso, as well as Daniel Ricciardo, which leads me onto my next section...
SO NEARLY MEETING DANIEL RICCIARDO...
We watched Qualifying from our balcony, and I noticed on the big screen opposite that Ricciardo had broken down very near to us just before Woodcote. We rushed up to try and spot him, and he walked past our balcony on the way back. We cheered to him and he gave us a wave, but obviously he was pretty pissed to be out of Qualy so early, but still seemed happy enough to wave to us a couple of times.
And then it clicked in my head... I thought to myself 'Ricciardo is gonna have to walk through our paddock to get back to the new paddock'! I mentioned this to my new friends and we absolutely hightailed it out of the suite, down the stairs and towards the pit lane gate. Sure enough, as we were briskly walking across, we saw him! But unfortunately he jumped into a minibus, just as we were about to get there! I was gutted, because if I had the thought 5 seconds earlier then we would've made it and hopefully gotten to meet him! The 3 of us gave him another wave once he was in the minibus and he did wave back which was nice, but off he went!
However, the marshals started wheeling Ricciardo's car down through that same gate, and by that time some other people came down to have a look. It was amazing, I was right up next to the car taking so many photos, and the marshals were very relaxed about us all being there. We all respected what they were doing and they never once had to tell us to move out the way. I managed to get some great shots of the underside of the car as they lifted it onto the low-loader. I should send some of the rival teams Emails asking if they want the photos, and I reckon I should charge them for it! I'm sure they'd be dying to see photos of the underside of a current Adrian Newey designed car, and these opportunities don't come around much!
I got some real close up photos of the diffuser and the whole rear end. Seeing a current F1 car so up close was incredible, without any barriers or anything! Probably an opportunity I won't get again, ever, because the teams are so secretive, but without any mechanics there, we could get up right close! I took some photos of our new friends in front of the car too, so they were thrilled with that.
When we returned to the balcony, we were all massively fan-girling over what just happened. For my new friends, who haven't ever been to a British GP or been up close to an F1 car before, they were just buzzing. They thanked me for standing next to them up there and mentioning that we might get to see Ricciardo, because otherwise they said the thought wouldn't have ever come into their minds!
While we were obviously disappointed to just miss out on meeting him, we were still so happy to be that close to the car. It was just pure luck that our suite was positioned right where he pulled over. Anywhere else and we wouldn't have seen him or the car!
MEETING AN F1 LEGEND: RENE ARNOUX!
We watched the rest of Qualifying and the F2 Feature Race from the balcony, and about half way through the race I spotted this older looking driver walking along the balcony towards us. I didn't recognise his face, so thought to myself 'who could that be, he's too old to be in F2 or GP3', and then I noticed his classic Renault logo and his overalls which said 'R. ARNOUX' on them... It's only bloody Rene Arnoux! I couldn't let this opportunity go, so I asked him for a quick selfie, amazing!
So yeah, what an amazing day. Just absolute pure luck and good timing that I managed to go along in the first place, and even more luck to get so close to Ricciardo's car, and another dose to meet Rene Arnoux! I had a look at how much it costs for that very suite on the Saturday, and it's about £250, so it's an experience I won't get to go through for a very very long time I'm sure. Super! I'll post some photos up tomorrow as well!
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