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Silverstone 2011: How the converted F1 sceptic got on at the Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Jul 2011   |  11:05 am GMT  |  56 comments

Among other initiatives we ran for fans around the British Grand Prix was a fun programme to convert a sceptic to F1 by using the crossover appeal of the Senna film to win them over.

The prize was a weekend at the British Grand Prix, with a grandstand and hotel package kindly donated by the title sponsor, Santander. Hayley Fox and her husband won it and here’s her account of her first F1 experience.

Hayley Fox writes: “We received our tickets on Thursday and with that my husband became an excited child again, I will admit that I too was excited as so many people had talked to me about it.

One thing I noticed was a lot of people had said to me ‘Oh you’re so lucky, I would love to go and see F1.’ What I was surprised by was when I asked them, ‘Do you watch F1?’ most replies were ‘no’ or ‘when is it on?’ But they had all heard of it and wanted to see it.

F1 Practice really made me feel why my husband and so many others love this sport; the atmosphere, the people it was great. Then came the noise and oooohhhh my ears the first time the cars came past me at full speed I really felt myself getting excited what a feeling, and what a noise!

Race day: We sat and watched Alonso drive the old Ferrari round the circuit (how beautiful did the old F1 cars look?) and the drivers parade and I and everyone else was waving and of course cheering on fellow Brits for a good result.

Well the start soon arrived and the feeling I got when 24 cars roared past in anger I’m sure to be a fan for life after experiencing that.

As the race progressed it was great to watch and the cheers from the crowd everytime Lewis, Jenson or di Resta made a move and when Alonso gained the lead was amazing. I really think we have the best fans in the world.

The race felt like it was over before it had even started and I have to admit to jumping into the air watching Lewis and Massa’s last lap fight and Lewis coming out in front the crowd as did I and my husband acted like he had won, it really has sucked me in to the world of motorsport.

I felt rather sorry for Jenson though but I’m learning, after watching, the smallest mistake means ‘game over’ but I also understand now how much trust the team members have in each other. I personally couldn’t stand in front of a speeding car with the lollipop (I even picked up some F1 lingo!)

When the race ended we were lucky enough to get onto the circuit and watch the podium and have a walk round (my husband has collected some tyre rubber and some carbon fibre souvenirs)

All in all amazing experience which I’d love to do again but not sure we could afford it.

My main observations from the weekend are; the noise, atmosphere and the people make an amazing experience. It such a shame that it is not more affordable as I’d love to go again.

We also watched the after-party and cheered on the many drivers that appeared and what great thing it was to watch.

We are now exhausted but when we arrived home the many people I had told to watch it did and they said, ‘What a great race’ and ‘You must have had such a great time,’ so I hope I’ve now converted a few people (and quite a few were women) into F1 fans.

If I was allowed to say it though F1 seems to be far too boxed in in it’s own little corner and needs to open up to let more people in and allow them to experience what I experienced, I’m sure even just a little advertising would go a long way.

If a film I didn’t even want to watch convinced me to look into F1 and watch a race and entered this competition imagine what advertising and a close up experience of F1 could do for the sport. I’m convinced that just hearing the noise and feeling atmosphere like I did would turn many others like me from a silly cars going in circles type of person to an F1 fan and obsessive of that V8 noise. I now also understand how feel the Senna film connects to F1 it’s beautiful the film and F1 are like poetry in motion.

All in all a great weekend and thank you to James and Santander and our rep and drivers over the weekend we were very well looked after.

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I do agree with all the ideas you’ve presented to your post. They’re very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for starters. May you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.


“All in all amazing experience which I’d love to do again but not sure we could afford it.”

The cost to me is also something that’s putting me off right now.

Abu Dhabi tickets went up by AED400 (2 day package) – that’s $108 more compared to last year. The economy is stable, the track not the last race and the price went up?

Abu Dhabi has attracted some following, but this year they are moving slowly towards making this unreachable for avg Joe.

Don’t know how this pans out in other countries. But for me, I can afford it, but I am not paying it on the premise of the fluctuation vs what it offers.


First one i saw was first adelaide GP & went to every adelaide after that , the noise as you were walking to the race _________ the step got faster as you were walking in

Excitement just went through the roof as you got closer & when you got to your spot which at the time was general admission area , All i could afford at the time >>>

Had a 300 mtr view of the track and it was on a main straight

Could just see blurred colors of cars 3 abreast ………..

Hooked , Paid lots more for the next year & every other year after that don’t forget , the noise was first impression


Congratulations! You have embarked on a love affair that will prove impossible to shake off as the years go by.

For me, F1 has been a source of inspiration, frustration, pain, joy, excitement and stoicism (being a button fan) for many years. Like an old friend, we don’t always get on but I couldn’t be without it.

I began watching as a small child but my first concerted effort to follow a season in its entirety was 1994, the year of the mighty Schumacher’s first title win. As a Brit I was rooting for Damon back then so as you can imagine, my early days as a teenage fan were littered with agony but I was hooked nonetheless. When Damon crossed the line at Suzuka in 1996 I was certainly sharing in Muzza’s throat lump I can tell you.

If you ever find yourself heading to Milan, try and make it around the time of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Like Silverstone, Monza has its own special breed of spectators which makes the atmosphere magic!

I went in 2005 arriving early on Friday morning to the circuit with my Dad and some friends, non of whom had ever been to a race before whereas I had. We made our way to our stand (via Mr. Foster’s beverage emporium) which was right opposite the pit exit and waited. Engines firing into life as the mechanics ran through warm up routines and systems checks and then finally the red nose of Michael’s Ferrari emerged from behind the pit wall and the hair in the back of my neck, along with everyone else’s stood on end and stayed there for 3 days. Amazing!

My Dad has always favoured bikes and been fairly dismissive of F1 until that moment, you just can’t help but get sucked in by the waves of romance and passion that swirl palpably in the air when the Grand Prix Circus gets down to business. Of course, in those days we still had the V10s which in my opinion sounded a little sweeter than the ultra peaky V8s but when it all boils down, it doesn’t really matter.

Formula 1 has survived numerous shifts in technical regulations over the years and controversy tends to go hand in hand with those changes. Whether it be from fans baulking at tinkering with the formula or manufacturers sulking because they are prevented from pursuing a particular avenue of research that interests them, none of it seems to matter a jot. It all adds to the soap opera and F1 lives on regardless growing ever stronger. How? Well it’s as the late great Barry Sheene once said, “when the green flag drops, the Bull**** stops”.

Long live F1!!


James, I watched the Senna film the other day. I must say I enjoyed it, BUT I found it deeply annoying that Senna’s appalling on track behaviour was barely touched upon. When it was, it just glibly mentioned of his bringing karting tactics into F1, without discussing his often dangerous and frankly unsportsmanlike behaviour. Unfortunately his ‘win at all costs’ theory has given us M Schumacher and on occasion has informed Hamilton poorer moves. I feel this important and interesting aspect of his story was airbrushed out of the story because it didn’t fit the hero narrative.


I have to say you’ve got a good point. It seems that because he died on track all his dubious moves are deleted from the concsience of history. It’s often the case that successful people are remembered through rose coloured glasses and their unsavoury character traits are forgotten. I know it’s wholesome to forgive a person in death but there’s no need to re-write history by ignoring the not so stupendous bits. It’s wrong to deify people as it diminishes their achievements. We should remember them warts and all so we can understand what they did to achieve success, not just the success. After all, if he didn’t have his ruthless streak he would not have been as quick or successful. It’s all part of the man’s make up so it should be documented equally. Another example is Colin Chapman. Most people know him as the legendary and visionary F1 designer and not the raging tyrant of a boss. Very hard to work for apparently.


Good on you Hayley. I took my brother with me to my (and his) first race (Melbourne). He was just along for the ride really, but priceless was the look on his face when Schumacher’s Ferrari threw up a marble coming off turn 4 that hit my brother’s cheek!


Hey James, I just noticed you were on The Flying Lap. Pardon me if you’ve already posted it here, but am sure your fans here would appreciate hearing your recent interview with Peter Windsor.

Episode 27.


Yes it was good fun!


I too think cost is an issue, maybe the promoters could sell 10000 cheap GA tickets 6 months out, would give those that plan to go a shot and wouldn’t effect most ticket sales that I imagine would be in the month leading up to each GP.


Thank you Hayley. Great concise article. Surely I’d not be able to write so well after such a first-time stimulating blur of a weekend. Hopefully your writing will help bring the changes the posters above have so well pointed out.


I dragged the missus (quite literally, she wasn’t keen) to the Melbourne GP this year. Prior to that she hated F1. Instant convert. She now loves it almost as much as I do. The only downside was she’s now chosen to support vettel because I dislike the kid. God love her!

Speaks volumes of the impact of seeing them in the flesh as opposed to tellie tho.



Congrats on winning the tix and the wonderful experience. I know exactly what you mean. My girlfriend and I went to our first race this year the Canadian Grand Prix. Its was a life changing experience! You can be sure that, cost be damned, we will be back. There were many wonderful things assaulting our senses, but I have to agree the noise those engines make are mechanical arias! While seeing the races on TV, as I have for the past 2 years, is a better analytic and maybe even learning experience, I have yet to experience similar thrills in any sporting event. The only negative is cost of course, but even that is relative because its essentially a 3 day event. I’ve paid more for bad seats at a Knicks game. I’m looking forward to getting to Silverstone sometime soon and hope to see you and your husband there!


For those wondering where they can get a taste for F1, may I recommend they head over the world series Renault website.

They race at Silverstone in august, its very competitive this year, many feel it has surpassed GP2 for quality, whats more the Renault F1 team will do some demo laps at speed with last years car. I went last year and had a great day, there were a few of the old Williams Renault’s from the 90’s on display too.

The best thing about it? Its completely free!

Get involved!


Awesome. Awesome.

“Well the start soon arrived and the feeling I got when 24 cars roared past in anger I’m sure to be a fan for life after experiencing that”

Welcome to Formula One.


Great, concise feedback Hayley. I couldn’t agree more with you about how F1 lives in it’s own little closed off bubble.

The bigger and more commercial the sport has become the less and less accessible it is for the Fans. I count myself as very lucky to have enjoyed my first Grand Prix in 1978 and remember how accessible the sport was back then when you could walk onto the track and into the pitlane at the end of the race.

I was at Silverstone last week and loved every minute of it apart form the very end. Why wasn’t the track opened to all the fans after the race? It seems only some people got onto the pitstraight at the end. We were denied access by security which seemed so petty, but so typical of what F1 has become.

I’d encourage you to attend some less high-profile motor racing events such as British F3 or Formula Renault. Great racing from the F1 drivers of the future, and whilst the cars are not as fast or as noisy as the F1 boys the costs are cheaper and they are more accessible.


At Montreal they open up the fences and let everyone out onto the track. I think it’s essential to be able to walk the circuit with everyone after the race to soak up the atmosphere, take a closer look at the curbs and walls or take your photo at the wall of champions. All F1 tracks should follow this tradition.


Thanks for your comment. This should definitely be the standard for all GPs – especially as there are no more races after the GP has finished. James Allen please take note!


Welcome, Hayley, to the greatest sport in the world! 🙂


I’ve only been to one race, Donnington ’93. The noise made my vision blur as the cars went past, the smell was like a dentist’s waiting room, the cost £65 for Sunday only. I’ve been going “next year” for the past 10 years but still haven’t made it. There’s always something more important that needs to be paid, and then it’s “next year” again. Testing days with the opportunity to buy merchandise etc. would bring fans closer as well as introducing their friends.

How about 2 free test passes with every weekend (Sat/Sun) ticket sold?


I’ve been lucky enough to go to 5 F1 races (3 at Silverstone, 1 on the hill at Monaco and 1 at Singapore last year). It’s very expensive although there are cheaper options if you plan ahead or are prepared to not be in the premium stands.

I’ve been trying to get my sister, her hubby and their car mad, 6 year old son to go but obviously the cost x three becomes even more prohibitive for people not rolling in money.

However, instead this year we are all going to to the the 6 Hours Endurance Race at Silverstone in September. We’re even planning to camp! The cars will be equally awesome – I’m hoping the Aston Martins will finally be able to put on a good show. There will be GT and Prototype cars to oogle over.

And the best news. General entry for the weekend including access to the stands and the paddock is £29 (even cheaper if you book via the links at We’ve even bought two tickets that will give us pitlane access before the race, for not much more! You can’t get closer than that unless you are in a team.

I love F1 and would go to any race (yes even the ‘boring’ ones) if you gave me a ticket! However let’s not forget that there’s all sorts of other fantastic racing action going on all over the country every weekend. I’d like to go Wales Rally GB one year.



Really great article, and definitely captures the magic of a live F1 event. Just attended the Canadian GP myself – flying up from New York – and hearing those engines for the first never is never anything less than a thrill.

Even thinking about it is giving me goose bumps!

On a similar level, Canada was my fiancee’s first experience of live F1. She’s a casual watcher on TV (she’s no choice as I watch each race about three times!) but she really enjoyed it. We’re currently planning our wedding… if only she’d let me base it around the Texas GP next year (I wish!).

Anyway, tremendous article, and welcome to the club, Hayley!


This is a perfect opportunity for me to ask Hayley a question: I’ve never been to an F1 race (I only had one opportunity to visit Barcelona while being used for mid-season testing) and feel I prefer to watch it on TV as you get to see all parts of the track and all the incidents and so keep up with all the happenings as they happen; whereas (I imagine) sitting in one distant grandstand only allows you to see 24 cars racing by one part of the track then wait until they come round again. So – put me right – can you follow an entire race as a spectator? For example, how do the live spectators manage to keep up with incidents, such as understanding why someone has suddenly dropped back (collision, worn tyres, wheel gun problem, etc)?


My first live GP was last year – and I thoroughly agree about the senses – the noise in particular.

We were at woodcote, without a good tv in view – so went for the kangaroo. That was pretty good

But, for the most inclusive perspective, you probably want a radio – capable of either the Silverstone FM station, or for getting Crofty off Radio 5. Having something to listen to helps much more than the TV alone – though the Kangaroo comes with the R5 coverage anyway.

Of course, to hear the radio, it needs to come with very good in-ear ‘phones, or ear-defenders to go over the top. I used some with squashable foam, rather than the thin plastic, and they worked as well as those orange squashable earplugs.

Grayzee (Australia)

You can do both: watch it live as they go by, and on the big screens. My first, and so far only grand prix, was back in 2002, at Albert Park. ( I will go again when I can afford it). I sat on the main straight opposite row 3 of the grid. They were the most expensive seats available to the public, and were the equilivilent of a 2 weeks pay. The build up to the start was awesome, though the start itself was….FAST! 🙂 One minute they were arrived on the grid, then…poof! they were gone 🙂 . That acceleration!!….can’t see that on the telly!

The first time past, at top speed was mind blowing, even for a F1 Fanatic like me. I had been to the Indy Cars at the Gold Coast a few times and THEY were loud…..WRONG!!

From then on, I followed the action on the big screens. My advice to anyone is to bring earplugs, and have a radio broadcast feed through them, so you can get some commentary.

After the race, I went back to my motel and watched it all again on TV. The best of both worlds!

(When I finish raising my kids, and so will have more money, I will be going back again, and again…… 🙂 )


I was so bored at my first race because we were nowhere near a screen (and partly because I’m a Button fan and it was 2008). I watched every race back home but if my partner had been trying to convince me to like the sport that day it would have been a miserable failure. Whether you want to go for a grandstand seat or general admission, make sure you’re in sight of a screen. TV makes the sport in my opinion. The sound of the cars doesn’t make up for not knowing what is going on; I’m always wearing earplugs anyway.

At the time I said I wouldn’t go to another race but we’ve been to three races since then which is a reasonable effort as even our home grand prix is 2000 kilometres away! In 2009 we had grandstand seats in Singapore which was brilliant but we’ve had GA tickets for the next two races we’ve attended and it was a much better experience for being in sight of a screen (and seeing Jenson win and podium:)). Now with the live timing app it’s easier to follow as well without having to pay for the fan vision if you are trying not to spend too much money.


It depends on the circuit, your proximity to the large screens, and how high the sun is in the sky.

A mate of mine went to Malaysia and said he could see 3/4 of the track from his grandstand seat so he could follow the race easily.

I had my first experience this year at Albert Park sitting in a grandstand (Schumacher) with a view of the last two corners and a glimpse across the lake of the fast section of the track for myself, my wife and our two kids that cost AUD$600 for the day. I had two large screens to look at but because of the 5pm local time start the sun was low in the sky and was right in my eyes making those two large screens impossible to view. Hearing the cars and seeing them first hand was great but I felt lost all race even though I had the iphone app running the whole time, it was crazy staring at my phone when I was at the track!

I’ve since watched the Albert Park race on the TV and it felt like a completely different race to the one I attended.

I will be watching next year from the comfort of my living room.


In answer to your question yes you can follow as a spectator because a) there was big tv screen all around the circuit which showed great coverage and b) we had fan vision which meant we had our own little tv Which showed everything lap times fastest lap pit radio and even showed messages from race control so excellent coverage they are expensive though but the big screens were well placed


Big screens everywhere with the world feed on them help, the atmosphere and noise is like a drug. Ive been going since 1996 and If I could to every race i would, beats watching it on tv every time!

I think the biggest point here though is cost, many people cannot afford to go.

James, I understand that Silverstone can charge what it does when it sells out every year but how can tracks like Spa charge so much when they struggle to fill the circuit up? We often hear that the belgian organisers never turn a profit


Great article Hayley. I really enjoy reading your articles. You are a good writer. Good thing you won that competition. 🙂 Would not mind if you were to contribute a couple more articles. 🙂


F1 is one of those things that until you experience it, you don’t know what you’ve been missing up to that point. Thanks for putting in so much into the sport.

Maybe Manish Pandey should be given some role to advertise F1 around the globe with short films or commercials.


“My main observations from the weekend are; the noise, atmosphere and the people make an amazing experience. It such a shame that it is not more affordable as I’d love to go again.”

got it in 1 – Bernie take note – however FIA also take note re engine noise – its a huge part of F1 live


Ah, yes. You’ll always remember your first time! 😉


On the testing issue I have no idea why F1 doesn’t do test days for the public to pay a cheaper rate to go and watch. I can’t really afford to watch the British GP anymore, even being a hardcore fan I can’t justify it, but if they wanted £30 to watch a test day I would be there.

It wouldn’t take much to commercialise the tests a little to them televised. They could implement a Golden Helmet award for the fastest lap or something that the drivers can carry to the next race or test.


I agree – I think last time I went it was £20 to get in. The test days at Silverstone used to be brilliant to go and watch. It was less crowded and you could walk round about half the circuit and watch and hear the F1 cars driving all day.


Excellent and really well-written article Hayley which conveyed the thrill and the excitement of the whole weekend brilliantly.

With regard to F1 opening up a bit more, I guess only allowing limited access means premium prices can be charged at circuits around the world. If you take a look at IndyCar and NASCAR, you tend to find very accessible teams, drivers etc with prices commensurately lower. The structure of F1 these days will probably not permit greater accessibility (ie: accessibility is only available if you can pay for it) as CVC’s revenues would fall. I guess the teams don’t have too much of a say in it anymore either. There is definitely a pent up demand for greater accessibility. That said, pent up demand means premium (and Paddock Club) ticket prices can be charged… Why do corporate hospitality is everyone can meet the drivers, team members etc.

F1 remains a great sport, whether it be on the TV or if you are able to be there in person. You cannot beat the sensory overload of a GP.

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