mclaren


Going into The British Grand Prix there were many arguing that Formula One had lost its edge. Declining television audiences and a much reduced turn out in Austria seemed to point to fans increased disenchantment. The British Grand Prix served to dispel some of those fears. A record 340,000 spectators attended the weekend with 160,000 ensuring a full house on race day itself. A particularly startling fact was that there were more people at Silverstone for Friday practice than there were spectators for the Austrian Grand Prix itself.

Drivers Parade

The race itself turned out to be a thriller and produced the result Lewis Hamilton’s is adoring fans had hoped for. It had everything: strategy, surprises, overtaking, thrills and spills. On such that it was hard to argue that Formula One needed any revisions.

 

Lewis and Nico on the parade lap

Silverstone put on a fantastic show. Yes tickets were expensive but the full house showed that they had perhaps got the pricing right. The view from the general admission areas can be good if you can find yourself a decent place early enough. I always get a weekend ticket and on race day sit in the Club Corner grandstand which provides a great view of the last two corners and the finish line – not to mention the podium at the end of the Wing building. For qualification I like to sit in the general admission areas at Becketts to really see the cars move about at high-speed.

Lewis takes the chequered flag

The bad old days of Silverstone, the muddy carparks,  the chaos and the huge traffic queues, seem to be a thing of the past. And (say it softly) Bernie must take a lot of the credit for the transformation. If he had not threatened to remove the race from the calendar I suspect little would have been done to improve the fans race going experience.

 

Lewis hoists the famous gold RAC trophy up in the air. No rubbish plastic trophy this year!

 

The race weekend also had more than just the F1 race. The support races were exciting, we were treated to the sight of Stirling Moss demonstrating his 1955 British GP winning Mercedes, and the air displays by the Red Arrows and a thunderous Eurofighter Typhoon were thrilling.

Crofty cross examines Lewis

 

I stayed at the circuit for the after show party and was glad I did. Not only did I get to see part of the Spice Girls perform (guilty pleasure) but the Q&A sessions between Crofty and the drivers were eye opening. Away from their PR people it was amazing how open the drivers were able to be. Lewis’s  delight in winning his home Grand Prix for a third time was evident. But it was Nico who stood out. Honest and down to earth, good humoured and gracious, he came across very differently from the demonic Nico portrayed by the press. He certainly won the fans over.

So all in all a fantastic Grand Prix. I have already booked my tickets for next year!

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One of the benefits of booking your Silverstone GP tickets nearly a year in advance is the free opportunity to attend a pit walk on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. Yesterday the crowds were out in force but despite an initial queue nearly half a mile long, things progressed smoothly and everyone had a good chance to have alook in the team garages.


Grosjean’s Lotus looked neat – imagine what it looks like tonight, half full of gravel!


Jenson’s McLaren Honda was in pieces, semi shielded from the public by a convenient trolley and some body pods. You could almost smell the despair..


By contrast Vettel’s Ferrari looked splendidly complete and ready for action.


Similar clean efficiency at Williams. They should be strong this weekend.


Bit more work on Massa’s car though!


The chaps at Red Bull were preparing Ricciardo’s car to a thumping house music beat. The other teams worked in silence. Deathly silence over at McLaren..


Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s crew practiced tyre changes to the delight of the crowd.


Hulkenberg’s Force India was undergoing a rebuild


Former British GP winner Johnny Herbert was able to share some race tips with young Will Stevens of Manor.


Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado was being interviewed by Spanish TV


Will Stevens sporting weight saving haircut

   

New AMG GT safety cars. Nice looking but lets hope we don’t see much of them all weekend.

I encountered a rare car at a service station on the M6 toll road yesterday evening. The owner of this gorgeous Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar very wisely chose to park well away from everyone else and possible door opening dings!



887 hp and a 210mph top speed. Stunning looks and 4 wheel drive. A better car in all ways than the P1 and La Ferrari



Yes that really is gold leaf on top of the 4.6L V8



Two black beauties! Parking the Jag next to the Porsche shows the Porsches compact dimensions



Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his second World Championship following his convincing win at Abu Dhabi earlier today. Whilst its a shame Rosberg dropped out of contention with mechanical difficulties, it was a relief that the Championship went to the driver with the most wins and that it was not decided by the ridiculous double points system in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain's first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain’s first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Other innovations were more successful. The new hybrid engines are absolutely fascinating and have proved more reliable than anyone would have predicted. I personally do not mind the different noise – I think it sounds like the future.

Despite Mercedes Benz’s crushing dominance it was still a thrilling season. The resurrection of Williams was great to see for all British fans as was the humbling of Vettel at the hands of his Australian team mate. Ricciardo has had a fantastic season, his third in the drivers championship being well deserved. His lack of pretention and easy going nature have already endeared him to the fans. We can expect great things of him next season.  In addition, thanks to the aerodynamic skills of Adrian Newey, Red Bull managed to stay in touch with the Mercedes powered teams, notwithstanding their Renault engines. A remarkable achievement for the team. How will they cope with less of his time next year?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Massa has also had a good season. He must be delighted Ferrari let him go. Ferrari’s season has been terrible – an embarrassment to the team who reap the most financial reward from the current system of team financing.  The departure of Montezemolo after so many years is the end of an era.  Rumours abound that Ross Brawn may go back to Ferrari. Might that and Vettel’s arrival be enough to help them out of the hole they are currently in?  McLaren, the second oldest team on the grid, have also had a season to forget.  Ron Dennis has a new Honda engine next season – will it be good enough? Engine aside they have not been competitive with the other Mercedes customer teams, Williams and Force India, both of whom have outperformed the Woking outfit.  Bar a miraculous Honda engine, Alonso is likely to face a tough test on his return to the team.

The administration of the Caterham and Marussia teams was a sad symptom of the increasing cost of F1. The new hybrid engines and the inequity of the current Concorde Agreement between F1’s commercial rights owner and some of the teams led directly to the reduced grid seen in the last few races of the season. Things do not look good for Sauber, Force India of Lotus either. Lotus’ season has been particularly terrible and it seems nothing much can save them apart from a return of Flavio Briatore or some other deep pocket.

After many years of no serious injuries in F1 we were rocked by Jules Bianchi’s terrible accident at Suzuka. Hopefully he and Michael Schumacher, injured in a freak skiing accident earlier in the year, will make a full recovery.

jules

Ever since I went to the first Goodwood Revival meeting in 1998, those three days in September have been the highlight of my motoring year. Goodwood is a fantastic race circuit, fast and demanding of drivers but at the same time beautiful and accessible to the public. When the weather is good there is really nothing to match the place. Lord March does, of course, put on a good party. Racing heroes of the past and the top historic racers of today love to drive at Goodwood as much as the public loves to see them. And if you are a billionaire owner of a Ferrari 250 GTO then nothing underscores your wealth more than allowing your precious car to be raced at it’s limit around such an unforgiving track.

Much though I love the revival I do increasingly begin to question whether I enjoy it as much as I used to. This year there was a record attendance of over 160,000 people and boy, at times did it feel it. Maybe it would not have been so bad if all of those attending had been motoring enthusiasts but many were there on corporate hospitality jollies and clearly had little interest or knowledge of motor racing. When John Surtees was taking part in his laps of honour I overheard, all too frequently, people asking who he was.

Maybe I’m getting grouchy now, but am I the only one beginning to find having to dress in period attire boring? Certainly the whole dressing up thing has become a major industry and whilst it might interest otherwise bored spouses, is it really necessary for the enjoyment of the racing? I understand that there is a desire to create a period feel but in that case why all the adverts for contemporary and anonymous private banks and hedge funds? And why are motor manufacturers allowed to push their new models in the “period” Earls Court Motor Show?

The racing this year was as good as ever but quite often it was the same cars that race every year in the same races with the same drivers. Perhaps Goodwood’s embarrassment of riches gives rise to a certain ambivalence but I no longer get excited by the multi-million pound grid for the RAC TT celebration. As for the St Mary’s Trophy touring car race, the less said the better. A Race where a Ford A40 can lap faster than a Jaguar Mk 1 is certainly entertaining but it is not historic racing.

The highpoints of my weekend? One was watching Giedo Van de Garde sliding his AC Cobra around Lavant Corner on his way to winning the RAC TT celebration with his codriver David Hart. I have often heard elderly spectators say that young Formula One drivers would be incapable of racing sports cars from the 50s and 60s as their forebears used to, because young drivers are so used to massive downforce and slick tires. Giedo proved conclusively that even one of the least high profile young Formula One drivers of today is more than capable of driving the wheels off anything given half a chance.

Another highlight was the fantastic Whitsun Trophy race on Saturday evening. Chris Goodwin, McLaren’s charming test driver, triumphed in his own McLaren Chevy M1B. The racing was very close and the average lap speed the fastest of the whole weekend. Seeing these CanAm monsters hurtle down the Lavant straight at over 160 miles an hour was astonishing as was the noise from their huge V8 engines.

An finally of course, the air displays. This year we had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see two Lancasters flying in formation. A very moving sight.

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Goodwood in September..Goodwood Trophy Race

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V16 BRM – I had not realised the engine was offset.

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Derek Bell pushes his Jaguar D Type towards the grid

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Jay Esterer’s sinister Chinook Chevy Mk2 from the Whitsun Trophy race

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Chris Goodwin’s Whitsun Trophy winning McLaren Chevy M1B

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Lots of fine cars in the Classics Car Park, one of the highlights of the event in fact. This very fine Armstrong Siddley Star Sapphire had come all the way from Switzerland.

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A very neat Singer Le Mans, a very underrated pre war sports car.

 

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A rare aerial visitor, a Gloster Gladiator fighter.

 

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A rare MG Arnholt Coupe. Built on a TD chassis in the US in the fifties, these cars are rarely seen in Europe. This one had come from Germany.

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Sir Jackie Stewart explains the finer points of his Championship winning Tyrell

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Two Lancasters – the roar of eight Rolls Royce Merlin engines. The sound of freedom.

I first attended Salon Prive last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Held in the beautiful grounds of the Duke of Northumberland’s London home, Syon House in West London,  the event is billed as an upscale concourse d’elegance and motoring lifestyle show. Running from Wednesday to Friday it is targeted at the well-heeled corporate hospitality market and the price of a daily ticket (including Lobster lunch..) reflects that. I attended last year on an afternoon ticket only which I was able to buy at a discount due to membership of a motoring club. At less than half the cost of a full day ticket it was good value for money as whilst I only had four hours at the show this turned out to be more than enough time to see what there was and the price included a good quality free afternoon tea and an unlimited bar! So this year I again opted for an afternoon ticket only and was not disappointed.

Being a top end event a number of prestige manufactures were present showing their latest cars including Ferrari and Lamborghini. Two La Ferraris were on show, one in red and the other, belonging to Jay Kay, in a lurid shade of green. There was also a stunning one off Ferrai F12 open top roadster. Ferrari would not reveal who the car was built for but it certainly seems to me that they made a better job of it than they did on the bespoke Ferrari 458 they built for Eric Clapton last year.

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Jay Kay’s lurid green La Ferrari. The interior is that colour too..

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Gorgeous bespoke Ferrari F12 Open Top Roadster for an anonymous client

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Contrast with Eric Clapton’s bespoke Ferrari 458 – actually less good looking than the standard car. Photo taken at St James Concours of Elegance 2013.

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The F12 looks stunning from all angles. I love the retro themed bubbles behind each seat.

Below are some other notable cars from the event.

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The concours included a whole class of D Type Jaguars (celebrating their 60th anniversary). One of them won overall and many made an appearance at Goodwood a week later for a spectacular all D Type race.

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Unusual Zagato Rover 2000. The only one and very striking.

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Senor Pagani attended the event which showcased his cars. Here he is admiring a very yellow Jaguar XJ220.

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Fantastic Art Deco front end of a Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A

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More interesting coachbuilding, this time Superleggera’s take on a future Mini roadster. A very nice design indeed.

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Another of Jay Kay’s cars, beautiful modern coach built body on a Bentley R Type chassis. Yours for £500k. He was trying to flog this car at Essen (see below). No takers yet which is a shame. Its stunning looking.

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Red La Ferrari. I think the McLaren P1 looks better.

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This is Jaguar designer Ian Callum’s take on the Mark 2 Jag. I’m afraid it did nothing for me. I do not see the point of taking an old car and making it modern.

The British Grand Prix was another thrilling race in what has turned out to be a classic season. Although it might lack the glamour of Monaco or the first rate facilities of Abu Dhabi and the other new circuits, Silverstone more than makes up for such deficiencies with the passion of the 120,000 fans who make the pilgrimage to Northamptonshire every year. All the British drivers, including Max Chilton labouring at the back of the pack, received loud applause every time they went past the packed grandstands. And foreign drivers received sporting applause when their conduct merited it. In the end the fans got what they wanted, a British victory. Although the mechanical failure which robbed Rosberg finish handed the race to Hamilton, I think the fans would have preferred to have seen him take the lead following an overtaking manoeuvre. Instead, for thrilling overtaking and racing the fans had to look to Alonso and Vettel who battled it out wheel to wheel for many laps. Bottas also drove magnificently, finishing second having started 16th. Ultimately though it is Hamilton who will be happiest with today’s result as it now leaves him just four points behind Rosberg in the race for the championship.

Below, Hamilton crosses the line and takes the chequered flag for only his second British Grand Prix victory.

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Below, the top three on the podium face the ecstatic British fans. Bottas received his second place trophy from the legendary John Surtees who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with Ferrari. Incidentally, as noted below (“Dinner with Emerson Fittipaldi”), the famous British Grand Prix Gold cup was at Silverstone to be presented to the winner. However all Lewis got was a horrible plasticky trophy based on sponsor Santander’s logo. He had the good taste to show his disgust and ask “Where is the gold cup? ” Where indeed?

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