Paddock Postcard from Silverstone 10 Jul 2011
Formula One cars and Silverstone is about as traditional as it gets, but this year theres a fresh buzz at the former airfield thanks to a brand-new, multi-million pound pit and paddock complex. The stunning Wing building, which houses 41 garages, race control, the media centre, VIP spectator zones and conference facilities, certainly made an impression as it welcomed the teams and drivers for the first time.
In a busy build-up to the Grand Prix weekend, Wednesday night saw the F1 community gather with guests and celebrities at Londons Natural History Museum for the official F1 Party, which raised £600,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity.
Santander, title sponsors of the 2011 Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix, generously supported the event for the fifth year running to raise vital funds for the hospitals new Heart and Lung Centre. Pirelli also kindly came on board this year as supporting sponsor.
Three-time Brit Award nominee Alexandra Burke sang an exclusive set, and the charitys patron Vernon Kay was joined by a host of famous names, including Oliver Phelps, Sara Cox, Tamsin Egerton, Karen Gillan, Nick Hewer, Formula One team principals Christian Horner and Tony Fernandes, and drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Whilst some were busy partying, other Formula One folk were hard at work on the track, attending a karting event organised by Lotus test driver Karun Chandhok. Karuns Karting Karnival was held at Whilton Mill and raised money for Vishnu Devananda Charitable Trust, which helps underprivileged children in India.
There was a touch of Hollywood glitter in Northamptonshire too, with the Virgin team welcoming Lightning McQueen, star of Disney.Pixars Cars 2 film, to the paddock on Thursday. Drivers Timo Glock and Jerome DAmbrosio, in their new Cars 2 branded race suits, posed with Lightning and some of his fans next to the Virgin motorhome.
Come the weekend and royalty was represented in the paddock by HRH Prince Harry and HRH Prince Michael of Kent, while familiar faces from the racing world included Nigel Mansell (as the FIA stewards advisor); Sir Jackie Stewart and son Mark, Damon Hill, mother Bette and sister Brigitte; 1981 winner John Watson; BRDC President-elect Derek Warwick; Jackie Oliver; birthday boy Marino Franchitti; Olivier Panis; former BAR team boss, now PURE Engines chief Craig Pollock; Gil de Ferran and his wife Angela; Tomas Enge; Carlos Sainz Snr and Jnr; McLaren stalwarts Tyler Alexander and Jo Ramirez; and former Benetton team manager Gordon Message.
The impressive list continued with former Senna-beating kart star Terry Fullerton; FIA President Jean Todt; Tony Shakespeare and Barry Griffin, formerly of Goodyear Racing; RAC MSA chief executive Alan Gow; the indefatigable Murray Walker; former JCB technical guru Tim Leverton, now in charge of engineering for Tata Group; former Williams, Jaguar and JCB Dieselmax designer John Piper; fellow design stars Sergio Rinland, Neil Oatley, Alan Jenkins and Gary Anderson; Max Welti; Paul di Restas father Louis; and 2012 US Grand Prix promoter Tavo Hellmund.
Faces from other walks of life included politicians Ken Clarke, Vince Cable, Philip Hammond and Peter Hain; Renault executive director Carlos Tavares; aforementioned TV presenter Vernon Kay; fellow UK television star Carol Vorderman; actors Patrick Stewart and Hugh Grant; music artist Goldie; Newcastle football manager Andrew Pardew; sports stars Andrew Freddie Flintoff and Colin Murray; and legendary movie producer Ron Howard, who was seen hanging out with triple world champion Niki Lauda amid rumours of a forthcoming film about the Austrians epic rivalry with the late James Hunt.
On track, Fernando Alonso demonstrated a Ferrari 375 F1 (from Bernie Ecclestones private collection) in flamboyant fashion on Sunday morning to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Jose Froilan Gonzalezs British Grand Prix win in the car, while in Saturdays GP2 feature race Ferrari protege Jules Bianchi took a brilliant victory for ART after a fabulous battle with Racing Engineerings Christian Vietoris. Marcus Ericsson was third for iSport ahead of series leader Romain Grosjean (DAMS) and team mate Sam Bird and Vietoriss team mate Dani Clos. Grosjean then took a dominant win from Clos and Giedo van der Garde in Sundays sprint race to cement his championship lead.
In GP3, Nico Muller won for Jenzer Motorsport on Saturday, with Status Alexander Sims second ahead of fellow Brits Nick Yelloly (Atech) and polesitter Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (Marussia Manor). On Sunday, MW Ardens Lewis Williamson scored his maiden GP3 victory despite a terrible start, ahead of Addaxs Dean Smith and Sims.
For more pictures, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.