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Paddock Postcard from Silverstone 30 Jun 2013

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton joins the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton joins the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. (L to R): Tess Daly (GBR) and Vernon Kay (GBR) at the Great Ormond Street Hospital F1 Party.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Wednesday, 26 June 2013 600 Races for Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 Fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 A young fan at the autograph session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 The start of race 1. GP2 Series, Rd5, Silverstone, England, 28-30 June 2013. GP2 Series, Rd5, Silverstone, England, 28-30 June 2013. Race 1 podium and results: 1st Sam Bird (GBR) Russian Time, centre. 2nd Stephane Richelmi (MON) DAMS, left. 3rd Tom Dillmann (FRA) Russian Time, right. GP2 Series, Rd5, Silverstone, England, 28-30 June 2013.

It may not boast the glamour of the boat-strewn harbour of Monaco or the bright lights of Singapore’s city streets, but the blustery former airfield at Silverstone is a big draw for drivers and fans alike. And with many team factories based nearby, everybody’s schedules are always packed full of parties and PR events when the paddock arrives back on British shores.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton started his pre-race build-up earlier than most, swapping his Formula One car for a spell flying with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, over a week before the race got underway on Friday 21 June at their base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

After going through the rigorous medical and safety preparations, Hamilton and former F1 driver David Coulthard got their first experience of the Hawk T1 jets in a three-ship formation with Red 1, Red 6 and Red 10. During a 30-minute flight, the pair went through a series of ‘loops and rolls’ in their jets, experiencing forces of up to 4.5G.

Following a quick debrief, Hamilton took his own Silver Arrow, the MGP W02 demonstration car, for a spin along the runway at RAF Scampton whilst Red 10 and Coulthard flew overhead, with the car and jet reaching respective top speeds of 300 km/h and 520 knots.

“We had an amazing day with the RAF Red Arrows and I absolutely loved the experience of flying with their team,” said Hamilton. “To see first-hand how skilled the pilots are, and the similarities to the level of team work and precision that we need to get the best out of a Formula One car, was fascinating.

“The loops and rolls in the jet are such an intense experience and I’ve got so much admiration for those guys and their unbelievable flying skills. They actually let me fly the jet on the first flight; the pilot brought me up into position and then gave me the controls. That was intense and it’s surprising how sensitive the controls are and how tough it is to keep in formation.”

Back to terra firma and Wednesday night saw members of the Formula One community gather with guests and celebrities to raise £320,000 for a new surgery centre at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The party, held at the British capital city's Old Billingsgate, was hosted by the charity’s patrons Tess Daly and Vernon Kay, who were joined by a host of celebrity partygoers including fashion designer Julien Macdonald, former Olympic champion Duncan Goodhew MBE and TV presenter Suzi Perry.

Guests were treated to entertainment from Brit award-winning artist James Morrison and DJ Emma B, whilst GOSH patient Kirsteen Lupton gave a heartfelt and inspiring speech about her experience at the hospital.

Back at Silverstone and - as ever - there were many new helmets on display in the pit lane, most featuring a British-specific design. Red Bull went down a different route, however, plastering Sebastian Vettel’s and Mark Webber’s lids with small photos of the faces of the staff at their Milton Keynes factory.

Down at Williams, there were celebrations afoot. Although they don’t actually reach 600 race starts until the next round in Germany, the British team chose their home race to celebrate the landmark achievement. The sidepods of both their FW35 cars are emblazoned with the number 600 and the names of all 691 Williams employees who work across all divisions of the Williams Group, as a tribute to their continued hard work and dedication.

“For an independent team like Williams to reach 600 races at the pinnacle of motorsport is a remarkable achievement,” said founder and team principal Sir Frank Williams. “Seventy-eight teams have come and gone or changed ownership since our foundation and our longevity is a testament to the thousands of people who have sacrificed so much to keep us here. It seems only right to mark this milestone at the home of British motorsport alongside our loyal British fans.”

On a more somber note, on Friday evening everyone gathered below the Silverstone podium to commemorate marshal Mark Robinson, who died at the recent Canadian Grand Prix, by holding a minute’s silence.

Over the course of the weekend, the paddock has been graced by royalty in the form of Prince Michael of Kent, while familiar faces from the entertainment/political worlds included actors Rupert Grint and Matthew Morrison, model Jodie Kidd, presenters Amanda Holden and Carol Vorderman, musical stars Leo Sayer, Geri Halliwell and Goldie, celebrity chefs James Martin and Nathan Outlaw, politician Peter Hain, Moto GP star Cal Crutchlow and professional golfer Ian Poulter.

Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell made appearances (the latter as the driver steward), together with fellow world champion Wayne Gardner from the motorcycle world, and their fellow racers included BRDC president Derek Warwick, recent Le Mans winner Allan McNish, Mark Blundell, John Macdonald, former Indycar champion Gil de Ferran, touring car champion Jason Plato, Gerhard Berger, Gary Ward and Lotus’s Rupert Manwaring.

Out on the track, Britons brought home the spoils in the two GP2 races. Sam Bird was unstoppable for Russian Time in Saturday’s opener once polesitter Marcus Ericsson and Carlin’s Felipe Nasr had collided, and took the win from DAMS’ Stephane Richelmi and team mate Tom Dillman. It was his second success of the season.

Points leader Stefano Coletti looked threatening at one stage as Bird became stuck behind drivers yet to make their pit stops, but MW Arden’s Mitch Evans who was one of them was hampered by a stop-and-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane, and Coletti was subsequently eliminated in a collision with Fabio Leimer. The Racing Engineering driver was later penalised after following Bird, Richelmi and Dillmann home ahead of Hilmer’s Jon Lancaster, Carlin’s Jolyon Palmer, Barwa Addax’s Rio Haryanto and Racing Engineering’s Julian Leal. After another tough day ART’s James Calado was ninth ahead of Caterham’s Alexander Rossi.

In Sunday’s sprint race, Lancaster scored an impressive maiden GP2 victory from fourth on the grid. Crossing the line with a 6.5s advantage, Lancaster led home Haryanto, Calado, Leal, Bird and Dillman.

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