In the end, there was no need to worry, because Sunday’s race at Silverstone will long be remembered as a classic, with fantastic battles throughout the field. And with a crowd of 141,000 on Sunday, 351,000 over the weekend and a paddock full of a list celebrities like Daniel “James Bond” Craig, it’s easy to understand why everyone in the sport was delighted that on the Wednesday before the GP, a new deal was put in place to keep the British GP at Silverstone for a further five years.
The British GP activities kicked off much earlier than usual for Alex, which for him didn’t pose much of a problem as our Thai driver is currently based in Milton Keynes. He joined Honda at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he got to road trip down in a heritage NSX and then be one of the first to drive Honda’s new Honda e Prototype up the infamous Goodwood Hill.
On Wednesday, both Alex and Dany swapped race suits for traditional British tweeds, as they took part in a traditional Clay Pigeon Shoot, organised to raise funds for the Wings For Life Charity. The idea of F1 drivers using powerful shotguns is quite scary but it all went off safely!
A quick change into team kit and an hour’s drive saw the two drivers arrive at Honda’s Milton Keynes factory, where their race team is based, for a guided tour and a Q&A session with all the behind-the-scenes Honda staff and their families. From then on, it was down to the usual Grand Prix weekend timetable, apart from the fact everyone tends to get to the track a bit earlier than usual because of the risk of traffic jams. Still, it meant the drivers and engineers got their track walk done nice and early, as they inspected the brand new surface that had been completed only a couple of weeks earlier.
On Thursday afternoon, the drivers and Franz Tost attended a moving memorial ceremony in honour of Charlie Whiting, the sport’s Safety Delegate and race starter who contributed so much to F1 over several decades and who sadly died a few days before this year’s Australian Grand Prix.
Friday’s free practice suggested that all the hard work we had put into overcoming the difficulties we had experienced at the previous two races had paid off, as we seemed more competitive in the midfield. When Alex qualified ninth on Saturday our confidence seemed justified, although Daniil didn’t manage to get everything out of his car. However, on Sunday, it all came together for our Russian driver, who drove very well and combined with a good strategy call when the Safety Car came out, he was on a charge in the closing stages. For him, the race wasn’t quite long enough to catch Raikkonen for eighth, but it was good to be back in the points. As for Alex, points had definitely looked on the cards, but then a safety concern, when Honda advised that a high voltage issue made it risky to make a second pit stop, meant the Thai driver’s tyres were shot in the closing stages and he could not fight off those behind him.
That’s half the season gone! Next up comes the second back-to-back pair of races of the year as we head to Germany in a fortnight and Hungary a week after that.