Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

A very big house in the country - Marussia take over Stowe School for the British GP weekend

Published by Mr. C

The Marussia B2 under the spotlight
The Marussia B2 under the spotlightCredit: Sidepodcast

The journey to Silverstone on Friday evening could best be described as a fraught one. The UK was experiencing its annual bout of British Grand Prix weather, making conditions exceptionally treacherous. Several times during the expedition I yelled at my radio that the car was undrivable, alas no-one offered to red flag the road or put the event I was attending on hold. After several hours of somewhat intensive driving, I finally made it to Stowe School in Buckingham, although it had felt like I'd aquaplaned the majority of the distance.

The nearby Silverstone circuit named one of its corners after Stowe School and it's easy to see why. Arrival at the gates brought with it a mixture of both relief and sheer wonderment. The building, Stowe House, is vast in ways that only English country houses can be, Stowe Palace may in fact be a more apt description. My car visibly shrank into insignificance the closer I got to the main entrance.

Inside the building, journalist Joe Saward and a collection of dedicated Formula 1 fans gathered among one of the largest indoor spaces I have ever seen. A nearby signboard suggested the room had been modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, I felt a little underdressed.

Life's a different story

Joe was hosting an 'Audience With' event in this venue and it has to be his most grand location thus far - a yacht in the Monaco harbour pales into insignificance by comparison. The Beatles once played a gig at Stowe School, Richard Branson was educated there, and if you're after more tenuous F1 connections, so was Jenson Button's ex-girlfriend Florence Brudenell-Bruce.

These days, more than ever, the name and brand of Formula 1 is synonymous with being far removed from reality

This was the third Audience show I've attended and I cannot speak more highly of the concept. F1 fans owe it to themselves to attend whenever they get the chance. These days, more than ever, the name and brand of Formula 1 is synonymous with being far removed from reality and out of touch with fans. Joe Saward is seemingly one of the only people from within the sport who cares enough to do something to try to change that, and the results have been remarkably successful.

Ask the man any question and he'll offer open, honest insight into whatever random subjects come up. On Friday evening he kept that up for the best part of three hours, with just a short break for some fine refreshments.

The Formula One Team's Association might claim to be interested in fans opinions, but you can't even get through the doorway of one of their much publicised forums without first having your question vetoed for 'suitability' beforehand. An Audience With Joe on the other hand is very real, big on transparency and most importantly embraces fans with open arms, bringing them so much closer to the sport that they follow.

Everything's going Jackanory

Joe finally got to head homewards just after 11pm, but the night was still young. Marussia Virgin Racing had co-organised this particular event and tickets included a chance to sample their Weekend Camping gathering - featuring a bar, a stage for DJs and a rather large television replaying washed out practice sessions from earlier in the day.

After a bit of help from security and some cross-country rallying, fellow commenter Leigh and I found ourselves amongst a bunch of F1 fans who were in it for the long weekend. It may have been cold, wet and muddy, but Virgin had done a fine job of putting together a great of evening's entertainment.

I'm not built for sleeping under canvas, but it was fun to have a look around and we bumped into a familiar face from last year. If you followed any of Alex Snell's Unofficial F1 World Tour during 2010, you'll be pleased to see he's still up for even more racing.

F1's three amigos!
F1's three amigos!Credit: Sidepodcast

I love that picture, because although taken in almost complete darkness, a fortunate beam of light from the stage behind lit up the scene the second the shutter was pressed. That kind of fortuitous coincidence just summed up a perfect evening. More photographs can be found in the Marussia Virgin Racing Weekend 2011 set.