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Silverstone 2011 - Upgrade incomplete? - Evaluating the changes to the British Grand Prix circuit

Published by Joe Ryland

The new look Silverstone is fantastic. In my view, the track now has the best looking pit complex of anywhere, and the new part of the track creates a new opportunity for overtaking which some would say was needed at the circuit. These improvements are great, and came at huge expense, but the BRDC still have greater ambitions with loads more additions in the pipeline.

Going in the right direction
Going in the right directionCredit: Joe Ryland

I was lucky enough to be there for all three days, and these alterations have made a difference to the place in general, sometimes for the worse. Formula One is becoming more and more popular in the UK for a wide range of reasons and the number of people, even on the Friday, was massive. Silverstone is definitely going in the right direction, and whilst I enjoyed this year more than I have previous years, I cant help feeling there are many gaps that they still have to fill.

I was at the track for all three days and watched all of the F1 and a bit of the GP3 (which is, in my opinion, better than GP2) and I noticed something quite odd, everything was centred around the new pit straight and the new Loop area. This in itself wasn't a problem, but it did mean that the only area that was busy was from Club to Woodcote.

The attention it deserves

Last year when I went, Becketts was packed with even a couple hours to go until Qualifying. This year, the stand was only half full half an hour before. The problem is, except for that particular complex, there is no reason to go to the other half of the track. The old pit straight meant that people were closer to that side, and going to places such as Becketts meant you weren't venturing too far away from the centre of the action, traditionally at the old pit straight and Stowe.

This meant that the newly redesigned parts were absolutely full on all three days, which is good and all, but there should be an incentive for people to go towards Becketts and other areas. Admittedly the main problem is that there is no road near that part which in turn means no gates, so for anyone to get there, it’s quite a walk. This is why I feel the BRDC would do well out of having something in the area, such as an e-Zone. Because at the moment, Becketts isn't getting the attention it deserves, and the Revolution Cafe isn’t much of an incentive.

Absolutely full on all three days
Absolutely full on all three daysCredit: Joe Ryland

It was a record year for the circuit, and any fans would have felt it on the way in. When you look at the circuit map, you see there is a gate 16. Now I don't know whether they called it 16 for fun, but there are no more than 7 gates in use. On the Friday the queue to get in was ridiculous, taking me half an hour, and the Saturday 15 minutes. The Sunday on the other hand was somewhat painless, due to the fact many people get in very early. Now its not a huge complaint, but I did miss a bit of first practice and it would be good of Silverstone to utilise the number of gates and get people in to the track with ease.

Getting to Farm Curve or the Village section is a mission from the new pit straight

Now take a look at the circuit guide. How long would you suppose it takes to get from Abbey to Farm Curve? 30 seconds? More like 5 minutes. I don't know how they've done it, but getting to Farm Curve or the Village section is a mission from the new pit straight. Admittedly it is very, very cool to walk on the old track, but it's still a pain to walk around all the corporate and motorhome nonsense to travel 100 meters. The problem is, the new layout means there is very little space inside the track for it all.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Silverstone and the direction the BRDC are taking the track. It's just that there are still many blemishes that they should sort out. Focus on the mass market, not the corporates. Make bigger grandstands, the particular one I noticed went to row 'O', it wouldn't be hard to make a few more around the circuit. Some might say that they only just sold out this year, but if they can sell more, they can sell them for cheaper, meaning more will buy. In terms of price and total audience; Silverstone has found a good formula, but it could be made more efficient and better for fans.

On the right path

So Silverstone has certainly started on the right path, however I still see some fundamentals that need sorting out to make it the best sporting event anyone can go to in Britain. Silverstone could do well from more seats and selling cheap, allowing people who might not pay for the weekend now to enjoy it and want to come back. Perhaps even when prices have risen. Take myself as an example, I went first in 2008 and was totally overwhelmed by the experience, and I have been back twice since.

But who knows, the BRDC is doing very well out of Silverstone now, and the event is getting better every year, so drastic changes may not be on the top of the list. I know they are planning a hotel and fixed grandstands, but if the price stays the same, I can't see a huge amount more people going.