Before this year’s British Grand Prix I pointed out that it would be madness for F1 to leave behind a circuit that regularly gets huge crowds.
And so it proved as Silverstone packed in a capacity audience of 120,000 on Sunday. Buoyed by the success of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button its three-day total attendance of 310,000 was the highest in 15 years:
Formula 1 has seen some pitifully low attendance figures this year as the credit crunch bites, with 30,000 believed to have attended the Sunday of the Chinese Grand Prix and 32,000 the same day of the Turkish round.
Legends of British motor sport salute record Silverstone crowds
– record breaking 310,000-strong crowd enjoys ?óÔé¼?ôphenomenal?óÔé¼?Ø British Grand Prix
– 20,000 fans stay behind to see British legends at Grand Prix Party
British drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton joined a host of British motor sport legends and current F1 drivers on Sunday evening at Silverstone?óÔé¼Ôäós post-race Grand Prix Party, the circuit?óÔé¼Ôäós traditional finale to the FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX.
The Party, free to all ticket holders, took place after the last race of the day on a purpose built giant stage in the centre of the circuit. A record-equalling 20,000 fans stayed behind at Silverstone to continue the post-race celebrations.
TV broadcaster Tony Jardine hosted the evening?óÔé¼Ôäós entertainment and was joined on stage by a number of current F1 drivers and legends of British motor sport. All of the drivers received a heroes welcome, but the biggest cheer of the day was saved for Jenson Button, who leads the World Championship after finishing sixth in this year?óÔé¼Ôäós FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX.
Speaking after the race about Silverstone and the future of the British Grand Prix, Button commented, ?óÔé¼?ôWe?óÔé¼Ôäóve all spoken without saying a word. The last couple of races have not had many people, so to come here and see all these spectators?óÔé¼?ªwe don?óÔé¼Ôäót need to say anything. This Grand Prix is the most spectacular in F1. Monaco is special, but it is nothing like this. There has to be a GP here next year.?óÔé¼?Ø
In addition to the British drivers, Jardine was joined on stage by British Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel and fellow F1 drivers Mark Webber, Rubens Barichello, Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet. British team bosses Ross Brawn and Christian Horner also joined their drivers on stage.
Showing their support for Silverstone, at the Northamptonshire circuit?óÔé¼Ôäós final Grand Prix under the existing contract with Formula One Management, there were also appearances from a host of British motor sport legends, including former World Champions Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill OBE, as well as former British Grand Prix winners Johnny Herbert and David Coulthard. British drivers Martin Brundle and Derek Warwick also joined the celebrations, along with Coulthard and Brundle?óÔé¼Ôäós fellow BBC commentators Eddie Jordan and Jake Humphrey.
Silverstone attracted record crowds over the three days, including 85,000 on Friday, 105,000 on Saturday and a capacity crowd of 120,000 on the Sunday. The three day cumulative crowd of 310,000 was the highest at Silverstone in 15 years.
Speaking after the event Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Limited, said, ?óÔé¼?ôThe support for Silverstone and the British Grand Prix over the past three days – from fans, drivers and teams – has been overwhelming. The fans have a real affinity with Silverstone and the drivers love coming here. It?óÔé¼Ôäós a fantastic circuit. You just have to look at the attendance figures over the past three days, and Sebastian Vettel?óÔé¼Ôäós reaction to winning here, to see that Silverstone is a very special place.?óÔé¼?Ø
Commenting on the fans?óÔé¼Ôäó reaction after his first British Grand Prix win, the Red Bull Racing driver had said, ?óÔé¼?ôI regret a little bit that I am not an Englishman. I saw the crowd cheering at the end and I wanted to wave at them.?óÔé¼?Ø
Phillips added, ?óÔé¼?ôWe have the best fans in the world and I sincerely hope to see them back at Silverstone next year. There have been growing concerns over Donington Park?óÔé¼Ôäós ability to host the British Grand Prix, in 2010 and beyond, but comments over the weekend from Mr Ecclestone and the FIA have been reassuring. The support from fans over this weekend has undoubtedly had an impact on the way they are viewing the future of the British Grand Prix and Silverstone. We?óÔé¼Ôäóve said all along that Silverstone is ready to step in if Donington?óÔé¼Ôäós plans fall over, and that remains the case. Silverstone has never looked so good. This year?óÔé¼Ôäós British Grand Prix was phenomenal, one of the best run and well supported events I have ever worked on, and we?óÔé¼Ôäóre hopeful that we?óÔé¼Ôäóll see everyone back here next year.?óÔé¼?Ø
A number of high profile guests and VIPs were making the most of the glamorous occasion, including footballers Eric Cantona, Michael Ballack and Michael Carrick, England Manager Fabio Capello, Olympic cyclists Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, cricketer Kevin Pietersen, Jade Jagger, DJ Chris Moyles, rock band Kasabian, socialite Tamara Beckwith and TV presenter Vernon Kay.
Read more: F1 leaving Britain would be madness