If you haven’t decided on your accommodation for Silverstone yet, do it right now. Accommodation disappears very quickly, especially the good places near the circuit. Buying some on arrival might work for many minor events at Silverstone, but you will be met with laughter at best if you try it on Grand Prix week (unless you’ve got your eye on a place that doesn’t take bookings, in which case get there as soon as they start accepting people). And book as soon as possible once you’ve decided and are in a position to meet any relevant paying arrangements, especially if your preferred option does not involve a campsite at any point. Note that some places ask for payment on arrival even if the booking happened in advance, in which case keep that money separate from your “spending money”.
For campers, I can recommend Hamilton Fields, even for people who support other drivers and teams, provided you’re willing to accept a 2-mile walk each way – in 2009 it was just the right side of the road disruptions (meaning trips to the local supermarket for resupplies were easy and escaping after the weekend was relatively simple). The staff are friendly and helpful – though from what I’ve heard, many other campsites also have friendly, helpful staff, and some also offer better facilities.
My position on the hearing protection argument: Buy some ear defenders beforehand (they combine well with radios and similar equipment, enabling one to hear both car noise and commentary better, plus they keep your ears dry if it rains) and look around the entry gate for freebie earplugs on arrival. Many people miss the buckets and nobody seems to mind if you take a weekend’s supply on Friday. The freebies are useful if you want to listen to the car noise without hot round things around your ears (Silverstone can and does get all four seasons in the same day) and also make for nice quirky mementoes of the day.
The “ear defenders” advice goes double if you have sensitive ears because they are better at getting rid of the most painful parts of the sound than earplugs, while still enabling the rich bass and sweet treble of V8s to be clearly heard. Do take time to listen to the engines properly – it will be one of the highlights of the weekend – but please do so while exercising sense (after all, you will want to experience that noise, in its full effervescent-yet-powerful beauty, many more times in your life).
Also, keep your protection in after races are done! If the cars don’t hurt unprotected ears, the aircraft Silverstone are apt to fly around on difficult-to-predict demo runs will. (Silverstone’s a great race for aircraft fans; typically at least five different ones will be on display during a given F1 race).
If you are looking for a particular grandstand, please make sure you’re using the latest map. I could tell you how great the views from Club general admission and Copse E were in 2002 and 2009 respectively, but as a spectator in 2012, your experience of both would differ substantially.
If you are going to take a terrace seat, please follow the instructions on the letter regarding how much stuff you’re allowed to take. That is there to ensure everyone can get in the terrace. When people ignore the rules, other people can’t get in and then they get upset at the grandstand marshals, which ruins the day for all involved. Small foldaway chairs (including those attached to backpacks) are crude but generally compliant with the rules. Get the biggest bag that will fit under said chair. With that in mind, make sure your supplies for a terrace seat include a nice big pillow (ideally in a waterproof pillowcase, if such a thing exists) so that you’re not aching after a long day in your seat.
Do bring drinks to Silverstone. Unlike places such as Sepang, drinks are permitted provided they aren’t in glass bottles. While you are likely to want a hot drink at some point in the weekend (in which case hot chocolate is generally a good choice regardless of which stall you use), cold drinks are great if Silverstone happens to be hit by a heatwave. One tip Mum taught me was to take 2-litre bottles of water (or other still drink), empty out 500 ml of the contents and then put in the freezer. The air means it won’t explode in the freezer and you now have home-made coolpacks that will keep your packed lunches/snacks fresh while turning into refreshing drinks over the course of 1-3 days (depending on ambient temperature).
Unless you are hopeless at using a camera, I’d echo @australian ‘ s advice to take one.
Keep alert. It took months for Dad to stop reminding me that I’d missed Nelson Piquet Jr doing one of his trademark spins in front of my nose because I happened to be looking at a giant screen at the time…
How was I looking at said giant screen? With a pair of £1 binoculars from a pound shop. You don’t need anything better than that unless you’ve got some lying around at home that you’re happy to take.
Try not to take anything really expensive unless you can bear losing it. Otherwise you may take the edge off your excitement reminding yourself where it is at a crucial point, and that’s before taking into consideration the possibility of petty theft… Most types of crime are rare at F1 races, but opportunistic thieves entertain themselves at the races just like us law-abiding citizens, and unfortunately practise their criminal arts on the unsuspecting.
There are cash machines at Silverstone, thieves generally don’t stick your card in them if they steal the card, but unless you’ve made a FanVision reservation or similar on it, there’s still nothing your card can do that a reasonable amount of well-secured hard currency won’t do better. So if you haven’t reserved anything on a debit or credit card, leave it at home after withdrawing however much you are likely to need.
Pockets are your friend. Make sure you take an item with plenty of pockets when you go to the track, and an item (not necessarily the same one) with a secure pocket. The secure pocket is for your ticket (unless you have a lanyard, in which case use that), (some of) your money, your radio and/or similar device(s) and your mobile phone. Don’t put anything else in here unless it’s very valuable – that’s when you’ll discover the value of those other pockets.
When you read “really early”, that doesn’t mean “roll up an hour before the first session you want to see” unless you’ve got a grandstand (in which case your reserved seat awaits, and before 9 am you might get lonely up there). For those of you in general admission or terraces, try arriving at the circuit on 7:30 am for Friday, 6:30 am for Saturday and 5:30 am for Sunday as “latest time of arrival” guidelines. Ideally you should be there half-an-hour before that (which on Saturday and Sunday means you’ll be queuing to get in, or arriving just after the gates open). Not all gates open at the same time, so check the advice and your up-to-date map before setting out.
If you find yourself in a queue for any reason, feel free to chat to whoever is next to you. F1 fans are a sociable bunch and often love to share their passion. Note that if your favourite team or driver has a bad day, you’ll be dealing with other people sympathising with you all the following morning (unless, of course, the “bad day” was Sunday).
Try not to enter a queue for anything within 30 minutes of a session unless you’re OK missing the start of it or it’s the queue for the place from where you will watch the race. It will not end well. This is especially important at lunch time; ideally you will bring a packed lunch, which you can supplement with things bought at convenient moments (or, if you decide a hot item is the order of the day, things you started queuing for at least an hour before any session you want to see).
Take enough reading material to last several hours. You’ll probably spend five hours on Sunday waiting for things to happen, only some of which will be spent chatting to the people around you.
If you can help answer someone’s question, please do. Sharing information is a great way to bond and it can often be difficult for people to follow the finer data-driven details from the spectator areas, especially if they’re lacking binoculars, radio and/or FanVision. For this reason at least, your essential kit to take to the track should include a notebook of paper and cheap pens (plural – there’s always one dud, no matter how carefully you choose them).
It is part of the tradition at Silverstone that Sunday concludes with the mother of all traffic jams. Unless you are planning to leave by helicopter, I strongly recommend that you stay in your grandstand to see all post-Grand Prix sessions, even those for series you find boring, right up until the final plane fly-over. Then find a nice bit of grass on which to sit down and watch the world go by (unless it’s been raining all afternoon, then find somewhere relatively dry to sit down and watch the world go by). This is a great time to eat a snack, take a drink and just savour your experience.
If you’re lucky enough to be stationed anywhere between the pit lane exit and Copse, you may get to see the F1 lorry race. Have fun spotting who gets their first lorry out of the venue and who “wins” the coveted Mechanics’ Grand Prix (first team to get all their lorries out). Chances are by the time any team has their third lorry out, the mass of people will be down to a steady river and you can move without feeling like a sardine.
Attending the post-race Grand Prix Party is an excellent idea – even if you are too far away to see anything, you will certainly hear the music and it is a great way of passing time (the people pipping their horns and getting lost in the traffic jam will wish they were with you!). It is very well-attended – 20,000 people is a normal attendance figure. Just make sure you go to the toilet before you enter the infield because the queues are much shorter.
Sorry if this advice is a bit long and rambling.