What it's like attending an F1 Grand Prix for the first time

What it's like attending an F1 Grand Prix for the first time
Brad Pitt films Formula One movie at Silverstone ahead of British Grand …

Silverstone is one of the most iconic circuits in Formula One, holding the first championship race back in 1950 and 73 years later in 2023, the event is more popular than ever.

It was a record-breaking weekend this year, as the British Grand Prix drew in the biggest crowd it had ever seen with 480,000 spectators entering from Friday (July 7) to Sunday (July 9).

Though this figure should come as no surprise with F1 benefitting from the rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the Netflix series Drive to Survive which has propelled the sport into popular culture and widened its demographic in the process.

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

For this race, I was able to watch the action unfold in the grandstands for the first time – here’s a breakdown of my experience.


Clouds and rain loomed on Sunday morning when arriving at the track at 9 am, after navigating the race day traffic (and getting briefly lost on the way in classic road trip style).

Upon arrival, the rain jackets were on as we took in the scale of the event and walked around the circuit that was abuzz with fans of all ages excited for the upcoming race.

As you can tell by the raindrops on the windscreen, it was a rainy start to the day at Silverstone...Sinead Butler


An unmissable sight around the perimeter of the circuit was the variety of food trucks belonging to Freemans Event Partners who have partnered with Silverstone for over four decades.

As a spectator, a deep thought isn’t typically given to the logistical efforts that go into pulling off such a huge event like this but for Freemans, they had expected to sell the following over the weekend:

  • 40,000 burgers
  • 35,000 glasses of wine and champagne
  • 6,000 kg of chicken
  • 65,000 portions of chips
  • 1m+ drinks
  • 90+ cuisines across 260 outlets, with meat-free options available at every outlet

Some of the different displays and food on offer at Silverstone from Freemans Event PartnersFreemans Event Partners

Stephen Freeman CEO, told indy100: “As one of the UK’s biggest spectator events – with over 480,000 UK and international visitors – the Formula 1 Aramco British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone provides a unique opportunity to showcase the very best of British food and drink.

“We’ve been working in partnership with Silverstone for over 40 years and this year, as part of our delivery of 270 food outlets, offering over 90 varieties of cuisine, we created a ‘Best of British’ food zone for the first time.

“Featuring a Pimm’s branded double-decker London bus, a range of photo opportunities and competitions for spectators to enjoy, the area was situated at the heart of the circuit.

Some of the various food we enjoyed from Freemans Event PartnersSinead Butler

He added: “A selection of British treats were on offer such as traditional Cornish pasties, fish & chips, and cream teas, as well as Pimm’s & strawberries over the course of the four days of festivities."

Initially, it was the perfect weather for a nice hot cuppa to warm us up as the Formula 3 and Formula 2 races took place where we were confronted by the riveting sound of the race cars zooming past on the track.

But as the day went on, summer finally decided to make an appearance – just in time for the driver’s parade where the F1 drivers waved to the crowds as they made their way around the track in classic cars.

Two hours before the race, it was time for lunch and from the array of cuisines to choose from, we opted for a chicken kebab – a popular choice as the queue snaked around the area, but definitely worth the 30-minute wait as we got to feast while being entertained by spectacular the Red Arrows display.

Seating and the race itself

After some exploring, we settled back into our Stirling A grandstand seats which provided a perfect reprieve from the sun as strong winds cooled us down and a great view where we could see the car speed towards Copse Corner with the 180mph bend being one of the fastest of the circuit.

Our view from the Stirling A grandstandSinead Butler

The first lap provided a thrilling start as McLaren'sLando Norris jumped Red Bull's Max Verstappen to lead the first couple of laps while loud roars from the stands cheered the Brit on as he and the other drivers went flat out as they sped past us down to Copse.

Though Verstappen was able to get back in front with DRS by lap five, and went on to claim his first win at Silverstone with the reigning two-time world champion's continuing his dominance this season.

There was a safety car deployed on lap 33 due to a fire in the Haas car of Kevin Magnussen, and this "free" pitstop was perfect timing for Verstappen, Norris and Hamilton - and we managed to see this unfold on the big screen conveniently situated near our grandstand.

There were dark grey clouds over the track at points but there was ultimately no heavy downpourSinead Butler

In the end, Norris impressively held second place by choosing a different type of strategy and defended the position on hard tires, while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was able to get ahead of Piastri to secure third.

As a result, Norris and Hamilton are the first pair of Brits on the podium at Silverstone since 1999 when David Coulthard won the race, followed by Eddie Irvine in second.

In true British style, the weather couldn't make up its mind so our rain jackets and sunglasses were on stand-by with clouds threatening a downpour one minute followed by bright sunny skies minutes later - though in the end, the rain didn't come but this element of unpredictability did still entertain us.

Post-race events

After the race, we headed over to the Chrome Main Stage where we watched The Big Moon, DJ Patrick Nazemi, and Tom Greenan perform where fans were enjoying the post-race music festival vibes.

Between these artists, some F1 drivers also made brief appearances to discuss their race performance with Williams' Alex Albon, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell and McLaren's Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

Some of the highlights included Russell bringing his niece and nephew on stage, and the McLaren boys toasting their result with a celebratory shoey.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was welcomed on stage with boos from the crowd but soon had the audience onside when his wife and Spice Girl Geri Horner made a surprise appearance.

Some of the guests on the Chrome Main Stage include (from left) Alex Albon, Geri and Christian Horner, Lewis Hamilton and George RussellSinead Butler and Rebecca Smith

He also gained cheers when he asked the crowd "If we get [Daniel] Ricciardo back, will you be nicer to me?" as the Red Bull third driver was scheduled to carry out Pirelli tyre tests in the RB19.

(Little did we know then, after doing the tests Ricciardo would be announced on July 11 as the new AlphaTauri driver, replacing Nyck De Vries).

Following an action-packed day, we then chowed down on some food and made the most of the various cuisines available opting for a Greek Gyros, a Mac & Cheese pot and a Katsu Curry.

With our bellies full and the day coming to an end, we headed home and as we discussed the day, the enjoyment of my first Silverstone Grand Prix already has me excited for 2024...

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)