UK GP tells fans: 'Come on in!'
SILVERSTONE - BOOTS AN' ALL: Spectators stand in mud at Silverstone during qualifying for the 2012 British F1 GP but organisers say all are now welcome come race day. Image: AFP
Author: Josh Collings
SILVERSTONE, England – Only 24 hours after asking fans to stay away from qualifying action at the rain-soaked British F1 GP race organisers on Saturday evening encouraged all ticket-holders to attend Sunday's race.
More than 25 000 spectators were told to go home on Saturday because of flooded car parks and camp sites at the rain-drenched Silverstone circuit but by the end of the day organisers had patched up and drained their flooded facilities.
Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips said: "It will be a bit of a challenge but please bear with us – we’re going to do our best!"
In a statement, the circuit thanked those fans who stayed away to allow the repairs and clearing up to be completed ahead of race day. It read: "Silverstone would like to thank fans that heeded the circuit's advice and did not come the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
"While it was an extremely difficult decision, and one that will have disappointed people that had to stay away, the decision gave the circuit a fighting chance to repair and get previously unsafe car parks into a state that can be used on race day.
"The circuit has implemented further contingency plans throughout Friday night and Saturday. As a result it is now in a stronger position to accommodate all ticket-holders coming to Silverstone on Sunday."
Organisers warned that all available camp sites at the circuit were full and recommended that fans travel in 4x4 vehicles or motorcycles and try to share cars to limit numbers.
About half of the circuit's vehicle parks were closed on Saturday to ensure they could be used on Sunday when a crowd of 120 000 is expected.
Saturday's qualifying session was hit by heavy rain and red-flagged for 90 minutes before Ferrari’s championship-leading Fernando Alonso grabbed pole position. He won the 2011 race and is the only driver to have won two GP races in 2012.
Silverstone spokeswoman Katie Tyler said all ticket-holders who had been unable to attend on Friday or Saturday would be fully refunded.
F1 commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, so often a vociferous critic of Silverstone - and notably when the track was hit by a similar weekend of muddy chaos due to rain in 2000 - said the circuit was not to blame for the British summer weather.
"I'm really, really upset for the fans, but in reality if it was you running the race what would you do? For the people of Silverstone, what could they have done? They probably couldn't predict the rain."
Silverstone, since agreeing to a 17-year contract with Ecclestone in 2009, has spent heavily on a series of major improvements, among them new pits and paddock facilities and a revised layout and much-improved traffic access.
Friday's traffic chaos and the floods revised bad memories of 2000 when the race was held in April but Ecclestone was sanguine. "Honestly, I don't think anyone expected the amount of rain we had. You might as well say why didn't the councils in all these different places throughout England do something?
"I looked on the TV and saw the places flooded, the houses flooded, shops flooded, people abandoning cars. I didn't expect to see that either."