The racing action — World Series by Renault at Silverstone

Standing at Hangar Straight

The morning of Saturday 20 August 2011 at Silverstone was warm and sunny. It was difficult to imagine that the weather would be a problem. As I was staying in a campsite just a stone’s throw away from the circuit, I thought nothing of just heading there in a t-shirt.

The morning was brilliant. As outlined in a previous post, I had a brilliant time wandering around the circuit and watching the qualifying sessions that were taking place.

The big race that I was looking forward to, the Formula Renault 3.5 race, was approaching. A breeze picked up, and it even began to rain. There was no way I could nip back to the campsite to pick up some warmer clothes. I had to sit it out, high up in a stand, with the bitter wind blowing right through me.

I didn’t actually feel too cold. The buzz of watching the race allowed me to ignore it more than I otherwise would. I did have a cold for about a week afterwards. But it was definitely worth it.

We opted to sit in the stand at Maggotts, where you can see the cars twice a lap. Early on in the race one driver dropped back significantly, so for almost the entire race there was always something to see.

I had worried about what it would be like trying to watch a race from the side of the track rather than the living room. Television has the obvious advantage of being able to follow the cars all the way round the track, rather than simply making do with them blasting past.

Of course, watching a race in the flesh is an exhilirating experience. But it requires a bit of skill. Sure, there are are the commentators on the public address system. But you can’t hear that when there are cars in the vicinity. So it’s a matter of taking the bits you can see with your eyes, and the shards of whatever you hear from the commentators, and piecing them together.

For Saturday’s Formula Renault 3.5 race I could almost never hear the commentators. My interest in the race did not wane though.

The main interest at the start of the race was watching Jean-Eric Vergne make his way back through the field. Vergne had to start from the pits after an apparent electrical problem on the grid. But his class was clear to see as he was able to make up several places during the race.

A clear top three emerged, with Robet Wickens, Alexander Rossi and Daniel Ricciardo opening a significant gap to the next small group of cars. For a couple of laps it looked like Rossi was capable of passing Wickens. But in the end, Ricciardo in fact got the better of Rossi, and the promising American had to make do with third.

I assumed that Wickens had won, because I couldn’t hear the commentators and we were nowhere near the finish line. I was only while I was walking round the circuit again after the race that I managed to find out for sure!

(I trudged back to the campsite to retrieve my jacket. Right on cue, the blazing sun came out again.)

It was a crushingly dominant weekend for Robert Wickens. He turned up late for Sunday qualifying after being stuck in traffic on the way to Silverstone, but that still didn’t stop him from taking pole and another win.

For Sunday’s race we opted to sit on the outside of Copse, opposite the sole television screen in the circuit. The idea was to get a fuller picture of what was going on in the race. This location has the added bonus of being at the pitlane exit, so we saw the moment when the weekend got from bad to worse for Jean-Eric Vergne!

Vergne breathes down Ricciardo's neck

The start of the race went well for him, as he was running in second place. But a wide range of different strategies were used by the drivers, and Vergne ended up behind Ricciardo after his pitstop. The pair had a pretty good battle, and Vergne had a good look at Ricciardo going into Copse.

They were so close that it was impossible to imagine any car separating them. So imagine the sensation when Nathanael Berthon emerged from the pits just in front of Vergne! From looking set for second, Vergne ended up in fifth! Definitely a weekend to forget for Vergne.

But a weekend to remember for Robert Wickens and his team, Carlin. They wrapped up the Teams’ Championship at Silverstone.

Formula Renault 3.5 wasn’t the only category to provide major excitement though. After our visit to the village, we emerged to see Mégane Trophy Eurocup cars completing their qualifying session. They were instantly captivating. For me, these cars were the surprise highlight of the racing action.

The championship may be crushingly dominated by one man, Stefano Comini, who has won 10 of the 12 races so far this season. But that doesn’t matter because these cars are so entertaining to watch. They look fantastic, but best of all they sound fantastic.

Later on in the day we watched race from Vale. Stefano Comini had a poor getaway but soon made his way up to second, behind his teammate Niccolò Nalio. The battle was hugely exciting to watch. Comini was clearly superior on the brakes, and I am sure at one point they even touched here at Vale.

Comini finally passes

It was only a matter of time before Comini would pass. In fact, I wondered if Comini’s advantage was only at Vale, because it was inconceivable that he could be so clearly superior, yet still unable to pass.

I later spoke to someone who watched the race from another part of the circuit, and he confirmed that Comini also looked stellar there as well. It just goes to show. Catching is one thing. Passing is another matter.

Comini did manage to pass Nalio in the end. A class act in the Méganes.

2 comments

  1. Glad to hear you had a good weekend at the World Series races and it was interesting to read about the Village earlier too. I think the circuit is okay in really hot weather but otherwise I think it’s quite famous for being windy! I thought of going as a spectator this year but in the end we were busy Saturday and I caught the Sunday race on TV. Wickens was in top form.

    In 2010 I enjoyed the novel and sort of retro experience of watching without benefit of TV screens (which are erected for the F1 e.g.); the commentary was okay except like you for the 3.5 races and cars coming past! Did you get the UK Renault events as well? With us it started drizzling for the Clio Cup Saturday race and hence the cars kept sliding off the track at the end of the Wellington Straight! I think there were only about 8 finishers!

  2. Thanks for the comment Rishi.

    We did have UK events too. There was the Renault Clio Cross Channel Challenge, which featured drivers from the British and Dutch championships. There was also the Formula Renault UK races. Didn’t get to see as much of these though as they were nearer the end of the weekend and we had to leave early.