When a grand prix is held in the month of July – and in the Northern Hemisphere to boot – you’d be forgiven for expecting it to be dry. Showers? A few, perhaps, but torrential rain surely isn’t in the offing. Pack your shorts and shades, not your waterproofs and lifeboats.
But that would be to totally ignore the unique sense of humour that the UK weather Gods (all countries have their own weather Gods – Spain’s is called Juardo) possess. Friday at Silverstone 2011 was a washout, with on-track action severely limited by the inclement conditions. Spirits have not been dampened – the Brits and wealth of other nationalities in attendance are made of sterner stuff – but there’s was a palpable sense of weather bemusement at what was one of the busiest Friday’s at the home of British motorsport in recent memory.
Morning practice was comparatively (though by no means entirely) dry, with plenty of cars on track and conditions improving as the session progressed. That didn’t stop Kamui Kobayashi overestimating his own ability to walk on water and stuffing it in the barriers, but the session was largely untroubled, Mark Webber emerging fastest.
One of the more memorable sights was, oddly enough, from Hispania, who sent both cars out at the same time at around the half hour mark, with Tonio Liuzzi leading Daniel Ricciardo around. There was an almost pack animal scene as the experienced Italian led the rookie Australian around the circuit; of course, Ricciardo knows how to drive a Formula One car and knows his way around Silverstone, but it was still an almost touching sight. Or perhaps the rain has got to me, too.
When FP2 kicked off a few hours later things were much different: no more big bear leading little bear around the woods; in fact, no bears at all. Both Toro Rossos ran installation laps and immediately darted in to the pits – welcomed by a chorus of ironic cheers from the action hungry crowd – but as the rain increased seeing cars on the re-developed circuit became less and less likely.
In fact it was over half way through the session before anybody ventured out in earnest, and even then the front-runners stayed tucked away in their warm, dry garages. We couldn’t blame them. In honesty the times are largely irrelevant, as many of the drivers stated themselves after drying off.
GP2 qualifying was next on the bill and that too was ruined by the elements. Everyone scrambled early, knowing full well more rain was on its way, and following one run the heavens obliged by depositing another downpour on Silverstone. Jules Bianchi took pole, whilst practice pace-setter and local favourite Sam Bird was left down in ninth.
As the weather worsened the Porsche Supercup lads took to the track. Those who remained to face the elements for this can truly call themselves hardcore. And wet to the bone.