Avid F1 fan and Badger contributor Sarah Merritt (aka @SareyWare) was on hand to experience a free-to-fans filming day at Brand Hatch, where Lotus took modern F1 there, as well as a few other surprises!

In this age of social media there are a few teams that really “get” engaging with the fans. I was amongst many who flocked to Brand Hatch to take up those lovely guys at Lotus up on their invitation to come and witness a filming day. The invite had been issued via Twitter at the end of last week, and the car parking staff at the circuit told me that they had only been expecting 20 or 30 cars…that number had been exceeded before the gates had even opened at 8:45am, with numbers growing throughout the day. Take note Bernie….!

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For those of you who haven’t been to Brands Hatch before, I can highly recommend it. I’ve been in the past to watch DTM, and it’s a great, compact circuit with undulating gradients that lend themselves to great views from whatever vantage point you choose. It is also reasonably local to me geographically, which is always a winning point!

In the morning, we got a few chances to see this year’s car, the E23 Hybrid, on track driven by Romain Grosjean, and with a camera vehicle alongside – a great insight into how moving vehicle filming is completed.

Late on in the morning, Lotus tweeted out that they were going to treat us to a surprise pit walk at lunchtime so that we could get to see the cars up close. After queuing to go through the tunnel under the main straight, we were rewarded with the sight of the E23 alongside the classic Lotus that was scheduled to be running – the Lotus 72 E-5, as well as gatecrashing a photo call with the drivers themselves.

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Clive Chapman chatted to them about the Classic Team Lotus (@Classic Lotus) and introduced the car’s owner, and the drivers took the opportunity to “press the flesh” with a few of those gathered, give away some signed caps and team tops, and indulge in the now compulsory “selfie with a fan”. Jolyon Palmer was his normal lovely self and happy to pose with me!

After the pit walk it was back to the filming day running, and it was Pastor Maldonado’s turn to take to the track in the E23. In the gaps in running, a few lucky people got the opportunity to go out for a hot lap with Jolyon or Romain, and I’m pretty sure the passengers in Romain’s yellow Lotus Evora would have required a change of underwear afterwards….especially when he had a spin!

For me, the highlight of the day was hearing (and feeling) the Lotus 72 pass by me on track. The atmospheric sound of the car rumbling in the garage and along the pitlane, before emerging on track was a moving experience for me as a fan, and this was only capped by then seeing the two F1 cars on track together – current and classic alongside one another. A truly awesome sight to behold.

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All-in-all Lotus provided all the assembled fans with a great day out – and let’s not forget, there was no charge to attend and spectate – not a regular occurrence in anything F1 related! But why not let us in to see more of these filming days? The numbers assembled today even at relatively short notice would seem to show it’s a winning idea. Hats off to the team for getting us all involved today, and making us feel welcome, and wishing them good luck for the rest of the season!

Now, how long is it ‘til Barcelona….?