Driving home for Christmas - the 2021 British Grand Prix from the grandstands

Reporter Toby Lock made his annual pilgrimage to Silverstone again this year for a very special race

Fans sit in the stands ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix motor race at Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England on July 18, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Fans sit in the stands ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix motor race at Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England on July 18, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Football was agonisingly close to coming home last week, but for British Formula 1 fans, we went home to Silverstone this weekend.

In my circle, we call it our Christmas – a big group of friends spending three days watching some of the best drivers in the world going wheel-to-wheel...and sometimes closer. Last year, Christmas was cancelled. This year, we celebrated again.

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The British Grand Prix has been a tradition in my household since 1988 when I was three-years-old. A few friends started to come along, now our little family outing is about 15 people strong, spanning 60 years in age.

Fans of Lewis Hamilton celebrate him taking Pole Position during practice/qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 16, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Obviously things were different this year. We had three people missing with the virus, and we had to jump through a lot more hoops and have considerably more swabs than ever before. In truth though, as soon as we entered that quiet little village in Northamptonshire, it was like the pandemic was gone. People rubbed shoulders, sat in close proximity, didn't wear masks – a reminder of the times we've all yearned for.

With a new racing format brought in for the Grand Prix this season, there was an air of nervous anticipation. Friday saw 86,000 fans pack into Silverstone – one of the busiest opening days I can remember. The roar of a Silverstone crowd is one you don't get at many other circuits but we were treated to one on Friday night when Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for Saturday's sprint race.

But it wasn't just for Lewis either. More and more Lando Norris merchandise adorned fans, and George Russell's remarkable eighth place gave everyone leaving on Friday night another reason to have a pep in their step. The Brits were coming good in front of the home fans.

Saturday's sprint race left a little to be desired but added a bit of fun to the weekend's mix, the scorching sun beating down as we sought out shade and cold drinks. The battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was beginning to bubble after some borderline defensive driving from the Dutchman kept him in front to claim victory. Come Sunday though, we were ready for the fight.

Motor sport fans cheer Lewis Hamilton during the qualifying round ahead of the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

I've been lucky enough to watch F1 around the world, sat in various stands with various fans. Very rare is it you dislike a team or driver, instead just preferring one to another.

There was precious little sympathy towards Red Bull Racing though, despite being only based a few miles down the A5 from Silverstone, when the title rivals collided at Copse – one of the fastest corners in F1. Red Bull boss Christian Horner's comments over the PA drew huge boos from the majority of the 140,000 fans, Hamilton's penalty even louder jeers. But every time he drove by, the cheers were boisterous.

In his hunt of leader Charles Leclerc, nervous anticipation built. We could all see the gap dropping, but so were the laps. But with three to go, he was there. Roared down the straight named after him, Hamilton kept tight behind the Ferrari through Brooklands, Luffield and Woodcote. By this point, it was fever pitch amongst us.

Pulling right from under Leclerc's rear wing, Hamilton made the same move which cost Verstappen on the opening lap, up the inside of Copse. The Ferrari man spotted it though, taking a wider berth but it sent him off line, allowing Hamilton into the lead. Pandemonium.

Now a tradition at Silverstone, fans gather at the main stage afterwards to let the traffic die down, to sing karaoke classics, drink a few more overly-priced pints and see a few drivers let their hair down on stage, and the Brits did just that. From George Russell dodging questions about links to a Mercedes drive next year, to ABBA classic Fernando rewritten 'For Lando' and then the raucous celebrations for the race winner as the sun finally began to ease up, the weekend rounded out in perfect fashion.

Social media fighting and abhorrent racist abuse aimed at Hamilton may have taken a shine off the weekend in the aftermath as the dust settled on the race, but for those three days in a quiet village in Northamptonshire, things began to feel right with the world again.