Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
You'll be on the Edge of Your Driver's Seat
What do you give a man for their birthday when all they do is complain about the lack of space in the house? More stuff isn't the answer. Far better to give him an experience, and what better experience could there be for a Formula One fan than to see the 50th Silverstone Grand Prix live on the big screen in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park? Welcome to F1 Fanzone. Standard entry is £10, but we booked VIP tickets for fast track entry; it also offered 10% off merchandise and a drift drive.
We arrive at the event shortly after opening, expecting a big crowd, but there was hardly anyone there. We sailed through and began browsing the stalls, each of which represented a different team - Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, etc. I did not expect to find anything of interest, but the tops were actually quite nice. Dad was even tempted by a leather jacket that was 75% off. In the end he didn't get it because he doesn't suit white, and the black one was too short.
As well as clothing, there were also mugs, keyrings, and framed photos of the drivers in their cars. In between the rows of stalls, old racing cars were on display, including Rexona and Catherham. The Caterham T128-01 competed in the 2011 FIA Formula One Championship, weighs 570kg, and has over 700bhp.
Opposite the merchandise stalls were the gaming tents, the first of which being a kind of Scalextric set. Dad and I, plus a number of others took our controllers, each colour corresponding a car on the track. Typically I picked the only controller that did not match in colour. At the start I wondered why my purple car would not move, until I realised my car was actually red. With all my waving about of the controller, trying to get it to work, my actual car had flown off the track. Confirmation of my colour established, I was then able to play somewhat more competently. When the other family left, Dad and I raced each other. Red got off to a good start, taking the lead. Black crashed, so I lapped him. Then red crashed; black caught up. We were neck and neck, approaching the finish line. The final bend coming up, off the track I went Dd crossed the line to victory. I felt sorry for the guys in charge of the game; they must have put our cars back on the track at least a dozen times, and they had been doing this all weekend.
Next door was another mini car racer, only this time instead of a remote control, you sat in a seat with pedals to move them. We saw a man fiddling with the wires of one of the cars, so Dad asked, 'Which ones work?'
All of them,' came the reply.
We took our seats, I put my pedal to the metal, and...nothing. The guy took the car off the ring, and I moved to another seat. This one moved, just on in the direction I wanted. It took a while to get an hang of forwards and reversing. Dad was pretty good, but I just bumped from one barrier to the next.
We then move onto an F1 motion simulator, which had a fair queue, but with VIP tickets we didn't think we'd be waiting that long/ We were stand in line for forty minutes, and at no point did the staff give us any indication of how long we might be waiting or what was going on behind the black curtain.
When it was our turn, the guy said I had to be over fifteen to play. After telling him I was almost twenty-four, he gave a sheepish look of embarrassment. I know everyone says you'll be grateful when you're older, but there is a big difference a forty-year old being compared to a thirty-year old, and a grown woman being compared to a child.
Behind the black curtain there was a model F1 car in front of a projector screen. Dad climbed inside and began steering. It looked pretty cool; not only does the first person view give you a pristine picture of the track and hood of the car, but also your hand on the steering wheel. The car also vibrates, so it feels like your driving on the road or bumping over gravel.
After going the wrong way, off track, and accumulating a minute's worth of penalties, Dad managed a reasonable time of three and an half minutes. If he was that quick, and we were third in the queue, why did it take so long for our turn?
I then clambered in, but the pedals were too far away. The operator tried to get them to move forward, but the mechanism wasn't working, so I had to slide off the seat to reach. I was driving quite well until a road led me into a wall. At the same time that I crashed, so did the simulator. I was sitting in the car for twenty minutes while they tried to sort it out. Now I know why we had to wait so long. The Silverstone race was about to start soon, so we gave up and left.
Dad took his seat in front of the big screen, but I decided to continue looking round. Other entertainment included a Top Gear simulation pod for £5 and a seventeen-player video game race. The game was the same simulator as behind the curtain, and while it did not include a vibrating model car, it worked, had a competitive edge, and would have been a darn sight of a better choice to have gone for.
There was also a Caterham drift experience. Here, a professional driver took people round a course, performing lots of drifts around the bends. The smell of burning rubber and fumes was a bit nauseating, and probably knocked about five years off my lie, but everyone seemed to be having a great time. Later I asked Dad if he wanted a turn. He was going to give it a try, but when he found out you had to pay, decided to give it a miss. We would have got a discount with our VIP tickets, but he still declined the offer. This did make having bought VIP tickets rather a waste, but we couldn't have known at the time.
Opposite the Caterham experience was a Pitstop Challenge, in which you have to see how fast you can change a tire, and text to that, a podium you can have your photo taken on. The only people I saw using it though, were the press taking pictures for a lads' mag.
Once again I was asked my age as I entered a prize draw for a holiday to the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix 2015, before going to Batak Pro. This is a reaction speed test, where you have to slam buttons as they light up. It is tricky because the buttons in the bottom left and right hand corners are out of your eye-line. My two attempts scored me twenty each time.
My favourite zone was the fitness area, which was very informative. I had no idea how fit an F1 driver had to be. Seeing them on the telly, I just think they're sitting down in a car for two hours, not getting any exercise. How wrong I was. During a race, a drive will endure 5G conditions, burn fourteen hundred calories, and lose three kilograms body weight through sweating. The average heart rate is 60bpm, but a racer will have a constant heart rate of 180bpm for the whole race. A normal person would only be able to sustain that for three laps max.
To get an idea of the physical endurance they have to go through, there were a series of fitness tests. Similar to Batik Pro, a man stood behind you, throwing tennis balls at the wall, where your blind spot is. You would be standing close to the wall, and have to react quickly to catch the balls as they bounce back. According to the person throwing, I had good reactions.
I was not so good at the steering challenge, which you had to twist from side to side a full one-eighty degrees as many times as you can in thirty seconds. I scored forty-one; the top score was seventy. I think I could have done better had I taken off my bag, because the strap slipped off my shoulder and impeded my movement. This was the toughest of the challenges, and made your arms throb, but the one that got your heart rate really going was the bicycle. Pedal as fast as you can for one minute. Fast turned out to be slow for everyone because the resistance level was so high.
After exploring I returned to the big screen, expecting the race to be almost over, but they were only on lap fifteen of fifty-two. Kimi Raikkonen had crashed on the second lap, delaying the race for an hour.
Halfway round, cheers erupted as Rosberg's gearbox malfunctioned and sent him out the race. Nothing against Rosberg, but everyone wanted his British teammate Lewis Hamilton to win. Up until now, Hamilton had been twenty-nine points behind, but this moment of fortunate secured his win of the race, and put him only four points behind, meaning he now once again has a chance of winning the championship.
Once the race was over, Dad bought an overcharged hog roast baguette with undercooked (which could have been spent on a drift experience) that unsurprisingly disagreed with him. The journey home involved a lot of bely rubbing and half a packed of mints.
Apart from one bad hour with a malfunctioning simulator, we throughly enjoyed ourselves, and it was a much better present than a pair of slippers. If you are a F1 fan, and would like to go to F1 Fanzone, there are two more events this year. The first will be in Mexico between 31st October - 2nd November, and the second with be in Abu Dhabi between 12th - 23rd November. Perhaps a holiday is in order?