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GRAPEVINE - SOFT NEWS, RUMOURS & SPECULATION 

Paddock Life: Silverstone edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Silverstone

The Red Arrows. Celebrity central. A pub night in the paddock. Summer barbecues. Campsites. Funfairs.

British GP atmosphereYes, it could only be the British Grand Prix - and the rebirth of Silverstone ahead of its new 17-year deal proved to be a tremendous success.

Initial scepticism about the layout of the track making things better had faded by Sunday afternoon, as a cracking race – with some good overtaking – ensured that Silverstone sealed its place as one of the highlights of the year.

The weather was fantastic and although there was a slightly messy look to the paddock this year - thanks to a spat between Bernie Ecclestone and the teams over whether lorry tractor units should be allowed in - almost everyone there left the British GP with a smile on their face.

While there was no end of dirt flying around Red Bull Racing over the weekend thanks to the team Giving You Wing if your name was Sebastian Vettel, down at title rivals McLaren the toilet humour seemed to be in full flow.

A few days before the grand prix kicked off, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button found themselves at a press conference on the receiving end of a cheeky question, which had been posed by 11-year-old Carl Hillis, who was reporting for the Great Ormond Street Hospital magazine.

Hillis had asked if the two drivers had had a pre-season bet about which one would win the championship – to which the drivers said no.

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson ButtonWhile Hamilton then suggested that Button could bet one of his road cars, Hillis prompted his own suggestion – which raised the eyebrows of the driver.

"Did you really just say that? 'Get your head flushed down the toilet'," laughed Button. "Sounds like a good plan, that does! I'm going to get my running shoes on if it doesn't work out for me this year."

The theme carried on into the weekend when Button and Hamilton were asked if they were competitive between themselves about anything outside of the race track.

Button smiled: "Not really – who gets to the toilet before the race maybe, but that it is it..."

Hamilton replied swiftly: "He beats me at that…."

Before Button countered him: "You definitely got in there first today. Wow!"

Formula 1 may be full of people who spend a lot of time focused on their own success, but the British Grand Prix does seem to bring out a bit more of a charitable feel among those in the paddock.

Fund-raising efforts traditionally kick off with an official F1 party, which this year took place at London's Natural History Museum in the week before the race.

Bernie Ecclestone threw his full support behind the event – which included an auction for some special items like expensive watches and a 2006 BMW Sauber.

The aim of the night was to help raise funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital's new heart and lung centre – and when a lot to buy some machines for the hospital came up it was a certain Mr. Ecclestone who dug deep into his own pockets to help.

In the end, more than £500,000 was raised during the night – which included appearances from Princess Beatrice, the Sugababes, Christian Horner and Vernon Kay.

The return of the Lotus name to Formula 1 this year has been one of the more positive talking points of the campaign, and in Valencia a fortnight ago the Hingham-based outfit made sure to celebrate the famous Marque's 500th grand prix.

At Silverstone, the team brought together a bit of old and new Lotus when it pulled in some big names from the past to help open its all new motorhome.

The Lotus motorhomeAlthough the two-storey green building could not match the impressive units like McLaren's Brand Centre for size, it's striking colours meant it stood out in the paddock.

Inside too was a pretty plush affair – and the team had called on the services of Nico Rosberg's girlfriend Vivian Sibold to help out with designing the interior.

On Sunday morning, VIP guest Hazel Chapman officially opened the motorhome – and was joined by other legendary names from Lotus' past including Bette Hill, and former world champion Nigel Mansell. There is now a permanent plaque to mark the opening just by the entrance door.

Rubens Barrichello had a big smile on his face throughout the British Grand Prix weekend – although this had nothing to do with the steps forward that his Williams team has made in recent races.

Instead, it had everything to do with his performance in BBC television programme Top Gear's item: Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.

Rubens BarrichelloThe Brazilian had completed his effort at the Dunsfold test track in the day before he arrived at Silverstone – but he had to keep his efforts totally secret through the GP weekend as the programme was not broadcast until Sunday night.

Eager, however, to drop a few hints about how well he had done, Barrichello did spend some time telling people to make sure they skipped the World Cup final and instead flick over to BBC 2. He would not have done that if he had been horrendously slow.

The reason was that Barrichello had not only emerged as the best racing driver to have taken part – he had actually beaten The Stig.

His best lap of 1m44.3s was one tenth quicker than The Stig, and three tenths ahead of former world champion Mansell.

Who now can topple Barrichello?

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