British GP postcard

As Silverstone gets ready for its main event, Autosport.com's Jake Sargent samples the calm before the storm

British GP postcard

The British Grand Prix - As much a part of the summer as strawberries and cream, Wimbledon and test match cricket, or at least it is once again this year as the event returns to its traditional July date after last year's drowned-rat foray into April.

All is set to be well again in 2001 and a sense of occasion has returned to Silverstone, albeit under changing grey-blue skies and new Octagon banners at the main gate.

Talk at the Northamptonshire circuit has understandably turned to David Coulthard and whether the affable Scot can stop the Michael Schumacher steamroller and take his third consecutive home win. But preparations to ready the home of British motorsport for its showpiece started long before Sunday's main event.

Arriving at the track on Thursday, it is hard to believe that one of the world's fastest and most-watched spectacles is on the verge of kicking off. Although the teams are firmly ensconced in their garages, with computers lined up and floors painted, the entourage that is part and parcel of the F1 circus is still in states of undress. And what an entourage it is.

With each of the main manufacturers setting up massive stands that would dwarf most car showrooms, you could be forgiven for mistaking the shopping walk behind the pit grandstand for Park Lane.

For Honda, though, the Japanese marque decided to turn its back on the traditional stands and instead opted to turn its attention to its garden accessories range with a spot of lawn mower racing in a secluded field behind Copse Corner. With the British American Racing and Jordan liveried sit-on mowers reaching top speeds of up to seven mph, 12 teams made up of the world's media were in for a white knuckle ride.

Autosport's sister magazine F1 Racing took the victor's spoils, albeit with a dubious driver change in the first heat and a thoughtless black-flaggable lunge down the inside in the final. But it was enough to take the win and land each of the team a new item of lawn-cutting finery apiece.

The big issue this weekend, however, is going to be the weather and it's not as if there's nothing else to talk about. Despite the four miles of new access roads and more than 600,000 square feet of temporary hard car-parks, persistent heavy rain, as is the want of an English July, could yet throw a spanner in the works. But with rain forecast for Saturday, creating a topsy-turvy grid in qualifying, and drier conditions for Sunday's race, things couldn't be better, right? Fingers crossed...

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