F1 traveller’s guide: Monaco Grand Prix

There’s no doubt about it, the most glamorous event on the Formula One calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix. Ask any Grand Prix driver which race they would like to win and, aside from their home event, they will say Monaco. It was widely regarded as one of motorsport’s crown jewels, along with the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Overtaking is notoriously difficult around the streets of the principality, but there have been no shortage of classic Monaco Grands Prix over the years.

Nigel Mansell’s titanic battle with Aryton Senna in 1992; the 1996 event in which only four cars finished and Lewis Hamilton’s brush with the barriers on his way to victory in 2008 have been just some of the most memorable Monte Carlo spectacles in recent times.

This year, for the first time in many years, the Monaco Grand Prix will not be available live on terrestrial television.

So what better time for UK F1 fans who have always dreamed of going to the sport’s blue-ribbon event to make the trip and witness the greatest drivers tame the streets at 170 miles per hour.

Following on from my all-you-need-to-know guide to attending the British Grand Prix, in the first edition of my F1 traveller’s guide, Anthony French, who went to the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix shares his experience and provides his hints and tips for fans thinking of going to Monte Carlo for the race.

Travel

“Our travel arrangements were made by myself and those accompanying me, rather than with travel firm who specialise in F1 holidays.

“We included Monaco as part of a longer holiday and had driven down to Nice from the UK.

“Unless you can easily afford to be in Monaco for the weekend I would seriously recommend using either a specialist motorsport tour operator or planning the event as part of a longer stay.

“I’d recommend booking the following Monday off work! Trying to get back to the UK for Monday is very difficult and would not be advised.”

Arriving at the circuit

“I was lucky enough to be staying at a Villa located just north of Nice and it was relatively easy to drive to the railway station at Eze, a hamlet located between Nice and Monaco.

“The train ride was approximately 15-20 minutes so it is not too difficult to endure if it happens to be crowded on race day.

“The train ticket (return) costs are reasonable, although they have increased on 2006 prices when I last visited. It is advisable to pre-book tickets if possible either online or in person at Nice central station. Automated machines at the unmanned station are unpredictable and unreliable!

“For the ultra-wealthy there is the ability to arrive by helicopter. I did this later in the week after the race when prices were cheaper.

“Once you arrive in Monaco it is simple enough to walk to the circuit from the station and there are always plenty of Police willing to help and signs are plentiful for key locations such as Rascasse, Portier etc.

Watching the action

“I sat opposite the pits in 2006 just after the swimming pool and this is the best place to be located for pit lane action.

“The raised pits are at eye level and easily viewable – probably the best way to see pit stops in the world without being in the pit lane, although it is difficult to see the cars for any length of time as they are only in view for 2 seconds at the most .

“Standing is not recommended as there are very few of these areas available at Monaco, plus the rather warm local weather can make it an ordeal!

“For those wanting some fan ‘atmosphere’, the hill above the circuit is excellent.

“There is a legendary McLaren fan who sits there every year with a megaphone haranguing the crowd and drivers before the start of the race – not for the faint-hearted because a slip from there could prove painful, but you can see half the circuit from that viewing point.

Circuit facilities

“Considering the severe lack of space at Monte Carlo, the authorities do very well to keep order and avoid confusion.

“After the 2006 race we were shepherded back to the railway station by police who held the crowd in a road tunnel outside the entrance to avoid crushing in the underground station.

“Queuing for trains can take up to two hours but at least you are out of the often ferocious sun.

“Thanks to the number of people leaving the track it is virtually impossible to stop for anything to eat or drink on the way back through the streets, although if you are willing to hang back for an hour or two you could very easily make an evening of it.

“Toilet and washing facilities are difficult to come by and limited purely down to lack of space – I only noticed three portaloos during the nine hours I was at the circuit.”

Top tips

“My advice would be to plan ahead for travel; ensure an early arrival at the track and pack plenty of sun protection and be prepared for large crowds almost everywhere!

“Also be advised that roaming the circuit is not practical on race day.”

Have you been to the Monaco Grand Prix? If so, please share your experience with any hints and tips you may have for fans thinking of going for the first time. 

I know it’s already 2nd January and so you may be trying to get Christmas songs out of your head, but this little rhyme by F1 journalist Will Buxton is well worth a read!

The Buxton Blog

So I know I haven’t blogged in ages and I’m sorry for that. You know me. I post very infrequently, and as you might have seen… the last month or so has been fairly frantic what with a few fairly important trips to the USofA.

Anyway, as the Christmas turkey settled in my belly, and the hangover begins to wear off, I thought I’d post something I knocked up over the past few days.

It’s all thanks to a tweet from Harry Agapidis @harryagapidis, which arrived on Christmas Eve and refused to remove itself from my brain as we started singing the very tune to which he had provided an alternative opening gambit. It seemed only right I try and finish it off…

So thank you Harry, and Merry Christmas everyone.

Hark, Heinz Harald Frentzen sings
Christmas on the Nurburgring
Adenau and Karussell
Helmets by Arai and Bell
Greatest win…

View original post 174 more words

Want to go to the British Grand Prix? Here’s my all-you-need-to-know guide

Despite the fact that over seven million people in the UK watched the championship-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix on television, very few people ever go to a race.

Formula One may be the third most watched sporting event in the world – after the Olympics and football World Cup – but with only one event in UK every year, it’s not the most accessible of sports.

But getting the chance to watch a Formula One car roar past in the flesh is not necessarily as expensive and as difficult as you might imagine.

If going to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is as far afield as you’re willing to travel, then the options open to you are endless.

The cheapest option – if you just want to experience the thrill of watching a Formula One car driven in anger – is to get to Silverstone on the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend.

A Friday-only General Admission ticket – which, unlike on race day, will give you access to all open grandstands – will set you back £49 (£24 for a child), though this will rise to £65 when the ‘early bird’ offer comes to an end. For this, you will get the chance to watch three hours of Formula One practice, on top of practice and qualifying sessions for the support races, including GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup.

Saturday-only tickets cost £85 (£42.50 for children) however these will not grant you access to grandstands for qualifying.

For this, you will need a three-day weekend grandstand ticket. As I explained in an earlier post on the view from the Silverstone stands, there are many to choose from. The cheapest available at the moment is a weekend seat at Copse corner for £180, however a grandstand ticket gives you roving access to all open grandstands on the Friday and Saturday.

If it’s only the race itself that you’re interested in, a Sunday General Admission ticket costs £145 (£73 for children). And while that may seem a bit pricey, there’s so much more than the Grand Prix itself. The morning will feature three support races; a host of air displays, including the red arrows and a Grand Prix party after the race.

At the moment, however, an extra £7 will get you a covered seat at Copse corner, which seems like an attractive option given the deluge suffered by last year’s race-goers.

The easiest – and cheapest – way to get tickets to the British Grand Prix is via the official Silverstone website.

Getting to Silverstone

In terms of how to get to the Silverstone, there are plenty of options open to you.

If you’re only going on race day, Megabus operates a service from over 50 towns and cities across the UK from as far away Edinburgh, Southampton, Plymouth and Swansea. A return ticket from Cardiff, for example, costs £30, leaving at 6am and departing Silverstone at 4pm, around 90 minutes after the chequered flag.

Alternatively, Silverstone operate a Park and Ride service, just off the M1 and M40. For the first time, this service will operate on the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend. If you’re attending on all three days, it costs £15 per car. A one day pass is priced at £5.

If you wish to arrive by train, the nearest mainline stations are Banbury, Milton Keynes and Northampton. Stagecoach provides a bus service from all three stations throughout the weekend.

For those arriving by car, 2012 was a bit of a nightmare. Silverstone suffered from torrential rain in the build-up to the weekend. Fans were warned not to travel to the circuit for qualifying on the Saturday, in order to let the grass car parks recover in time for race day. Nevertheless, if you wish to travel by car to the 2013 British Grand Prix, a three-day car parking pass will cost you £60. A Sunday-only pass, however, will cost just £45.

Directions are available on the Silverstone website.

Camping

There are a number of campsites within a short walk of the circuit. Silverstone’s official campsite is Silverstone Woodlands, which costs £60 per person (£20 for children) and located on the south side of the circuit near Club corner. However on the three occasions I have been to the British Grand Prix, I have always camped at Whittlebury Park, which is a 5 minute walk from Copse corner. You can see a full list of campsite surrounding the circuit by clicking here.

Accommodation

If, however, camping is not for you, the Silverstone website has a comprehensive section listing local hotels and B&Bs.

Top Tips

If arriving by car, leave very early – especially on race day.

Remember your binoculars! There are many giant screens dotted around the circuit so you can follow the race properly. However, unless you’re lucky, they’re not normally giant enough to be able to read the on-screen graphics properly with the naked eye.

Take a pocket-sized radio and tune into BBC Radio 5 Live or Silverstone Radio of 87.7 FM.

Wear ear plugs! If you have never been to a Grand Prix before, nothing will surprise you more than the deafening noise. Ear plugs are available for purchase at the circuit.

Finally, if you have any money to spare, hire one of the hand-held Fan Vision controllers, aka Kangaroo TV’s. From one of these you will be able to watch the world feed shown on the giant screens and to millions of TV viewers around the world. In addition to that, you will have access to a range of commentaries; team radio, timing screens and a host of on-board options.

If you have been to the British Grand Prix and would like to give advice to other fans thinking of going for the first time, please share your experiences and tips below!

Why the BBC have made the right choice with Suzi Perry

“I’ve missed it. Haven’t you?”

Those were the words with which Jake Humphrey opened his first show as BBC F1 presenter, off the back of the opening credits to the soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ – the iconic theme tune of the BBC’s Grand Prix programme from the 1980s and 90s – making its return after a 12 year hiatus while ITV held the television rights.

And here we are, nearly four years on from Humphrey’s BBC F1 debut in Melbourne 2009 and Suzi Perry – the former MotoGP presenter – is talking about how much she has “really missed” being away from the grid, having been revealed as Humphrey’s successor; the Norfolk-born 34 year-old is moving on to present BT Vision’s new Premier League coverage.

How things change.

Humphrey: If I had my way I'd be in F1 for the long haul

Humphrey: If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul

Only in May this year, Humphrey tweeted: “If I had my way I’d be in F1 for the long haul.”

Less than four months later, it was announced he would be leaving the sport to “fulfil a lifelong dream of presenting the Barclays Premier League.”

Not that it was any great surprise. Only a week earlier, Humphrey announced to his thousands of twitter followers that his wife, Harriet, was expecting their first child in the New Year.

Jake Humphrey announces he is to become a Father

Jake Humphrey announces on twitter that he is to become a Father in the New Year

And as he explained in his last blog post as BBC F1 presenter, he “wants to be there for them both.”

But as Humphrey contemplates being in “Manchester rather than Melbourne and Chelsea rather than China” what do we make of his four-year reign as the BBC’s face of Formula One?

He hasn’t been without his critics. In fact, within hours of the BBC announcing he would be fronting their coverage of the sport in February 2009, F1 fans logged onto internet forums in their droves to express their dissatisfaction at the appointment of the former children’s television presenter.

But boy he has proved them wrong.

When the fresh-faced 30 year-old appeared on our screens at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, it marked a distinct change in the way Formula One was covered in the UK, which had for many years been anchored by the likes of Jim Rosenthal and Steve Rider.

Eager to make the viewer feel like they were a part of his jet-setting journey following the F1 circus and become the most accessible F1 presenter ever, he certainly achieved his goal in that regard.

Although perhaps initially slightly intimidated by the presence of 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard and former team owner Eddie Jordan alongside him, he rapidly grew into the role.

His blog posts were an instant hit, offering a fascinating insight into what it is like presenting the world’s fastest and most glamorous sport. Whether it be through recording his talk back during post race analysis; revealing what it’s like being producer and presenter or giving fans a guided tour of the BBC’s offices in the TV compound in Budapest, Humphrey truly delivered in giving F1 fans the kind of behind-the-scenes insights they had craved for years.

On screen, the chemistry with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan was equally as popular.

The bike ride to, wing walk over and campsite BBQ at Silverstone have been amongst the most memorable of stunts and features performed by ‘the three amigos’ over the years.

The F1 forum never failed to entertain and inform and the emotion conveyed in the Brawn garage moments after Jenson Button won the World Championship at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix was sensational.

After four years, Humphrey was willing to admit in his last blog post that he has “taken the F1 job as far as I can.”

Some would argue that the three-Top-Gear-lads-style coverage had begun to run its course and was in need of a revamp.

So what can we expect from the BBC’s F1 coverage in 2013 with Suzi Perry hosting the show?

The BBC’s Head of F1, Ben Gallop, said Perry will bring a “real energy and years of experience to one of the biggest jobs in sports broadcasting.” Of that there is no doubt.

For ten years the 42 year-old presented the corporation’s MotoGP coverage with consummate ease and style.

Presenting solo from the grid, Perry held the show singlehandedly – something Humphrey would probably be the first to admit was not a strength of his.

Since they lost the exclusive TV rights at the beginning of 2012, Martin Brundle’s trademark ‘grid walk’ has undoubtedly been the biggest loss to the BBC’s coverage. David Coulthard – who blossomed this year as a commentator – tried his best, but struggled on the grid in the shadow of his former colleague.

With ‘the three amigos’ broken up, however the BBC decide to cover the sport in 2013, it will be different in style and tone to what viewers have become accustomed to.

BBC bosses could do worse than allow Perry to do what she does best: presenting the bulk of the race build-up solo, with an extended grid walk; guiding viewers through the starting line-up, the background stories and permutations, while engaging with drivers and team bosses and throwing to her pundits and roving reporters when appropriate. A new, dynamic, less awkward coverage of the sport may yet emerge from the state broadcaster.

And when the 2013 season comes to a close Brundle’s grid walk may have been all but forgotten, while those who dreaded the break-up of ‘the three amigos’ may find they haven’t been much missed at all.

F1 INSIGHT: A day in the life of an F1 Design Engineer

We are more than a month into the Formula One close season and the team’s designers and aerodynamicists are busy working on next year’s car.

But the design process is not something F1 teams only begin in earnest once the season is over.

Even with the ban on in-season testing – brought in prior to the 2009 season to curb escalating costs – a dedicated team of designers and engineers remain at the factory all year round, trying to find that extra tenth of a second in performance.

So how exactly does an idea for a new front wing go from a designers head to being bolted onto an F1 car at the track? And how long does it take?

In the first of my F1 insight series, McLaren’s Alistair Niven tells all.

He reveals what his role involves on a day-to-day basis; how he got to where he is now; his advice to anyone wanting to become an F1 designer and what he feels is the best car he’s had a role in designing.

How long have you worked for McLaren?

“I have worked for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Team for approximately eight years.”

What is your current job title at McLaren Mercedes?

“Aerodynamic Design Engineer.”

What exactly does your role involve doing?

“As Aerodynamic Design Engineers we take the untamed concepts from our Aerodynamicists and convert them into credible engineered components that are ‘fit for purpose’ for either the Race Car or the Wind tunnel Model.

“In more detail, we take rendered aerodynamic surfaces and produce detailed engineering designs for our manufacturing departments or external suppliers; needless to say the whole process up to the material cutting stage is done electronically using CAD/CAM.

“We currently use ‘CATIA V5’ as our preferred CAD option. We tend to work in small teams concentrating on specific areas of the car.

“I spent my first few years at McLaren developing the geometry and aerodynamic concepts of the front suspension and braking system before moving onto the aerodynamic benefits of exhaust systems and rearward surfaces.”

How do these duties fit into the overall development of the McLaren car and the way the team operates as a whole?

“Although many of the mechanical and electrical concepts on the race car change throughout the season the largest amount of change takes place on the aerodynamic surfaces.

“An aerodynamicist can visualize an idea which we, as Aerodynamic Designers, convert into ‘realistic’ designs.

“These creations are transferred electronically to our manufacturers (either in-house or external) for the production process which can take the form of; machining, fabrication, moulding, rapid prototyping etc.

“The completed parts are often shipped straight to the track and assembled to the race car.

“This whole process regularly takes place within one working day. One working day in motorsport means 24 hours! So to summarize: Concept – Design – Manufacture – Transport – Assemble – Race.”

How did you get to where you are now? What qualifications and experience did you obtain prior to arriving in your current position with McLaren?

“I took a bit of an unusual route into Formula 1.

“I served a mechanical engineering apprenticeship after leaving school and then went to Glasgow University and studied for a combined degree in Aeronautical & Mechanical engineering.

“I was then offered a Lecturing post at a college in Barrow-in Furness teaching mechanical engineering to students working on the Trident submarine programme.

“Five years later I moved to Surrey, to take up a Lecturing appointment at Brooklands College, next to the famous Brooklands race track, teaching mechanical and aeronautical engineering.

“We designed and taught the first suite of National and Higher National Diploma’s in Motorsport engineering which is still running to this day.

“After twelve years at Brooklands I moved to Oxford to lecture on the automotive engineering degree course at Oxford Brookes University.

“Several years later I was asked to run a GT team back in Surrey and a year later joined McLaren as an Aerodynamic Design Engineer.”

How much of a F1 fan were you growing up? Did you always want to do what you do now or did you drift into it, almost by accident?

“I have been a motorsport fan for as long as I can remember, but my early passion was football and was lucky enough to play semi-professionally for over twenty years.

“I started racing motorcycles when I was eighteen on a Yamaha TZ350E before moving onto a Suzuki RG500.

“I blamed my lack of money for not winning, but looking back it was probably my lack of ability that was the primary reason!

“The main reason for choosing an Aero/Mechanical degree was that I really wanted to be an astronaut, but with the opportunities in that direction being few and far between I subsequently fell into lecturing.

“Looking back I have no regrets.”

Do you travel to races? How much involvement with the drivers, mechanics and team bosses seen at a Grand Prix do you have?

“As Design Engineers we are not required at race events.

“Originally, when ‘in-season’ testing was allowed, Design Engineers would attend two tests per year.

“The drivers on average come into the McLaren Technology Centre about once a week to either use the simulator or attend marketing events. They will have meetings with their Race Engineers to discuss car developments and up and coming race strategy.

“The Race Engineers will have been briefed by the Lead Aero Designers on aerodynamic improvements.

“Martin Whitmarsh or Jonathan Neale give a detailed debrief to the factory based staff on the Monday after every race.”

In your time at McLaren, what have been the biggest changes you have seen? How have these changes affected the way you and the team operate on a day-to-day basis?

“Without doubt the biggest change has been the speed of production, as mentioned earlier.

“An idea can be in the head of an aerodynamicist at the beginning of the day and less than 24 hours later it’s racing around a track on the other side of the world.

“This puts an enormous amount of pressure onto engineers, machinists, logistics departments and mechanics.

“The extra tension and excitement during this process tends to be the biggest surprise to most new employees from other industries.”

What is the best car you have had a role in designing?

“The obvious one is the 2008 Championship-winning McLaren MP4-23, but the previous years’ car, the MP4-22, was also great.

“This was the car in which Lewis Hamilton started his F1 career and started winning races almost from the outset, before narrowly missing out on the championship in his rookie year.

“But, as many Design Engineers will tell you, the best one will be next years’ car!”

What effect do you think the 2014 engine regulations will have on the racing?

“As the current regulations have been around for some time now, the gap between the front and rear of the grid has narrowed.

“I would imagine these differences will initially increase again with the advent of the new engines and all the complex chassis changes that will have to be incorporated.

“The existing engines are all producing a similar output, but that will change with the new V6 unit and will take some time for the engine suppliers to reach an equilibrium.

“From a spectators point of view I would imagine the noise may be a disappointment compared to V8’s, V10’s & V12’s of the past.”

What advice would you give to young people looking to get into what you do?

“Be very hard working, methodical, punctual and polite.

“Try and get as much hands-on experience as you can, working for nothing at weekends within other race formulae always looks good on a CV.

“Physics, Maths, Technology and English are the preferred A-level options at most good engineering universities.

“Grand Prix teams employ graduates from most forms of engineering including mechanical, aeronautical, electrical, software, product design etc.

“The National Diploma/HND in Motorsport Engineering is another route into F1 – it just depends on how long you wish to study for before you start your career in racing.”

In the next F1 INSIGHT, we’ll be hearing about life on the road as an F1 mechanic.

Can the Circuit of Wales deliver the next Welsh F1 driver?

In Formula One’s 63-year history, British drivers have won the World Championship 14 times – more than any other nation.

But since the tragic death of Tom Pryce, from North Wales, in the 1977 South African Grand Prix, not a single Welsh driver has made it onto the Formula One grid.

But could that all be about to change?

The 830 acre site in Blaenau Gwent, where the Circuit of Wales will be built. Published with permission from Good Relations Wales.

The 830 acre site where the Circuit of Wales will be built – published with permission from Good Relations Wales.

There are plans to build a “world class” race track over an 830 acre site near Ebbw Vale, in the Blaenau Gwent area of the Welsh valleys.

The £250m facility – called the Circuit of Wales – is designed to host international events, such as MotoGP, World Superbikes, World Motocross and World Touring Cars.

A new dual carriageway will be built to help access to the circuit and the developers believe they will be able to accommodate up to 70,000 spectators arriving by car.

Circuit developers are aiming to get up to 70,000 spectators through the gates on race day

The Heads of the Valleys Development Company aim to get up to 70,000 spectators through the gates on race day

The project is spearheaded by the Heads of the Valleys Development Company. One of the brains behind the plan is Chris Herring – a motor sport industry veteran, formerly Communications Director of the Honda Racing team.

Herring told me the “first-ever purpose-built Grand Prix circuit in Great Britain” is something that is “long overdue in the UK.”

Why Blaenau Gwent?

There were “opportunities to take it elsewhere in the UK” but Blaenau Gwent was “easily the place to bring it,” said Herring.

Developers plan to turn this barren piece of land into a world class facility by 2015

Now a barren piece of land – developers plan to turn this into a world class motor racing facility by 2015

“Blaenau Gwent council were very helpful, very co-operative in the beginning.

“From a local economy point of view, it will make a much bigger difference than it would have done in any other environment elsewhere in the UK.”

There will be a low carbon technology park adjacent to the circuit; an international karting track; two motocross tracks; hotel and leisure facilities and a leading motor sports race academy and training facility.

“Everyone focuses on this circuit as the sexy bit, but the circuit couldn’t happen without everything else balancing out the cost of building the race track,” said Herring.

“There’s a serious lack of qualified engineers in motor sport, which needs to be addressed. That’s why we’ve engaged with the Welsh universities, such as Swansea Metropolitan and Cardiff.”

An artists impression of the Circuit of Wales - published with permission from Good Relations Wales

An artists impression of the Circuit of Wales – published with permission from Good Relations Wales

“You look at Sepang (the purpose-built F1 circuit in Malaysia) and there’s a race track, a motocross track next door and that’s it – there’s no industry, nothing.

“Here, within a two hour drive you’ve already got a huge amount of motor sport business.

“Within thirty miles of Silverstone is probably 95 per cent of the British motor sport industry. It would be nice to get a little 10 to 20 per cent of that down here.”

Hywel Lloyd, from Wrexham, raced competitively in Formula Renault and British F3 until recently. Now, as team manager for the CF Racing British F3 team, he said the proposed circuit is “quite important” for motor sport in Wales.

“I think people will want to come there and a lot of race teams will want to be based there as well.

“There are a few good race teams in Wales, on their own merits, so it can inspire a lot of people, not just drivers, to get into Formula One.”

The developers claim the Circuit of Wales will “drive change and transform lives” in the area, bringing estimated economic and regeneration benefits worth over £50 million a year to the Welsh economy.

What the Circuit of Wales will look like at night - published with permission from Good Relations Wales

What the Circuit of Wales will look like at night – published with permission from Good Relations Wales

But will it inspire and help nurture Wales’ next F1 star? Herring believes it can.

“Having a circuit is a magnet, it brings youngsters in.

“People need the experience and the know-how. With this facility they’ve got a good chance, in a safe environment, to learn the trade with a lot training and practice facilities that don’t exist all over the UK.”

This view is one echoed by another Welsh racing driver, Seb Morris.

Last year Morris was named ‘Young Welsh Racing of the Year’ by the Welsh Racing Drivers’ Association. More recently, he featured in Sky Sports F1’s ‘Britain’s Next F1 Star’ series.

And although Morris feels the circuit is “probably not” going to help him get into F1, he said the opportunity it will provide is “very promising”.

“The chance and opportunity of visiting a new track that could be built in Wales would broaden Wales’ view of motor sport. I don’t personally think it’s that strong at the moment.

“But if there was a big circuit, with proper venues, that could really create a whole new industry and revenue for Wales.

“I think Wales as a country needs a Silverstone – something big like that.”

The timescale

“It’s effectively a two year build time”, said Herring. “We’re hoping to be on site by June/July 2013 with a view to being finished in June/July 2015.”

As for whether the Circuit of Wales can end a 35-year wait for another Welsh F1 driver, only time will tell.

Button wins Brazilian bonanza as Vettel clinches third title

Jenson Button won a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit, ahead of the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and  Felipe Massa.

But with Sebastian Vettel’s fighting drive to a well-earned sixth-place finish, Alonso’s second place was not enough to deny the German a third World title.

Vettel clinched the championship by just three points in what Red Bull team boss Christian Horner described as “the most stressful” race he’d been involved in.

For Vettel, the record books just keep tumbling. At the age of just 25, he is the youngest-ever triple World Champion and one of only nine drivers to have clinched the Formula One World Championship three times.

And off the back of his titles in 2010 and 2011, Vettel has joined an even more exclusive club of drivers to have won three World Championships consecutively. Only Juan Manuel Fangio (1954-57) and Michael Schumacher (2000-04) had achieved that feat previously.

A top four finish would have guaranteed Vettel the title. After the opening lap, it was obvious the task in hand was to prove one of his greatest challenges yet.

From fourth on the grid Vettel had a poor start, dropping down to seventh. Approaching turn four, it went from bad to worse for the German. Bruno Senna – whose uncle Ayrton had held the record for youngest triple World Champion – misjudged his breaking point on turn-in, slamming into the side of the Red Bull, spinning him round.

Cars dodged to the left and right as Vettel was left rolling downhill in reverse. Only until the last of the back-of-the-grid stragglers had past could the German spin around and set off in pursuit, in what was now a damaged car.

Meanwhile up ahead, Alonso was making the most of his championship rival’s misfortune.

From his seventh-placed grid slot, the Spaniard made up two places off the start line. A lap later, he made yet more ground, scything up the inside of Mark Webber’s Red Bull and team-mate Massa into turn one.

Whether he was aware of Vettel’s predicament or not, it was opportunistic driving from Alonso, who now found himself in the vital third place he would need to win the title, should Vettel fail to score.

The German, though, had other ideas.

With the track becoming increasingly slippery, Alonso chose to switch to intermediate tyres on lap ten. Vettel did likewise. In the absence of pit radio, Alonso would have been astonished to see Vettel in his mirrors as he exited the pits. Boy had Vettel made up ground.

Ahead of the two men in contention for the championship, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button were driving superbly in the tricky conditions, notching up a huge lead over the rest of the field.

All that changed on lap 22, however, after the safety car was deployed to clear up dangerous amounts of debris scattered across the track.

Eight laps later, Hulkenberg led the field off the restart, with Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel in hot pursuit.

On lap 31, Hamilton, in his last race for Mclaren, made a bold move on team-mate Button to take over second place. Then, on lap 48, Hulkenberg made a rare error, putting a wheel on a slippery white line, and Hamilton was into the lead.

It was a lead that lasted for just seven laps, though, as Hulkenberg spun into the British driver while attempting a re-pass into turn one.

Retirement in his final outing for the team which had nurtured him since he was thirteen was not the ending Hamilton would have wanted – or deserved.

All of this enabled Button to scamper clear into an unassailable lead. Behind the 2009 World Champion, Vettel’s dramas never ceased.

Wheel-to-wheel battles with the likes of Massa and Kamui Kobayashi continued. And then there was the weather, which changed almost as rapidly as the on-track combat the TV director chose to follow. One moment it was a pit stop for slick tyres. Three laps later, Vettel would be in for intermediates.

A small favour from Michael Schumacher – the man whom he admired so much as a young boy – was the only saving grace for Vettel on a day everything seemed conspired against him. The seven times World Champion – in his last outing for Mercedes before finally calling it a day – decided not to get involved in his fellow country-man’s charge for the championship and duly let him by for sixth place.

But even though Massa had let team-mate Alonso by for second place two laps earlier, seventh would have been good enough for Vettel.

“It is difficult to imagine what goes through my head now even for myself,” Vettel said. “I am full of adrenaline and if you poke me now I wouldn’t feel it.

“It was an incredible race. When you get turned around at Turn Four for no reason and it becomes like heading the wrong way down the M25 it is not the most comfortable feeling.

“I was lucky no-one hit me but the car was damaged and we lost a lot of speed, especially when it dried up. Fortunately it started to rain again and I felt so much happier.

“A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks [during the season], but we did not get distracted by that and kept going, and all the guys gave a big push right to the end.”

For Alonso, it was the second time in three seasons that a third World title had slipped from his grasp.

In 2010 a strategic error by the Ferrari team allowed Vettel to snatch the title in the Abu Dhabi season finale. This year, there is no doubt that Alonso has dragged a dog of a car that simply had no place to be in contention for the World Championship. But for being caught up in first lap accidents in Belgium and Japan, he would have won the title.

“I’m very proud of the team,” said Alonso. “We lost the championship before today, not in Brazil, this is a sport after all.

“When you do something with your heart and do it 100% you have to be proud of yourself and your team and we’ll try again next year.”