Michael Bailey: Silverstone basks in its new dawn

It was a race that had everything – at a circuit that means everything.

Even Fernando Alonso acknowledged it in his post-race press conference – celebrating a second success around the track that started it all for Formula One 61 years ago.

A special, historic place at which drivers want to win – and one that has now proven its new lease of life.

The fantastic facilities inside the new �28m Silverstone Wing met with good reviews, while the race drew a record crowd that totalled 315,000 over the three days – 122,000 on race day.

If ever there was an example of exactly how this country feels about Formula One, the 2011 British Grand Prix was it.


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A former 'village fayre' (according to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone) transformed into a supreme festival of motorsport, with packed grandstands all around flushed in red – the red of McLaren obviously, not Ferrari – blowing on horns and cheering with partizan fervour.

In some ways, Sunday offered a sense of relief to the palpable tension on Friday – all over a technical issue that had the potential to completely overshadow the entire weekend.

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Most of the drivers – even Team Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes – were claiming little knowledge of the ins and outs over the hot-blown diffuser argument.

Suffice to say, it's a complicated subject few in the paddock, grandstands or watching at home have either the time or inclination to dive into.

However, at one point the threat of post-race protests darkened the already bleak Northamptonshire skies.

Thankfully FIA performance director Charlie Whiting got everyone to agree on a solution – for the weekend at least – and while Red Bull, McLaren and a host of other teams felt hard done-by, the skies cleared and what happened on the track rightfully took centre stage.

Of course, an incident-packed race helped with that too.

It may be there actually was one thing missing from Silverstone this weekend – some home success.

Paul di Resta threatened to do something special after a fantastic qualifying performance, but sadly his Force India team let him down with a mix-up over tyres that effectively destroyed his race.

Ploughing into the back of Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso merely underlined the point as the Scot tried to get back on track.

Jenson Button's 12th British GP ended with his 12th podium failure – and with plenty of gasps from all around as the front right wheel on his McLaren tried to escape following a botched pit stop.

At least Lewis Hamilton finished in a blaze of glory, defending from Felipe Massa brilliantly before pipping him to fourth at the line, ensuring those with a GB persuasion were jumping for joy.

In fact, given Lewis' last few weeks, we can probably claim that as a home success after all.

• So 12 months ago, it was Mark Webber's cry of 'Not bad for a number two driver' that summed up perfectly the stresses and strains at Red Bull.

By that time, the pair had already smashed into each other – an incident that was no doubt fresh in team principal Christian Horner's mind when the last laps at Silverstone arrived.

Only one of several messages from Horner to Webber was broadcast over the team radio.

'Mark, you need to maintain the gap; maintain the gap,' was the instruction – the collective annoyance from everyone that heard it was hard to ignore, especially in the media centre.

That said, the cheer that had erupted as Fernando Alonso passed Vettel as the German's pit stop went awry was still surprisingly louder.

Webber chose to ignore his team – as well as admitting his displeasure at the original order.

All of which means there will be more to come on this, as Webber battles for a contract and Vettel for the tile.

• A few things that caught my eye from wandering around Silverstone:

1) Formula One people walk quickly. They are always in a hurry, even if they're just heading for a bite to eat at one of the lavish motor homes. Therefore, watching fans trying to lug ridiculously large pieces of car chassis around in the hope of seeing – and then catching – Jenson Button et al for a signature was often a noble, if futile, task.

2) The Saturday afternoon press conference between McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh and his Red Bull opposite number Christian Horner was something to behold. The argument should've never taken place in public, but it was compelling to watch.

3) The noise – 2014's new engines simply have to protect the spine-tingling sound of 24 F1 monsters.

4) The Norfolk mafia in F1's support series, GP2. Some great racing and serious competition there.

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