Over 300,000 at Silverstone for the BGP

12 July 2010, 06:47

Around 315 thousand fans turned up across all three days - with a near-capacity 115 thousand for race day - as officials at Silverstone celebrate the start of a new 17 year contract to host the race.

The huge home crowd also had some unexpected British success as McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button defied the odds to go from 4th and 14th on the grid to finish in second and fourth.

The celebrities were also out in force with Howard from Take That dropping by - telling Heart that he was a huge race fan but didn't get to as many events as he'd like because of family commitments.  He said: "I've been here twice before but all the good things happen on weekends and i've got two children in two different countries so my priorities are my children."

Oritse from JLS was also there as a guest of Virgin Racing - but was secretly hoping that McLaren's Lewis Hamilton would win.  He revealed to our reporter Holly Hudson [see pic, above] that he's a huge racing fan: "It's my first time ever at Silverstone, it's my first time ever at a Formula One event and I love it, I watch it as often as possible."    

Other stars there included cricketer Freddie Flintoff, Hollywood star Rowan Atkinson and Premiership footballer Michael Essien.

The race itself - the first to be run on the new-look circuit - was won by Red Bull's Mark Webber from Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, who extends his lead at the top of the drivers championship over teamate Jenson Button.

The racing proved an interesting test of the new layout with a slower, more technical Arena section which had promised more overtaking opportunities.  Most of the fans we spoke to were pleased with it, and with the event as a whole.

It also demonstrates the development that's underway at the circuit as organisers now have the confidence of a 17 year deal to host the race.  This time last year the BGP was supposed to be headed up the road to Donnington before those plans fell through and it has to be seen as a great tribute to Silverstone that they managed to put on such a good show with less time than usual, after the new deal was only agreed in the back end of last year.

Silverstone Circuit's Managing Director, Richard Phillips, told Heart: "We were all a bit down in the dumps after the Donnington saga which none of us want to go through again and this weekend has been absolutely brilliant."

And even the notoriously prickly F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone - who had pushed hard for Silverstone to make the necessary upgrades - was upbeat, telling us "I'm happy."  Praise, indeed.