Why does it always rain on me?
Another F1 weekend and another rain cloud following me around the world! Firstly, sorry for the delay in writing this blog. I usually like to write them as soon as I can but it's taken me almost a week to dry and out recover for what has to be one of my busiest (and best) weeks ever.
Silverstone for me started on Wednesday as I headed to the Sahara Force India factory, which is based just opposite the circuit. Eddie Jordan and the BBC TV crew were there filming, which of course means a certain amount of chaos is brought to the proceedings.
We did a piece with Nico Hulkenburg and I was lucky enough to be able to take a seat in the F1 car. What a thrill! It's really interesting to get an idea of the angle the guys are sitting at and the amount they can (or more to the point can't) see!
The day was very much tinged with sadness though as we got the news that Marussia F1 test driver Maria de Villota had sustained terrible injuries from her crash at Duxford airfield and had lost her right eye. I think we were all shocked that something so terrible could happen from such an innocuous incident. I want to take this moment to wish Maria and her family and friends all the best for the future. She is at least making good progress in her recovery.
Thursday morning was an early start to head back to Silverstone. The team had a couple of extra members for the weekend with Marc Priestly (aka Elvis), a former McLaren mechanic for 10 years and Tiffany Chittenden a GT4 and Mercedes driver.
We all headed to the track for the media day - it's a chance for the assembled press to interview all the drivers. It's probably the busiest paddock for the season with so many British based media and teams so trying to interview 24 drivers and assorted team personnel is no easy feat.
One of the first stops for Elvis and myself was a sit down interview with Kimi Raikkonen. Elvis and Kimi spent several years working together so they know each other pretty well. The stories the two of them can share are not for me to say but when he writes his book I shall be first in line to read it!
We finally finished up for the day as the sun was setting and it was time for Jaime to continue his tour of British culinary treats and Thursday meant Fish and Chips night. I'm not sure it's a dish that Jaime will be rushing back to but at least he enjoyed it more than his Vegemite experience.
Friday is practice day. We get to the circuit at about 7am to make sure we are all ready to go when the guys head out on track for the first time at 10am. Friday is also Williams F1 team breakfast day where we go to stock up for 3 hours of live broadcasting. Crumpets was the order of the day as the rain poured down outside.
It rained so much on Friday I felt so sorry for the poor fans coming to the circuit to set up camp for the weekend. I took a trip to a couple of the campsites on Friday night and while the mud levels were high, so too were spirits. We heard some very sad stories from people who didn't make it in to the circuit and a lot of the day was spent talking to the organisers at Silverstone and trying to get the latest information for people trying to get to the circuit.
It was fairly frustrating for the drivers as they paced about the pit lane trying to find things to do because the rain was coming down so hard there was no way they were going to be able to safely take to the track.
As Lewis Hamilton took a tour of the pits I tracked him down and managed to get a live interview with the 2008 World Champion. It was a rare sight to see a driver checking out all the opposition and snooping on his rivals. It was a very human moment for Hamilton and he took the opportunity to wave to the fans and try and give them a little to cheer about.
After about six hours spent in the pouring rain it was time to interview the drivers again and prepare for our live show on 5 Live. We headed over to Whittlebury Hall and the F1 Racing Magazine Fans Village to take to the stage with the whole of the BBC F1 team. I was hosting the show (and trying to keep Eddie Jordan in check) in front of over 500 fans. It was great fun but I think I need to chat to Jake Humphrey a little more on how to control Eddie - he was hilarious but give him some fans and a microphone and he turns into a very naughty boy!
I finally fell into bed at about midnight, having set my alarm for 4am and drifted off to sleep reliving the moment Eddie (with a mischievous look) announced to the crowd that he was engaged to Lee...news to all of us, especially Lee! Maybe that's what happens after wing walking around Silverstone.
Saturday morning was meant to be myself and Phil Williams from 5 Live Breakfast broadcasting live from Silverstone. However, the traffic chaos of Friday threw a spanner in the works and Phil had to do the broadcast from London so I took to the paddock on my own.
We got there at the crack of dawn and were the only people in paddock apart from the bin men. However, it meant that as we went live at 6am we were in the perfect place to grab an early morning chat with the drivers as they were arriving at the circuit. I managed to bag interviews with Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Ross Brawn, Martin Whitmarsh and Michael Schumacher - who was less than impressed with some of the fans who had kept him up for the night as he camped at the BRDC site in Silverstone. He said he was thinking of moving to a hotel, so I did the only polite thing and offered him a room with us in Milton Keynes. Funnily enough he didn't take me up on the offer!
We finished on air at 9am, which gave me just enough time to grab a banana and head out to the pit lane for Saturday morning practice. It was a dry start to the day, which finally meant some action for the fans that had come to the circuit. (It was disappointing that 20,000 fans were asked not to come but at least it meant that the car parks could be fully opened on Sunday and all those who wanted to could come to the race).
I managed to grab a quick word with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to find out what he made of the traffic and fans chaos that had hit Silverstone. He was adamant that the organisers had done all they could in the freak weather conditions that we are having and reiterated how sorry everyone was for the fans that had not been able to come to the race this year.
It started dry for the qualifying session but the rain didn't hold off for long though and we all got thoroughly soaked as the session got stopped, then got under way again a couple of hours later and made for some mammoth broadcasting sessions.
Fernando Alonso would start on pole for the British Grand Prix and it was another bad day in the office for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton; both starting a lot further down the grid than they wanted.
Sunday was the big day. Wellington boots on and armed with my raincoat we headed for the circuit and got stuck in traffic for two hours. It was frustrating and made me appreciate how dedicated F1 fans are. In the future I think Silverstone will have to rethink how to organise things, having fans and media queuing up is part of the weekend to a certain extent but for the drivers to get caught up in it too isn't ideal. I got a couple of messages from drivers and their trainers asking if there was another route in - Pastor Maldonado managed to find one in the end, even if it was a little unconventional!
Sunday morning is spent running around the paddock trying to catch up with all the teams to find out if anything has changed overnight and if there is any news and strategy I can discover. Then it's time to kit up and head out on track for one of the most prestigious grid walks of the season.
The British Grand Prix live on 5 Live and Sports Xtra. It was a very special moment. There were stars and legends of Formula One in every direction you looked. I made my way over to Hugh Grant and managed to catch a quick interview with him before chatting tyre strategy with Red Bull Team Principle Christian Horner.
I was just about to chat to Mark Webber when David Coulthard rushed in and snatched him away for the TV cameras so I turned to my right and was very happy to see Goldie and Simon Pegg. We managed to get a word with both of them before the race and add a bit of Hollywood glamour to proceedings (and gold teeth!)
During the race it was a case of incident after incident, which means getting in the right place at the right time to get the best interview possible. Paul di Resta was the first to retire from the race then Sergio Perez was booted out of the Grand Prix thanks to some 'aggressive' driving from Pastor Maldonado. The driver interview with Perez set twitter and the world alight. He called Pastor 'stupid' and said all the things his PR lady was desperate for him not to say. I'm looking forward to catching up with him at Germany to see if he still feels the same after a little time to cool off.
After the race Mark Webber, the winner, came and spoke to 5 Live - he is a great supporter of the station and is the homeboy for the race living just down the road from Silverstone. After a tough couple of years riding shotgun to Sebastian Vettel seeing him win was great. He first won at Silverstone in Formula Ford at the start of his career and this was a special win for him in front of the 'best and most knowledgeable fans in the world'.
There's no rest for the wicked as after speaking to all of the drivers we record the Chequered Flag podcast. With Gary Anderson, James Allen, Tiffany, Elvis and myself huddled around a table in Red Bull's energy station we sat and pontificated about the race we had just seen and the reprimand and 10,000 Euro fine handed out to Pastor Maldonado.
Finally at about 8pm it was time to leave the circuit to try and dry out much like all the amazing fans that battled through rain, wind, mud and traffic to make the event what it was. Undoubtedly the fans of F1 in Britain are the best, most committed and loyal fans in the world. Over 250,000 attended Silverstone over the three days - and on Friday alone there were more fans in the stands than attend some race weekends in total. Hopefully next year the sun will shine on us all.
What a weekend. What a privilege. Yes I work hard but I love every minute of it and can't wait for the next two races to see what is next in this, the most exciting and unpredictable season in Formula One, maybe ever! Can McLaren improve, will Red Bull pull out another amazing upgrade package, will we see an 8th winner of the season as Lotus get ever closer to putting together the perfect weekend?