Leave no Silverstone unturned
I am sending you this blog from my sofa, in my house, with a big smile on my face. Here's why it's such a big deal...
I always think of myself as the kind of guy who doesn't really need the trappings of a wirelessly-routed, on-demand, 21st Century existence, and then odd things happen to make me realise that I'm just as fragile and hopelessly addicted to this digital age as the next person.
The first nudge that I'm no Bear Grylls was when Harriet and I moved house just after the Turkish GP and had no hot water for 48 hours. We are talking less than two days in total spent boiling kettles to fill the bath, and showering while crouched in the foetal position breathing about three times a second. The way we moaned though you'd have thought it was a lifetime - how spoiled we are! In fact, I'm already pretty sure I'll be regaling my kids with tales of "your mother and I used to get by with no hot water when we first lived here you know!"
I hope it didn't show on TV, but I had to endure the three-second sub-zero shower on both the days I went filming with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button last week. I just used double the aftershave. I guess as Lewis tended to drive the £300k SLR with the gull-wing doors up he hardly noticed. Or perhaps he was airing the car. You can watch those pieces here and here if you missed them, by the way.
However, an icy shower pales into insignificance when I tell you that for the past three weeks I have been devoid of the internet at home. If there is a sure fire way to feel like you're back in 1986 it's to move to my new house.
No internet, no home phone, and you only get mobile signal on the other side of the street! I did a Radio Norfolk phone interview on Monday morning after the British GP and I was in my pyjamas at 8.45am, on the opposite side of the road, and I seemed to time it just as the whole of Richmond was commuting to work, school or college. Most embarrassing!
The only time I remember being more shown up outside my own house was when I put on Harriet's incredibly girly slippers to pop outside and see her off to work one morning last year, shut myself out, and then proceeded to run around the corner in my dressing gown and girls slippers, waving wildly for her to stop and let me back in. As I appeared around the corner a load of schoolkids were boarding a coach to go on some field trip - abject humiliation. I now just say bye at the front door, for obvious reasons.
Anyway, back to my point. A man arrived today, drilled holes so my walls resemble a sieve and I am now fully cabled up, and have use of a landline once again. Even this was typically tinged with idiocy as I managed to lock myself out and so ended up meeting my neighbour properly for the first time and borrowing his ladder to get back in the house. It's worth telling you now that my mate James called me "General Accident" when we were kids.
Anyhow, I won't pretend my tardiness with this particular post-race blog is entirely down to the fact that I was cut off from civilisation, or locked out on the pavement since Sunday. I have just spent the best part of the past couple of days in something of a tired, monosyllabic daze after a weekend that will probably go down as the most memorable if not exhausting, of my career so far.
I remember sitting in a bar with Sunil, one of the producers. We had just checked into the rather odd Sunway Lagoon Hotel for the Malaysian GP and Silverstone seemed, and was, a very long way off. We chatted about what our home GP would be like over dinner during a sultry Eastern evening; it more than lived up to expectations.
The whole team got together for a meeting at Television Centre last week (no-one brought cake!) so we could discuss how to make this weekend feel different from our previous seven race weekends. We had a few ideas of how to make it feel memorable... and then F1 went and created its own drama that none of us could have scripted.
There is a special energy that comes from big news stories when you do our job. When I arrived in the production office on Friday morning at about 8am there was a real electricity in the room. The Fota breakaway threat had emerged around midnight, and we all knew the following days would be huge for Formula 1 and that, come Saturday and Sunday lunchtime, all eyes would be on how we handled the political story as well as the sporting one.
As Friday unfolded I got a real sense of just how big and all encompassing the BBC can be when it needs to be. On the way in, I listened to 5 Live, who had guys live at the track explaining the impact of Fota's threatened breakaway. Not long after my arrival, BBC sports editor Mihir Bose was enjoying the delights of the F1 production team's kitchen, and was charged with making a story that would be seen by many millions during the 10 O'Clock News. Sports news correspondent James Munro was there to deliver breaking news updates and regular bulletins on the BBC News Channel, as well as the main news bulletins at 1pm and 6pm. The web journalists were busy sending copy and filing stories - and I walked into the centre of the lot knowing that at some point Max Mosley would talk and we had to be ready.
Eventually, at mid-afternoon F1 editor Mark Wilkin took a call on his mobile, turned to me and said: "We need to go now". I knew he was talking about the Mosley interview and I'll happily admit that at that point I felt really nervous for the first time this season.
You see, I feel pretty comfortable on live television, having done it every week, almost every day in fact since I was 18. However, speaking to the man at the top of the FIA, a sharp political operator, a shrewd mind, a man commonly referred to as the "cleverest guy in Formula 1" and the man at the very eye of this particular storm made me genuinely a little edgy.
As we bleeped our way out of the TV compound using our electronic accreditations and over the bridge to the paddock, I started to think about what was coming. I really felt that, as an F1 fan myself, there were questions that needed asking and explanations that had to be offered. I know many of you at home were questioning whether the sport you love would even survive this latest firestorm and I certainly felt a sense of responsibility and duty as the man charged with discussing the issues with Max.
What added to the feeling of pressure was that as we walked to the interview area was that it seemed the world's media were camped outside the FIA motorhome. Everyone wanted a picture, a quote, just something from Max to help tell the story. I walked past knowing that in a matter of moments the BBC would be lucky enough to be the only broadcaster granted a few minutes with the man himself.
We got into the Formula 1 Management building and there followed a mildly comic routine that wouldn't have been out of place on the Chuckle Brothers.
We were offered a tiny little white office to do the interview. Ironically, it resembled an interrogation room and wasn't really suitable. So, moments before the FIA president joined us I was out in the adjoining offices tracking down a pot plant and negotiating it's loan to 'dress the shot', moving tables and carrying chairs in and out whilst the camera men sorted the technical equipment. You see, with interviews like this you are either ready or it doesn't happen, and we had to be ready.
Someone then said Max was coming. I looked out of the window to see a pack of media moving slowly towards us. I guessed Max was in the middle of it.
Anyway, we spoke at length. If you haven't already watched the full version you can see it here on the BBC Sport website. Max was very eloquent, is clearly passionate about F1 and he firmly believes cutting costs is essential for it to survive. I enjoyed our chat. Max even said he liked our F1 coverage but moaned that no add breaks meant he couldn't nip off to the toilet. Quite a few people have mentioned this - I recommended a regulation three-minute stop for all cars on lap 30 should be written in to the rules!
I know in the grand scheme of things there are much bigger issues in the world right now. But in F1 circles this past weekend's story was big and it was great so many people joined us over the weekend to help explain it.
As well as Max on Saturday and Sunday, we spoke to Bernie live during the qualifying show and after the race we had various team bosses, technical heads, race engineers and even Felipe Massa live in the paddock. It felt like a weekend when everyone wanted to speak to the BBC and considering there was a lot to talk about and loads of air-time to fill I'm glad the F1 world was in a chatty mood!
It now seems this weekend we witnessed the final manoeuvrings by both parties, followed by the resolution that all fans of the sport were praying for. Is that it for controversy and debate away from the track this season? Somehow I don't think so.
F1 has been known to change its mind before, but as things stand it looks like things have been resolved. Fota has proved how strong and unified the teams are and just what they can achieve together, Bernie has ensured the sport that he is the figurehead for has survived to continue to thrive, and it seems Max has now agreed that his time as president is up after all. It's worth pointing out that Max's tenure at the top has been a period where the safety of F1 has moved on immeasurably and drivers are now safer than ever before. He should take great credit for that.
And among all this some news emerged that would almost have been easy to miss. We're all, thankfully, going to have a British Grand Prix in the future, and if Donington Park can't deliver one then Silverstone will. I actually remember Eddie Jordan telling us weeks ago in Bahrain that he thought Bernie was so dead against Silverstone hosting another race that it actually meant Bernie was guaranteed to return the race there one day. EJ obviously knows the man well!
I have to say that with all the political manoeuvring and last-minute guests joining us over the weekend I had a great time. The biggest buzz of all was that it was played out to the backdrop of the most incredible support. There is no question in my mind that at the previous seven races this year the fans haven't been a patch on you guys. An amazing noise, colour, knowledge and passion filtered down from the stands.
I was filming an opening link on the track before the race and I could hardly take my eyes off the main stand. The fans were immense.
From driving away past the packed funfair at 10pm, to my drive in the following morning with fans starting to walk to the circuit from miles away at the crack of dawn, it all oozed a real dedication to motorsport and I think it's you guys who have helped save the British GP in a very big way indeed.
Right, enough from me, I'm off to watch a bit of Wimbledon on TV and then to a DIY store to buy a plunger. The kitchen in our new pad is straight out of 1989, ceramic white with blue flowers... classy! It'll be replaced in time but right now I just need it to work!
Before I sign off, just a reminder that you can sign up to my Twitter account at www.twitter.com/jakehumphreyf1. Tweets get going again for the German GP, and also as we're now halfway through the season it seems like a good time for feedback about what you like or don't and what you think is or isn't working... We've all got thick skins I promise!
Finally it was great to meet so many of you at this weekend's race, wherever we are in 12 months' time I hope to see you there too.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine,
Oh, and here are the rest of the photos from the weekend...