Matt Butler: Glorious, fantastic, amazing – and the race hasn't begun yet

View From The Sofa: British Grand Prix, BBC 1

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The Independent Online

Ah, summer. You have to be dead not to love it. And what better way to spend one of the sunniest days of the year than to camp out in a field and wait for a bunch of millionaires to strut their stuff in front of you?

But enough about Mick, Keef and the new guy; there was a party going on at the British Grand Prix. And aside from a toe-curling opening sequence where the hosts, Suzi Perry, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, took a three-wheeled trundle in what looked like Peel P50 cars (they took them through a couple of team offices – a stunt Jeremy Clarkson did over three years ago), the trio did well to promote the festival atmosphere and revelled in the Britishness of the Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Less than five minutes into coverage we had an obligatory group of camping fans shouting in unison who they love best: "Lewiiiiis," was the verdict. The group of supporters, complete with oversized sunglasses and Union flags fluttering in the breeze, could have been at Wimbledon or Glastonbury as much as Silverstone.

Later on we were treated to a few celebrities, including Goldie, Carol Vorderman and Chris Evans, gushing must-use words on occasions like these, like "glorious" and "fantastic" – again, utterances that would have fitted in perfectly in Somerset or SW19.

Ian Poulter was the most entertaining of the celebs, particularly given the stick he got last month for pitching up at the Monaco Grand Prix immediately after missing the cut at Wentworth. As Jordan asked why he was here, he immediately went on the defensive: "I only live a couple of miles down the road and I am a petrolhead so I couldn't resist it. Plus I only live a couple of miles down the road." We got the distinct impression he lives quite close to the track.

Earlier, Perry (right) and her cohorts had given their opening gambits in front of the main stand at Silverstone, which was packed with cheering fans and therefore gave the show even more of a festival feel.

But among the sun, spectators and stunt pilots (more on them later) there was some news to get through: namely, why Paul di Resta was sent to the back of the grid. His Force India team principal, Vijay Mallya, had a face like thunder when asked about it. "We weighed the car and then Paul and he was slightly lighter. Between them we were underweight," he fumed.

But Jordan was unsympathetic. As Perry tried to elicit some support for the British driver, Jordan snapped back: "They are the rules; it doesn't matter why they are underweight."

Luckily, there was an upbeat sequence to follow, with Lewis Hamilton flying with the Red Arrows. The shots of the Mercedes driver in the cockpit were priceless: "Ooh crap..." he said as the plane looped and banked high above the track.

The footage was accompanied by the Top Gun theme – what else? – and was impressive enough for Jordan to claim it was the best sequence they had done. "It was just amazing," he said. "We had the new Lewis and the theme from the movie. It is things like this that make the British Grand Prix special; the fans come because they love stuff like this, they like the excitement, the noise and the planes."

We certainly do. And we had been treated to a very British summer party before the cars had even got off the grid. Shame the festive feeling was punctured – literally – by the race.