'New' circuit still taking shape

The Grand Prix track may be set in asphalt, but the results of other work at Slyerstone won't be seen untll 2011

This is very much an interim year for the British Grand Prix, as visitors will experience the new Silverstone track but - for the most part - the old facilities.

It will only really be next year that the full picture starts to emerge, and even then the new pit and paddock complex will be just part of an ongoing programme of developments.

To get a feel for what it might begin to look like in 2011, it's well worth making the trip down to view the building work that is underway between Club and Abbey. It might not be the most attractive backdrop for now, but it should be pretty impressive come next year.

But the track aside, what else will be new for this race? The good news is that Silverstone has already gone some way to improving the spectator experience, despite the fact that the Grand Prix deal was only confirmed on December 4.

"We've been criticised for being too flat and so on," says Silverstone MD Richard Phillips. "Certainly the southern end is not flat now. Probably the best spectating point is Becketts. We've knocked down the old grandstand and re-profiled the bank there. We're putting in a 7000-seater stand, and that has also been raised up. The views from there are spectacular."

Other stands have been relocated or raised in an attempt to improve sightlines. As for general admission, one of the biggest changes for 2010 is that the old track has been covered up between Stowe and Club, and the banking moved much closer to the circuit. That's just one of several areas that now have added spectator appeal. "We've just put in 4.5kms of handrail to keep people off the debris fence, because they are in places where they never used to be!" says Phillips. We've done a lot this winter, we'll do a lot next winter."

One bonus this year is that the World Cup Final will be shown on a huge TV screen, immediately after the usual post-race party and concert.

As for 2011 and beyond, new permanent grandstands and an extension of the one at Becketts are in hand. There will also be changes to reflect the fact that the Grand Prix will have a new starting grid, although support races will continue to use the old one.

"We're going to have a look at the balance of that," says Phillips. Some other grandstands will have to come more to the fore."

In 2011 F1 's Paddock Club will move towards the new pits as well, freeing up space in the Arena section for the public. There will also be new roads through the infield, although initially only the existing bridges will be in use. There are plans for a vehicle tunnel after Abbey, although the wide run-offs mean that it's a £3 million job, so not a priority! A footbridge across the new pit straight is also on the way, although not until 2012.

And eventually the days of hot dog vans will be gone spectator-friendly 'piazzas' are on the menu...