Normally one of the biggest critics of Silverstone, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has offered an unexpected show of support to the organisers of the waterlogged and traffic-jammed circuit heading into this weekend's British Grand Prix.
"I'm not a big supporter of Silverstone, but in all fairness they've done a good job," said Ecclestone when interviewed on Sky Sports F1
, almost causing those within earshot to lapse into shock. "If the weather was suitable for the car parks then things would be perfect. But because of the rain, things - they're not dangerous, but if you got in there you might not get out.
"The rain is not their fault," he continued. "England has been flooded; people's houses have been flooded and they've been left stranded in the streets," he said. "It is no different here than anywhere else."
"Normally Bernie will kick Silverstone given half a chance," said former F1 driver turned Sky Sports
race commentator Martin Brundle after hearing Ecclestone's supportive comments. "It's just sport for him."
Brundle himself also spoke in support of the beleaguered race organisers, headed by circuit managing director Richard Phillips who had almost been reduced to tears by the situation on Friday evening.
"Unfortunately, the huge amount of rainfall of June and July has caught them out," said Brundle. "You can't tarmac the whole valley, because you'll just flood the villages for three days of the year. Financially it doesn't add up, either," he added.
Since the 2000 British Grand Prix
earned Ecclestone's ire with its chaotic scenes of muddy fields and endless traffic jams, the British Racing Drivers' Club which owns Silverstone has invested heavily in updating the facility. An entire new pit lane complex opened last year as the culmination of the modernisation program that included a new dual carriageway, improved drainage and 27 acres of hard-standing car parks.
However, the dreadful weather leading up to this weekend's British GP defeated even these new measures and left the circuit appealing to the estimated 30,000 fans relying on general public car parks in order to attend the race on Saturday to stay away.
The big problem has been the circuit's need to rely on using surrounding fields owned by local farmers to cope with the massive spike in cars needing to be parked over the weekend. These fields can't realistically be covered and have been reduced to quagmires by the weeks of torrential rainfall to sweep over Britain during the wettest June on record.
"It is difficult for them to do what they could have done, which was to cover all the car parks," conceded Ecclestone.
The circuit itself issued an update on the parking situation via Twitter on Saturday morning.
"The majority of those that did come to the venue this morning are now parked, we have had to resort to bumper to bumper parking," the circuit said. "Please enjoy the day and be patient on departure.
"We have teams working in the grass car parks now to try and improve the conditions for tomorrow to give us the best chance of getting everyone in safely. An update on the parking situation and what we advise you all do will be announced later this afternoon."