x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Silverstone: a classic circuit that flows beautifully from start to finish

Hispania Racing driver Karun Chandhok, who lives near the Silverstone circuit, takes us around the former Second World War airfield for the British Grand Prix.

I think I'm the first former Silverstone employee to have gone on to become a Formula One racing driver and it's a circuit I know far better than any other.

It's a more local circuit to me than it probably is to any British driver, as I live only about seven miles (11.3km) from the track. If I'm at home, I cycle past Silverstone three times a week as part of my training ride. I was a racing instructor there for three years but I was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I used to marshal there as well as part of the job - basically, I did whatever the racing school asked me to.

One day, I might have been picking up motorbikes from the gravel trap, the next day I'd be there waving yellow flags or even hurtling around in an Audi or a Caterham with a passenger in tow. I love the place; it's great fun. Honestly, if I had a free weekend, I'd probably be at Silverstone in the rain watching a race with a cup of tea trying to keep warm. I'm a bit of a motorsport anorak - my teammate Bruno Senna calls me "a bobble hat" because of it.

For me, there are three top circuits - Monaco, Spa and Silverstone. I believe I'm in Formula One for the right reasons. I'm not here to be famous or to earn enough money to get a house in Monaco. I'm here because I absolutely love F1 and, at the moment, Silverstone is very much my home race. In fact, even when the Indian Grand Prix is added to the calendar next season, Silverstone will still be another home race for me. The crowd are just fantastic and so knowledgeable. They have an incredible understanding of the sport and their enthusiasm makes for an even better atmosphere than at the other races on the calendar.

If someone asked me to build my ideal race track, I would definitely include the first sector at Silverstone. It is such a buzz to drive. I think I first drove there in 2002 and I've been there a few times since. I won there in Formula Three and twice ended up on the podium in GP2. You get up to serious speeds on the opening straight into Coppice, a fast right-hander that's completely blind so the buzz is there straight away. You're then on to the trio of Maggots, Becketts and Chapel. There's nothing like it in F1 and, as a spectator, I'd love to be watching there. As a driver, it's just brilliant. Those three corners are so fast and they're over in an instant as you keep your speed on to the ensuing Hangar Straight.

The next corner at Stowe is slower but you still keep as much speed as possible, which means you always end up running over the kerb. There's another straight before Vale and Club, very slow parts of the circuit before you come to the new changes at Abbey. A lot has been made of the changes that have been done to the circuit. Everyone has this glamorous idea that we've sat in simulators going round every aspect of the new Silverstone but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Now it's open, I cycled from home, got to the circuit and paid £5 [Dh27] to get in and then cycled round the new layout. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the changes. I'm not saying that to be critical but, for me, I don't think there was much wrong with it. There really wasn't anything to improve. Of the changes, the new Abbey will be a good corner and still a high-speed commitment. There's a few new corners there and then the track rejoins the old circuit at Brooklands on a long straight so there might be a bit more overtaking there.

What it means is that we won't fly through Bridge anymore and I can understand the reasons for doing that. Bridge is just not safe as it is for the MotoGP riders. So I'm not unhappy about the changes, I just thought Silverstone was a fabulous circuit as it stood. That said, the changes have been very much in keeping with Silverstone and its fast, flowing nature. You get places like the Valencia street circuit that are such stop-start circuits but Silverstone just flows beautifully from start to finish. It remains fast, flat out and a place where you need to be brave to get it just right. It's the ultimate test as a racing driver. motoring@thenational.ae