x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Rain threatens British Grand Prix as attendees turned away for qualifier

Organisers said they need time to allow flooded car parks to dry out following a series of deluges that caused chaos and uproar around the circuit on Friday.

SILVERSTONE // The organisers of this weekend's British Grand Prix on Saturday declared that Sunday's race will go ahead - despite telling more than 20,000 fans with public car park tickets to stay away from the circuit.

As the sun shone intermittently through breaks in thick cloud cover, Silverstone officials said that they had asked for people holding public passes for Saturday's qualifying session to stay at home.

They said they needed time to allow their flooded car parks to dry out following a series of deluges that caused chaos and uproar around the circuit on Friday.

Managing director Richard Phillips said: "We are strongly advising anyone with a public parking ticket not to come today - Saturday. They will all be refunded for their tickets."

He apologised for the appalling scenes on Friday when thousands of fans were left grid-locked in traffic jams around the circuit while others abandoned their cars in sodden fields and camp sites.

On the track, the near-incessant rain reduced the day's practice action to a minimum in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 who had braved the dreadful weather and circuit conditions.

"What we can do today (Saturday) is accept people that are in park and ride," said Phillips. "People who are camping or who can walk in are fine.

"There are a lot of categories and paddock-ticketed people that go into the centre and they will be fine to get in.

"But there will come a point - and that's why I am dissuading people now - when we will probably stop the traffic on the Dadford Road and push them straight past the circuit. And I don't want to do that."

Despite the traffic chaos, flooded car parks and campsites and a warning from 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button that the race may not happen if conditions on Sunday are as bad as those experienced on Friday, the organisers pledged that the race will go ahead.

Asked if there was any threat to the race going ahead, Phillips said: "No. It was a bit slippery out there on Friday, maybe because of all that rain but there is pretty good drainage on the circuit and that goes into a different sort of system anyway.

"There is a big lake out there that is connected all around the circuit."

He said that he had never known a situation like the one Silverstone has faced this year - even though the scenes were similar to those experienced in 2000.

"I have been doing this for 30 years," he said. "I have had some interesting situations with fans being chased around in Italy by police, and fans rioting - but I have never had a weather situation quite like this one.

According to some estimates, up to 30,000 fans could be turned away from the circuit on Saturday and there remains the alarming prospect of fans turning up with tickets for Sunday's race being told to go home.

Asked to guarantee that the race would go ahead with all ticket-holders allowed to attend, Phillips said: "I am not sure at all. I would have to see where we are at the end of today (Saturday) and we may have to have another chat about Sunday."