Given the fact that Formula 1 has this year enjoyed seven winners in eight races, and was thus well on its way to at least equalling 1982â€™s record of 11 winners, pre-race talk in Silverstone should have been about the seasonâ€™s next winner.
Yet, one word dominated discussions at the circuit in the British Midlands: Rain.
After the wettest June on record in a country in which Wimbledon tennis is invariably affected by wet stuff; after that disastrous 2000 grand prix which saw campers stranded in muddy fields for days on end; after upgrade programmes costing hundreds of millions in any currency, one would have thought the circuit which hosted the very first world championship grand prix back in 1950 knew a thing or three about water.
Clearly not: On Friday media members, officials and fans alike spent hours (not) getting into the circuit. A local journalist left his home 50 kilometres from the circuit at 09 00 â€“arriving in the Media Centre at 16 00. Bernie Ecclestone was advised to not bother risking the journey in his limo: The 120-kilometre journey from London, of which three-quarters is on triple carriage motorway, required at least five hoursâ€¦
The problem was three-fold: lack of hard parking for spectators; muddy surrounding fields; which meant campers were turned away in droves; and a totally ineffective traffic control system despite the promoters spending R15m on a traffic control plan.
On Saturday Ecclestone, the very man who in the past had been absolutely scathing about Silverstone and the British Racing Drivers Club â€“ of which he is a member â€“ leapt to the circuitâ€™s defence, saying â€˜they could not have foreseen the rainâ€™. In a country which officially classes a two-week period without a drop as droughtâ€¦
But, Bernie would say that, wouldnâ€™t he: He, after all, imposed astronomical race hosting fees on Silverstone, which in turn sucked vital funding out of Silverstone, money which could have been put to better facility use by Silverstone than ultimately funding the lavish lifesyles of a duo of â€˜Itâ€™ girlsâ€¦
He is also the man who in the run-up to Silverstone of the grand prix spoke glowingly of a race on the streets of London â€“ an event which would surely jeopardise Silverstone were it to fly. In fact, Ecclestone even suggested he would pay for the race: a total about-face given his modus operandi, which sees him charging promoters up to R400m in annual hosting fees.
But cynics in the paddock suggest it was simply smoke and mirrors: a few days earlier British newspapers were packed with reports of a court case involving German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who confessed to having receiving R400m in bribes from Ecclestone to persuade Munich bank BayernLB to dispose of its shares in F1â€™s commercial rights to Ecclestoneâ€™s preferred buyer, CVC Capital Partners.
The London Grand Prix conveniently overshadowed the court case, which suddenly slipped off the pages. For nowâ€¦
However, wet weather on Friday provided a bit of light humour: F1â€™s regulations allow for teams to exchange used Intermediate tyres for a new set. However, the rule does not apply to â€˜wetsâ€™, so teams were reluctant to practice on Friday lest they used up their allocations of fully treaded tyres.
FOTA chairman and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh requested that FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting temporarily amend the regulation for this race, which he agreed to â€“ subject to Pirelli being in a position to supply all teams with an additional set of wets.
Whitmarsh attempted to call Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery, who was unable to take the call through being in the BBC studio being interviewed live. However, Whitmarsh found BBC reporter Gary Anderson in the pits, and asked the former technical director whether he was linked live to the studio.
Receiving an affirmative, Whitmarsh commandeered his audio kit and put his request to Hembery â€“ live on air, with the worldâ€™s English-language audience listening in!
It all came to nought as Pirelliâ€™s available wet weather stock at its base near London was earmarked for Germany in a fortnight, but what a treat for listeners!