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Bird’s-eye view: Inside the F1 British GP flyover


“The in-flight meal is terrible and the baggage allowance is extremely tight”, came the tongue-in-cheek request to see if I could get on board with the Red Arrows as part of their legendary opening sequence to the British Grand Prix.

The Royal Air Force’s acrobatic display team is the best in the business, with their trademark Diamond Nine shape and whose close combination of manoeuvres and precision flying has dazzled crowds since 1965.

On Sunday, they pulled off another brilliant show before the distinctive red Hawk fast-jets crossed the Silverstone start-line just as Hannah Waddingham finished singing the final words of the National Anthem.

The timing was perfect, as you’d expect from the Red Arrows pilots who have been rehearsing their manoeuvres for years.

But they share some similarities with the drivers standing on the gird below them as explained by Red 4, flight lieutenant Ollie Suckling.

He tells Motorsport.com: “We work at achieving the marginal gains, just like in motorsport. The key to getting a great show is to get it as close to perfect as we can. We have a briefing 55 minutes before take-off time and you get on the runway a few minutes before your take-off time.

“We have to follow a black line on a map but we use mental arithmetic to calculate the perfect time, using timing trombones – 90-degree turns – to take out any timing errors.

“We have done the manoeuvres 100s of times over winter training sessions, which start in October. It is a misconception that we go on leave once the season is over, we are straight into training for the next season working in smaller teams.

“We fly in Croatia and Greece because the weather is more consistent and we work to put polish on the shows, going out three times a day five days a week.”

Aside from the meticulous planning, physically the pilots share similarities with F1 drivers in the physical preparations to help them cope with extreme g-forces in the cockpit.

Suckling added: “I’d only just joined the Red Arrows in 2022 and Lando Norris joined up with us with his race engineer, Will Joseph and his trainer Jon Malvern for some flying.

“The training we do is similar in terms of neck exercises. It was interesting speaking to Jon about how there is also an element of mental and physical training. In order to be in the Red Arrows you have to have a winning mindset.”

Of course, the speed is also a similarity, but whereas F1 drivers are pushing 210mph, the pilots were hitting over 500mph around Silverstone, and were travelling 350mph down the straight during the National Anthem, not much time for Suckling to take it all in.

“We don’t have too much time to look out of the window,” he says, “but we do get lots of messages from people about how much they enjoy it, which is the main thing”.

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