Ten ways to pick an F1 race to visit

Which F1 race do you most want to see?

Which F1 race do you most want to see?

With the 2009 F1 season almost upon us fans will be sorting out their plans to go to a Grand Prix.

So how do you go about picking which race to go to? Here are ten ways to help make up your mind.

Geography


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Where you live can seriously restrict your choice of races. Europeans are spoiled for choice, but North American fans face a major expedition if they want to see live F1 action.

Also remember that some tracks are easier to get to than others. Valencia, Monte-Carlo and Singapore are all in urban areas. But Istanbul Park is two hours? drive outside of the city it?s named after.

Spectacle

Some F1 races are more about the spectacle of the event than the quality of the racing.

If glitz and glamour is your thing, then Monte-Carlo should be your destination. For the unique thrill of night racing, head for Singapore.

Or if you want to soak up the atmosphere of a classic F1 race at a venue steeped in history, Monza and Spa-Francorchamps are the best places to head for. I?ve been to both, and wouldn?t hesitate to recommend them.

Racing

If what draws you to F1 is the prospect of seeing wheel-to-wheel racing, some tracks are more likely to offer that than others.

Bahrain, for example, may not be the most inspiring venue, but you can usually expect a good race.

Weather

Hard to believe, but Silverstone in the wet isn't everyone's cup of tea

Hard to believe, but Silverstone in the wet isn't everyone's cup of tea

If you?ve got kids in tow, or you?ve cajoled a non-fan in coming along with you, they might not appreciate standing on the outside of Eau Rouge while their shoes fill up with water.

Statistically, your best bets if you?re looking for a dry race are Monza (last year was its only significantly wet race in 58 Grands Prix), the Hungaroring (one wet race out of 23) and Bahrain (erm, it?s in a desert).

On the other hand, hard-bitten F1 Fanatics know wet races equal maximum excitement. So pack your anorak and head for Spa-Francorchamps or Shanghai to increase your chance of seeing wet weather action.

Cost

If money?s a concern it?s worth knowing which races cost more to attend than others ?ǣ and what can push prices up the most.

Some races are dearer to start with: Monaco for example. Travel distance is a big consideration when it comes to budgets, and if you?re heading abroad for a Grand Prix keep an eye on the exchange rates,

Once you?ve done your sums you may find it works out cheaper to head abroad to watch a race than stay at home. Historically Spa has been a good alternative to Silverstone for British fans, particularly those in the south, though the weakening pound may have changed that.

Another cost factor is whether you plan to watch all three days? action or not. With this year?s engine rules there might not be much F1 running on Fridays, particularly at the races early on in the season. The good thing about Fridays is that, as they tend to be quieter, you have more time and space to have a walk around the track and see the action from all angles.

If you are thinking of doing all three days it?s also worth checking what other races are on during the weekend.

Support races

GP2 provides the wheel-to-wheel action F1 often lacks

GP2 provides the wheel-to-wheel action F1 often lacks

One of the curses of modern F1 for the track side spectator is the large amount of unused track time built into the race weekend?s schedule. This is to prevent F1?s precious television broadcasts being delayed because of a pile-up in a support race.

Support races at Grands Prix are a bit of a mixed bag. GP2 offers fabulous entertainment, often providing the best of the weekend?s action, and most Grands Prix include two GP2 races. On the other hand, I usually go for a walk when the Porsche Supercup is on.

Formula BMW Europe joined the schedule at some F1 races last year, offering a chance to see the stars of tomorrow crashing into each other. This year Formula Masters and the new Formula Two championship will appear at some races.

For details of support races at each of this year?s Grands Prix, check the race information links at the bottom of the page.

Crowd size

A packed crowd means a good atmosphere, and you?re guaranteed one if you head to the likes of Monza, Interlagos or Silverstone. Both Spanish races these days get huge audiences too. But that also means you?ve got to act fast to get your tickets booked.

How much can you see?

There are two sides to this. First, how much of the track is visible from the grandstands? At Fuji you can see much of the circuit from the spectators? stands along the main straight. But at Monaco you?ll probably only be able to see the corner in front of you ?ǣ unless you know someone with a penthouse…

Then there?s the question of how many times the cars are going to come past. Spa?s 7km long lap means you?ll only see them 44 times in a race, but at Interlagos they?ll come by 70 times.

Video

Wherever you end up sitting at a Grand Prix it?s hard to avoid the risk of missing some crucial action. And if you?re not within sight of the pit lane, keeping track of who?s pitted can be difficult.

There are two solutions: either find a grandstand near to a video wall, or hire a Kangaroo TV screen for the weekend which shows the same pictures. You can pre-book Kangaroos before the race on their website.

Transport and accommodation

Finally, a word of caution. Tedious though it might be, if you don?t figure out the logistics of your Grand Prix expedition you could give yourself a real headache. The last thing you want is to be running towards the circuit gates while the cars are on their formation lap.

Figure out where you?re staying, how you?re getting there, and how you?re going to commute to the track. I can tell you from experience that staying at Thessaloniki in Greece is not the best way to take in the Turkish Grand Prix??

If you?re going for all three days of the weekend (remember Monaco is Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), striking a balance between finding somewhere near to the track and not getting ripped off can be tricky. Have a look at the information posted by F1 fans on the different circuits, and post questions if you?re looking for specific information:

Albert Park, Mebourne – spectators? experiences
Sepang International Circuit – spectators? experiences
Shanghai International Circuit – spectators? experiences
Bahrain International Circuit – spectators? experiences
Circuit de Catalunya – spectators? experiences
Monte-Carlo – spectators? experiences
Istanbul Park – spectators? experiences
Silverstone – spectators? experiences
Nurburgring (new, 1984-present)
Hungaroring – spectators? experiences
Circuito Urbano Valencia – spectators? experiences
Spa-Francorchamps – spectators? experiences
Autodromo Nazionale Monza – spectators? experiences
Singapore street track – spectators? experiences
Fuji Speedway – spectators? experiences
Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo – spectators? experiences

How do you pick which F1 race to go to? Are you going to a Grand Prix for the first time this year? Have your say in the comments.

Silverstone 2009 Meet & Greet

Heading to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this year? Head over to the forum for details of the 2009 British Grand Prix F1 Fanatic Meet & Greet.

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Images (C) Red Bull / GEPA, Ferrari spa, GP2 Media Service / Alastair Staley

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38 comments on Ten ways to pick an F1 race to visit

  1. F1 race is a good reason to finally visit places I haven’t been to before :-) That’s what I have been doing. This year however I am only adding 1 new event – Silverstone. The other 2 races I go again because they were great last year – Melbourne and Singapore – and because travel there is rather easy for me.

    I used to go Shanghai as that was my closest F1 track but I am so fed up annoyed with that place that it is likely I won’t go there for F1 again. By the way, when talking Shanghai – FIA moved the race from the end of the rainy season to the beginning of the rainy season :-) The chances of wet race will remain about the same :-)

  2. Great post! thanks for the information.
    I am looking forward to watch LIVE singapore GP this year,if my budget don’t exceed.The night atmosphere at singapore GP would be ecstatic.Being a student,my budget is always tight :)

  3. I go to Brazilian GP.

  4. Clare msj said on 20th February 2009, 12:49

    I already have my ticket for Silverstone, thats become an annual trip now, but unless I manage to find some spare money from somewhere, which is highly unlikely, I wont be going to any more this year. Top of the list would be Monza or Spa though – I havent been to either before and they are two of my favourites. Brazil would be a good one too!

    As for how I pick them – Silverstone is becuase it is my local Grand Prix – easiest logistically to go to, and is usually a good race.

    Hungary was a bit of a spur of the moment one because everything was all nice and cheap – tickets, flights, camping, food..etc. Also we thought we would almost be guaranteed sun – until we went, it had never rained at the Hungarian race! I wouldnt rule out going again though, I think we probably paid about the same as we do for the Silverstone weekend to go to the Hungarian race.

    Australia, Canada and USA were because I ‘conveniently’ happened to be in the right country at the right time when I went backpacking in 2005. Although, the latter two were quite near the top of my list anyways. Couldnt recommend Canada and USA enough either, thats if they ever appear on the calendar again!

    • Clare msj said on 20th February 2009, 12:52

      I always seem to see different winners too which is nice :)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th February 2009, 13:43

      I had too before my last race:

      Silverstone ’98 – Schumacher (though for a while we thought it was Hakkinen)
      Spa ’00 – Hakkinen (epic race)
      Silverstone ’03 – Barrichello
      Silverstone ’05 – Montoya
      Silverstone ’06 – Alonso
      Istanbul ’06 – Massa
      Silverstone ’07 – Raikkonen
      Monza ’07 – Alonso

      I was at Silverstone last year too but only on Friday.

    • Clare msj said on 20th February 2009, 14:45

      I’ve seen

      Silverstone 2003 – Barrichello
      Silverstone 2004 – Schumacher
      Melbourne 2005 – Fisichella
      Canada 2005 – Raikkonen
      USA 2005 (Which quite frankly doesnt count!) Schumacher
      Silverstone 2005 – Montoya
      Silverstone 2006 – Alonso
      Hungary 2006 – Button
      Silverstone 2007 – Raikkonen
      Silverstone 2008 – Hamilton

      I always tried to use this logic of different winners to try and see a Ralf win – alas that did not happen!

  5. Christian Briddon said on 20th February 2009, 13:49

    Pit Straight B tickets once again at Silverstone for me and the wife. Can’t wait.

    We are really sad that it is moving to Donnington and we will not be attending next year. We will let them work out the bugs before we go even though it is closer for us.

    Spa or Hungary next year are looking good.

  6. Christopher said on 20th February 2009, 14:42

    Went to my 1st GP in Canada last year (Kubica). Sadly, I am unable to attend a GP in my home continent in 2009. Have tickets with my dad to Spa this year, but still sorting out where to stay? Looks like we will be camping. Also, I am debating going to Monaco but only for Thursday Practice & Saturday Qualifying as I can’t stomach a race ticket.

    • Clare msj said on 20th February 2009, 14:49

      Oooh a Kubica win, now theres something I would rather like to see live! Is such a shame there is no race in North America this year – Montreal and Indianapolis were great places for a Grand Prix. Spa would be good though, almost guaranteed a good race there!

  7. I was planning to go to Singapore this year, but finances have put paid to that unless a miracle happens.

    It would be nice to get to Silverstone, if only for a get-together. I’ve been to Silverstone before (qualifying of 2002) but it would be great to send off the venue.

    Donington Park will definitely be on my calender for 2010, since it will be the first time I’ve been in a position to get to a Grand Prix without depending on either someone else driving (awkward to organise) or boarding a plane (expensive).

  8. Dorian said on 20th February 2009, 18:15

    I’m heading to Monza this year. Steeped in history, one of the fastest tracks on the calendar and of course, home to Ferrari!

  9. Obster said on 20th February 2009, 19:50

    It has to be Monza for me, too, this year, before another classic track gets booted from the calendar.

  10. ajokay said on 20th February 2009, 21:15

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the new Formula Two is supporting F1 at any races this year. They’re mainly supporting the WTCC and GT Championships.

    I wouldnt love to go to Silverstone this year, but I’m thinking it’s probably all sold out now, plus I’ll have no money, as I’m buying a house instead.

    I hope to head to Donington in 2010 though, if all goes to plan.

    I’d love to visit Spa too, and the 24 Hours at Le Mans

  11. patrickl said on 20th February 2009, 21:28

    When you talk about the weather you only discuss rain, but I’d say extreme heat can be a problem too. Especially for us North Europeans. I had more problems with the sun and extreme heat in Monaco, Hungary and Monza than I had with the rain in Spa. Even Hockenheim was hot actually, but at least the grandstand had a roof.

    Also I noticed that some venues let you go on the track after the race and some don’t (or just the main grandstand). I personally love walking on the track after a race, it’s amazing how sticky it is in the corners. Often there are still cars around or you can walk into the pitlane. I was able to walk on the tarmac only on Monaco and Hockenheim (maybe Monza or Imola too, but I’m not sure).

    Also, I will never do “standing” tickets again. Especially my visit to Hungary really turned me off, but also standing in the mud at Spa didn’t help. I was standing at the Hungary race, so I couldn’t leave and hide from the sun between sessions. Or risk losing my spot. I was standing in the blistering heat and dust storms (caused by moving hordes between sessions) from 8 till race end. At Monaco and Monza we could at least hide under the grandstands to cool down if there was no action on the track.

    Actually at Monza and Imola I had tickets that allow you to pick from a few grandstands on friday and saturday. That’s kinda neat too. You can move to another spot every session. Nice to see the cars going round from different spots on the track.

    I like to take a lot of pictures too. Always trying to find a spot where there is no fence blocking the view. Not much of those around while still reasonably near to the cars. Monza had a great spot on the grandstand on the “inside” of the end of the last chicane (outside of the track). Not really a good spot to watch the race though.

    It also helps trying to figure out where the sun is going to be. Some grandstands have the sun right in your face during the race. That’s sure annoying. Of course it can’t always be prevented and mid summer the sun is pretty high up anyway, but it can be quite a nuisance too be looking into the sun for a few hours. This is even more important if you want to take pictures. It’s a lot easier to take pictures if the sun is shining over your shoulders rather than from behind the cars.

    Personally I never like raceday itself much. It’s way overcrowded. Friday is usually nice and busy. Then saturday it’s at least twice as busy an the grandstands are pretty much full. Yet on sunday amazingly still twice as many people seem to fit on the same grandstand. Still the tension is fun and the fans cheering is cool too. helps if you have a TV screen though otherwise it can be hard to even know what’s going on.

    Sound is a difference between tracks too. I was at Monaco sitting near to the swimming pool grandstand (IIRC it was called K grandstand). When you then go up on the grandstand you overlook the straight and the pits. The sound there is absolutely deafening when the cars come blazing by at “full” (Monaco) speed. Quite cool. Imola on the grandstand was amazingly loud too, but more in an annoying way. The concrete construction seems to capture the full blast of sound and the only way out is through your ears. You need good earprotection there.

    During the race, try to find a spot where a lot of overtaking goes on or where you can see a lot. People always were complaining about Magny Cours, but I sat on the L grandstand (hairpin at the end of the straight) and there was always some action going on over there. The cars pass that grandstand twice per lap too.

  12. Great tips, thanks for this especially the links…

  13. patrickl said on 21st February 2009, 0:56

    Oh and BTW I wholeheartedly agree with Keith’s warning about transportation.

    Only I’d say my issues are more in the opposite direction. I’ve never had any trouble getting to a track, but I tend to be there early anyway. I have some problems getting away from tracks though.

    Once I thought to be clever to use an organised bus service. I assumed they would have some clever exit from the trackside parking to the highway. At Hockenheim they sure didn’t. Getting to the track was fine.

    The problem was getting out. We were waiting for everyone to return from the track and by the time we left, all the cars were already on the road. So just about everyone was ahead of us. It got so bad that the Police started closing roads. After four hours of driving we suddenly saw the track situated to the left of the bus! We were sent right back to were we came from. We were then sent completely in the wrong direction to another highway (which was undergoing repairs to make matters worse) which ultimately took us back to the hotel arriving IIRC around midnight.

    Easiest tracks to get away from were Monaco (train), Magny Cours (used the farm paths). Monza and Imola were doable by train too, but it was quite a walk. Especially after walking all day around a track, that can be a bit of a problem.

    Hungary was a nightmare to get away too. I was stuck on the parking lot for hours. Once on the toll road the going was fine though.

    For me Spa has always been quite bad to get away from too. Best thing is to park away from the track and walk as much as you can take. if you park close to the track you will have to wait for everyone else to get off first and by the the roads will start closing meaning you will end up driving miles in standing traffic going in the wrong direction.

    I’d say a general rule of thumb is that the closer you park to the track, the longer it will take you to get out. Trains can be a very good alternative. I will never try a bus again though.

  14. Snoopy said on 21st February 2009, 3:25

    I am going to Melbourne because i have FIA paddock pass over whole weekend. Can not wait, this is my first F1 grand prix.

    • Striay/iceman said on 22nd February 2009, 17:26

      WOW!! FIA paddock pass over the whole weekend! that must be great but must have cost you a lung! How did u get them i want some for a european race! will try to go to Spa if i convince my parents who are not real F1 fans like me!

  15. F1Yankee said on 21st February 2009, 3:41

    enjoyable article, thank you! unfortunately for me, i find myself on the wrong side of every ocean. hopefully, the canadian and us gp’s will come back soon, to match our shiny new usf1 team.

    “I can tell you from experience that staying at Thessaloniki in Greece…”

    lol bravosou!

  16. Only Melbourne for me this year. For those who wanted to know which venues let you on the track after the race, Melbourne does. I don’t think the organisers have a choice, really !

    And Melbourne is SO easy to get to its not funny. Trams cover all gates and are free for grandstand ticket holders. The support categories are excellent, plus there are a lot of other things going on around the track – expo’s, autograph sessions, rides etc. Not to mention that Melbourne is the only race that goes for 4 days, so the value for money is excellent.

    The atmosphere is great, and you have the added bonus of it being the first race of the season, which is always a bit special.

    For those of you who can afford the airfare, get over here !

    I’m hoping that by 2012 there will be a Canadian or US GP back on the calendar, cos if there is that will be the next one I go to. *fingers crossed*

    • Clare msj said on 21st February 2009, 12:17

      I completely agree about Melbourne being easy to get to, I walked from my hostel in St Kilda, and about the support categories too – because the V8s are so popular, the stands are as full if not fuller than for the F1 when those were on, so it made quite an atmosphere all the time, not just for the F1

      I went on the track at Melbourne too the other year, wasnt quite close enough to get down to the podium though. I did in Hungary, that was brilliant, the cars had barely passed before everyone was on track and I dont think i have ever run so fast in my life to get down to the podium – you could smell the champagne and everything, it was amazing! Yet another plus point for the Hungarian race! Canada was the same, quite literally as soon as the last car had passed where you were you found yourself on the track! I have been on at Silverstone too, although thats quite a while after the race (and extra support race) has finished and I have yet to complete a whole lap post race like I did at Canada and Australia. Needless to say we werent allowed on the track after Indy 2005…

  17. The only Grand Prix I’ve been to is Silverstone, 2007. I was only able to make it to the track on Saturday and Sunday. I sat in Becketts, which is in a tremendous complex. It was a terrific experience. The atmosphere was great (especially when Hamilton took pole on Saturday, and when he charged into Becketts on the first lap as the leader). Getting to the seats from the middle of Silverstone, where the buses stop, is quite a walk, and it was pretty hot that day, but that wasn’t much of an inconvenience. I was staying in London at the time studying abroad at LSE, so we took the rail to Northampton (about an hour-long trip), and then took a taxi to the circuit from there. That was a pleasurable experience to see the English countryside in a pretty comfortable ride. I’d certainly recommend to any international travelers to stay in London and take the train, as the nightlife and other amenities in London are top notch and are far beyond what you could get staying closer to the circuit.

    This is my final semester of University, and to celebrate my friend and I decided to go on a vacation based on a GP, since we are both big gear heads. We wanted to go to a GP that was either in May or early June, as each of us will have jobs to attend to throughout most of the summer. Graduation is on May 10, the same day as the Spanish Grand Prix, so that was ruled out. So our options have come down to Monaco or Turkey.

    We’ve wanted to take an extended vacation (three weeks) and go to a couple more places besides the Grand Prix host, so that effectively ruled out Monaco for us since everything (GP tickets, lodging, etc.) was simply too expensive. So we’ve decided to go to Turkey (which is a GP each of us have really wanted to visit). We’re starting the trip with a couple of days in London, as we each have friends there we want to visit (and it’s actually a lot cheaper to fly to London from Raleigh, NC and then take an Easy Jet flight to Istanbul). We’ll then fly into Istanbul for GP weekend and take two more weeks in which we’ll vist Sofia, Bulgaria and Santorini in Greece. We’re both tremendously excited about this trip. We’re going to be sitting in Silver 1, which is in turn 1. Hopefully, we’ll get to see an overtake like Hamilton’s on Massa this past year.

    Kevin, what do you recommend doing in Istanbul during the F1 weekend? (Eating, bars and clubs, history, etc.) We’ll be staying there 4 nights (flying in Thurs, leaving Monday morning). Oh, and where does Kimi party when he goes to Istanbul? ;)

  18. LadySnowcat said on 22nd February 2009, 16:46

    I recommend the main grandstand at Istanbul, it’s cool and you can wander up and down the back of the stand to get different views…

    But take care with the catering, unless you have a cast iron stomach or a large supply of Imodium, stick to Coke and Ice cream when you are at the track….

    Or splash out on Paddock Club…

    • Thanks for the tip on the food. ;) I’m very careful about my fitness, so I typically work my eating schedule to avoid food that’s available at sporting events.

      I’d love to try the main grandstand, but it’s too expensive at this point.

      We haven’t actually gotten our tickets yet. Kevin, what do you know of Silver 8? It’s the grandstand in Turn 14. How good of a view of Turn 12 (the overtaking spot) can you get from there?

  19. interlagos is near of the center sao paulo

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