What age is too young for an F1 race?

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

At what age are children ready to enjoy F1?
At what age are children ready to enjoy F1?

Enko asked an interesting question on the 2010 British Grand Prix discussion page.

Do you think a five- and six-year-old would enjoy the race? Do you normally see children that young at F1 races?

Is it worth taking children to F1 races? And what is the right age to start taking them?

During an F1 practice session at Silverstone last year I saw a woman comforting a little boy who was clearly not very impressed with his first experience of F1. His screams were almost as loud as the cars.

Taking babies to an F1 race is obviously not a good idea – they’re just going to hate the noise. And older children who aren’t bothered by the din of the engines might still be too young to sit down and follow a race for two hours.

So when do children reach the age when taking them to a Grand Prix is a good idea?

I don’t have children of my own so I’m not really qualified to say – but I’m sure there are plenty of people in the F1 Fanatic community who can help out.

What I would say is that with children it’s especially important to take steps to make sure their hearing is protected – make sure they wear ear protectors or earplugs.

And for the sake of the rest of us, please don’t give them an air-horn…

Have you taken children to a Grand Prix? What tips would you offer to any parents thinking of going to an F1 race? Leave a comment below.

Swap notes and tips with other fans going to 2010 F1 races here:

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95 comments on “What age is too young for an F1 race?”

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  1. I think 5 and 6 are too young for any GP. I assume they’ll get bored after a few laps but won’t be able to nap at all!

    If you do decide to take them I’d suggest making a weekend out of it so that they see it as an adventure.

    I’d also suggest painting the kids dayglo orange because the odds of getting them lost are quite high!!

    1. I’d also suggest painting the kids dayglo orange because the odds of getting them lost are quite high!!

      A vision of Willy Wonka crosses my mind there.

    2. would young children get free entry to a GP?

      1. This week I was working on booking tickets for the 2010 Canadian GP round I noticed this provision…

        “1 One child aged eleven (11) and under accompanied by an adult holding a General Admission ticket, will be admitted free of charge as a General Admission spectator. Child ticket is required. One (1) child per adult.”

        So not only do you not have a seat on raceday, but you’re now toting a little one about.

        No thanks.

      2. obviously its no. But infants can i think?

  2. While it wasn’t F1, I went to my first race at age 9, CART’s Michigan 500. This was a few yrs before the split, and while I had been watching US racing since I was 7, though I could never sit through the entire race. I fell asleep during the race; the heat and sun kinda does that to kids, but I was old enough to follow the action. I went to other races as a kid, but I wasn’t old enough to sit through the whole race until about 13 or so. I guess superspeedway ovals are that boring. From my childhood, 10-12 would be a good intro age.

  3. Myles Woerner
    5th January 2010, 8:03

    My first race was the Brickyard 400 (NASCAR) when I was 9 in 2000. I absolutely loved it. And the ONLY reason I loved it was because of the sound. I admit, I could barely put up with all the fat, sweaty, drunk rednecks, but I believe that was the first time I ever fell in love with racing (I had loved cars since I was about 2).

  4. Mouse_Nightshirt
    5th January 2010, 8:16

    Defining an age of when a kid might “enjoy” a F1 race is like trying to define a “skill rating” out of 100. It’s completely arbitary.

    All kids are very different, and any kid will be able to enjoy it if they have the apparent maturity and interest. I’m sure you have some very interested 5 or 6 year olds and some thoroughly disinterested 10-15 year olds!

  5. Prisoner Monkeys
    5th January 2010, 8:22

    I figure it’s only worth taking them once they have an interest in it. If they have no idea what the racing is or don’t really care for it the way you do, then there’s no point.

    I got into racing because I always used to watch it on the television with my dad. It was usually only the Bathurst 1000, but he’d occasionally watch the Australian Grand Prix. He also used to compete in local rallies, so if there as rallying on, we’d watch that, too. I’d watch it with him, and that’s where I got my love of it from. However, he never really felt the love for Formula One the way I do.

    I can’t ever recall him seriously following it, and I actually think it might be because of me that he started taking more of an interest in it. I’d watch anything that moved. My first actual motorsport event that I attended was at Lakeside in the early 1990s, but I don’t remember it. I didn’t actually go to a single even until 2005 when we went over to Perth to see Rally Australia for my birthday (and only because we believed it was going to be the last one ever). I’d never gone to circuit racing until a month ago when we went to the Sydney 500 at Homebush Bay. And I’m yet to go to a Grand Prix.

    If ever I have kids of my own – an I doubt tat’s going to happen for a while – then I won’t try and get them interested. If I go to a race, I won’t take them with me if they don’t want to go. I’ll let them discover the races the way I did: I’ll be watching it, and they can tune in too, if they’re interested. And then, once I know they’re interested, I might take them. But I’d probably wait until they’re about eight or ten – and even then, I’ll pack some earmuffs, just in case.

    1. How was Sydney 500? Is it worth going next year? I regret not going considering it was only 30mins away from home….

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        5th January 2010, 12:46

        It’s good. I may be slightly biased, because it was my first event, but it was great. You have to bear in mind that it’s a street circuit, so your view is naturally restricted. We only had general admission passes, but we got to wonder around the infield all day and spectate at every corner but the first.

        If you’re keen, try and get grandstand tickets on the outside of turn eight. It’s that uphill left-hander at the bottom of the circuit where everyone kept going off and into the trye barriers (though that’s likely to be adjusted for next season). Not only do you get to see more of the circuit than you would elsewhere, you actually get a very good view. There was a lot of passing action going into the corner (especially Alex Davison … he was nuts). We got to see a lot, despite the fact that we were general admission and on the infield.

        If geeral admission is more your thing, you might want to consider the Acer Arena car park. It might not sound too flashy, but you’re aboveground and you’re in the shade. You’ll get to see the cars flying through that hyper-narrow double-left before the chicane, though there won’t be much in the way of passing action. And although it’s a little stop-start, the chicane around the railway station is also pretty good. You won’t see much because it’s so blind and you need to get in early because the hill in and around the final bends gets filled very quickly, but it’s still a pretty good place to spectate.

        1. Thanks! Definitely keen to go this year now!
          Though not keen on seeing Triple 8 colours on an Holden….

    2. José Baudaier
      5th January 2010, 21:53

      I guess your point also applies for women. Don’t take unless they are interested in the subject, which is not that common.

  6. About ten i would say. Kids at 5-6 might start to like cars, but they won’t enjoy the noise so there is no point bring them to a Grand Prix.

  7. I would say 10 would be the earliest, only if they have an interest in motorsport and only if they agree to wear ear protection.

    A childs ear can be seriously damaged by noise at an early age.

  8. If they show an interest it’s probably a good time to take them. If you are trying to push your interests on them I would wait till they are 12 or so.

    Who is rich enough to buy tickets for their kids anyway?!?!?!?!?

    I dream of a time when I can take my 2 boys. I once had a dream where I was at the Singapore GP with my teenage boys. Premonition maybe?

    1. Who is rich enough to buy tickets for their kids anyway?

      Children’s tickets are usually discounted, or you can sometimes buy family tickets.

  9. I don’t have children of my own so I’m not really qualified to say

    same here

  10. WidowFactory
    5th January 2010, 8:55

    I don’t think F1 is exciting enough to hold a 6 year-old’s attention for too long. I went stock-car racing last year and there were loads of kids there seeming to have a good time. There’s always loads of cars in view, you get the mud kicked up in your face, and there’s loads of greasy food and sweets. Not to mention most of the drivers have barely entered puberty themselves…

    1. WidowFactory
      5th January 2010, 8:57

      Not to mention a hell of a lot cheaper – £15 per person to get in. You probably don’t want to spend £150 on a ticket for your kid only to discover they hate it 10 minutes in.

    2. Taking them to a different, cheaper kind of racing first to gauge their interests sounds like a very good idea to me. Perhaps F3 or touring cars?

      1. Or even banger racing. £2 a person for a whole day of smash-em-up racing. The problem with that is that it’s so cheap and affordable the kids may end up pestering their parents to do it…My folks’ll never forgive me!

      2. I took my 4 year old to the Touring Cars at Rockingham a few months ago as a trial run. He enjoyed it to an extent, but bored after a few races as he didn’t fully understand what he was watching. We left at 2pm, but had had a great day. That said, he now can’t wait to go back and watch it again so will do it all again this year.

      3. When I was little I went to a lot of classic car races because my dad was a mechanic for an Aston Martin team. I remember having to wear these massive bright yellow ear defenders. I loved it though and it’s what got me into cars and racing. So yeah, I agree taking kids to other events first that aren’t as loud and aren’t as busy. Also the shorter races is a plus because I’ve seen young children not only crying because it’s so loud but even when a race isn’t on because they’re bored and want to go home!

      4. BTCC no doubt.

      5. Or karting. My first live intro to motorsports was a go-kart track my neighbor and I used to sneak out to when we were 7 or 8.

  11. I was 9 when I went to the British GP in 1999 – it was a surprise at the time that my relatives had arranged for me and my dad, although he was called home in an emergency and never got to go with us. I remember thrwing away the earplugs my mum got me because I wanted to hear the cars properly.

    I think it’s definately child specific. If they’re coming because dad is dragging the whole family along, maybe wait til they’re 11 or 12, but if (like I did) they sit and watch it every weekend maybe 8 or 9.

  12. Took our now 7 year old to Quali in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Even though he watches on TV, he preferred the V8 Supercars (partly because there was an almighty crash in front of us).

    What I will say is that it would be insanity to take them somewhere that you can’t easily escape. Melbourne is easy, I can’t imagine Silverstone would be. Insanity part 2 is not taking a proper set of ‘cans’ for ear protection for the kiddies. The din is quite distressing for them if they’re not expecting it. He’d kind of been prepared for it the year earlier by Antonio Pizzonia’s now-infamous spin around the streets of Melbourne (he broke the 25mph speed limit *gasp*)

    If it’s Silverstone I’d say no just because of the logistics. But they’re not my kids and I don’t know them. :-)

  13. The one and only time I’ve been to a Grand Prix was 2003. I went on Friday for the British Grand Prix practice and 1st qually.

    I was 14 and enjoyed every moment of it. Just a shame I couldn’t have done it around 10 years earlier.

    1. Oddly enough I feel the need to put my ear plugs in for all of the f1 cars (Apart for when the Jaguars and Williams went past). I found the lower, nosier drone of the F3000s a lot more unbearable.

      Then again being practice you hardly get to see a lot of action involving multiple cars.

      1. That should read “I didn’t”

  14. Einar Iliyev
    5th January 2010, 9:14

    I’ve never been at a F1 Grand Prix myself (although I’m hoping to do so in the next two years or so) but I started actually watching F1 since I was 7 (my first GP was Spa 1998) and enjoyed every single race since then. I don’t think that races are too boring for young kids it just depends on the person’s taste. I know I’d have loved to be at a GP weekend back in 1998 as I surely wouldve now.

  15. I have one son and he´s 11 now, first time he saw a race was last year in Spain, so, he was 10.
    I would say 10 as the right age to be introduced to the sport and like it!
    Depends from the kids and how much they like cars as well, my son likes to take long rides and spends lots of time in cars, so i guess in some cases 12-13 years old, can be the right age.

  16. Spot on with the dont give them an air horn point!

    1. A pet hate of mine. Or perhaps I’m just a miserable old curmudgeon. Let’s not have a poll on that…

      1. José Baudaier
        5th January 2010, 22:14

        You’re not alone on that. What I’m worried is that blowing horn haters like us won’t like the World Cup so much this year, with all those noisy Vuvuzelas. At least air horns don’t go on forever.

        1. I’m afraid to ask but… what on earth is a vuvuzela?

          And does it count in Scrabble?

          1. José Baudaier
            6th January 2010, 6:22

            If it counts on Scrabble I don’t but I would believe it does. Anyhow, I see you didn’t watch any game on last year’s Confederations Cup, on South Africa. Vuvuzela is a South African blowing horn very used on their stadiums. Just check out any highlight video of any football game host on South Africa.

    2. I took an airhorn to Donington for the Moto GP last year. Not one of those that you blow into either, it was a full on industrial honker.

      I used it once, gave a load of people around me a fright, they all glared at me, and I never used it again. Now I only use it occasionally when I feel like annoying my flatmates!

  17. I started when I was 9, but just on TV.
    But if my father had taken me at a live Gran Prix I would have been absolutely grateful!!!

  18. It varies depending on the individual child and their level of interest in the sport. I’ve seen children as young as 3-4 at Grand Prix and the experience always looked wasted on them. Personally, I couldn’t envisage taking my daughter to a GP until she is at least 10 – and then only if she’s very interested.

    One thing to consider is that race meetings usually last all day, which is a long time to keep the attention of a small child no matter how much they enjoy watching races on television. Also bear in mind that views at most tracks are restricted to just a couple of corners at most – the novelty of watching cars zoom past may wear off quickly, especially if there’s no chance of overtaking.

    Another thing is that there are often long gaps between the on-track action, although these have been reduced and partly filled at many circuits. 30 minutes for an adult may be just enough to stretch their legs and read a bit of the programme but it always feels a lot longer for a child.

    Weather is another factor – be it hot, cold or wet a small child will feel the weather more than an adult. One of the last race meetings I went to was plagued by Arctic winds and freezing cold. I’ve also spent entire race weekends up to my ankles in mud. At the other end of the scale, it’s incredibly easy to burn by spending a day under a hot sun with little shade.

    It would be worth taking your child to a club race or national meeting before shelling out for a GP. It’s cheaper, likely to be nearer and you can get closer to the action. I grew up watching this sort of racing (up to Formula 2) and little things like being able to walk down the pitlane make a big difference. A good option would be a historic F1 race. One note of caution though is that pitlanes and paddocks are dangerous places and any child needs to be kept under close supervision.

  19. At the Australian GP, children under 12 can go all for days for under $100, so if they like it I highly recomend it.

  20. I didn’t see that many children under the age of 10 at the British GP in 2008, however I have seen them at other events at Silverstone.

    Personally I think the number of young children attending a race event is inversely proportional to the cost of the event, other factors exist, such as when the event is held (ref: British F1 testing).

    For example the last two Renault World Series days at Silverstone there were kids (millions of them!) as young as 5/6 that were clearly not enjoying the experience, most resorting to running behind the barriers and kicking the stones about. However this cannot detract from the fact that for those who are interested it offers a great and cheap method of getting involved.

    At the last two FIA GTs at Silverstone there was a generally lower attendance, but the proportion of kids were significantly reduced, still a few floating around.

    The last F1 test at Silverstone in 2008 was also mid-week (I think this was in term time) so there were only a handful of enthusiasts in attendance.

    I think the parents are more inclined to take their kids to a free event (such as the RWS) or a cheap event like a day at the FIA GT. Of course it’s really only the kids that can decide whether the will or will not be captivated by the action, I would this the greater proportion of young attendees are not captivated by the racing.

    Just my two cents,

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