Long-standing F1 Fanatic fans Tommy B and Katy were in Hockenheim to watch the German Grand Prix.
Read their account from the Hockenheimring as they squeezed in plenty of driver spotting and – thanks to a bit of clever Tweeting – were invited into the paddock. Here’s their view from the stands.
Formula One holidays aren’t cheap and as such we had to save as much as possible getting to the German Grand Prix. This involved going by coach from Leeds to Hockenheim – a long trip believe you me, but it was made even longer as it was the day after Katy’s graduation.
We left Northampton at 2am to get to London Victoria in time for our 8am coach. We were travelling with Select Motor Racing, a tour group run by fans for fans. After a day of travelling we arrived at the hotel, tired but excited to get to the circuit in the morning.
We arrived at the circuit in plenty of time for Free Practice 1. By the time we’d walked round to our stand at the hairpin, the cars were out for the installation laps. As expected it was raining so not many cars ventured out on track and for a long period only the Toro Rossos ventured out. It was great to see the cars in the wet and we got a great view of drivers trying to find the limit into the hairpin, many having to take to the run off area.
After the session we received news about a possible invite into the paddock from Virgin Racing. The team is very active on Twitter and have been allowing fans to experience F1 from the pit lane. Luckily Geoff from Virgin Racing had a couple of spare paddock passes – still warm from the necks of potential sponsors – and came to meet us.
Once in, we walked past all the team’s motor homes, right down the paddock to the Virgin Racing garage. It was clear to see how little space the new teams had compared to the huge hospitality areas dominated by the top tier teams.
As we made our way to the back of the garage Lucas Di Grassi’s engine was fired up and we grabbed some headphones to protect our ears, before noticing we received all the team radio from Glock and Di Grassi’s cars, which was a fascinating insight
Free Practice 2 with Virgin Racing
There was plenty of action in the garage and it was amazing to be so close to the cars as the team worked on setup to try and close the gap to the established teams. At the end of the session we were taken to the front of the garage where we were allowed to take photographs. Whilst doing so we brushed past Timo Glock who had just jumped out of his car.
After an amazing opportunity with the Virgin team, we left the paddock to get the coach back to our hotel. Whilst doing so we saw a few drivers being interviewed outside their hospitality areas, including Jenson Button, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.
The next day we arrived at the circuit early in time for Free Practice 3, where we watched from the long parabolic curve, just up from the hairpin. During the session we cheekily sent a message on Twitter to @redbullf1spy asking if we could say hello. Unbelievably we were offered the chance to go into the paddock again and see the team prepare for qualifying.
Not long later we met up with the elusive Spy and made our way into the paddock. We were told to wait for a minute outside the motor home while he found out if we were allowed to go into the garage. As this was happening we noticed Eddie Jordan behind us. Before we could get a picture with him, along came Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and the BBC camera crew.
Just ten minutes before qualifying we made our way into the Red Bull garage and watched as the team went for pole position number ten. The atmosphere was markedly different to that in the Virgin garage, in keeping with a team going for its first world championship.
As we looked to our left we could see Sebastian Vettel putting on his special Hockenheim helmet before getting into his car. We were literally a few metres from the drivers, the dream ticket for any Red Bull fan.
We were in the garage for about 20 minutes, until the drivers returned to the pit lane when Liuzzi had a shunt and the session was red flagged. We were on our way out the paddock when walking passed Red Bull’s Energy Station, Katy suggested hiding inside. Unbelievably we were told we could go watch the rest of qualifying from there, an offer we naturally accepted.
We were guided onto the rear balcony, where we could see the stadium section. It’s the only circuit other than Hungary where you can actually see the track from the motorhome. Vettel promptly stuck his car on pole and as he drove past the air horns blasted and the crowd cheered – he had made it by just 0.002 from Alonso’s Ferrari. Finally it was time to leave the paddock.
With about 40 minutes to kill before our coach left, we decided to stay outside the paddock hoping to see a few drivers. Sure enough we did, non-other than double World Champion Mika Hakkinen. We also got to see Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel before they left the circuit. A great end to an unforgettable day.
The circuit was jam packed with F1 fans for race day. Vettel seeming to have the most supporters, closely followed by Schumacher. The race wasn’t a classic but being at the hairpin we got to see many of the key moments in the race. Kubica going side by side with Schumacher, Hamilton overtaking Webber and – heartbreaking for us – seeing the two Toro Rosso’s collide. We didn’t think we’d see anything more disappointing but we all know what happened next.
Looking at the TV screen we kept seeing shots of the pit wall and we joked about them switching the cars, little did we think they would actually do it. The crowd gasped in amazement as Felipe let Fernando by. Next time round there was a mixed reaction. Cheers from Alonso/Ferrari fans and thumbs down and booing from everyone else.
As most people ran on to the track we stayed in the stand for the podium ceremony. There was silence as Alonso picked up his trophy but Massa received a well deserved round of applause. Vettel also got a great reception despite not being in the place thousands of fans would have hoped.
It wasn’t until checking Twitter on the way home did we realise what big news the race was. If anything positive came from the Ferrari switch, it at least turned a potentially mediocre race into an unforgettable one – we’ll always be able to say ‘we were there’.
But after spending time with the Virgin and Red Bull teams not even the Ferrari farce could ruin the most amazing weekend of our lives.
Tommy B and Katy’s pictures from Hockenheim
Are you going to a Grand Prix this year? Find other fans who are heading to the races using the links below:
- 2010 Belgian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Italian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Singapore Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Japanese Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Korean Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix discussion
- 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix discussion
From the stands
- F1 still struggling to gain a foothold in India
- Why the Hungarian Grand Prix is a must-see race
- Why the Spanish GP was better in person than on TV
- Watching Brazil’s spellbinding F1 season finale
- Silverstone fans’ mixed views on the rain-hit weekend
- Nigel’s memories from the last 37 British Grands Prix
- F1 Fanatics meet up in Melbourne
- Watching at the Paddock Club, Parabolica and podium at Monza
- In the Paddock Club and in the stands at Spa
- Steven’s 51 F1 race visits in 25 years