Just over a week ago, I attended my first ever Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya just outside of Barcelona. You never truly know what to expect when doing something for the first time, but as a fan of the sport for the last ten years, I was really looking forward to it. The three days of entertainment were unlike anything I had experienced before and I honestly believe that every fan of Formula 1 should go to at least 1 Grand Prix in their lifetime and here’s why:
The Noise, The Speed, it’s better than you can imagine
I got to the track early on Friday morning in preparation for Free Practice 1 and when the cars were unleashed at the start of the session, I was blown away. First of all was the sound of the engines, a very controversial subject in recent times, which roared to life before being released out of the garages. People say that the modern day power units are quieter than the V8’s, and they’re right, but they aren’t quiet by anybody’s standards. When the first driver zoomed passed me I couldn’t believe my eyes. F1 cars are so mind-boggling fast that they look surreal to the first-time viewer, my mind almost couldn’t process it. And that was all before I saw them in a corner, which is even more mind-blowing!
It’s a full weekend of racing
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a weekend ticket (like the one that I purchased) would only allow you to attend 5 Formula 1 sessions (3 Practices, Qualifying and the Race) but that is simply not the case for most European Grands Prix. In Spain, for example, there was also Formula 2, GP3, Porsche Supercup and a “meet the drivers” type event on Thursday that were also available.
Behind the grandstand which was alongside the pit-straight, there was a huge assortment of stands for official merchandise, food, drinks, simulators, green-screen photo opportunities, all while music was blaring out of the speakers and dancers strut their stuff. You could even try your hand at a BATAK-like reaction test which F1 drivers use to train, which needless to say, I didn’t threaten the high scores. This all made me realise something though, this is what we mean when we talk about the F1 circus, it’s travelling entertainment that goes all over the world.
When you add all of that to the Spanish sunshine, which was almost ever-present during this season’s race, it makes it an absolute no-brainer for a motorsport fan.
Much like Barcelona itself, Formula 1 is incredibly cosmopolitan. It’s wonderful to see thousands of people from around the world flocking to a race track fifteen miles outside of the Catalan Capital all for the same reason, to watch some racing. In three days, I spoke to people from Spain, America, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, the list goes on.
You always get told how F1 fans from other countries perceive the drivers, but it’s nice to be able to talk to them yourself and find out. For example, on Friday, I spoke to a German lady who was a big Nico Rosberg fan (before he retired) which the media would have you believe is a rare breed. Turns out that isn’t the case, as Rosberg has a large fanbase in his own country, which shouldn’t be a surprise. She also told me that Verstappen is fast but young and stupid and that Hamilton is not a typical Brit like Button, which was interesting. So if you do go to a Grand Prix, don’t be shy to talk to some of your fellow fans.
But what I loved most about this multicultural event was that no matter who the fans were supporting, everybody stood and applauded Hamilton’s pole and his victory on Sunday. It’s a scene you would never see in other sports, such as football.
Speaking of football, it’s a bit of a tradition for the fans to invade the track after the conclusion of the race and it’s completely legal!
So overall, I can’t recommend going to a Grand Prix enough, it’s an unforgettable time. The 2017 Spanish GP may have been my first, but I can guarantee that it won’t be my last.
And the price of my weekend ticket? About £100, for a priceless experience.