How Did I Get

How Did I Get "Into" F1?

 My World of Formula 1


Two questions which people often ask me

“Why do you enjoy Formula 1 and at what age did you start watching?

I’ll answer the 2nd question first.

I remember as a child, aged 6 or 7 years old, my father taking me some motorsports events such as Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb and Donnington. A friend’s father raced go-karts so would very often go around the country watching him as well my uncle who raced bikes.
If we weren’t away, then Sunday’s would consist of watching Formula 1 on TV so whilst I didn’t really understand it, I knew from a fairly early age I liked to see bikes or cars race each other.
Then, whilst at my boarding school, it seemed that you became a fan of James Hunt or Barry Sheen.
I was leaning more towards the cars than the bikes, probably because I fancied James rather than Barry! A friend’s father was MD of Marlborough sponsorship and at the time James was driving a McLaren sponsored by Marlborough cigarettes. I shall not go into detail but I was fortunate enough to meet James and that cemented my relationship with the sport. Sadly not with James though!

Skip forwards x number of years to around 2006. I was staying at hotel with a group in Italy mid -late May. As I was checking out, a group were checking in who were all going to the Monaco Grand Prix. Wow…this just sounded fantastic. Some of my group suggested that I should try and arrange a trip there the following year. The idea wouldn’t leave me.
I had only been to Brands Hatch previously and whilst I had been to Monaco numerous times with my groups, I had only ever dreamt of going to the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. 
I thought that only VERY rich people could afford that one.
So the following year, I took my first group and have been going ever since. As demand was starting to grow, I needed to then look at offering other F1 holidays.

I began to see what other companies were offering. I really wanted to offer so much more.
It seemed that so many were offering a few nights somewhere, watch the race then fly home.
As well as F1 being a passion of mine, so is travelling and seeing the world. To me, it seemed crazy to travel half- way across the world and not see something other than the racetrack.
But there was the problem of where you have a couple who are not both “into” the sport and the one doesn’t want to go away for a week without the other.   The writing was now on the wall.
I needed to offer a package which would appeal to the F1 enthusiast and the not so enthusiastic partner. The package needed to be longer than a few days and to stay in places where there was lots to do.   I needed to offer 2 prices a) The F1 package   2) a price for non race-goers

Because of all the non F1 holidays offered by Finesse Travel and LJ Leisure,  my knowledge of destinations, other than just race tracks, became apparent and I felt that I could offer the ideal package to suit everyone.   I personally escort the F1 holidays (some jobs have my name all over them!) and my aim is to give people the best experience I possibly can.
Unlike the larger companies, I can offer that personal service so it’s not a numbers game. 
One of the most satisfying parts of my job is seeing the friendships evolve. I try and connect the group as early as possible so that everyone feels included, especially for newbies and solo travellers.
If someone prefers to be left alone, then that is fine. There is no pressure either way.
I absolutely love the banter between everyone as they all discuss their favourites team or driver.
I personally, am a Lewis Hamilton fan but always had a soft spot for Williams and McLaren and very much looking forward to seeing the youngsters, Lando Norris and George Russell develop.

For anyone who is maybe considering going to a race then yes, do it. I hear people saying, “but you see more on TV” but……the atmosphere is second to none. There is so much more to it than just the race, there are all the support races, the entertainment, the smell, the excitement.   It’s amazing and then you are hooked.

So you fancy going but you have no idea which one?  I can only speak from experience and now I’ll run through the ones I have been to, so far.   I don’t give all my tips on where and how to meet drivers to anyone other than my groups. I have some good contacts!

MONACO
I have been every year for the past 13 years.
Some people criticise this one because they think it can be like a procession but I have been every year and have seen some amazing races. I love the glitz and glamour too of Monaco.
The millionaire’s and billionaire’s wait for years to get a mooring for their yacht in the harbour during F1 week, people rent out their apartments which overlook the track for rentals which equal a year’s wage for some. Many of the drivers live in Monaco so it’s home to them. They love it and always seem more relaxed in Monaco than anywhere else. The skill required for driving around Monaco is huge and the slightest mistake and they are out of the race.
I think I have met most of the drivers in Monaco. Friday is a great day to go and try and get drivers autographs.   (there’s no racing that day)
If you like to party, then Monaco is the place. All the streets are taken up with live bands, makeshift bars and certainly after the race on Sunday, the place is like party town with singing and dancing everywhere. There are a lot of non race lovers who come to Monaco just for the atmosphere. If you can’t afford one of the pricey grandstands but don’t want to do general admission, ask me about other options.   It can be expensive but when you know where to go, it isn’t too bad.

SPA
I have been twice around 2012 – 2013 and had planned to go again this year (2020).
This is a completely different experience to Monaco. 
I decided to go by coach and stay in Leuven as the circuit is in the middle of nowhere. Fine if you want to camp but not really any hotels nearby. Although it was a lot of travelling, it does give everyone the opportunity to get to know each other and have a laugh en route.
Leuven, is a fabulous town, approximately 20 minutes from Brussels. It is an old university town which means that it has great bars and a lot cheaper than places like Bruges, Brussels or Ghent.
The roads aren’t brilliant around Spa so the traffic leaving the circuit can be tricky so extra time has to be allowed.  
As the for the circuit, it’s massive and very fast. The first time that I saw Eau Rouge, I was amazed at how steep it was. Something which you cannot imagine from watching on TV. You have to be prepared for all weathers…it can be raining at one end of the track and sunny the other.
This year I decided that going by air would be a better option than by coach to reduce the travelling time. I have now rearranged this for 2021 and will also be staying in Leuven. Again, this an attractive option for non-race goers.

HUNGARY
I have been four times and was due to go again this year (2020) Have transferred to 2021.
Budapest is my favourite European city so always love going to this one.
I have offered several hotels on this to try and cater for different budgets. My favourite is the Continental Zara, mainly because I love being near the Ruin Bars and they do a breakfast to die for!
In my opinion, you need to stay at central as possible. All the teams and everyone involved in F1 stays in Budapest (approx.. 30-40 minutes from the circuit at Hungaroring). The first time I went I was so excited that nearly everyone you met was there for F1, from fans to the guy who fits the camera on the helmets. Budapest is just alive with F1.
As I have a few contacts in Budapest, I get tip offs on where the various drivers are staying (they don’t tend to stick to the same hotel year after year) so I know where to go. Again, I have met most of the drivers in Budapest.
So as well as spending time stalking drivers, time should be allocated to visit many of the sites of this fabulous city. There is the historic area of Buda with the castle district, the beautiful park and Hero’s Square, the city zoo, the ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter as well as the famous spa’s, of which there are 118 springs in Budapest, providing over 70 million litres of thermal water a day. After all it is called the city of Spas. If the weather is really warm, and it can be, then I would recommend the labrynth cave and hospital in the rock.
It is also worth visiting the Parliament Building, a very notable landmark in Hungary, situated alongside the river. Seeing this building lit up at night, as well as the Chain Bridge and Buda is a site not to be missed. I can highly recommend an evening boat trip.
With regards to Hungaroring, I would definitely advise a private transfer and to pre-book it (I always include them) as the queues for taxis and buses after the race are massive.
The viewing is pretty good at this track. It can get very warm so be prepared. I have also experienced torrential rain. Like with any tracks, there can be exciting races and not so exciting races here.

AUSTRIA
Been here only once but returning in 2021. This is one of the most organised and clean circuits I’ve been to. Again, it is the middle of nowhere but in a beautiful setting with excellent viewing.   The road infrastructure is good so didn’t experience any traffic problems.   I opted for a couple of hotels in Graz and it took about an hour to get to the circuit at Spielburg. 
Graz is a really pretty Austrian town with a lovely historical centre and an excellent castle district.
I didn’t see any drivers/teams there but am told that many of them also stay in Graz.

MONZA
Been 4 times and was due to go again this year (2020) so transferred to 2021.
You have never seen such passionate F1 fans until you have experienced the Ferarri fans at Monza.
I use a hotel at Lake Como so again this is ideal for any non race-goers. There are organised excursions from the hotel including a brilliant one on the famous Bernina Express train in Switzerland. There are some beautiful villa’s around the lake including Villa Balbionella where scenes from Casino Royale were filmed. You could visit Milan, Lugano, Bergamo or enjoy or a boat ride to one of the many towns and villages dotted around the lake. There are loads of opportunities for sightseeing or you can just relax around one of the pools at the hotel.
It takes just over an hour to get to the track and I would recommend purchasing Grandstand ticket with a TV screen. Viewing can be restricted as there aren’t any hills.   However, it’s a great atmosphere and worth going just for that and to see the podium.

FRANCE
Have been here just once, in 2018.  Will probably return in a few years.
Was very impressed with Marseilles where our hotel was and there are certainly loads of places to visit along the coast. There are also some fabulous beaches just a few minutes from the centre of Marseilles. There was an F1 roadshow on the streets in the city with some old cars racing up and down the promenade. 
We were very fortunate to have a transfer company who had VIP access passes to the track so reduced our journey time to around 40 minutes. It was a bit of a nightmare for everyone else who experienced very long delays to get there. We were getting nightmare stories of journeys taking over 3 hours so be careful with that one. I’m not letting on who I book as I’m keeping that one up my sleeve for next time!
With regards to the circuit, there was a lot of walking involved so maybe not recommended for anyone with walking difficulties and not too many facilities. The only bit which I struggled with was all the bright markings on the track. (Take your sunglasses!)

SPAIN
I have been here 3 times and always stayed in Sitges which I just love. It is about 35 minutes from Barcelona. There have been lots of customers who have gone back to Sitges time and time again.
You need to be fairly broadminded as it is the gay capital of Europe but has beautiful boutique shops, lots of lovely bars and restaurants and a lovely beach and seafront.   You can easily travel into Barcelona on the regular train service.
The first few times, I included train tickets to get to and from the circuit at Montmelo, the other side of Barcelona but it seems that about 80% of everyone going to the race, also travels in by train so it’s extremely busy and you can be waiting a long time. Last year I decided to include private transfers and that worked much better.
I really like this circuit but with it being a “dry” one then you need one of the hospitality packages to be able to enjoy a proper beer/champagne whilst watching the race. 

BAKU
I have been here once and was due to again this year (2020). I have rearranged for 2021.
I have fallen in love with Baku. I check out all hotels before I use them so went over in December 2018 to check out about 18 hotels. Be warned, hotels can vary so much over there. I was told that  the hotelier can virtually decide what star rating to give itself so a 3* could be better than a 4*. I learnt very early on that many 4* hotels wouldn’t have even been given a 2* rating in Europe. Many Tripadvisor reports were “very” inaccurate.   There are also some “iffy” areas too that had some fabulous hotels but I wouldn’t want to stay there. This is why I always do my homework and NOT rely on reviews or websites!
So for a country where 90% of the population are Muslim, you really wouldn’t know it. It is extremely westernised and very few women wear the Hijab. You will find all the high street shops such as Next and Top Shop as well as KFC, Hard Rock and McDonalds. There are some great bars with a good nightlife and the good news is that it is cheap.
I decided to opt for a lovely small boutique hotel in the Old Town, less than 10 minutes to our Grandstand with lots of bars and restaurants only 5 minutes walk away. However, it is quiet enough so as not to get disturbed by traffic or noisy nightclubs.
I love the Fanzone in Baku which is along the promenade overlooking the Caspian sea.  It is very chilled and a great place to relax.
I would really recommend going up to the revolving restaurant at the top of the TV Tower, not far away from the Flame Towers, an iconic symbol of Baku.
It certainly is an up and coming city, a mix between Singapore and Dubai.
There is an F1 entertainment area but it is a little out of town. Free buses are provided but I didn’t venture out there so I can’t comment.

SINGAPORE
I have been here twice for the Grand Prix and was due to go again this year (now rearranged for 2021).
I absolutely love Singapore. There is so much to see and do that you could do with a fortnight to experience it all. I use a hotel in Chinatown and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the circuit or you can catch the very efficient and cheap MRT (their metro).
Again, I checked out about 12 hotels and whilst it would be lovely to stay at one of the hotels overlooking the circuit, the prices are truly inflated for F1 week. Singapore imposes a very high tax on hotel stays over the weekend so be careful that you don’t suddenly end up paying a lot more than you originally thought. (we include this tax).
It can be very humid so I decided on a hotel with a lovely outdoor pool and seating area. The Orchid Hotel has one of the best.
Because there is so much to see and do, I tend to try and find out what people want to do and will come up with a suggested itinerary so as to utilise their time there in the best way possible. It might be that I split the group into 2, depending on preferences or, they are free to go and do whatever they wish. As always there is no pressure. The first night I try and arrange for us all to go to the viewing platform at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel which then gives everyone the opportunity to get to know each other. Many of the group stick with me as I have got to know Singapore quite well so they generally trust my judgement and I try not to break the bank!
I’m certainly not a Tour Manager who abandons you after getting you checked into the hotel. I am there to help and advise and I just want you to have the best time ever. 
You may have come along on holiday as a customer but we all part as friends!  

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