Michael Schumacher retired from racing Ferraris last year. Kimi Raikkonen may no longer be in the racing seat, but the lure of the sport and the chance to see Fernando Alonso race for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher drive for Mercedes will keep diehard fans of the sport coming back for more this racing season.
It is also the time of year where race season schedules are published and the buzz about the sport starts to gain momentum again after a break during the wintry months. Fans the world over and curious first time aficionados begin to take out their calendars to plan for the 2010 season. Some even decide to make a holiday of it and plan a vacation around a race in Europe, Japan or even Brazil. As with most holiday options, for Formula 1 vacations as well, there are several different ways to experience this adrenalin rich sport. What style of holiday and which race one ends up going to ultimately are a function of the charm of the circuit and money in the bank. What follows is a quick guide that should help plan such a holiday
The Tried & Tested Way
The official Formula 1 website lists packages through trusted operators and has been in existence for years. The site is well designed and guides you through the decision process. You can pick from tickets only options to the fully loaded ticket/hotel/flights and car hire options.
The only trouble is, sometimes it offers too many choices and can get confusing. The upside is that you know exactly how much each ticket costs, what point of the circuit it’s at and can quickly check back to the official race circuit maps.
The Value for Money Way
For a hassle-free yet not exorbitant way of watching a race, a travel agent is still your best friend. Agencies like Kuoni (Sports Abroad) offer sporting holidays worldwide. They offer holidays to most of the racing destinations every year, covering some of the best circuits like Monza, the new Shanghai track and Bahrain and Malaysia which are more affordable races for an Asian enthusiast.
Holiday packages are typically 3 nights/4 days and include accommodation at a 4 star hotel, transfers to the track and entry to qualifying and race day. The packages are extremely competitively priced and help you work around the bother of buying tickets and finding good accommodation during peak season. Most packages include airfare and as you travel in a group it’s also a great way to meet other racing enthusiasts.
The packages offered by the official racetrack websites often throw in freebies like city tours and vouchers for discounts in the city stores and restaurants. The only downside is that the choice of hotels is limited to 2 or 3 premium hotels and may not cater to the mid range hotel seeker.
Hitchhikers guide to raceday
For a budget traveler the best way to do the grand prix weekend is to NOT take a package tour. That way you don’t pay for the frills which you can do without or the ‘freebies’ which you won’t use.
Accommodation - Hostels or dorms are the best way to go. Organizations like the YMCA have locations worldwide. For the more adventurous there are groups which offer home swaps (but then you will need to let someone use your home as well). A newer concept is what’s being called ‘couch surfing,’ where families let travelers come in and use a spare bed or room in their home for free.
Ticket s- These should be bought as early as possible and definitely off the internet (do check that the site is secure and legal before giving your card details away). Some official race track websites actually have hefty discounts which can save a few 100 dollars off each ticket and allow you to sit at a grandstand seat for a lower stands price. If you don’t get a deal but still want the best view on race day – it may pay to skip qualifying, saving money for the big one. If your budget doesn’t run to prime tickets there are still plenty of great views to be had on the greens. Spending $15 on a ticket for access to the slopes around the track may often get you as good a view as on some of the $75 tickets and leaves you money to come on more days if you wish or to spend on some memorabilia of your trip.
On race day- Pick your race destination wisely so you don’t end up paying more on transport to the race track than you do on your tickets and stay. Most of the tracks are near airports or train stations and many are serviced by buses from the nearest city (where your hostel/hotel is likely to be). If you’re camping at a site near the track then trot over to the race, but otherwise get your local bus or train passes or hitch a ride to the track. Maps of the routes are well detailed on track websites.
Meeting the Stars – An uber-luxurious grand prix weekend
A new flock of affluent young racing enthusiasts have fueled the demand for champagne and caviar race weekends with a chance to meet racing legends thrown in for the lucky few.
These packages typically come at different grades from Gold and Platinum through to Diamond weekends and are offered by several operators (Crystal Holidays and F1 Corporate are quite popular).
Depending on what you choose (and how much you fork out) you could be rubbing shoulders with the lead drivers of the top teams at pre-race events or nibbling on crudités with the top guns after the race. The deals usually include luxury accommodations in premium hotels, fine dining, services of a concierge, F1 memorabilia, a kit for race day and transfers by luxury cars to the race with an option to arrive by helicopter.
The 5 P’s of an F1 Holiday 1. Plan Early – Tickets sell out quickly so plan early. This is especially true of popular races like Monaco. 2. Preferences – Decide which race to go for - the 2007 schedule is out. Older circuits have history but the new ones are designed for spectators. 3. Pick your price – Work out your budget and how much you want to spend on tickets and hotels. Actual weekend tickets cost between $ 15 and $500. 4. Print & Go – Book online, the rates are almost always cheaper. Early bird rates online are sometimes as much as 75% less. 5. Pack Smart – Some smart packing can save you a few hundreds during the race. If you’re going the budget way, carry your team colors from home to save on buying expensive flags and T-shirts and caps at the race. If you’re doing the luxury holiday carry books/memorabilia you may want autographed as keepsakes.
Chillibreeze's disclaimer: This is a contributed article and was published on Chillibreeze in February, 2010. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of Chillibreeze as a company. Chillibreeze has a strict anti-plagiarism policy. Please contact us to report any copyright issues related to this article. The relevance of the facts and figures cited (if any) could change after a period of time.
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Pallavi is an IIM Lucknow graduate presently working as an Internet marketing consultant and writer. She has worked in banking, research and the content development industry and has an avid interest in writing and new websites. A passion for travel and volunteer work has taken her to many countries.
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