2020 Austrian GP Race Recap : Season Opener serves up a Race of Attrition!

2020 has been a challenging year. The Pandemic Covid-19 brought the entire world to a standstill with nations having to enforce lockdowns, instructing their populace to exercise social distancing and employ extensive sanitization measures. Sporting events had to be postponed or cancelled throughout the year and F1 was no exception. The sport attempted to kick-start the season in Australia in March but the event was called off on Friday morning after a couple of personnel in the paddock tested positive. Consequently, more racing events were cancelled or postponed and there was a possibility of a heavily truncated 2020 F1 season.

Thankfully the "curve flattened" in Europe ( from June ) and various sporting events announced dates for resumption in 2020. Formula One Management also drew up plans and the season would kick off at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria on the first weekend of July, with a calendar featuring 15 to 16 races. 

Unfortunately the first 8 races viz. Austrian & Styrian GPs, Hungarian GP, British GP, 70th Anniversary GP, Spanish GP, Belgian GP and the Italian GP would be closed-door events with a set of protocols in place to protect the well-being of the travelling F1 Fraternity.


Let us have a quick recap of the opening race weekend!


Friday and Saturday Free Practices saw the dominance of Mercedes powered cars with the Honda-powered Red Bulls trying their best to keep the Mercedes' works team honest. Ferrari suffered from a lack of straight-line speed while their customers - Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen had balance issues. Racing Point was a revelation, so was McLaren; Renault featured in the top 10 as well. Less than half a second separated P3 from P16, qualifying would be a closely contested affair!



Qualifying :

Q1 saw almost all drivers set lap times on soft tyres ( bar Albon who used a Medium set ). Magnussen, Russell, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Latifi were the casualties. Raikkonen complained about traffic on his final run. Ricciardo ran wide just ahead of him throwing up a lot of gravel onto the racing line compromising his times even further. Nevertheless, it was a day to forget for Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.. a team which was 1.1 seconds quicker and in Q3 last year; back to the drawing board for them. 

Max Verstappen set a banker lap with a set of Medium tyres while his team-mate made a mistake on his first run but had the luxury of an extra set of soft tyres to set things right on the second. The Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Vettel struggled to keep up with their lap times; the former just scraping through in 10th while the latter ending up as the first big casualty of Q2. Gasly, Kvyat, Ocon, Grosjean were the others eliminated. Ocon had a lacklustre Saturday and was hoping to things around 24 hours later. Everyone barring Verstappen had set their fastest lap on the soft tyres. Red Bull's decision to have Max start the race on a medium set of tyres could prove pivotal in terms of strategy.

Mercedes AMG Petronas turned up their engines and went all out in Q3. They opened up a considerable gap to their immediate challengers ( Red Bull ) with Bottas getting provisional pole against Hamilton. Verstappen & Albon were P3 and P4, followed by Perez, Leclerc and Sainz. Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo opted for only one run in Q3. 

Bottas was on a flyer in his final run but ran wide and onto the gravel, bringing out yellow flags and compromising the times of the cars behind him. Lewis ( who was behind him ) set personal best sector times but couldn't beat his team-mate and had to settle for a front-row start. Verstappen qualified 3rd while Norris catapulted himself to 4th to split the Red Bulls. A great qualifying session for McLaren! Albon was 5th followed by Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Stroll and Ricciardo.


Hamilton had ignored Yellow Flags on his final run in Q3 ( due to Bottas' offtrack excursion ) and got docked 3 places after Red Bull protested against the Stewards' decision to not penalize him earlier for the infringement. The penalty was dished out just an hour before the start of the race and the 6 times World Champion would have to start the race in 5th.



Race :

Red Bull had enjoyed a fair share of success at their home race with Max Verstappen winning the previous 2 editions and many experts believed the performance deficit would reduce with Verstappen starting on the more lasting set of medium tyres. Mercedes too had an ace up their sleeve, their much talked about DAS - Dual-Axis Steering System. They opted to use it only for the race. DAS is a device that appears to change the alignment (toe) of the front wheels. It is controlled by the driver by pulling and pushing on the steering column. 

More on that here: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.das-explained-what-we-know-so-far-about-mercedes-trick-new-steering-system.4vgDQ6cc20xUfhdZGT0ejB.html

Red Bull Racing lodged an official protest over the legality of the system but their claims were rejected by the FIA.

Tyre choices were the same for everyone outside the top 10 ( Medium set ). The lap times around the circuit are pretty short so the timing of the pit stops had to be perfect for the front runners.

The 5 red lights went out and the 2020 season got underway with Bottas leading into the first turn from Verstappen and Norris. Norris tried to challenge Max but the Dutchman held firm. Hamilton too put extensive pressure on Albon but status quo was maintained. It was a clean getaway and a clean opening lap for all 20 drivers.

Bottas slowly pulled away from Verstappen while Albon breezed past Norris with DRS Assistance on lap 3. Norris was then passed by Hamilton a lap later and relegated to 5th. 

Sebastian Vettel finally made it past Ricciardo to get into points-scoring position on lap 7. Hamilton, on the other hand, overtook Albon on lap 9 and started eating into the lead that the duo at the front had built. 

Disaster struck Max Verstappen on Lap 12. The Dutchman slowed down and rapidly lost places while trying to run through a series of settings on his dash to restore power to his Honda unit. He complained about the car going into anti-stall after every mode change. He limped back into the pits, the team put on a set of hard tyres, even performed a Steering Wheel change at the stop but the problem seemed terminal. He climbed out of the car and into retirement on lap 14, visibly frustrated. 

The Mercedes duo now had a free run at the front and it seemed that they were destined for a 1-2; the order though was debatable as Lewis continued to chip away at Bottas' lead. Lap 18 saw more drama with Lance Stroll who was running in 8th started suffering from sensor issues on his engine and lost positions to Vettel and Gasly in the space of 2 laps. He would eventually drive back to his garage at the end of lap 21, a sad end after a promising Saturday. Bottas and Hamilton were notified about the sensor failure and instructed to take utmost care of the car. Daniel Ricciardo too suffered a retirement, cooling issues on his power unit to blame. ( Lap 18 ). Grosjean had a quick trip across the gravel at turn 5 while Kimi Raikkonen passed his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi to take over 13th in his pursuit of Magnussen and Ocon. The Finn pitted for a set of Hard Tyres on Lap 25 to undercut both.

Magnussen suffered a front brake failure while defending from Ocon on lap 26 ( Turn 1 ) bringing out the Safety Car. A slew of pit stops followed a lap later with everyone opting for the Hard Compound tyres. Perez and Norris were neck and neck out of their respective pit boxes but the Racing Point driver avoided the fast lane thus escaping from an unsafe release investigation. 

Racing resumed on Lap 31 with Sainz challenging Leclerc for P6 going into Turn 3. The Spaniard was on the outside and had to give up on the move to make the corner but Sebastian Vettel who was behind him went for a late and unrealistic lunge, locked up, got spun around and suffered damage besides being relegated to 15th place! The stewards deemed the incident as "no action necessary".

Perez went past Norris on lap 34 while the Mercedes started building up a gap again. Grosjean was served a black and white flag for exceeding track limits on multiple occasions, the warning adding insult to injury to an already under-performing Haas driver.

The fight at the front was pretty tense with Hamilton staying within DRS Range but not getting too close to avoid the dirty air from the Mercedes in front. He was also very vocal about the strategy employed by the team and wanted the right of passage since he believed he could go quicker. Both drivers were once again warned about their sensor issues - engine and gearbox and instructed to avoid using the kerbs as much as possible. These instructions didn't stop being issued and eventually, the Chief Strategist James Vowles came on the radio to warn them that the levels were "critical" ( Lap 47 ). Meanwhile, Vettel was stuck behind Raikkonen in 14th who eventually went past Russell on lap 45, the Finn losing positions due to the timing of the Safety car earlier. 

Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Kvyat and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of Lap 48. 

2 Laps later, Grosjean suffered a brake failure like his team-mate and was forced to retire while the Williams of George Russell suffered a sensor issue and ground to a halt on Lap 51. This caused another safety car to be deployed and barring the Mercedes duo and Perez, everyone else pitted for a set of fresh tyres for the final stint of the race. The Renault of Ocon and Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi jumped Kvyat after the round of pit stops, both moving up into points-scoring positions. Perez also gained track position on Albon.

The battle at the front was now an intriguing one with the Mercedes' drivers on a used set of Hard Tyres, Perez on a used set of Mediums and the rest of the pack on brand new sets of tyres ( some on softs, some on mediums ).

The safety car pulled into the pits on lap 54 and Albon went about reclaiming 3rd place from Perez in full earnest. 2 corners into the restart and the safety car had to be redeployed! This time it was Kimi Raikkonen who had stalled on the start-finish straight minus the right front wheel! Replays showed that the wheel had gotten undone when the Finn went over the penultimate turn at the restart! He would be the 7th retirement of the Race, a cross-threaded wheel nut to blame! His team-mate Giovinazzi ran wide on Turn 1 ( at the restart ) and was relegated to P13.

The cars then had to pass through the pits while the stricken Alfa Romeo was cleared off the start-finish straight. Albon who had earlier challenged Perez for P3 was allowed to take up that position after replays showed that he was already ahead of Perez ( under racing conditions on Lap 54 ) before the Safety Car was deployed for the third time. He now at a great chance of a podium, possibly a win!

The safety car pulled into the pits on Lap 61 and Bottas had a great restart but Lewis came under intense pressure from Albon at turn 3. The battle continued on the run into turn 4 and Albon was forced to take the outside line. There was contact between the duo and Albon was sent into a spin! Albon didn't mince his words over the radio! Perez, Norris and Leclerc now completed the top 5 while the remaining Red Bull rejoined in 13th and last! 

The Stewards initiated an investigation into the incident ( on Lap 64 ). A rejuvenated Leclerc made an amazing move on Norris to take P4 on the same lap and also set the fastest lap of the race. 2 Laps later, on lap 66, he performed an amazing late braking manoeuvre into turn 3 to take P3 from Perez. The Ferrari had come alive! 

Lewis Hamilton was handed a 5 second time penalty for his collision with Albon which would effectively mean that Leclerc and possibly Perez could end up on the podium! ( More on that later )

Perez's hopes of a podium were dashed on Lap 68 after he was handed a time penalty of 5 seconds for speeding in the pit lane; to make matters worse, Lando Norris made a lunge down the inside at turn 3 a lap later, banging wheels and relegating him to P5. Lando now had the chance to reduce the deficit to Hamilton and possibly get a maiden podium finish! There was action at the back of the pack as well. Antonio Giovinazzi made up for the places he lost with overtakes that promoted him to P9, even fending off a charge by Vettel! Kvyat was the one going backwards in this tussle.

Bottas and Hamilton were given "full beans" to help the latter build a five-second buffer to the 4th placed man Norris. Hamilton set a couple of fastest laps and the team even pondered on a position switch to better his chances. 

There was more drama on Lap 69 with Albon pulling over to the side of the track after what seemed to be a power unit failure. One lap later, Daniil Kvyat suffered a Rear Right Suspension Failure to become the 9th and the final retirement of the race! 

It seemed that Lewis would still end up on the podium with Lando Norris being just outside the 5-second window on the penultimate lap. 

The young British driver had other plans! He punched in the fastest lap of the race on the final lap pipping his countryman to a well deserved maiden podium finish!!!

Bottas had driven a flawless race to win the first race of the 2020 F1 Season! Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris produced stunning drives to finish P2 and P3 respectively. Lewis Hamilton had to settle for P4 while Sainz, Perez, Gasly, Ocon, Giovinazzi and Vettel completed the top 10. Rookie Nicolas Latifi would take 11th, the final finisher of a retirement laden race!



Analysis of the Albon-Hamilton Incident :

Albon was on a brand new set of soft tyres while Lewis was on a set of old hard tyres. Albon got great traction out of Turn 2 and carried that momentum into Turn 3 and Turn 4. Lewis placed his car pretty well and the only way to pass was on the outside. The power deficit on the Honda meant that Albon couldn't pass Lewis on the 2 DRS straights and would have to make a move under braking. He was able to execute this and was ahead of Lewis at the exit of Turn 4. Lewis held his line but didn't go full lock on his steering ( personal opinion ); eventually, this angle would lead him to tangle with Albon, the rear of the Red Bull taking the hit and going into a spin.   

There is no place for niceties in the world of racing and Lewis is one tough customer. However, he was fighting a losing battle here and should have displayed better spacial awareness. Albon had run out of road.

In Lewis' defence, he was on a set of worn-out hard tyres so was lacking grip and traction coming out of the turn. Possibly, he couldn't have turned anymore and this caused the eventual contact. The universal rule in racing is that the car with track position should always have the right of way and Lewis was penalized for this breach. Thankfully the severity of the penalties have been reduced from this year and Lewis got a time penalty of only 5 seconds. Albon came off worse losing the chance of his maiden podium or even win, eventually retiring on lap 69. 


 Post-race investigation of  Kimi Raikkonen's retirement revealed that a wheel nut was cross-threaded in his pit stop and  Alfa Romeo were fined 5000 Euros for this. Tough day at the office for the most experienced man on the grid.


The season opener was a thriller!  Bottas began the season on the right note with Mercedes still being the fastest car on the grid but with chinks in their armour. Ferrari had a poor Saturday but Leclerc stepped up to the challenge and produced a stellar drive on the day that mattered. Vettel could have done likewise but for the incident; he will have another shot at it later this week. McLaren's resurgence was the talk of the paddock and Lando Norris deserved special praise for pushing right till the end and bagging his maiden podium. Sainz Jr. put in yet another consistent drive. The days of old were back for the Woking-based outfit.  Racing Point wasn't far behind and will have a say sooner rather than later.  Red Bull Racing would be hoping to have better reliability with their Honda units for Round 2 next week as they have the pace to challenge for a win. Renault's struggles seem to be far from over and they need to improve. Haas & Alfa Romeo are in a similar situation with their pace considerably slower to the times last year. Giovinazzi was the saving grace for Alfa. The Italian Stallion drove a great race to finish P9 and bring home a couple of points. Williams is improving and I believe that they shall be in the points soon.


The second race of the season will be on the same track the following weekend. Addressing reliability will be the main concern for all teams. We might be served another masterpiece in the hills of Styria!  


The F1 Season is truly underway!

The F1 Travel Guide : Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany

The German Grand Prix was a regular feature on the F1 Calendar and produced some memorable races. The track where this race was hosted alternated between the legendary Nurburgring and Hockenheim circuits. Nurburgring couldn't host more events post 2013 ( due to financial woes ) and Hockenheim became the permanent abode for the German Grand Prix ( 2014 onwards ). The country, home to multiple F1 greats, be it drivers or constructors like Mercedes has seen some incredible racing over the years. 

The 2019 German GP was voted as the "Race of the Decade" by the fans! 

However, citing financial issues, the race was sadly taken off the calendar for 2020. The season hasn't kicked off yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic and after the cancellation of many races from this year's calendar, there is a glimmer of hope that this circuit might make an unlikely return. 

I had the honour of attending the 2014 and the 2018 editions. 2014, was my first as a guest of Scuderia Ferrari F1 team while 2018 saw Vettel make an uncharacteristic error and crash out of the lead. Kimi Raikkonen was the saving grace that day after he finished P3 with a very compromised strategy. Who can forget how the heavens opened after the race came to an end!



My experience from the 2018 German Grand Prix :






The Circuit Layout :



Official Website :



Location :

The circuit is located at a short distance from the town of Hockenheim in the Rhine Valley in the Baden-Württemberg region. The circuit is well connected by road ( thanks to the high-speed Autobahns of the country which run into the neighbouring countries as well ), rail ( DB Bahn ) and even air! It is also close to bigger towns like Mannheim and Heidelberg and cities like Frankfurt and Stuttgart! 


Closest Airports :

The Closest Airport is Mannheim City Airport but it is used majorly for Chartered Travel. 

Frankfurt Airport ( FRA ) is the airport of choice for almost all F1 travellers. The busiest airport in Germany caters to a large number of International Carriers bringing in flyers from all habitable continents. It is also the main hub for the National Carrier Lufthansa. Lot of low - cost European carriers offer connections to Frankfurt from major European cities.

Stuttgart Airport ( STR ) is another point of entry, albeit further away and caters to several European and a couple of Asian Carriers.

I chose to fly on Emirates to Frankfurt via Dubai. The 2018 Experience is featured here :




Where to Stay :

Accommodation options in the town of Hockenheim are limited and tend to get sold out early in the year. 

Walldorf is another town which offers a few options and its a 10-minute drive to the circuit. However, most of the hotels are occupied by the teams over the weekend. One can still try and book a room at inflated non-refundable rates and probably meet someone famous from the paddock at one of these properties. 

I chose to stay in Frankfurt during the 2014 race weekend; the commute was good on Friday but come Saturday and Sunday, an early departure ( around 7 pm ) was advisable to make it in time for the morning sessions.

In 2018, I considered staying in the town of Heidelberg, a city well frequented by other tourists as well. However the options there were quite expensive; besides the "touristy" element, a lot of F1 Media and Personnel choose to stay there which explains the inflated pricing and limited availability. Heidelberg is situated on one side of Autobahn 6 while on the other side is the city of Mannheim! 

Mannheim is the third-largest city of the region and one of the important commercial and economic hubs. The accommodation options are many and prices are relatively cheaper than those on offer in Hockenheim or Heidelberg. Mannheim is also the only city which offers direct connections to the circuit via rail ( more on that later ). This is the city of choice for me if I were to make plans in the future. I chose the Radisson Blu which is close to the city centre and also used by the FIA and the Safety car Drivers over the weekend!

The ones who plan to rough it out would be glad to know that the circuit offers some great camping facilities! A lot of fans flock to Hockenheim from all over Europe over the weekend.

More Information is available here :



Circuit Access :

By Road :

The circuit is extremely well connected to various cities of Germany and beyond by their efficient road networks and the Autobahns. The commute from Frankfurt can vary between 60 to 90 minutes ( depending on the traffic over the weekend ). The commute from Mannheim ( via Autobahn 6 ) and Heidelberg ( via Autobahn 5 ) is about 30 minutes. It is best to opt for car hire and buy parking passes over the weekend. There are a couple of taxi drop-off points but they can be a considerable walk if one doesn't opt to use the circuit shuttle. Taxis are sparse on the return journey as well so its advisable to wait longer at the circuit post-race.
This is the only way of a commute if one chooses to stay in Walldorf for the weekend.


By Rail :

DB Bahn is a great way to travel across the country. Major Cities are well connected to the station in Hockenheim. There are circuit shuttles which ply from the station to the circuit, the distance is about 3 km. Commute time from Mannheim to Hockenheim is about 20 minutes, from Heidelberg & Frankfurt is about 45 minutes & 75 minutes respectively. All connections run via Mannheim. 

Tickets can be purchased from https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml


By Air :

Helicopter Transfers are also available for those who wish to fly into the circuit. A lot of the F1 Drivers use this mode for travel.


More information on all these options can be found here :



F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The F1 Village is located behind the Main Grandstand and has a semi-modern feel to it. There are a plethora of merchandising outlets ( the Official F1 Store included ) selling different team merchandise. Outlets selling Michael Schumacher Merchandise are always crowded and there are some unique items on sale at the Official Circuit Merchandise outlet as well. 

The Village is also a hub for off-track activity, be it Simulator Experiences or Fan Q&A sessions or Pit Stop and Reaction Time ( Batak ) Challenges. Food & Beverage options are pretty good with the "Frankfurter" outlets being the most popular. The village is well planned and I never came across the issue of over-crowding on any of the days.

There are smaller merchandising and F&B outlets behind other grandstands as well.


Fan Experiences :

The circuit is home to some of the most passionate fans and the Mercedes Grandstand is one of the star grandstands. It offers some of the best views of the track and its popularity has increased all the more, thanks to the dominance of the Three-Pointed Star in the Turbo Era. 

Friday is an open-access day to most of the grandstands so fans can take in views from different sections of the track! 

3-day Ticket Holders can enjoy a Pit Lane Walk, Driver Autograph Sessions and a Track Walk on Thursdays. There is trackside commentary in English and German.

It is advisable to carry rain gear as torrential rain isn't uncommon. The drainage facilities need to improve though; a lot of the access tunnels and roads got flooded after the race in 2018.

The circuit changed in 2002 and although a part of the old circuit layout is now a forest, it is a nice walk in the woods for race fans.

VIP Guests, Paddock & Paddock Club Guests can avail of Pirelli Hot Laps Experience around this iconic track.

F1 Experiences offers upgrades for standard tickets with experiences such as Guided Track Truck Tour, Guided Paddock Tour, Support Race Paddock Visit, Podium Visit and Photo-op with Race Winning Trophy!

The Hockenheimring Museum is a must-visit for those who love racing history. There are also track days organised for those who wish to hire supercars or bring their own for a round of the track; for those who want to indulge in some racing, there are go-karting facilities in and around Hockenheim!


Hockenheimring has so much history about it and Germany has contributed so much to the world of F1. It is unfortunate to not see this track on the F1 Calendar anymore but I still believe that it might make a return either this year or the next and if it does, then one must draw up plans to be at the legendary German Grand Prix!

The F1 Travel Guide : Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

The Circuit de Catalunya, home to the Spanish Grand Prix is the first European race on the F1 Calendar. It is also the race where teams bring in major upgrades from their factories all over Europe. The circuit also hosts the 2 tests held over the winter break ( pre-season testing ) before the start of a new F1 season. 

Moto GP races are also held here, albeit in a slightly different configuration. 

The circuit is a true test for any racer, be it on two wheels or four. Shortcomings, if any, are all revealed here! 

I had the privilege of seeing Max Verstappen won his first race ( on debut ) with Red Bull Racing ( youngest race winner in F1 )(  in 2016 ) after the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg took each other out on the opening lap. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel completed a double podium for Ferrari that day

The race in 2017 had a more disappointing outcome for the Iceman but he won the hearts of one and all by meeting the 6-year-old Thomas Danel, the kid who was shown weeping trackside after Raikkonen's retirement due to a collision in the race.


My experience from 2017 is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/a-gallery-of-memories-part-13

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diares-2017-spanish-grand-prix-day-1

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diares-2017-spanish-grand-prix-day-2

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diares-2017-spanish-grand-prix-day-3



The Circuit Layout :



Official Website :

https://www.circuitcat.com/en/



Location :

The Circuit is located in the town of Montmelo, about 30 km from Barcelona. Built by the legendary circuit designer Herman Tilke, the race is considered one of the biggest sporting events on the nation's calendar. Its one of the easiest circuits to get to, one reason being its proximity to a big city and other being the ease of access via road, rail and even air! The sunny Mediterranean weather also makes a visit to the circuit quite appealing!


Closest Airports :

Barcelona El-Prat International Airport ( BCN ) is the nearest airport to the circuit and caters to a plethora of European low cost, Transatlantic and other International Carriers. Iberia Airlines, the nation's national carrier also offers multiple connections from their base in Madrid. It is the airport of choice for almost all visitors!

Emirates offers multiple services from Dubai to Barcelona every day.

My Emirates Flight Experience ( latest ) from Mumbai to Barcelona is shared here :


The city of Barcelona is also well connected by road and rail to other major European cities, the latter being used by many fans.



Where to Stay :

The accommodation options in Montmelo, be it Airbnb or Hotels are sold out quite early in the year. Most rates are non-refundable and a premium is charged over the race weekend. It is best to stay in the city of Barcelona. Barcelona has a wide range of accommodation on offer from Airbnb & Budget Hotels to ultra-luxurious properties like the Hotel Arts or The W. I recommend staying in areas like Avinguda Diagonal ( have stayed at the Novotel & Hilton ) or Via Laietana which are pretty lively and offer great options for shopping and dining. Many F1 teams stay in the Diagonal area with McLaren having their Annual Gala Dinner on a Saturday evening in the city! 


There is never a dull evening in the city. Some fans opt to stay in the town of Girona which is further away, more peaceful and gives visitors a glimpse of life and architecture during the Medieval time.

There are multiple camping options near the track as well.


Circuit Access :

The Circuit is well connected by road, rail and air! The commute is pretty brisk and everything functions like a well-oiled machine every year.

One can refer to this link to explore the various options of commute :


By Road :

Taxis are readily available in Barcelona city and the commute time is about 40 minutes to the circuit. Those with VIP Passes get the option of a drop off right at the Paddock Club Entry, Paddock Access gates; one of the few circuits which offer such a privilege. There are other taxi drop-off points all over the circuit too and one must be prepared to queue in the evenings for the return journey. There is Uber as well, surge pricing applicable.

Many fans use a car hire service ( readily available at the city or airport ); its advisable to get a parking pass in the area closer to the selected grandstand. Thankfully there is ample parking space at the circuit.

Sagales offers Bus Services from Barcelona City Centre to the circuit. Price of the return ticket is about 12 Euros per day and tickets can be booked on https://www.sagales.com/en 

Commute time is about 50 minutes but can get long on a Sunday morning and Evening.

There are also shuttle buses plying from Montmelo Station to the Circuit.


By Rail :

Spain has one of the best rail networks of Europe and is the preferred mode of commute for most of the fans over the race weekend. There are connections from both Barcelona and Girona to Montmelo Station from where one can either walk to the circuit ( a 30-minute walk ) or opt for a shuttle bus which drops off fans at the circuit entrance near Turn 1. 


From Barcelona : 

Hop on to the Rodalies Line R2 Nord ( Green line ) bound for Granollers Centre from Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gracia or El-Clot Arago Stations and alight at Montemelo Station.

More Information on the Line with the stops: https://www.barcelonas.com/rodalies-r2-nord.html


From Girona :

Hop on to the Roadlies Line R11 ( Blue ) bound for Barcelona and switch to the R2 or R8 line for Montmelo at Granollers Centre Station.


Single Day and Multi-day return journey tickets are available on http://rodalies.gencat.cat/en/inici/



By Air :

Arrive in Style aboard a Helicopter, a commuting method used by the rich and famous throughout the weekend. Its an experience of a lifetime offered by almost all hospitality partners of the sport.



F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The F1 Village, situated behind the Main Grandstand has gone through a major revamp. Fans can purchase their favourite team gear from the respective merchandising outlets or even the Official F1 Store. Prices are more or less on par with other circuits of Europe. 
The Avinguda dels Campions which has Plaques of World Championship winning racers ( on 2 wheels and 4 ) is also located in the village.
Competitions such as the Pit Stop Challenge, Batak Challenge and the Simulator races run throughout the weekend with prizes ranging from Paddock Passes, Hospitality experiences on Sunday or goodie bags.
There is also a stage erected in the F1 Village where Drivers' and Team Principals' appearances happen on Friday and Saturday ( in the evening ).
There are smaller merchandising and food outlets located behind other grandstands as well. The quality and the variety of food on offer is pretty poor. Thankfully, fans are allowed to bring food and drink into the track. Alcohol and Canned Drinks are banned.



Fan Experiences :

3 Day ticket holders are eligible for Pit Lane Walks on Thursdays.  A Drivers' Autograph Session is also planned at the same time.

Like Suzuka in Japan, fans can enjoy views of the circuit from various grandstands, known as "Free Friday".
There is also a track run organised on Saturday evening. Details would be shared by the circuit organisers on their official website.
There is trackside commentary in English, French, Spanish and Catalan on the local radio. 

Most of the Stands are uncovered, so it is advisable to wear protective headgear.

VIP Guests, Paddock Club Guests and Celebrities can purchase a Pirelli Hot Laps Experience ( pricing dependent on the type of car and the day ). 
F1 Experiences offers fans the opportunity of a Guided Paddock Tour or a Guided Track Tour on a Parade Truck or a Guided Pit Lane Tour or a Photo Opportunity on the Podium with the Race Winning Trophies.

More Information about the same is available here: https://f1experiences.com/2021-spanish-grand-prix

I also recommend visiting "PortAventura World", a theme park complex approximately 100 km from Barcelona featuring 3 Theme Parks - PortAventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land!

Ferrari Land is a must-visit on the Wednesday of the race week since the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team host an event there with their F1 drivers!


More Info Available here: https://www.portaventuraworld.com/en


One can also drive around the "Montjuic Circuit" which is in Barcelona and used to be the venue for racing for Moto GP and F1 in the 1970s. It was also the only circuit to see a female driver score Championship points.




Circuit de Catalunya has a charm of its own. Many fans prefer this over other classic tracks on the calendar. The sunny weather, proximity to a big metropolitan, ease of commute, great views from every grandstand gives it a different vibe altogether. It is been 3 years since I last visited this historical track..hopefully in 2021!!


The F1 Travel Guide : Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most popular races on the F1 Calendar ( also being the first dusk race ).

Designed by the legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke, it has been the season-ending race ( but for 3 years ) with Lewis Hamilton being the most successful driver here.

Who can forget the nail-biting finish in 2010, when Fernando Alonso failed to overtake Vitaly Petrov which let Sebastian Vettel win his maiden Championship or the Drama that unfolded between Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg in 2014 and 2016 when the title fight went right down to the wire! 

Who can forget Kimi Raikkonen's win at the circuit in 2012 ( after his return to F1 ) which featured those famous radio communications: "Just leave me alone, I know what I am doing" & "Yes Yes Yes I am doing it all the time, you don't have to remind me every 10 seconds!" or those horrendous crashes between Rosberg & Karthikeyan in 2012 and Hulkenberg & Grosjean in 2018. 

The circuit is also a venue for goodbyes..be it for Drivers leaving a team or F1 personnel switching to another employer or taking retirement from the sport altogether. It is also the place when everyone wishes each other a restful winter break and drivers make a resolve to return stronger for the next season. 

I still remember those weekends of 2013 and 2018, the two occasions on which I was present at the track. 



My experience from 2018 is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/a-gallery-of-memories-part-17

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diaries-2018-abu-dhabi-gp-day-1

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diaries-2018-abu-dhabi-gp-day-2

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/paddock-club-diaries-2018-abu-dhabi-gp-day-3



The Circuit Layout :



Official Website :

https://www.yasmarinacircuit.com/



Location :

The Circuit is located on Yas Island, a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city centre. It is easily accessible from Dubai as well. There are multiple exits offering access to the island from the highway connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The island is home to several hotels, a water park and the iconic Ferrari World! Its a place bustling with activity all over the weekend and sees a lot of visitors on normal days as well! The island, built-in 2006 has infused a major boost to an already thriving economy of the country. Etihad Airways, the national carrier of UAE is the title sponsor for the race.



Closest Airports :

Abu Dhabi International Airport ( AUH ) is the nearest airport to the circuit and one of the biggest international hubs in the Middle East offering connections to all parts of the world! Its also home to the National carrier of the UAE Etihad Airways.

Dubai International Airport ( DXB ) which is less than 100 km from Yas Island cannot be discounted either. Home to one of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates, its the busiest airport in the Middle East ( and 5th in the world ). All the airlines of the world fly to Dubai. It is also a major hub for Emirates' Codeshare partner Qantas Airways.

Emirates is the airline of choice for me - excellent connections worldwide, a modern fleet of aircraft & fantastic services onboard. Emirates owned Low-Cost Carrier FlyDubai which offers connections to Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and some parts of Europe also has Dubai as its hub of operations. 


My Emirates Flight Experience ( latest ) from Mumbai to Dubai is shared here :




Where to Stay :

There are a lot of options over a race weekend. If budget is not an issue, then its best to opt for a Hotel on Yas Island. There is always a premium to be paid over the weekend, most of them non-refundable rates. Those with even deeper pockets can stay at the unique Yas Viceroy Hotel which is within the circuit, overlooking a lot of sections of the track! There are also a few Airbnb apartments in the vicinity of the Island but they tend to sell out quickly. 

Abu Dhabi has a lot of hotels from budget to serviced apartments to ultra-luxury accommodation and its best to stay near the city centre which offers multiple options for a commute to the Island. The hotels in the city charge a premium over the weekend as well. 
Airbnb accommodation is available as well. Most of the rates are non-refundable.

Dubai is another great place to stay ( my city of choice ) with options for all pockets and prices comparatively cheaper ( no premium charged ) to those in Abu Dhabi. However, one must be prepared for a 90-minute commute to the circuit each way ( which can be expensive in a taxi ).

There is no camping facility at the track.



Circuit Access :

The Circuit is well connected by road, sea and even air! There are multiple entry points into the circuit and kudos to the Race Organizers for doing a top job every year. 
 
Taxis are plentiful at the circuit and the preferred mode of transport for most! There is also Uber on offer but with surge pricing, flagging down a taxi tends to be cheaper. VIP Guests can make their way to the Yas Viceroy Hotel Entrance and then walk down to a water taxi which takes the guests across to a Paddock Club / Paddock Access gate, the journey from the Hotel to the Access Gate takes about 20 minutes. 
Most hotels on the Yas Island offer free circuit shuttles to the main circuit entrance, so one can utilize those shuttles if they have friends staying on the island. There is another access via Ferrari World, one can walk or hop onto a circuit shuttle to enter the circuit.
Do note that there can be long queues every evening post the sessions/concerts so it makes sense to use the circuit shuttle to go further away from the circuit to take cabs back to the city. 

I stay in Dubai and use a taxi service to one of the Yas Island Hotels where my friends stay over the weekend ( the commute from Dubai takes about 90 minutes ). We then use a Complimentary Shuttle provided by the Hotel which drops us at the Main Entrance, it is a short walk to the Paddock Club from thereon ( using tunnel access under the circuit ).

Those who choose a car hire can purchase trackside parking ( which is limited in number ) or park at the Yas Mall and get on a circuit shuttle from there. There are multiple car hire options at both airports and cities.

Buses are the cheapest mode of transport for the weekend. Bus Number 190 runs from Abu Dhabi Bus Station ( next to Al Wahda Mall ) to Yas Island. If travelling from Dubai one must use a service from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to Abu Dhabi and then hop on to the 190 to Yas Island. The commute to Yas Island from Abu Dhabi Bus Station takes about 40 minutes with buses every 20 minutes. 

There are multiple complementary shuttle buses on Yas Island which connects hotels to various attractions, hotels, malls and the various grandstands.

The main shuttles are the Circuit Circular Shuttle and the Yas Courtesy Shuttle. The former runs around Yas Island and through the Yas Marina Circuit. The latter runs within the circuit premises and is available for any ticket holder throughout the weekend. Other shuttle services are the Pit Lane Walk Shuttle, Paddock Club Shuttle and Yas Suite Shuttle. 

Details about the Various Shuttle Buses are shared here :



There is also another service called the Yas Express, a shuttle that gets you around Yas Island. 

More Details shared here :



These buses tend to get jam-packed in the evenings as the fans make their way to the concert arena ( or their way home ). It is advisable to walk ( if the distance isn't too long ) under such circumstances.

High fliers also have the option to book Helicopter Transfers, to and fro from the circuit!



F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The F1 Village, situated behind the Main Grandstand is one of the best on the F1 calendar. There are many merchandising and food outlets along with a few stores selling Official Circuit Merchandise as well. The Official F1 Store is well stocked and one of the largest. 
There are makeshift stages for performances by local artists throughout the day, Circuit Mascots strutting their stuff with volunteers distributing circuit guides, Race Programmes & Protective Headsets. Show cars on display by companies like McLaren, Renault and Mercedes make this village a must-visit!
Competitions such as the Pit Stop Challenge, Batak Challenge and the Simulator faceoff run throughout the weekend. The winner of the Simulator competition over Friday and Saturday wins couple passes for the Paddock Club for Sunday. 
There are smaller merchandising and food outlets spread over other parts of the circuit as well. Food options are limited but reasonably priced.



Fan Experiences :

3 Day ticket holders are eligible for Pit Lane Walks on Thursdays. VIP Guests, Paddock Club Guests and Celebrities can purchase a Pirelli Hot Laps Experience ( pricing dependent on the type of car and the day ). 
There are concerts on all days i.e. Thursday to Sunday. These are free with a valid race ticket for the day but fans need to collect a wristband from the Oasis area for access to the concert. It is a daily exercise for those planning to be at all the concerts!
F1 Experiences, the official hospitality partner of the sport offers fans great upgrades to their existing tickets, from single day Paddock Club passes to guided Paddock Tours, guided Track Truck Tours, guided Podium Visits and Photo-op with the Race Winning Trophy!

The "YasHub" app ( available on iOS & Android ) keeps fans up to date with all that is happening over the weekend. 

It is recommended wearing hats or caps and light clothing ( in adherence to the laws of the land ) since it can get pretty hot during the day. 
Fans cannot bring any food or drink to the circuit and one must be prepared to be screened thoroughly at the circuit entrance gates.  

The Circuit also offers guided tours ( on normal days ), go-karting experiences, track days in Formula cars or other supercars! Details are available on their official website.

Yas Island itself is a must-visit for any traveller to the UAE. The Island is home to 3 world-class parks - the Ferrari World, an indoor theme park run by the Italian brand with its famous Prancing Horse logo on the roof and is situated next to the track. The team also runs a special activity on Thursday, so fans at the park can get a glimpse of the Ferrari F1 Drivers;  the Yas Waterworld, a huge waterpark and the island's newest addition Warner Bros World which is a theme park devoted to the characters of Looney Toons, DC Comics and Hannah-Barbera
Visitors can purchase 2 days-2 parks or 3 days- 3 parks tickets. 
The Marina itself is worth a visit; one can enjoy beautiful sunsets while wining and dining at some of the finest restaurants and cafes dotting the marina. Its also home to many Luxurious yachts, some of which are venues for parties on a race weekend.


The Yas Marina Circuit leaves a lasting impression. It offers so much more than just a normal F1 Race Weekend. I rate this circuit higher than the one in Singapore. 
The island is like a city in itself and one can easily spend more than a week exploring all that it has to offer. I am convinced that this circuit will be a part of the F1 circus for many more years to come! Time to draw up plans for another visit this year!

The F1 Travel Guide : Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada

F1, the Pinnacle of Motorsport has races spanning 5 Continents. The Canadian GP is one race that has been a regular feature on the Calendar. The teams make the journey trans-Atlantic post the glamorous Monaco GP to race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve situated close to the city of Montreal in the State of Quebec.

The circuit is named after Gilles Villeneuve McLaren and then a Ferrari driver ( father of 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve ). He enjoyed a close relationship with the Ferrari Supremo Enzo Ferrari. There is also a Bronze Bust of him at Fiorani, Ferrari's test track in Maranello, Italy. 

The circuit has produced some memorable races over the years, most notably the 2011 Canadian GP which was the longest race in the history of F1. Who can forget the horrific crash of Robert Kubica in 2007 only for the Polish Driver to return and have his maiden win at the same circuit a year later!  Turns like the Senna S, the Hairpin Curve are well known but the most notorious of these is the Wall Of Champions.. just after the last turn which has ended races of so many racers ( champions included ).

Canada might be an ocean apart but its a must-visit for all F1 Fans. 

The Circuit sees a lot of visitors over a race weekend coming from all over the world. I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Canadian GP, well known for the controversy that unfolded after the Stewards handed Sebastian Vettel a time penalty of 5 seconds for dangerously rejoining the track ( while leading the race ) thereby gifting the win to Lewis Hamilton. This circuit has characteristics similar to those at Albert Park in Melbourne ( where the season opener is held ) but offers a lot of overtaking opportunities throughout a lap. 

A new Paddock Club building was built in 2019 and its quite a sight to behold!


My Experience over the Weekend is shared here :





The Circuit Layout :



Official Website :

https://www.gpcanada.ca/en/



Location :

The Circuit is located on an Island on Saint Lawrence River, minutes away from Downtown Montreal. It can house up to 300000 spectators over a weekend and its proximity to a city ensures that there aren't too many challenges with regards to commuting ( more on that later ). Montreal itself becomes a big party destination with events happening all over the city, exotic supercars plying up and down the streets all night, fans socializing at roadside pubs and eateries..it can get quite crowded, even for pedestrians! The police and the local authorities ensure that law and order are maintained throughout and kudos to the locals for being ever so respectful to their visitors. There a few good eateries that tend to shut fairly early in the evening so one must plan for their dinner accordingly!


Closest Airports :

Pierre-Elliot Trudeau International Airport ( YUL ), is a major International Hub with airline connections to Asia, the Middle East and Europe. 
Airlines like Emirates, however, don't offer direct flights to Montreal but one can fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport ( YYZ ) and then take a domestic flight to Montreal. Flight Time from there is approximately 75 minutes. Some travellers opt for car hire or train service from Toronto and drive up to Montreal, the journey taking about 5 hours.

Montreal is also well connected to multiple cities in USA with airports in New York, Newark and Washington DC offering the shortest flight time of about 90 minutes. These cities are major hubs for Airlines from the Middle East, the Far East and Down Under. However, do note that Immigration formalities would have to be completed on either side if one opts to fly this route.

I flew Emirates to New York ( JFK ) and then later flew to Montreal ( YUL ) from Newark ( EWR ) on United Airlines.  

The Emirates Flight Experience to New York JFK is shared here :



Most Airlines in the Americas charge for check-in bags, so its best to read up on Airline Baggage policies when booking connecting flights. 
The shorter flights also have limited cabin space and most of us had to check in our carry-on bags while boarding ( which were returned to us at the aero-bridge while disembarking ), this meant removing laptops, power banks and any other Li-ion powered devices!



Where to Stay :

The proximity of the circuit to Montreal means that accommodation in the city isn't cheap. However, there are a lot of options from Hostels to Luxury Hotels. It is advisable to book well in advance and most are non-refundable rates. The city is well connected by taxis and public transport services so commuting isn't a challenge. It is not uncommon to see F1 Drivers on the streets, often riding bikes! 
I chose to stay at Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville which has some good restaurants and cafes in its vicinity. McLaren F1 Team also stay here for the weekend! It is a 20 to 25-minute drive to the circuit from Centre-Ville. 
Mount Royal, the name of the hill from where the city gets its name is worth the hike in the mornings. It offers some brilliant views of the city. The area also has some stay options with good places to wine and dine.
 
I don't think there is a camping facility at the circuit ( I might be wrong here ).



Circuit Access :

The circuit is situated on an island ( as mentioned earlier ) so has limited entry points by road. I had to collect my passes from near the Jean-Drapeau Metro Station on Friday and I hailed a Taxi. It dropped me close to the Biosphere Environmental MuseumThere was a lot of traffic and I had to walk for a mile to save time. ( Do Not Use this Option! )
Post Collection of Tickets, there was a Circuit Shuttle to the Casino de Montreal, a Casino on the Island from where the Access to the Paddock Club is another walk. Different shuttles are plying to different parts of the Circuit and there are considerable lines at the stops. 

If travelling by taxi, then it is best to ask the driver for a drop-off at Casino de Montreal which is like a hub and then one can walk to the stand or opt for a Shuttle ( if the grandstand is on the other side of the island ). It is one of the easiest places to queue for a cab on the return journey as well. If lucky, one can even bump into F1 reporters, ex drivers and other distinguished guests! For Paddock Club and VIP Guests its a short walk from Casino de Montreal, through an access gate, over the bridge and then into a Paddock Club Shuttle Boat to the Paddock / Paddock Club! It is quite a unique way to check-in at the circuit. Uber is also available in Montreal.
 

The easiest way to get to the circuit is by Metro, something that a couple of my friends used to get in and out of the Island. Jean-Drapeau Station is situated on the Yellow Line and commutes time can vary between 10 to 40 minutes. Regular Services run throughout the weekend and it can get quite crowded on a Sunday evening post-race, so wait out for a couple of hours at the circuit.
There are one day and multi-day rail passes on offer as well! Once at the Station, Entry Gates to the circuit can be accessed via 2 bridges, either by foot or one can take a shuttle bus that connects to the Casino. The Cosmos Bridge is closer to the stands near the Hairpin Curve, The Concorde Bridge offers access to the other Grand Stands of the circuit..its advisable to have comfortable walking shoes since its quite a trek. 



F1 Village, Fan Zones :

This was one track where I couldn't find a designated zone big enough to be termed as an "F1 Village". Merchandising Outlets are scattered all over and the options on offer are limited. The long walks to those outlets can be deal-breakers. The story is pretty similar with regards to food trackside - limited options and exorbitant prices. Thankfully food stands are in the vicinity of the grandstands. I do hope the Organisers have a relook at this. 


Fan Experiences :

Three Day Ticketholders are entitled to Track Walks and Pit Lane Walks on Thursday. There is also a Drivers' Autograph session held on Thursday. The Casino which is situated in the middle of the circuit is one of the largest in the world. Fans can spend their evenings there to unwind and wait for the crowds to leave immediately after a session. The Support Race Paddock which houses the Ferrari Challenge Cars and the Porsche Cup cars is a must-visit. It is close to the Hairpin Curve and the cars line up on the service road which runs parallel to the Back Straight. They make their way onto the track through one of the marshalling gates on the straight. It is a great way to capture some shots of these beauties! 
F1 Experiences also offer upgrades on tickets with Guided Paddock Tours, Private Podium Visits, Guided Track Truck Tours, Guided Pit Lane Tours, Photo Op with the Race Winning Trophy and the exclusive but expensive Pirelli Hot Laps Experience!



The atmosphere in Montreal over the three days is electric! The streets are crowded with fans socialising late into the night and there is a great vibe to the place. Once the sun rises, the folk flock to the island for their share of racing! There are great sights to visit just outside Montreal as well ( places like Quebec City & Montmorency Falls which is higher than the Niagara Falls ).
 
There are certain things at the circuit that need re-working on - the merchandising and food options, better connectivity and frequency of the circuit shuttles and I hope the organisers strive to improve the experience for one and all. 

I most definitely plan on visiting the circuit again..if not this year then definitely in 2021. 

The Driver Merry-Go-Round... Musical Chairs in a Lockdown!

The 2020 F1 Season which was due to commence in March got postponed in the light of the pandemic COVID-19 which has wreaked havoc across the world. The calendar has been modified with the mid-summer break being preponed and the FIA hoping to have 15 to 16 race weekends in 2020.

The entire F1 Fraternity is in a state of lockdown but can there ever be calm and stillness in the world of F1??

There is a lot of paddock chatter at the start of every season about drivers moving to different teams, contracts being extended and hints being dropped to the media over every race weekend. The picture becomes clearer only during the mid-summer break, the time around which I used to make the Driver lineup predictions for the upcoming season. 

There have been major updates about Driver Lineups for 2021 since the past week, 2 of the biggest announcements coming in today. 


The 3 Major Announcements this week :

Sebastian Vettel will leave Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team at the end of the 2020 season, Daniel Ricciardo signs for McLaren F1 Team with a multi-year deal while Carlos Sainz Jr. makes the jump into the Ferrari seat vacated by Vettel!



The onset of the pandemic meant that no team was able to show their true capability. The FIA also decided to postpone the Technical Regulation overhaul which was due in 2021 to 2022. This means that teams would majorly run the same cars in 2021 ( as they would in a truncated 2020 season ) with their customary upgrades coming in in-season. This also means that drivers who are switching seats will carry vital R&D information to their new teams and this could bring the grid closer and make 2021 even more exciting.  


Let us have a look at teams who have their lineups confirmed and those which still have drives available.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes have been the most successful team of the Turbo Era and the partnership of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas ( since 2017 ) ensured that supremacy is maintained. Both are out of contract for 2021 though and there are a lot of takers for the best seats on the grid. Lewis Hamilton, the 6 Time World Champion and Mercedes' Prized Asset was rumoured to have been offered a deal by Ferrari but all the speculation came to an end after the appointment of Carlos Sainz Jr. today. Hamilton is capable of winning more titles and hasn't lost his edge, so staying put is the logical decision. Mercedes should announce the renewal of his contract soon.

Bottas, who was earlier managed by Toto Wolff, the Team Principal and CEO of the team has been through a hat-trick of one-year contract extensions with the team. The availability of Sebastian Vettel for 2021 means that Bottas' chances of contract extension are again down to his performances in 2020 ( if we go racing ). The chances of losing his seat seem bleak ( for now ) but if his performances aren't up to the mark then the team might have to do a rethink and probably convince Vettel ( if he is contemplating retirement ).  

If Mercedes were to consider signing the 4-time world champion ( Vettel ), Bottas would be relegated to a team further down the grid. Renault F1 Team would be the best bet in that case since Mercedes' Esteban Ocon got the nod for a drive in 2020 thanks to the efforts of Toto Wolff ( who might manage Bottas again if he is on the way out ). A lot hinges on what transpires on track for the Finn.  


There is George Russell as well ( who is a part of the team's driver program ) but is contracted at Williams till the end of 2021. The 2018 F2 Champion is a fantastic driver but will need more grooming before he is ready for the big jump.



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Carlos Sainz Jr. comes in to replace Sebastian Vettel for 2021 and will partner Charles Leclerc. Charles Leclerc had a great maiden season at Ferrari beating his more experienced team-mate and a 4 time World Champion in Vettel. He is the future and the team hope to see him as Champion one day!

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 with the dream of winning a championship with them, just like his idol Michael Schumacher. 5 years have passed and the dream is yet to be fulfilled. 2020 will be his last chance if we do have any races. Pre-season tests weren't the most encouraging but a lot can change at races ( as seen in the past ). Vettel had a lot more on his plate during his time at Ferrari than at Red Bull. There were frequent changes in the top brass, strategy calls weren't at their best, there were mechanical failures and then there were rookie mistakes at pivotal moments by the driver himself. He had to do a lot more within the team than just racing and that can take a toll on any individual. Not much has changed as is evident from the results of 2019. Vettel also knows that he might not have preferential status ( which was never the case despite public admission by the team ) and decided against renewing his contract. It is interesting to note that he took this decision after spending just one season with Leclerc as team-mate which hints at the fact that all was not well between them ( similar to his only season with Ricciardo in Red Bull in 2014 ).

What next for Sebastian Vettel :

Vettel still has the will to win. He is one of the top drivers on the grid and with the right team of people around him, can easily bring home his 5th World Title. The only teams capable of giving him those setups are Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 and Red Bull Racing F1, his former employers. Going elsewhere doesn't make sense. Dr Helmut Marko has made it clear that Red Bull has no vacancy for Vettel. Mercedes AMG F1 have won 6 Constructors Championships in a row with their prized asset Lewis Hamilton winning 5 Champions in the Turbo Era! Valtteri Bottas in the other seat is out of contract at the end of 2020. 

Would Mercedes want to have 2 serious contenders for the title in each of their cars? It would be a dream lineup but such a move seems highly improbable since Hamilton will have a say in such a decision. It could lead to stressful times and even clashes, something that was a regular feature during the Hamilton-Rosberg partnership from 2014 to 2016. Bottas who joined in 2017 has done a fine job as a dutiful team-mate, keeping the best interests of the team always. He has had his fair share of wins but can't match the class of a Hamilton. Hamilton and Bottas share a great equation, so why change something that works? If Vettel was to move to Mercedes...then where would Bottas go? ( Renault probably )

I feel Sebastian Vettel will take a sabbatical from the sport. It would be really sad to not see a 4 time World Champion on the grid. I hope I am wrong.


What's in Store for Carlos Sainz Jr?

Carlos Sainz Jr. has worked hard to get a top drive. A product of the Red Bull Driver Program, he partnered Max Verstappen who was chosen over him for promotion to the A-Team ( in-season in 2016 ) by Red Bull. He stayed with Toro Rosso ( now Alpha Tauri ) until his switch in-season to Renault F1 in 2017 and then stayed with them for 2018. He did an exceptional job for McLaren F1 Team ( his employers in 2019 ), bagging a podium, a feat achieved by them after 2072 days and finishing 6th in the Drivers' Standings ( Best of the rest ) in a highly competitive year. He was termed as "hot property" and McLaren chased the others away by signing him on a multi-year deal till 2022. Ferrari would have paid a hefty amount to McLaren to fulfil the exit clause on his contract.

The Spanish Media is overjoyed with this news, evident from the series of tweets which were like a countdown to the official announcement of his appointment ( on  Movistar F1 Reporter Noemi di Miguel's Twitter Handle ). The Spaniard is following the footsteps of his hero and double world champion Fernando Alonso and I am sure he will be a handful at Ferrari! He needed the drive to show what he is truly capable of...THIS IS HIS CHANCE! We wish the best for Carlos Sainz Jr...

Ferrari will have relatively younger drivers in their lineup, something that goes against their tradition of having a mix of youth and experience. Hope they can develop a strong package for 2021 and beyond. 

Daniel Ricciardo was another contender for this seat ( equally worthy of it and a multiple race winner ) but I think he would have decided against it because Leclerc enjoys the same amount of attention that Verstappen does at Red Bull. He also saved himself from the politics that come with bagging a seat at Ferrari.   


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren is on the move, they have been improving since their switch to Renault Power from 2018 and 2019 saw them finish in a strong position ( 4th ) in the Constructors' Standings. They will be powered by Mercedes Benz from 2021 onwards, the return of the iconic "McLaren Mercedes" Partnership - reminiscent of the days of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and a young Kimi Raikkonen! The switch to Mercedes power was due to the new technical regulations but due to the postponement of the same, considerable amount of work will be required on their 2020/21 chassis to accommodate the 2021 spec Mercedes Unit. 


Lando Norris, the McLaren protegee will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo who makes his way from Renault F1 Team in 2021. Norris had a decent rookie year but will need to iron out the mistakes to bring the team closer to the top and ensure he enjoys an upper hand in the intra-team battle.


Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault F1 at the start of the 2019 season on a 2 year deal with the hope to be part of a Factory Works Team that can return to winning ways. 2019 wasn't smooth sailing for either with experts and fans questioning the reason behind such a move. His switch to McLaren coincides with the arrival of the reliable and multi championship-winning Mercedes engine in 2021. This could be the boost that the team needs to propel themselves to the sharp end of the grid. Daniel Ricciardo was the driver of choice to land the Ferrari Seat ( for most of us ) but this switch isn't such a bad deal after all. He might not be in a Championship winning car yet but will be able to bag podiums and an occasional win. Will 2022 be the same? That is another matter.

Ricciardo and Norris are great entertainers in the world of F1 and the prospect of having them as team-mates will add more fans to an already popular and well-known team!


 


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing F1 had some tough decisions to make in 2019. Pierre Gasly who had landed the drive alongside Max Verstappen had to be demoted to Scuderia Toro Rosso ( now known as Scuderia Alpha Tauri ) mid-season due to inconsistent performances. Alexander Albon, a rookie got the nod and he didn't disappoint. His performances warranted him a drive in 2020 but come 2021, that seat is once again up for grabs! Max Verstappen is the team leader and his contract extension of 3 years indicate he wants to win Championships at Red Bull. The one who comes on board as his team-mate will need to be equally good if not better since both drivers need to score big in the team's quest to win the Constructors' title again. 


The Contenders - Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat & Pierre Gasly. The trio has had a stint with the A-Team and is aware of the standards that need to be set to remain in that seat. 

If we don't have any racing in 2020, then the seat by default should land with Albon. The young Thai Driver has impressed the bosses with his consistent drives and almost bagged a podium in Brazil but to be taken out by Hamilton on the penultimate lap last year. 

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly ( after his demotion ) made a strong case for themselves in 2019, bagging a podium each. 2020 is the best chance to win back the trust of the top brass. Dr Helmut Marko, the head of the Red Bull Driver Program admitted that Kvyat was back in the reckoning for the Red Bull Seat after his performances in 2019 and Red Bull will take their time ( probably till the end of 2020 ) before making a decision. Dr Helmut Marko also shunned the possibility of Sebastian Vettel returning to Red Bull.


Albon is the favourite for 2021 ( according to me ).


 


Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's "B" Team, has been a great launchpad for drivers of Red Bull's Driver Programme. The departures of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo from the programme have seen their options dwindle. The most promising youngster in their ranks is the Estonian Juri Vips but he is still a year or two away from an F1 Drive. This leaves Red Bull with Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly. Albon stays in the A team for 2020 while the other two are retained by Alpha Tauri. 

The trio is in the reckoning for the Red Bull Seat for 2021, so the pair that misses out is likely to be retained by the team for 2021. Red Bull can look outside their program and rope in the services of the next F2 Champion ( if he isn't of any other programme ) or sign another capable F2 driver. Too early to make that call and we shall have a better picture once racing in 2020 kicks off.   


( Jehan Daruvala, the Indian Racer in F2 has also been recruited to the Red Bull Junior Team )



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a challenging 2019. They snapped up the services of Esteban Ocon (2-year contract ) after he was released by Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo was also offered a long term contract but the talks fell apart and the Australian moved to McLaren F1. 


The empty Renault seat is now a hotbed for speculation. They aren't where they should be but as a works team have a lot of resources and manpower to turn things around. This will attract the attention of the extremely talented but currently on a sabbatical, Fernando Alonso. Alonso had 2 fantastic stints with Renault, winning back to back Championships in 2005 and 2006. He knows the team well, knows how they operate and has the skill set to help them diagnose issues and turn things around. His experience will be invaluable. He will also be a great mentor to a younger Ocon. 


Valtteri Bottas is another option if Mercedes were to release him in 2021. He would have a fair amount of experience and bring in vital knowledge which could help the team build a formidable challenger next year. We shall know soon. The team must weigh all their option before making any decision.


The recently released Nico Hulkenberg is also an option for the team. The German failed to capitalize whenever an opportunity arose and might not bring anything new to the table...so his chances of being re-signed are low.


Renault lost the services of F2 Driver Jack Aitken ( who was their reserve driver ) to Williams but they have a good pool of talented drivers who will eventually be F1 worthy soon. 




Racing Point F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, the faithful one, announced that he would be sticking with the team for another 3 years. Lance Stroll's contract is due for renewal at the end of 2020 but he is likely to stay put. His Billionaire Father Lawrence Stroll has invested heavily in the team after saving it from going into administration in 2018. His acquisition of the Aston Martin brand brings an added impetus. There is a new factory on the way in 2021 and the team will be rechristened as Aston Martin Racing F1, so long term plans are already in place. There have also been reports of Toto Wolff, the current team principal and CEO of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 moving to the team since he holds a stake in Aston Martin. I see it as highly improbable. Mercedes will do everything to retain their winning combination.

On the Driver Front, it seems the pairing of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll will stay. The team need continuity in this rebuilding phase and the duo offer a right mix of Experience and Youth.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for 2020. It was a big surprise to retain the duo because they don't get along and have brought a fair share of pain to the team with their on-track errors and tiffs. They need to improve their performances in 2020 to help the team come back up and make the bosses view the team's participation in the sport as a profitable and feasible venture. Both drivers are out of contract in 2020 and I see Grosjean being released by the team.  


Magnussen is feisty but is more consistent of the two which tips the scales in his favour. I see him being retained for 2021.


Nico Hulkenberg will be a great option for the team. The German was initially resistant to a move lower down the grid but was willing to bend to save his F1 Career last year. Haas had made their decision by then. They should consider him for 2021 though. He is quick and more dependable than their current lineup. His not-so-amicable interactions with Magnussen ( in the past ) will pose a hurdle should the team have such a pairing.   

I see Louis Deletraz ( a Renault protegee ) and Haas' test driver for 2020 as another contender for the seat. The promotion will hinge on his performances in F2 where he has been racing for the past 4 years and improving steadily. 



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo is going through a massive rebuilding phase. Kimi Raikkonen provided them with a mini-revival of sorts in the first half of 2019 but the lack of updates sent them backwards in the second half. Antonio Giovinazzi, on the other hand, had a much better second half with performances improving with each passing race. The duo was retained for 2020 but come 2021, both seats will be up for grabs at this team.


Antonio Giovinazzi deserves a drive in 2021. One must remember that he hadn't raced competitively for 2 years and he will go from strength to strength in 2020. He has the skills to be in a top team and Scuderia Ferrari will be closely monitoring his progress..who knows he might eventually get the call up to partner Leclerc in the Prancing Horse!


Kimi Raikkonen, my hero, is in the twilight of his glorious career and 2020 is slated to be his last year in F1. We are yet to go racing in 2020 and the delay of the new regulations to 2022 might tempt him to stay on for another year at Alfa Romeo. The team that gave him his debut way back in 2002 have reiterated that he is free to race with them as long as he wants, his expertise being pivotal in their revival. He has also been mentoring his team-mate with regards to racing in F1.


There are a few talents from the Ferrari Drivers' Program waiting in the wings should a seat become available - Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher has been fast-tracked into F2, Callum Illot ( who tested for the team last year ), Marcus Armstrong and the F3 Champion of 2019 Robert Schwartzman.




Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

Williams F1, one of the oldest teams of the sport have lost their way in the Turbo Era. There have been the slowest on the grid for quite some time but there are glimpses of hope from the results in the second half of 2019. George Russell, the 2018 F2 Champion is retained and contracted till the end of 2021 while Nicolas Latifi, the 2019 F2 Runner Up bagged the second seat for 2020. He brings a significant amount of funding with him, something desperately needed at the team and this will work in his favour for 2021.

If Mercedes were to exercise the option of hiring George Russell in 2021, then Williams has a considerable pool of talent from their programme to replace the Brit - Reserve Car Driver Jack Aitken, Dan Ticktum, Roy Nissany and even Jamie Chadwick who could bring the return of females into F1 after 43 years!



I think Nyck de Vries, the 2019 F2 Champion also deserves a special mention. The talented Dutchman who finally won the coveted title couldn't find a drive for 2020 ( quite unfortunate ) and is plying his trade in Formula E. I do hope that he is considered by some team and doesn't fade into oblivion like Davide Valsecchi, the 2012 GP2 Champion!

I would love to see him in the Black and Yellow of Renault F1 and if he does...then remember that you first read it here!


The 2020 F1 Season hasn't even kicked off and it feels like 2021 is already upon us. The news of Drivers with New Drives have made many of us forget that they still have a full season of racing left with their current teams! Time is flying by in 2020.

Such has been these lockdowns in the time of COVID-19.... and the F1 Fraternity have been playing Musical Chairs!

The F1 Travel Guide : Suzuka Circuit, Japan

Japan is one motorsports crazy nation! Their passion for motorsport can easily rival that of the Europeans. The Land of the Rising Sun boasts of some legendary tracks - Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit & Twin Ring Motegi which host races both on two wheels and four!

Suzuka Circuit has seen some memorable races over the years..be it the battles between Senna and Prost, the victories of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen or the unbelievable win of Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 after starting 17th on the grid and setting the circuit lap record in that race! Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 won the Constructors' Champions for the 2019 Season also at Suzuka! 

Degners, Dunlop Curve, 130R are some of the iconic portions of the track and have seen some stunning overtakes over the years! Rains, a regular feature due to frequent occurrences of Typhoons make it one of the toughest circuits to race at!

I had the privilege of attending this race in 2019 and unfortunately, all sessions on Saturday had to be cancelled due to the onset of the Super Typhoon named "Hagibis". 

I would like to share my travel recommendations for those who plan to pay a visit in the future!


The Circuit Layout :


Official Website :


Location :

The circuit is situated in the Town of Suzuka, in the Mie Prefecture ( Province ). It is a small industrial town but well connected by road and rail to other parts of Japan. The town does seem to get overwhelmed by the congregation of Fans over the F1 Race Weekend since the circuit can accommodate more than 150000! Its another one of those "old school" tracks capable of running races in 5 different configurations ( catering to various other racing series )!


Closest Airports :

Chubu Centrair International Airport ( NGO ) is the closest airport to Suzuka, situated near the city of Nagoya. It has connections to multiple international destinations. Those planning to travel from India can fly on Cathay Pacific ( via Hong Kong ) or Singapore Airlines to Nagoya. Nagoya is also connected with other cities of Japan by domestic carriers ( although its best to use trains to commute inter-city )

Osaka Kansai International Airport ( KIX ) is one of the major International Hubs in Japan with a wide range of connections to the Americas, Australia, Europe and the Rest of Asia. 

Tokyo Narita International Airport ( NRT ) and Tokyo Haneda International Airport ( HND ) are the furthest but offer more connections than any other airport listed above. Tokyo Narita was the airport of choice for me. The national airline All Nippon Airways ( ANA ) offers direct flights from multiple cities to Tokyo with the option of onward connections to Nagoya.

I opted to fly ANA from Mumbai to Tokyo Narita. The experience is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/the-flying-diaries-bom-nrt-bom-ana-business



Where To Stay :

The Town of Suzuka has very limited options for accommodation ( which are sold out on race weekends every year ) so its best to find a room in cities like Nagoya or Osaka.  There is a camping facility at the circuit.  

There are a few F1 personnel, media reporters who prefer the town of Yokkaichi which is only 10 km from Suzuka but the story there is no different. Nagoya which is only 50 km away is the best bet for fans with options for all budgets! Osaka is a bigger city but it increases the commute time to the circuit ( more on that later ). Barring a couple of hotels ( adjoining the Central Stations of either city ), all others offer really good prices for stays over the weekend.

Nagoya was the city of choice for me and I stayed at the ANA Crowne Plaza in the area of Kanayama in Nagoya. Kanayama is only a station away from Nagoya's main terminal. The City has a great transport network along with multiple options for wining, dining and shopping! It isn't rare to meet some famous face from the F1 Fraternity on the streets of Nagoya! 


Japanese Rail Network :

I would like to share some info on the Japanese Rail Network before I get to "Circuit Access" since this information will be of great assistance to many. When I drew up plans to be at the Japanese GP, I was pretty apprehensive about using Rail Networks in Japan. At first, it felt so confusing that I almost gave up on the idea of attending the race. However, my good friend & avid F1 Traveller Mr Raul Martinez who had been to Suzuka a few times allayed all my fears and apprehensions over a telephonic conversation; having experienced first-hand the efficiency, the quality and the ease of use of Japan Rail, I can say that they have one of the best rail networks of the world. 


I chose to fly into Tokyo Narita ( as mentioned earlier ) even though it was the furthest of all airports from Suzuka ( pricing and flight connections were the reasons ). The airports in Tokyo or Osaka are outside city limits. 

Both airports operate Airport Express Trains to bring travellers into the city centre ( the most economical, fastest way and used by almost everyone ). There are Taxis, Uber and private car hire but they are very expensive! 


Shinkansen or Bullet Trains are used to travel inter-city. There are 3 types of Shinkansen :

Nozomi: the fastest and stops at major cities only

Hikari: slower than Nozomi and has more stops

Kodama: stops at all stations, the slowest train services.

Tickets are of 2 types: Open Date & Fixed Date with 2 classes on offer ( Ordinary and Green ). Information for these tickets is given on their website ( mentioned below ).


Tickets for the Airport Express and Inter-City Shinkansen are available online on :

https://shinkansen-ticket.com/


Like many countries, Japan Rail offers a Pass called the JR Pass ( Ordinary & Green ) which allows nationwide travel for a limited time ( 7, 14 & 21 days ) to foreigners. Travellers can reserve seats from any JR Office after producing their pass at the booking office. JR Pass is eligible for use on Hikari and Kodama trains.

Nozomi Shinkansen is not included in the JR Pass and tickets for those trains have to be purchased separately.


All information on the JR Pass can be found on this website :

https://japan-jr-pass.com/


Rail Tickets and JR Passes can be delivered to other countries ( shipping fee applies ), to hotels or the nearest post offices in Japan. 


The journey from Tokyo Narita International Airport to Nagoya :

I purchased a Green Ticket on Narita Express up to Tokyo Central and a Green Ticket on a Nozomi train to Nagoya

Travel time on the Narita Express is approximately one hour. Tokyo Central is a pretty big station and can get confusing. Its advisable to travel up to Shinagawa Station ( on the Narita Express ) instead of where connecting to inter-city Shinkansen is easier. The Nozomi train to Nagoya takes about one hour forty minutes.

Tickets were purchased from the Shinkansen Website and I opted for delivery to the Post Office at Narita International Airport. It is important to ensure one has ample time at hand while selecting trains from Narita Airport and Tokyo Central / Shinagawa Stations so that there is no last-minute rush for ticket collection or connections.

The journey from Osaka Kansai to Nagoya is no different... Haruka Airport Express from Kansai Airport to Shin-Osaka Station and then a Shinkansen Service to Nagoya.


Important Tip : 

There are 2 Prepaid cards ( Suica and Pasmo ) which can be used for Rail, Bus, taxi services and even for shopping within Tokyo and Nagoya ( similar to an Oyster Card in London ). I used a Suica Card purchased from one of the vending machines at Tokyo Central. A card costs 2000 yen, which includes a refundable deposit of 500 yen and 1500 yen is immediately available for train rides. These are available at any JR East Station ( only within Tokyo, so get one before leaving for Nagoya )

Do note that the cards issued at the Airports are against non-refundable deposits.

Leg 2 of the journey ( Nagoya to Suzuka ) will be shared in the Circuit Access Section.


There is the cheaper option of using a bus as well to commute to and fro from the airport and inter-city :



Circuit Access :

The fastest way to get to the circuit is by train. We did try a car hire ( a friend had already booked one ) on Friday but the journey was long and the bottleneck near the circuit meant that we missed a good part of Free Practice 1. We ditched it for the tried and tested Rail Option. There are taxis available to and fro from the circuit but they are the most expensive option.


The journey from Nagoya to Suzuka Circuit ( Leg 2 ):

Kintetsu Railways ( regional railway ) offer train services from both Nagoya to Shiroko Station, which is the nearest station to the circuit on this line. Both Express and Limited Express Trains ply on this route at frequent intervals. The trip takes about 40 to 50 minutes ( depending on the train ). It is best to purchase a Rail Pass for the entire weekend. There are shuttle buses every 15 minutes to take the fans to the main circuit gate. Taxis are also available at the station (which can drop VIP guests at the Paddock Club parking for their shuttle), be prepared to queue up for both options. ( Sunday evening is the worst hit )

More Details of the Rail Pass here :

https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/ticket/


The journey from Osaka to Suzuka Circuit :

Fans can also travel from Osaka-Namba Station via Kintetsu Railways to Shiroko. There is a direct service as well as one with a transfer via Tsu Station. One needs to reserve seats a day in advance even with a rail pass. The fastest journey takes about 100 minutes. 

It is best to stay at Nagoya and use a service from there.


Japan Railways Trains to Suzuka :

There is another station called Suzuka Circuit Inou which is also connected by rail to Nagoya. This line is operated by another company called Japan Railways. There are express trains tagged as "Suzuka Grand Prix" that run non-stop from Nagoya to Suzuka Inou. Reservations need to be made a day before travel. JR Pass ( mentioned earlier ) can be used for a partial portion of the journey on this route. However, it is a 30-minute walk to the circuit from the station and not such a popular option. 


 

F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The circuit has multiple merchandising outlets and the largest concentration of stores is near the circuit's main entrance ( closest to the final corner and pit grandstands ). These stores offer Circuit Merchandise, Support Races Merchandise, F1 Teams Merchandise and even Model Cars! The stores are well stocked and run late into Sunday night. Prices of some products are cheaper than those sold at races in Europe.  

Remember to carry sufficient cash since ATMs are limited around a track. Comfortable walking shoes and wet weather gear are equally important. 

Past the Ticket Scanning Gates, we have a huge F1 Village...known as the GP Square, behind the main grandstand area. It can easily rival F1 Villages at newer circuits. Each Team has its merchandising stalls and most of them are crowded! Kimi Raikkonen is the most popular driver and the Alfa Romeo merchandising stores were empty by Friday Afternoon! The F1 Store also puts up its kiosk and there are many unique products on sale, so do visit them. 

Fan Zones are pretty crowded. There are F1 Driver Appearances throughout the weekend and concerts are held every evening. Simulators, Pit Stop Challenges, Batak Machines are a regular feature. Food Outlets are reasonably priced ( both in GP Square and behind other stands ) with both local and western delicacies. Queues can be pretty long during peak hours of dining. 


Fan Experiences :

3-day Ticket Holders are eligible for a pit-lane walk on Thursdays. There is also a Drivers' Autograph session which is open only to ballot winners. There are multiple walks across various sections of the track at different times over the weekend. Refer the Circuit Website for more details. The circuit also offers "Free Friday" where fans can sit in any grandstand on a Friday (except for the Upper Grandstand ). This is a great opportunity to take in different views of the circuit. There is a trackside commentary both in English and the local language over the radio. 

F1 Experiences offer Pit Lane Walks, Paddock Guided Tours, Parade Truck Track Tours, Photo-op with Trophies and even Hot Laps ( in supercars driven by a racer ) of the track!

A Ride on the Iconic Ferris Wheel cannot be missed. The Wheel offers great views of the track and gets busier on the weekend. Best to visit on Thursday or Friday. 

I also plan on visiting their Amusement park and try the newly launched EV Attraction which one can drive on the F1 Track! ( details on Circuit Website )


Japanese People :

Suzuka is an iconic track but what makes it even more special are the fans who gather to witness their favourite sport! The Japanese are extremely polite, helpful and law-abiding citizens. They find innovative ways of expressing their love for the sport - from cardboard F1 Car hats, DRS Rear Wing hats, quirky helmets, cardboard cutouts of favourite drivers to having families dressed in replica racing overalls! They are extremely knowledgeable, respectful and will go that extra mile to help visitors. I was truly humbled meeting such an amazing race. They truly deserve a special mention!


Suzuka was a memorable experience. Once is not enough! I do hope to pay this country and circuit another visit in 2020 and explore more so that I can share more...God willing! 

The F1 Travel Guide : Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the home of The Belgian Grand Prix every year. Many drivers rate it as the best circuit on the calendar.  Kimi Raikkonen, my racing hero, earned the title of "King of Spa" for his brilliant performances here.

I have had the privilege of attending 4 races here - 2015, 2017, 2018 & 2019 and each experience was unique. Nestled in the Ardennes mountains, the track offers views that can only be rivalled by The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria and even then the latter might not appeal to all. Iconic turns like Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Les Combes, La Source, Blanchimont, the Bus Stop dot this legendary circuit, a great many battles have been fought here. The weather is very unpredictable with instances of heavy rain in one sector and bright sunshine in another. The 1998 & 2008 Belgian GPs were testaments to the weather playing havoc. The track also offered quite a lot of challenges with regards to marshalling and extrication of stricken cars due to its old-school layout but its a circuit like no other!

This circuit will kickstart my "F1 Travel Guide" series!!


The Circuit Layout :


Official Website :

https://www.spa-francorchamps.be/en


Location :

The Circuit is located in the town of Stavelot, close to a town called Spa ( the town famous for the Mineral Water company called Spa ) in the region of Wallonia. Nestled in the Ardennes Region, it is also close to the Nurburgring and its older brother Nordschleife ( better known as the Green Hell ) circuits situated on the German side of the hilly region ( also worth a visit ). 


Closest Airports :

International Airports :

Brussels Airport ( BRU ) is a major hub for all international airlines, serving most European Routes, The Americas, Middle-East and Asia. 

I fly Emirates to Brussels via Dubai, multiple connections every day! The Experience is shared here :

https://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/the-flying-diaries-bom-bru-bom-emirates-first


Dusseldorf Airport ( DUS ) is another major hub ( on the German side ) catering to all the above routes as well.

Cologne Bonn Airport ( CGN ), is closer than Dusseldorf but offers limited connections to the region via the Middle-East.


Intra-Continental Airports :

Liege Airport ( LGG ) & Maastricht Aachen Airport ( MUS ), The closest Airports to the circuit offering limited connections via Spain.

Luxembourg Airport ( LUX ) caters to multiple destinations within Europe through various national and low-cost carriers.

Brussels South Charleroi Airport ( CRL ) is another hub for low-cost carriers in the city of Brussels.


There are a few other major airports like Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Dortmund but I wouldn't recommend them since they go beyond the 200 km radius of Spa-Francorchamps.



Where to stay :

The Towns of Spa, Stavelot, Verviers, Malmedy, Theux are the closest to the circuit and offer a lot of options from Hotels to Inns, Chalets and B&Bs. The rates are inflated over the race weekend and it is highly recommended to book at least 6 months in advance to get a good deal ( most of these are non-refundable rates ). The town of Spa is full of F1 Drivers & Personnel and many oblige those waiting with an autograph or a selfie! Camping is very popular in Europe and the circuit has some fantastic camping sites for those who prefer to bring in their RVs or set up a camping spot over the weekend. 

There is also a Hotel "de La Source" near Turn 1 of the circuit but its sold out ( almost always ) on the race dates. There are other inns and B&Bs near the circuit but be wary of the exorbitant rates over an F1 weekend. 

I prefer giving all the above a miss...


The circuit is also close to big cities like Liege ( Belgium ), Aachen ( Germany ), Maastricht ( Netherlands ) and Hasselt ( Belgium ). Hasselt is the furthest of the lot with the commuting time from the other three being only about 35 to 40 minutes. I haven't stayed at Liege ( yet ) ( haven't heard great reports about safety either ) but Liege is yet another town that fills up pretty quickly for the race weekend. Maastricht and Aachen see a great number of F1 fans and can cater to all budgets. Aachen is the livelier of the two with a mini Oktoberfest happening on the same weekend as F1. Maastricht boasts of equally good restaurants and bars and one can easily become a part of conversations over a drink or a meal! All these cities are well connected to the circuit by rail and the circuit organisers also offer a shuttle service to the track. 

More details on the circuit shuttle here: https://www.spagrandprix.com/en/tickets-city-shuttle 

The above shuttle can cater to fans coming in from Brussels or Amsterdam as well but one must be wary of the travel time which is 4 hours each way. This only gets longer on a Sunday!


Hasselt is my city of choice for the weekend. I have stayed in the city twice ( 2017 and 2019 ). It is only about an hour away from the circuit and offers great hotels at very economical rates. A Park Inn by Radisson costs about 50 Euros a night and there are some options even around the 20 25 Euro mark! The city is also the birthplace of the Rising Dutchman Max Verstappen.

The city has quite an interesting layout, designed in a circular shape...one can go around the bustling parts of town and come back to the starting point easily. The city has some fantastic places to wine and dine, not to forget the bakeries offering Speculoos, the spiced shortcrust biscuit! My friends and I drove down through the weekend and navigation in and out was easy with a parking pass. However, do note that the city isn't covered under the shuttle bus service ( so maybe one can pay the town a visit post or pre-race weekend ).

The cities of Cologne and Luxembourg are 2 other options that are well connected both by rail and shuttle. I did stay in the former during the weekend of the 2013 German GP held at Nurburgring but if one doesn't hire a car, I wouldn't recommend staying there.


Circuit Access :

The circuit isn't the easiest the get to, the expansive layout of the circuit and the forests surrounding it pose a considerable challenge with regards to navigating your way around the track. It can house around 70000 spectators with the stands majorly being around the start-finish straight, the Bus Stop, La Source and Eau Rouge and Raidillon sections. The other areas are general admission viewing areas and a good level of fitness is required to hike up and down the various pathways in and around the circuit. Some spots offer unparalleled views of the circuit so it is worth the effort! The weather is unpredictable ( as mentioned earlier ), so be prepared for the heat, the cold or the rain!

Over the F1 weekend, there are a lot of access restrictions and parking spots can be quite a long walk from certain stands. There is a circuit shuttle which helps reduce commute but is infrequent. Its highly recommended that one studies the circuit map well and opts for appropriate parking passes. There are taxi stands as well but they tend to be overcrowded on evenings (especially post-race ), so its best to wait until a couple of hours after the sessions ( or race ) to easily hail one. If you do hail a taxi to the circuit then be prepared to walk for 30 minutes to reach the grandstands or the paddock club parking area. The Paddock Club runs a shuttle for the VIP guests from thereon. 


F1 Village, Fan Zones :

One of the most frequented zones/areas of an F1 track are the Merchandising shops. There are stores spread across the track and some on the approach road to the Main gate of La Source. There is a heavy concentration of stores at that roundabout, even watches ( Casio Edifice ) are sold there. Those were the only stores selling Alfa - Romeo F1 Merchandise.

The largest concentration of stores ( catering to almost all needs ) is at the F1 Village which is on the outside of the circuit between La Source and Eau Rouge. A lot of Fan events such as performances, drivers' meet and greet, F1 Personnel Interviews and games like Simulator Skills test, Pit Stop or Batak Challenges are held. Those who ace the F1 Simulators get couple passes of the Paddock Club for Sunday! There are a lot of food stalls and Beer Stations along with lounging areas for fans to enjoy the action on track thanks to the giant screens put up there. I have never missed visiting this village, one of the largest on the calendar.


Fan Experiences :

A Pit Lane walk is offered on Thursday to the 3 Day ticket holders. Its a once in a lifetime experience for many. You even get to walk the track and some have been fortunate enough to meet their favourite drivers on their track walks! There are also Drivers' Autograph sessions, details for which are shared by the organisers closer to the dates. It is imperative to reach early to bag that special sign and possibly a selfie with the best in the world of motorsport! F1 Experiences, the official hospitality partner to F1's worldwide races offers various packages and upgrades to existing tickets...these include guided paddock tours, a photo-op with the Race Winning Trophy on Pit Straight, a tour of the Track on the Parade Truck.. a great way to add to the memories made over the weekend.

Finally, the fans are allowed to enter the track after the end of the race and when deemed safe by the marshalls ( better known as "track invasion" ). This is a must-do! I had the privilege of walking up the entire length of Eau Rouge and Raidillon in 2015 and the elevation change is unbelievable!



Apologies in advance for missing any other detail. I shall update this article/guide when I make another visit to the track...the chances of this in 2020 seem bleak..but we hope for the best! Stay home, Stay Safe everyone!

 

The F1 Travel Guide - A New Series!

The world has been in a state of lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus with respite still a couple of months away in certain countries.

The Formula One Season is slated to start in Austria in the first week of July with the first six races being closed doors events. The chances of being at a race in 2020 seem really bleak.

However I have decided to begin a new series on my blog, sharing travel related information to fans planning to be at certain races on the calendar.

I have had the privilege of visiting quite a few circuits ( 24 races in all ) out of which Belgium, Spain, Canada, Japan, Singapore, US, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Abu Dhabi, UK are still on the calendar. I shall also cover Hockenheim, Germany, which isn't on the calendar currently but is quite likely to make a comeback.


These Travel Guides would be based on personal experiences, so please do forgive me if I miss out on a detail. 

The Series will be updated as and when new circuits are visited! 

Hope the guide would be helpful to one and all!


Post one will be up soon...watch this space!

The World under Siege - We fight as one!

The World ushered in the New Year with a lot of hope and expectations. 

However the start of 2020 has put the entire world into turmoil after the onset of the Deadly Coronavirus ( also known as Covid 19 ). The virus outbreak began in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province of China in December 2019, spreading at a rapid pace to other regions of the world eventually becoming a Pandemic ( declared by WHO in Mid March ).

The total cases worldwide now stand at 340,000! China has started the road to recovery but Europe has become the new Epicentre of the outbreak with Italy being the worst hit. The country has also seen the maximum number of deaths caused by this pandemic. Other nations like Spain, Germany, France, Netherlands, UK are also hit badly in Europe. The Story in Asia and the Americas is no different with Iran, USA, South Korea seeing cases rise continuously with numerous deaths. There are so many other regions that are hit equally bad, apologies to have not mentioned those..such is the damage done by this virus.

Travel too has come to a complete standstill.

Major Sporting Events have either been cancelled or postponed. F1 and Moto GP too will be running a revised calendar, probably from June, if the situation normalizes by the then.


While the World reels under all this, Healthcare Agencies and Medical Professionals across the World are working relentlessly to combat the virus, build a vaccine, treat patients, many getting infected themselves. Law Enforcement agencies are ensuring that the protocols and directives set by their respective governments are being adhered to. City Councils, Municipal Corporations are carrying out disinfection procedures to maintain cleanliness and arrest the chances of any spread. Many Governments are conducting evacuation missions to bring back their citizens from the countries that are affected. 

The Mission for each nation is to contain the spread of the virus - measures such as social distancing, isolation and quarantines are being put into effect for their citizens. 


My country India has enforced a nationwide lockdown, all of us advised to stay indoors to ensure that the pandemic doesn't hit stage 3, the stage that causes community spread and leads to an exponential rise in cases as seen in the countries worst hit viz. Italy, China, Iran.

I write this blog to encourage one and all. I pray for all those who are affected by this, for their complete recovery and healing, the ones who are on the front lines fighting this adversity.

We are together in this fight, We are one. We will rise victorious from the siege that the World is under. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do our bit in defeating this virus, it is our responsibility to remember the lessons learnt from this - to not abuse, misuse, disrespect the resources gifted to us by our maker.


A Big Big THANK YOU to Doctors, the Nurses, the Medical Teams working tirelessly across the world, THANK YOU to the Law Enforcement agencies, THANK YOU to the providers of Essential Services & Goods, THANK YOU to City Councils, Municipal Corporations and the Governments of the World for chalking out plans to beat this pandemic.

We are indebted to you!


I wish everyone all the best, Take Care, Stay Safe and God Bless you all!