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 a number of 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 kms 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. Its 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 commute to the Island. The hotels in the city too charge a premium over the weekend. 
Airbnb accommodation 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 in order to take cabs back to the city. 

I stay at 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, its a short walk to the Paddock Club from thereon ( using a 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 complimentary shuttle buses on Yas Island which connects hotels to various attactions, 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 ). Its 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 a line of merchandising and food outlets alongwith 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 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. Its 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. 

Its recommended to wear hats or caps and light clothing ( in adherence with 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 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. Personally 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 Villenueve McLaren and then a Ferrari driver ( father of 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villenueve ). 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 rejoining the track in a dangerous manner ( 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 over the course of 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 upto 300000 spectators over a weekend and its proximity to a city ensures that there aren't too many challenges with regards to commute ( 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 is 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, 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 a car hire or a 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 accomodation in the city isn't cheap. However there are a lot of options from Hostels to Luxury Hotels. Its 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. Its 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! Its 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 in order 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. There are different shuttles plying to different parts of the Circuit and there are considerable lines at the stops. 

If travelling by taxi, then its 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 ). Its 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! Its 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 commute 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 a "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 grand stands. 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. Its close to the Hairpin Curve and the cars lineup 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. Its 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 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 were crowned 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 ). Its 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 accomodation ( 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 kms 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 alongwith 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 the 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 at 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 hires 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 are 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 to the nearest post offices in Japan. 


Journey from Tokyo Narita International Airport to Nagoya :

I purchased a Green Ticket on Narita Express upto 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 upto Shinagawa Station ( on the Narita Express ) instead 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. Its 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.


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 ). Its 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/


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. 

Its 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 its 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 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 their own 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 pay them a visit. 

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 ( with the exception of the Upper Grandstand ). This is a great opportunity to take in different views of the circuit. There is 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 really innovative ways of expressing their love for the sport - from cardboard F1 Car hats, DRS Rear Wing hats, quirky helmets, cardboard cut outs 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 rivaled 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 nevertheless 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 to Brussels everyday! 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 :

Leige 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 its 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 in the immediate vicinity of the circuit but be wary of the exorbitant rates over a 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 ). Its only about an hour away from the circuit and offers great hotels at a 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 its 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 ( specially post race ), so its best to wait until a couple of hours after the sessions ( or race ) in order 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 a 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 alongwith lounging areas for fans to enjoy the action on track thanks to the giant screens put up there. I have never missed paying this village a visit, 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. Its 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!