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A Gallery of Memories - Part 25

 The Belgian Grand Prix held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is my favourite race on the F1 calendar. Every year, I make an effort to be present at the Grand Prix and a trip to this beautiful circuit in the Ardennes has become like an annual pilgrimage. The 2023 Belgian Grand Prix was the second F1 race that I attended in the year. 

As always, I kickstart my experience from the weekend with "A Gallery of Memories" post, where I share my memories with all the famous and well-known people from the motorsport world and beyond!

Davide Brivio, ex-Yamaha, ex-Suzuki in MotoGP and Racing Director in Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Pierre Gasly, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Alexander Albon, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Reigning World Champion, now a Triple World Champion, Max Verstappen, who races for Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Beat Zehnder, Sporting Director, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

1983 Cricket World Cup Winner, Indian Cricket Legend and now an ace commentator, Ravi Shastri :

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver for Red Bull Racing F1 :

Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

Tom Kristensen, WEC Champion & Record winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans :

Jakey Benham, Dani Bereznay, Jarno Opmeer & Marcel Kiefer, Sim racers for Mercedes F1 E-Sports Team :

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team :

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Formula 3 :

Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team :

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team :

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Development Driver at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Jason Cozzetto, one of the senior mechanics at Alpine F1 Team :

Friends and mechanics from the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team! 

Tiffany Cromwell, Australian Road & Gravel Cyclist & Valtteri Bottas' partner :

Pietro Fittipaldi, Reserve Driver for Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Mr Fritz van Amersfoort, the founder, Team Principal & F3 Team Manager for Van Amersfoort Racing :

Nico Hulkenberg, Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Papa Perez! Mr Antonio Perez Garibay :

Hannah Schmitz, Principal Strategy Engineer for Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Diego Ioverno, Sporting Director at Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Jack Doohan! It is always a pleasure to meet him, he is a thorough gentleman & an even better racer :

Mohammed Bin Sulayem, former Rally Driver and Current President of the FIA :

Some dear friends from Belgium, such a blessing to know them!

The Hosts at the Ferrari F1 Club, such amazing moments with them, so gracious and welcoming as always :

Jamie Chadwick, development driver at Williams Racing F1 Team & the triple-world champion in the now defunct W Series :

Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Timo Glock, ex-F1 Driver and now a commentator for German TV :

Carlos Sainz Jr, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

An eventful and inclement weather-filled weekend!

A big thank you to the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team and the hosts at the Ferrari F1 Club for having me over the weekend. 

Although this was the last post of "A Gallery of Memories" from an F1 weekend, there remains a surprise, from a new event that I had the opportunity of attending in 2023. More on that later, so watch this space!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 23

The First Race I had the privilege of attending in 2023 was the 2023 F1 Spanish Grand Prix. The trip to Spain was part of a rollercoaster tour across three countries in Europe where I had the blessing of attending 2 Motorsports events, back-to-back!

While this was my third visit to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Spanish GP didn't fail in giving me memories to last a lifetime, again!

So here starts the latest post in the Gallery of Memories series!

Pedro De La Rosa, Aston Martin Racing Ambassador :

Laurent Mekies, Scuderia Ferrari F1 team Racing Director : 

Current F2 Champion and Aston Martin Racing Reserve Driver, Felipe Drugovich :

Aston Martin Racing Ambassador Jessica Hawkins :

Miguel Molina, Driver for Car Number 50 with Ferrari Hypercar in the World Endurance Championship :

Ralf Schumacher, an F1 Legend from the 2000s :

Nyck de Vries, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Lawrence Stroll, the owner of Aston Martin Racing :

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team :

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo Stake F1 Team :

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Jack Doohan!

Davide Brivio, Alpine F1 Racing Director & formerly Team Manager for Ecstar Suzuki in Moto GP :

Meeting my Motorsports hero again, Mick Doohan! Such a joy it is to see him fighting fit as always!

Esteban Ocon, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

James Vowles, Williams Racing F1 Team Principal :

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

2016 F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg!

Ex-F1 Driver and Dakar Legend, Carlos Sainz Sr :

Mr Peter Sauber, the man who was instrumental in bringing some iconic drivers into the sport with his team Sauber F1 :

Spanish Racer Carmen Jorda :

F1 Academy Driver and an Expert Host in the Paddock Club, Nerea Marti :

Kristaps Porzingis, Latvian & Boston Celtics Basketball Player :

Portuguese and Chelsea FC Footballer, Joao Felix!

Chelsea FC and English Footballer, Mason Mount :

Portuguese and Benfica FC Footballer Hugo Felix :

Logan Sargeant, Williams Racing F1 Team :

World Number 3 in Tennis, Daniil Medvedev :

Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich FC and German Footballer :

Kevin Magnussen, Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Mick Schumacher, Reserve Driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Chelsea FC and England Footballer Ben Chilwell :

Martin Whitmarsh, Aston Martin Group CEO & a man who accomplished so much in the 2000s with McLaren Mercedes :

Ex-F1 Driver and 2012 Spanish GP Winner Pastor Maldonado :

George Russell, Mercedes Petronas AMG F1 Team :

Arthur Leclerc, F2 Driver for DAMS Racing and Charles Leclerc's brother :

Frederic Vasseur, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Mark Webber, Multi-race winner in F1 and a WEC Champion :

Nice to meet Billy Monger :

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

SHAKIRA!! No Introduction is needed!

Patrick Kluivert, Dutch Footballer who played for FC Barcelona :

Randy Mamola, a Moto GP Legend. Such an amazing man to talk to about racing in general :

Liam Lawson, Red Bull Racing Reserve Driver :

Andreas Seidl, Sauber Motorsports CEO :

David Coulthard, an F1 legend and currently a commentator & Red Bull Racing Ambassador :

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Extreme E and Rally Racer Christine GZ :

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo Stake F1 Team :

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Trackside Engineering Director :

Peter Bonnington, the man who says those famous words as his race engineer - "Ok Lewis, it's Hammer time!"

An eventful and hectic weekend indeed. The F1 Race Weekend got soon followed by a weekend at Le Mans, which was also the centenary event of the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Updates from that weekend to follow soon!

A big thank you to the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team for hosting me over the weekend. The Gallery of Memories returns soon, with updates from the 24 Hours of Le Mans! 

Wishing you all a lovely weekend till then!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 22

The 2022 Belgian Grand Prix was the 2nd race in the 2022 F1 Calendar that I had the privilege of attending, as a guest of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team.

The Belgian Grand Prix is my favourite race on the calendar and this was my 5th visit to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. To kickstart documenting my Belgian GP experience, here is the latest addition to the "Gallery of Memories" series.

Mika Hakkinen, Double F1 World Champion :

with Jehan Daruvala, Prema Racing F2 Driver :

F2 Driver for Carlin and Williams Racing Academy, Logan Sargeant :

Juri Vips and Liam Lawson! What an amazing duo this is!

Meeting Juan Manuel Correa, who fought all odds to return to a full-time racing seat, following the accident in Spa 2019 :

Robert Schwartzman, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Development Driver :

McLaren CEO, Zak Brown :

Felipe Drugovich, who went on to become the Formula 2 Champion :

Arthur Leclerc, Prema Racing and Charles Leclerc's younger brother :

Emerson Fittipaldi, Double World Champion and a legend of F1 :

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport F3 Driver and Alpine Driver Academy :

Theo Pourchaire, Sauber Driver Academy and ART Grand Prix Formula 2 Driver :

So happy to see Tatiana Calderon back in F2 at Charouz Racing :

Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Mick Doohan, 5 time Moto GP World Champion, again! 

To have a personalized signature of my Motorsport hero, what a humbling moment :

Meeting Jack Doohan, his son, who finished P2 in the Sprint Race :

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reigning Formula E World Champion :

Nyck De Vries, reserve driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

James Vowles, Chief Strategist, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Jost Capito, CEO and Team Principal, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Frederic Vasseur, MD, CEO and Team Principal of Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Team :

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team :

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Lando Norris, McLaren Racing F1 Driver :

Peter Bonnington, famously known as Bono, Lewis Hamilton's Race Engineer :

Jacky Ickx, an F1 legend and six-time Le Mans winner :

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Safety Car Driver :

Paul di Resta, Ex-F1 Driver and Sky Sports F1 Presenter :

Belgian and Manchester City footballer Kevin de Bruyne :

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team Principal :

Mats Hummels, Germany and Borussia Dortmund Football Team, my favourite centre-back:

Nicholas Latifi, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Team :

Christian Horner, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

A silver medalist at rowing in the Olympics and Daniel Ricciardo's Race Engineer, Tom Stallard :

A selfie, well not really, with the reigning World Champion Max Verstappen :

Esteban Ocon, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren F1 Team :

Fernando Alonso, Double World Champion, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Mara Sangiorgio and Federica Masolin, journalists from Sky Sports F1 Italia :

The Hosts at Ferrari F1 Club always do a fantastic job of entertaining guests over the weekend :

A big thank you to the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team for hosting me over the weekend and helping me forge memories that will last me over my lifetime. Thank you to Edge Global Events for organising the race passes and giving me a seamless experience leading up to the weekend.

The Paddock Club Diaries follow soon, so watch this space!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 21

The 2019 Japanese GP was the last race I had the privilege of attending before COVID-19 overtook the world. Little did I know that it would be three years before I would get an opportunity to be at a Formula 1 race again. Despite a few hiccups, I was back with my F1 travels with the 2022 Hungarian GP being the first trip since COVID-19.

The "Gallery of Memories" makes a return to kickstart the experiences from the Hungarian GP weekend, featuring people from the F1 Fraternity and otherwise.

Former Honda F1 Boss and now Consultant to Red Bull Racing, Masashi Yamamoto :

W Series and Le Mans Racer Beitske Visser. One of the best women racers of our era! More Power to her!

Nicolas Longuet, F1 Esports Driver for Alfa Romeo :

Pietro Fittipaldi, Reserve driver for Haas F1 Team :

Red Bull Junior and F2 Driver for Carlin, Liam Lawson :

F2 Driver and Reserve for Williams Racing, Roy Nissany :

David Coulthard, ex-McLaren F1 Driver and Presenter :

Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Enzo Fittipaldi and Juri Vips after the F2 Sprint Race :

Jack Doohan, the Winner of the F2 Sprint Race!

Meeting my hero, the man who made me fall in love with Motorsport. Got me hooked on Moto GP. Mick Doohan!

Pat Fry, a Legend of F1 and Chief Technical Officer for Alpine F1 Team :

Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 driver :

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 driver :

Fernando Alonso, Double F1 World Champion and Alpine F1 Driver :

Ralf Schumacher, Ex-Williams and BMW Williams F1 Driver, brother to Michael Schumacher and now an F1 Presenter :

Andrea Stella, Executive Racing Director for McLaren with a glorious career in F1 :

Jock Clear, Senior Performance Engineer for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Driver :

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Driver :

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team Principal :

Sebastian Vettel!! Quadruple F1 World Champion and Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team Driver :

Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal :

Tom Kristensen, a Record Nine-time LeMans winner!

A big thank you to Scuderia Ferrari for hosting me over the weekend. The Paddock Club Diaries also make a return!

Watch this space to relive the experiences from Hungary with me!

Thank you Kimi... Thank you...

The year was 2001. I was playing the F1 2001 game by EA Sports as Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren, and during the presentation of the grid, I came across a Kimi Raikkonen in a Sauber Petronas, in the lower half of the field.  An instant connection got formed that day. Little did I know that this young Finnish Racer would leave a lasting impression on my life and race for almost two decades in F1.

Hailing from Espoo in Finland, Raikkonen had already impressed Peter Sauber during a private test in 2000. The youngster had completed only 23 single-seater races and competed only in Formula Renault after his karting days. So impressed was Sauber with Raikkonen's showing at the test that he left no stone unturned in securing him a super licence and an F1 drive in 2001.

After his exploits at Sauber, which established him as the next Finnish superstar, he switched to McLaren in 2002, becoming the team's new "Flying Finn". Those were the years of men like Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh and Nobert Haug at the helm, locked in intense battles with Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn, who were at Ferrari.

Those years at McLaren had a lot of highs, but also several lows for Raikkonen. Although the cars were title challengers every alternate year ( 2003 and 2005 ), they were highly unreliable. Raikkonen lost out on two world titles, retiring from the lead due to mechanical failures several times. During his stint at McLaren, I struggled to keep up with the racing due to my academic commitments. But when I did watch a race, my eyes searched for the "RAI" in the classification. Hopes arose when he was in the top 3 and sunk when he retired. Whatever was the result, accessing McLaren's site to read what transpired in the race ( including the top brass' assessment ) became a ritual. 

Who can forget the famous victories that Raikkonen had with McLaren, Malaysia 2003, Spa 2004 & 05, Monaco 2005 and Suzuka 2005, to name a few! There was no lack of talent, yet the machine wasn't doing Raikkonen justice. I began to wonder if he would ever emulate his compatriot Hakkinen and win a title at the misfiring McLaren. 

Then came the big move in the latter half of 2006. Speculations were rife that Schumacher, the most successful driver of the sport, would walk away at the end of the year, and Raikkonen was his recommendation to Ferrari. The confirmation came through after the Italian GP, and the Finn would don the Scuderia overalls in 2007.

Having been a McLaren fan even before Hakkinen, I had to choose between Raikkonen and the team. I chose Raikkonen and am glad that I did!

Despite a slow start at Ferrari, Raikkonen slowly began to get to grips with his new car. He looked all but out of title contention against McLaren's protegee and rookie Hamilton. However, Hamilton's retirement at Shanghai took the title battle to the season finale in Brazil. 

I still remember that Sunday night. Preparing for my engineering exam, which was the next day, I was buzzing with excitement about the possibility of Raikkonen getting crowned Champion. Something in me told me that he would win. Ironically, McLaren and Hamilton hadn't suffered from any mechanical issues that year. The race got underway, and Hamilton's gearbox malfunctioned! With the Briton languishing at the back of the pack, Raikkonen was suddenly in contention for the title! Ferrari completed a swap of positions during the pit stops to give Raikkonen the lead. As soon as Raikkonen crossed the finish line to victory, Ferrari confirmed that he was World Champion, having won it by one point!!

I was ecstatic in my living room, the tensions of an exam forgotten. Finally, all the heartaches of the previous five years ended! Kimi Raikkonen was an F1 World Champion!!

In 2008, Ferrari chased a development plan contrary to what Raikkonen desired, and the latter had to play a support role to teammate Massa's title fight. The title decider was in Brazil once again, and Hamilton didn't falter this time. 2009 saw a regulations overhaul and the big guns faltered against Brawn GP and Button, who romped to the World Title. A stellar drive by Raikkonen gave Ferrari its only win in Belgium. The Finn got called "The King of Spa" after his famous victory!

With Alonso eyeing a seat in a top team after his unceremonious exit from McLaren at the end of 2007, Ferrari seemed a possible destination. The negotiations proved successful, and Ferrari cut short Raikkonen's contract. The Finn got replaced for 2010 and failed to secure a drive in the sport!

He left F1 to pursue a career in Rallying with a short stint in Nascar. I was gutted with the news and couldn't keep up with his racing career elsewhere. With Raikkonen out of F1, I lost interest in the sport, unable to watch the races with the same passion. My sporting interests slowly began to shift to Moto GP and Football. Although I did attend the inaugural Indian GP in 2011, I couldn't imagine F1 without Raikkonen... 

Come 29th November 2011. I was in my office going through some sports-related news on a couple of websites. Suddenly, I came across an article that read, "Raikkonen returns to F1 in 2012 with Lotus"!!

The Iceman was back, in F1, on a two-year deal! That day, my love for the sport got reignited. More importantly, with my academic and educational commitments complete, I got presented with the opportunity of travelling to F1 races, something I wouldn't pass up considering that it was only a two-year deal for Raikkonen. And so began my journey to meet my hero in person!

Malaysia, Silverstone, Singapore, India, Nurburgring, Monza, Abu Dhabi were the races I got to be at, meeting Raikkonen on a few occasions. 

Raikkonen's stellar performances at Lotus F1 left the team at the brink of bankruptcy. The Finn went on to record two wins and thirteen podiums during his two-year tenure. His performances attracted the attention of an old employer, and for 2014, the Finn rejoined Ferrari! In his words, "I am coming home".

His second stint at Ferrari lasted five years that had Alonso and Vettel as codrivers. Strategic bungles and misfortunes played spoilsport more often than not. There were many memorable performances, and 2018 was Raikkonen's strongest year that included victory at the Circuit of the Americas. During his time at Ferrari, I attended races at the following venues - Hockenheimring, COTA, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Hungary, Abu Dhabi.

Although many media personnel declared Raikkonen a spent force, the Finn still had more to give to the sport. In 2019, he made an unthinkable return to Sauber F1 ( rechristened to Alfa Romeo Racing ), his first employer in the sport. In 2019, I followed Raikkonen to Canada, Belgium and Suzuka.

I had made elaborate plans for 2020, but then the world got hit by the Pandemic COVID-19. 2020 was the first year since Raikkonen's return to F1, in which I failed to be at a live race. The Pandemic continues to deny me the chance of attending a race in 2021, and with Raikkonen announcing that he would walk away from F1 at the end of the season, I am hoping and praying to be at Abu Dhabi for the final race.

Raikkonen remains the most successful Finnish driver in F1 and also Ferrari's last Champion. He might not be the one with the most victories or championships, and probably his career statistics might look uninspiring to many. For many, Raikkonen was even past his prime. However, no one can disagree about the legacy he has built in the sport.  

Drivers ( current and past ) praised him for being a fair yet hard racer. Those who knew him as a teammate appreciated his uncomplicated and straightforward attitude to life and racing. A man of few words, Raikkonen spoke his mind, rarely adhering to PR generated responses, was apolitical and focussed only on what unfolded behind the wheel. Those who had worked with Raikkonen as race engineers or mechanics acknowledged his ability to understand car setups. His feedback and suggestions were precise, reminiscent of Schumacher as per Andrea Stella. Whatever be the situation, Raikkonen was always committed to the cause and the betterment of his team. He was one of those drivers who didn't spend time at a simulator before heading to a new circuit, a born racer, like an Alonso or Vettel or Hamilton, a breed rarely seen nowadays. 

To the world, he still looks demotivated, disinterested and ice-cold in his behaviour. But those who got to know him up close or to those who saw him live life from close quarters, Raikkonen is a man full of joy, love and care, focused on his professional commitments. With the arrival of a partner in Minttu Raikkonen, his life became more fulfilling, and now with kids like Robin and Rianna, Kimi has his days full of daddy duties. Priorities change with time.

2021 has been the year of retirements, with Moto GP legend Valentino Rossi calling it a day and Anthony Davidson leaving WEC. Retirement is inevitable for every athlete, and as a fan, you always hope for one more year. At 42, his age is catching up with Raikkonen, and although he hasn't lost his competitive edge ( as evident from his consistent results for Alfa Romeo ), a time comes when one has to stop. It isn't easy to compete with the best drivers on the planet for two decades, but Raikkonen managed to ace it with aplomb. 

For me, I am still struggling to accept Raikkonen's absence from the grid in 2022. In the past, without RaikkonenF1 wasn't likeable anymore. 

"Kimianks", a term made with Kimi and initials from my name ( Ankush ),  became my identity on all social media platforms for the past two decades. Thanks to Raikkonen, I had the privilege of going to some of the most stunning race tracks, getting close to the action and sharing my passion with like-minded fans. Lotus F1 ( now Alpine F1 ), Scuderia Ferrari and Alfa Romeo Racing had been kind enough to give me enhanced access and the pleasure of watching my hero up close, sharing their joys in the times of celebrations, for which I shall always be thankful. 

The life lessons that Raikkonen has taught me are invaluable - being transparent and straightforward in your profession, celebrating without inhibitions, valuing family above everything else and maintaining a close circle of confidants.

I take this opportunity to thank the Raikkonen family ( his parents, siblings, wife and kids ) for all the support provided to Kimi over the years, from the humble beginnings at karting to acing it in the F1 world. A big thank you to his Physical Trainer Mark Arnall for keeping him fit and healthy throughout his career. It has been such a glorious training career for Mark, having trained the likes of Hakkinen and Raikkonen during their tenures in the sport. To the Robertsons and Mr Sami Visa, thank you for taking care of his contractual and sponsorship obligations. And finally, thank you to every team member that has been part of Raikkonen's journey through F1, at Alfa Romeo Racing F1, McLaren F1, Scuderia Ferrari F1 and Lotus ( Alpine F1 ). 

As the Iceman bid adieu to the sport at Alfa Romeo's farewell party at Hinwil in Switzerland, I, as a fan, knew that an incredible journey was coming to an end. It has been a blessing to be called a Kimi Raikkonen fan over the past two decades, and I shall remain a fan, admirer and a fanatic for life.

The journey hasn't ended yet, and two races remain before the curtains close on an illustrious career. I still garner hopes of being at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I am praying that I get see Kimi Raikkonen race one last time and say my farewells in person.

There is so much more to say, so much more to process, and words can never do justice to the journey I have had as a fan of the ICEMAN, the Flying Finn, KIMI RAIKKONEN!

Here are some of the memories I cherish with Kimi :

Like he said, on the day of his retirement, "This is it"... profound words... probably, for me too, this might be it...

Thank you, Kimi, thank you. Wishing you and the family the very best for the future and pray for the Almighty's blessing and grace on your life, always!

Hopefully, we shall meet again, someday!

To Kimi Raikkonen, an F1 Racer, an F1 World Champion, a Legend.. Thank you for everything! Thank you!

2021 F1 Season Preview - New Circuits, New Lineups, but the Same Goal!

2020 was the "Year of the Pandemic". The entire world went into a state of lockdown, and the Formula 1 season, which was due to kick off in Australia in March, got pushed back to July. The pandemic intensified, and more races got postponed or cancelled altogether. The FOM worked tirelessly, and new tracks got added to the revised calendar. The majority of the season got held in Europe with many double-headers and triple headers. Eventually, the 2020 season featured 17 races over six months.

Come 2021, and the pandemic still threatens the world, but the world is fighting back! Vaccination programmes have gotten underway, and even though certain regions have gone back into lockdown, humanity is pushing on to bring normalcy back again. 

The FIA and FOM have left no stone unturned in ensuring that nothing hampers the start of the 2021 season.

The calendar for the 2021 season would feature a record-breaking 23 races, with the season kicking off at Bahrain and ending in Abu Dhabi and the Australian GP getting rescheduled to November. Imola ( Emilia Romagna GP ) and Portimao ( Portuguese GP ) are retained from the previous season, while Zandvoort ( Dutch GP ) and Jeddah ( Saudi Arabian GP ) make their debuts in 2021. The technical regulations overhaul got pushed back by another year, and teams had a small window to ready their 2021 challengers.

Two teams went through a rechristening - Renault F1 changing to Alpine Racing F1 and Racing Point becoming Aston Martin Racing F1, switching from pink to green livery! Aston Martin has joined Mercedes in sharing Safety Car duties at races. 

There were personnel changes up and down the grid - Ferrari hired the services of Sainz to partner Leclerc, Ricciardo took the Spaniard's seat at McLaren. Alonso returned to F1 with Alpine Racing while Perez made the jump to Red Bull Racing, relegating Albon to a reserve driver role. Vettel joined Stroll in the newly inducted Aston Martin Racing F1 Team. Kvyat lost his Alpha Tauri seat to Honda protegee Yuki Tsunoda. 

Haas F1 introduced an all-new lineup in Nikita Mazepin and current F2 Champion and son of the legendary Michael Schumacher, Mick Schumacher!

There have been changes in the regulations, and here are some of them :

1) The maximum spending limit for teams is reduced to $145 million. 

2) Teams will be limited in the modification of the components in the season. McLaren gets special dispensation to accommodate the switch from Renault to Mercedes power. Teams get a series of tokens that allow them to introduce specific component upgrades.

3) The DAS System designed by Mercedes is banned for 2021. 

4) The race time limit ( with the inclusion of Red Flags, if any ) reduced to three hours from four.

5) Reduction in the duration of a race weekend from four to three days with media events and interview formalities from Thursday getting shifted to Friday morning. FP1 and FP2 will be 60 minutes long ( instead of 90 ), and FIA will enforce parc-ferme conditions at the end of FP3 instead of after Qualifying.

The pre-season test got held in Bahrain instead of Catalunya, with only three days of running for the teams. How did the teams fare, and how do they stack up going into the season? 

Time for an assessment before the bout begins!

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the most successful team in the Turbo Era, has been setting new records each year. Mercedes has also been the pioneer of innovation, as seen in the DAS system, which unfortunately got banned for 2021. They are known to mask their pace at the pre-season tests, but this year they have had one of the most disappointing and underwhelming displays. Mercedes managed only 304 laps over three days as they tackled reliability issues and a problematic rear end on the W12. Bottas wasn't pleased with the overall balance and quipped that "they had work to do". Mercedes, by their admission, believe they can't match Red Bull in terms of race pace, but only an amateur would write off their chances before the season has even commenced. They might not be "sandbagging" like the earlier seasons, but the divide is not as big as it used to be.

Mercedes have persisted with their lineup of Hamilton and Bottas. Hamilton took his time in renewing his contract, albeit only for another year. Bottas, on the other hand, knows that his chances of winning a title are dwindling with each passing year. Hamilton has been flawless in his title defence, Bottas has been inconsistent with his results but done enough in helping Mercedes retain the Constructors' Championship every year. Mercedes protegee Russell is waiting for his chance at Williams, so Bottas can't afford any slip-ups. Lewis Hamilton will become the most successful driver of all time if he wins the title in 2021. Will Bottas be able to dethrone the reigning Champion? Highly doubtful!

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing F1, the best of the rest, lost their title sponsor in Aston Martin ( for 2021 ). They are also going to lose the company of Honda at the end of 2021. However, this hasn't dampened their resolve to win. Verstappen led the charge in 2020 and was left fighting both Mercedes cars more often than not. Albon's performances came up short, and Red Bull announced their decision to assign him a Reserve Driver role for 2021. Sergio Perez, whose contract didn't get renewed at Racing Point ( now Aston Martin ), landed the drive. 

Verstappen will look to get even closer to Hamilton and Bottas, hopefully having fewer reliability issues. Perez's performances in 2020 justify him a seat at Red Bull, and he will be more than a handful once he gets up to speed. Will he able to challenge Verstappen for number one at Red Bull? Time will tell, but the team will have both their cars sparring for wins regularly. 

The RB16B has been a revelation at the pre-season tests. Red Bull seem to be in the class of their own, with no reliability issues whatsoever. Perez is also progressing well with his new ride. Mercedes is known to mask their pace until the appropriate time, but the battle looks closer than ever at the top. Red Bull is serious about winning titles again, and Verstappen and Perez might bring their hard work to fruition.

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren won the midfield battle in 2020 but was 117 points adrift of Red Bull, who finished 2nd. The Woking-based outfit decided to switch back to Mercedes power from Renault from 2021. The iconic partnership of "McLaren Mercedes" is back! 

Lando Norris gets a new partner in Daniel Ricciardo, making this one of the strongest pairings in F1. Ricciardo is an accomplished racer with race wins to his name and is the right man to help get McLaren back to winning ways. The Australian himself yearns to be a World Champion, and McLaren might be the answer to his prayers. 

Norris is a talented racer and has been improving since his debut in 2019. The Briton bagged his first podium at the season-opener in 2020 and will be hoping to repeat this feat more often with a more potent engine at the back of his car. The intra-team battle will be a close affair.

The MCL25M, McLaren's challenger for the 2021 title, had a decent outing at the pre-season tests. While Ricciardo used testing to familiarize himself with his new car, Norris carried on with the job of providing feedback to the team, highlighting the strengths and flaws. Reliability has been McLaren's forte, and it will prove pivotal in close battles. McLaren might not be able to dethrone the top two teams but have the knowledge and resources to cement 3rd place in the Constructors' again.

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team :

Racing Point F1 changed its name to Aston Martin Cognizant F1 and its livery from pink to green for 2021. Team owner Lawrence Stroll acquired the brand, ensuring its return to "the pinnacle of motorsport" after a gap of 51 years. The team roped in the services of Sebastian Vettel, who would partner Lance Stroll. The brand further increased its presence in F1 by introducing the New Vantage as the safety car for many races. 

The team had a fantastic 2020 with one victory and three podium finishes. They came up short in the final race, which robbed them of the chance of finishing third in the Constructors'. 

However, their 2021 campaign seemed to have made a stuttering start. The pre-season test got hampered by problems ( gearbox and loss of boost pressure ) with the drivers stuck in the garage for extended periods. The limited running means that there will be a lot of learning happening going into the early rounds of the season. Vettel would need to settle in quickly since the team can't afford slip-ups in a hotly contested midfield. Stroll has a great mentor in Vettel, and the Canadian is building a reputation for himself with his consistent drivers. Aston Martin should be able to replicate the form of 2020, if not better it.

Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Alpine Racing, formerly known as Renault Sport F1, begin their challenge in 2021, with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon taking the wheel of the A521. They will sport a striking blue livery with dashes of red and white. The performance division of the French marquee, Alpine Racing, had a decent showing in 2020, finishing 5th in the Constructors' Standings. 

Ricciardo left Alpine for McLaren in 2021 and got replaced by Fernando Alonso, the former Double World Champion. Alonso is well-versed with how the team operates and spent his most successful days in F1 here, so it is a win-win for both. Alonso's racecraft is hard to match, and the Spaniard can bring home unlikely results. 

Ocon continues with Alpine for the second year and will only become better. The Frenchman is an exciting prospect and will capitalize when an opportunity comes. Team chemistry will be pivotal if Alpine desires to come out on top in the midfield battle. The A521 didn't have a great outing at the pre-season tests, with the team trying multiple things over the three days. They are yet to find the perfect setup and balance, and this will continue going into Practice for the Bahrain GP. Nevertheless, as a works team, they have the resources to fund their quest to make it back to the top. 

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari had a torrid 2020, the team failing to win a race for the first time since 2014. The ban of their fuel flow sensor meant the engine was down on power. The team's focus was on improving downforce, and that added to their troubles. Vettel, who got replaced by Sainz, had a forgettable final year, a year mired with controversies and friction with the Team Principal. 

2021 is a new beginning for the Maranello-based outfit as they try to make amends for the disappointments of 2020. They looked like the third-best team at the end of testing, the upgraded power unit reducing the straight-line speed deficit. The amount of mileage clocked by the drivers was also commendable. 

Sainz joins forces with Leclerc in 2021. The Spaniard is one of the top drivers of the sport and will play a pivotal role in getting Ferrari back up. Leclerc, Ferrari's protegee, has already proved his worth and will enjoy preference at the start of the season. The Monegasque produced some unbelievable results in 2020 and will continue to build on those this year. Both Leclerc and Sainz are ambitious, and how the team manages the duo remains to be seen. Qualifying is one area that Ferrari will hope to address this year.

Victories might still be a challenge, but Ferrari should be a lot closer to those at the sharp end of the grid.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's sister team, had an exciting 2020 with a win for Pierre Gasly in Italy. Daniil Kvyat hadn't done enough to warrant him a drive, and the Russian got replaced by Honda protegee and F2 runner-up Yuki Tsunoda. The team's 2021 challenger AT02 clocked the same amount of mileage as the Alfa Romeo, and Gasly was ecstatic with the progress made. The Frenchman, who is now the team leader, had a trouble-free pre-season test. His younger team-mate Tsunoda suffered from multiple issues. The height differential between the two drivers led to problems with the pedals too. Nevertheless, the rookie was able to get up to speed quickly and was setting competitive lap times. Tsunoda has shown his calibre, rising rapidly from F4 to F1 in just four years.

Alpha Tauri has been going from strength to strength, and the data collected from the tests suggests that they could feature in the upper half of the field more often than not. The intra-team battle will also be a close affair, although I believe that Gasly will prevail, eventually.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo had a disappointing 2020, the turned-down Ferrari power unit being the primary cause of their lack of performance. Fredric Vasseur, the team principal, tested positive for COVID-19 before the pre-season test, but that did not hamper the team's programs. They racked up a tally of 422 laps over three days, a sign of encouragement for them going into the opening round. The midfield was a tightly contested affair in 2020, and it seems like Alfa Romeo will be a part of that mix this year. 

The team persisted with its lineup of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. The latter won the intra-team qualifying battle and scored the same number of points as Raikkonen. Raikkonen was more consistent at finishing races, and Giovinazzi would aim to do the same in 2021. The duo enjoys a healthy relationship, and this augurs well for the team. The team needs its drivers to qualify higher to better their chances on race day. The upgraded Ferrari power unit should add more substance to Alfa Romeo's challenge in 2021. 

Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 has been going backwards since the past few seasons and had a forgettable 2020. Haas bid goodbye to Magnussen and Grosjean, opting for an all-young lineup in Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. 

Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher, won the F2 Championship last season. Mazepin, who was brilliant in parts in F2, brings in the financial influx that the team so desperately needs. His inclusion attracted a lot of criticism from the fans, especially after a controversial incident that happened over the winter. Nevertheless, the Russian would be hoping to correct the wrongs on track and help the team get further up the grid. Schumacher takes a couple of races to find his feet, but once he settles in, he is unstoppable, just as his father.

Haas' 2021 challenger faced a few gremlins on Friday but racked up some mileage on Saturday. However, based on the data collected from the tests, Haas was the slowest team and will remain a backmarker in 2021. Gaining experience is paramount for Haas' rookies. They need clean races, and slowly but surely, the team will make gains in 2021. 

Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams F1, under its new owners Dorilton Capital, will be looking to offload the tag of "backmarker" in 2021. The lack of sponsorships for the team means that the new owners need to be wise with their investments and set realistic targets. 

The team has developed their 2021 challenger, the FW43B, with improved downforce, but its sensitivity to the wind can make or break their plans. George Russell and Nicolas Latifi renew their partnership for 2021, and Williams would be hoping to see them finish in the points more often, thanks to the improvements made in the car over the winter. Russell had an eventful 2020 and would hope to iron out the errors that cost him some valuable points. Latifi will aim for more consistency in 2021. The Bahrain GP would be a good indicator of their fortunes for 2021. 

An exciting season awaits us in F1. The divide between Mercedes and Red Bull has reduced, and we could see a new champion at the end of 23 races. Iconic names like Aston Martin and Alpine will feature on the grid, and the midfield will feature a close contest again. It will be hard to predict who will win the "B" Championship. 

Who can forget the return of a "Schumacher" to the grid! All eyes will be on young Mick to see how he matures and what he can accomplish in a Haas. 

The pecking order will be clear after three or four races, but whatever that may be, we are just glad to have F1 return and return with a bang!

The battlegrounds change, the contenders change, but the goal remains the same - to Win and Lift the Crown!

Bring on 2021!

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

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 :

The Circuit Layout :

Official Website :

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 

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:

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

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:

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:

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 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 :

The Circuit Layout :

Official Website :

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 :

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 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.