With the 2009 F1 season almost upon us fans will be sorting out their plans to go to a Grand Prix.
So how do you go about picking which race to go to? Here are ten ways to help make up your mind.
Where you live can seriously restrict your choice of races. Europeans are spoiled for choice, but North American fans face a major expedition if they want to see live F1 action.
Also remember that some tracks are easier to get to than others. Valencia, Monte-Carlo and Singapore are all in urban areas. But Istanbul Park is two hours?óÔé¼Ôäó drive outside of the city it?óÔé¼Ôäós named after.
Some F1 races are more about the spectacle of the event than the quality of the racing.
If glitz and glamour is your thing, then Monte-Carlo should be your destination. For the unique thrill of night racing, head for Singapore.
Or if you want to soak up the atmosphere of a classic F1 race at a venue steeped in history, Monza and Spa-Francorchamps are the best places to head for. I?óÔé¼Ôäóve been to both, and wouldn?óÔé¼Ôäót hesitate to recommend them.
If what draws you to F1 is the prospect of seeing wheel-to-wheel racing, some tracks are more likely to offer that than others.
Bahrain, for example, may not be the most inspiring venue, but you can usually expect a good race.
If you?óÔé¼Ôäóve got kids in tow, or you?óÔé¼Ôäóve cajoled a non-fan in coming along with you, they might not appreciate standing on the outside of Eau Rouge while their shoes fill up with water.
Statistically, your best bets if you?óÔé¼Ôäóre looking for a dry race are Monza (last year was its only significantly wet race in 58 Grands Prix), the Hungaroring (one wet race out of 23) and Bahrain (erm, it?óÔé¼Ôäós in a desert).
On the other hand, hard-bitten F1 Fanatics know wet races equal maximum excitement. So pack your anorak and head for Spa-Francorchamps or Shanghai to increase your chance of seeing wet weather action.
If money?óÔé¼Ôäós a concern it?óÔé¼Ôäós worth knowing which races cost more to attend than others ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ and what can push prices up the most.
Some races are dearer to start with: Monaco for example. Travel distance is a big consideration when it comes to budgets, and if you?óÔé¼Ôäóre heading abroad for a Grand Prix keep an eye on the exchange rates,
Once you?óÔé¼Ôäóve done your sums you may find it works out cheaper to head abroad to watch a race than stay at home. Historically Spa has been a good alternative to Silverstone for British fans, particularly those in the south, though the weakening pound may have changed that.
Another cost factor is whether you plan to watch all three days?óÔé¼Ôäó action or not. With this year?óÔé¼Ôäós engine rules there might not be much F1 running on Fridays, particularly at the races early on in the season. The good thing about Fridays is that, as they tend to be quieter, you have more time and space to have a walk around the track and see the action from all angles.
If you are thinking of doing all three days it?óÔé¼Ôäós also worth checking what other races are on during the weekend.
One of the curses of modern F1 for the track side spectator is the large amount of unused track time built into the race weekend?óÔé¼Ôäós schedule. This is to prevent F1?óÔé¼Ôäós precious television broadcasts being delayed because of a pile-up in a support race.
Support races at Grands Prix are a bit of a mixed bag. GP2 offers fabulous entertainment, often providing the best of the weekend?óÔé¼Ôäós action, and most Grands Prix include two GP2 races. On the other hand, I usually go for a walk when the Porsche Supercup is on.
Formula BMW Europe joined the schedule at some F1 races last year, offering a chance to see the stars of tomorrow crashing into each other. This year Formula Masters and the new Formula Two championship will appear at some races.
For details of support races at each of this year?óÔé¼Ôäós Grands Prix, check the race information links at the bottom of the page.
A packed crowd means a good atmosphere, and you?óÔé¼Ôäóre guaranteed one if you head to the likes of Monza, Interlagos or Silverstone. Both Spanish races these days get huge audiences too. But that also means you?óÔé¼Ôäóve got to act fast to get your tickets booked.
How much can you see?
There are two sides to this. First, how much of the track is visible from the grandstands? At Fuji you can see much of the circuit from the spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó stands along the main straight. But at Monaco you?óÔé¼Ôäóll probably only be able to see the corner in front of you ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ unless you know someone with a penthouse…
Then there?óÔé¼Ôäós the question of how many times the cars are going to come past. Spa?óÔé¼Ôäós 7km long lap means you?óÔé¼Ôäóll only see them 44 times in a race, but at Interlagos they?óÔé¼Ôäóll come by 70 times.
Wherever you end up sitting at a Grand Prix it?óÔé¼Ôäós hard to avoid the risk of missing some crucial action. And if you?óÔé¼Ôäóre not within sight of the pit lane, keeping track of who?óÔé¼Ôäós pitted can be difficult.
There are two solutions: either find a grandstand near to a video wall, or hire a Kangaroo TV screen for the weekend which shows the same pictures. You can pre-book Kangaroos before the race on their website.
Transport and accommodation
Finally, a word of caution. Tedious though it might be, if you don?óÔé¼Ôäót figure out the logistics of your Grand Prix expedition you could give yourself a real headache. The last thing you want is to be running towards the circuit gates while the cars are on their formation lap.
Figure out where you?óÔé¼Ôäóre staying, how you?óÔé¼Ôäóre getting there, and how you?óÔé¼Ôäóre going to commute to the track. I can tell you from experience that staying at Thessaloniki in Greece is not the best way to take in the Turkish Grand Prix?óÔé¼?ª
If you?óÔé¼Ôäóre going for all three days of the weekend (remember Monaco is Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), striking a balance between finding somewhere near to the track and not getting ripped off can be tricky. Have a look at the information posted by F1 fans on the different circuits, and post questions if you?óÔé¼Ôäóre looking for specific information:
Albert Park, Mebourne – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Sepang International Circuit – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Shanghai International Circuit – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Bahrain International Circuit – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Circuit de Catalunya – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Monte-Carlo – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Istanbul Park – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Silverstone – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Nurburgring (new, 1984-present)
Hungaroring – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Circuito Urbano Valencia – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Spa-Francorchamps – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Autodromo Nazionale Monza – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Singapore street track – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Fuji Speedway – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo – spectators?óÔé¼Ôäó experiences
How do you pick which F1 race to go to? Are you going to a Grand Prix for the first time this year? Have your say in the comments.
Silverstone 2009 Meet & Greet
Heading to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this year? Head over to the forum for details of the 2009 British Grand Prix F1 Fanatic Meet & Greet.
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Images (C) Red Bull / GEPA, Ferrari spa, GP2 Media Service / Alastair Staley