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How to Plan the Perfect Race Weekend


As the upcoming Formula 1 season lays bare some of the most significant driver-team shake-ups in recent years, there is no better time to turn on to the sport. Brand new to the scene? Fret not, the scene itself is all new.

Two-time world champion and four-year McLaren driver Fernando Alonso ran his final race at Abu Dhabi, and newcomer Lando Norris landed his place on the grid. The genial fan-favorite Daniel Ricciardo jumped from Red Bull Racing to Renault Sport. Zippy Monégasque racer Charles Leclerc has teamed up with title contender Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari. Force India was bought and renamed Racing Point F1. And it was only a year-and-a-half ago that Liberty Media took over the reins of Formula 1. The sport is entering an uncharted era.

Hundreds of thousands of fans will attend races around the globe in 2019, but for most it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With 21 races in 21 countries, from Austin to Baku to Singapore, picking the right one to realize your ideal experience will require some planning ahead. Here, we present 10 steps to plan a foolproof race weekend.

1. Figure out what you want from your Grand Prix experience.

Formula 1 cars charge around the circuit for a total of five hours, yet you’re in the city for 72. Some Grand Prix host cities deliver endless options for partying while others make going out very tricky; some tracks are in the heart of the city while others roost in the countryside. Maybe your sole focus is the quality of the race or seeing a slice of F1 history. Each Grand Prix has its own personality, so pick accordingly.

2. Research the right race tickets to get.

Not all circuit websites are helpful in this regard so take time to research fan forums and reviews. Don’t be fooled into thinking F1 races are only for the rich — options exist from standing-only to grandstand to ultra-VIP, with prices to match. When watching the race, get a seat that allows for views of the cars navigating multiple turns and preferably a passing zone. The main straight is good for watching pits but doesn’t deliver much in the way of racing action. Tickets are usually available about one year in advance.

3. Book hotels and flights ASAP.

Hosting the Grand Prix is a big deal, and hoteliers are experts at raising prices for those three days. The sooner you book, the better; and beware you may pay up to a 200 percent premium with a minimum four-night stay. But deals can be had, and Airbnb is almost always an option. Ideally, it’s best to stay close to the city action with uncomplicated access to the circuit.

4. Plan your hotel-to-circuit transport.

Getting to the host city is only half the battle. Sure, some circuits are within city limits; others require a significant drive, and traffic can be a major factor. Most circuits offer transport options but may require advance booking. If driving, ensure you secure a parking pass. Trust us, the extra cost to reduce the hassle of entering and exiting the circuit is worth it. 

5. Make dinner reservations.

Nothing deflates a great day at the circuit like an uneventful evening and lousy dining options. So plan a memorable dinner and immerse in the local flavor, then hit the fan-related festivities afterward. Locking down a table at a top local restaurant necessitates some foresight. Some spots have F1-related events and tasting menus — but don’t get caught in a tourist trap, which will prove disappointing and unnecessarily expensive.

6. Pick one amazing cultural activity.

F1 cities are selected not only for their circuits but also for their position as leading global hot spots. Take the time to indulge in the regional culture, or you may leave town regretting the missed opportunity. (Really, when’s the next time you’ll be back in Baku?) Pick the venue and allocate a window of time to visit.

7. Survey additional Grand Prix–related events.

Off-track activities are an area where some race promoters do a much better job than others. The race is the primary reason you’re stuffing a carry-on and making an hourslong flight, but the ultimate goal is a full weekend of entertainment. This can range from concerts with big-name headliners to car shows to F1-inspired art installations across the city. Check the circuit website and take time to do your own searches as well, since many of the festivities are put on by companies with no official affiliation to the Grand Prix — and often events get confirmed at the last minute, so keep checking in.

8. Dress right when going to the circuit.

There are really two key considerations. First, your ticket. If you’re going to a VIP section, then look smart but remember you are attending a sporting event and not to meet your banker. Similarly, if you’re in the grandstand and sitting most of the time then make sure you're comfortable. Secondly, factor in the weather. Depending on the race location and time of day, the forecast could be scorching hot or in for a downpour — so glance at your weather app before you pack. Final note: It’s always appropriate to wear team gear, just be sensitive if you’re at a hosted event.

9. Get to the circuit early and explore.

Circuits are massive venues. Don’t just turn up at your seat and park there the entire time. Not all fan zones are created equal, but it’s always worth checking them out if only for the people watching. Many circuits have a wide variety of entertainment happening all around the track; grab the free weekend itinerary when you walk in. If you can, buy a (cheaper) Friday experience — especially if it allows you to walk pit lane, as that moment makes all those years spent waking up at odd hours to watch the race suddenly worth it. You have arrived.

10. Maximize your budget.

Tickets are available at all price ranges. Plus, you don’t need to purchase tickets for all three days. Some circuits offer up incredible deals or simply have lower prices to reflect local incomes. Similarly, some cities are naturally more expensive than others, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are better. With the proper planning you can get great bang for the buck, at any price point.