I attended my first Formula 1 race, November last year, in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas. I thoroughly enjoyed the race-weekend experience and I think I learnt a few things. I wanted to note them down so that I’m better prepared for the next race I attend. A lot of these might be common-sense to most people, but I’m going to mention them here anyway (more-so to serve as a reminder for myself for the next race I attend)
- Book your race tickets early; sign up for alerts on the booking website for when they go on sale and get them that day.
- I booked GA tickets where you can find a spot any place by the track side. It would be a whole lot more comfortable if I’d carried a portable/foldable chair and I highly recommend doing so. Or at the very least, get a soft blanket or mat to sit on. The next time I end up going, I’ll likely try to book grandstand tickets just for the sake of the different experience. Nevertheless, you should definitely walk around the entire track and take in the different views of the track.
- Book your accomodation several months ahead. Hotels and AirBnbs, both hike their prices up as you get closer to the race-month. I recommend booking a place either closer to the track (maybe an AirBnb) or in Downtown closer to the shuttles (i.e. if you will be using the shuttle service at all).
- There usually are shuttles for which you can buy tickets to get you from the city to the track. From what I’ve read, the prices for these tend to increase every year though. In 2019, I had to shell out a hefty $30 per day which totaled to a little over $100 (after taxes) for the entire race weekend. If your hotel/room is not close to the track, this $30 charge might still work out to be cheaper than an Uber because of the surge-pricing you would likely see at the track.
- Get to the venue early if you can. The merch shops and concessions stalls get crowded quickly as the day wears on and I found it easiest to navigate through the shops and concessions stalls early in the AM. I’d grab something for breakfast the previous day and eat it after finding a comfy spot by the track.
Things to carry
- Chair/Mat. Like I already mentioned, a portable chair or a soft mat.
- A round hat. I ended up with a significant tan at the back of my next and my nose sitting out in the sun those 3 days (despite the weather being pleasant and my having a cap). Get a round hat that can shade your entire head.
- Sunscreen. See above.
- Binoculars. Not a necessity; I did not have these. But if you have a pair, this is a good event to use them at.
- Portable charger.
- Hoodie/Jacket. It can also get breezy, so depending on the weather, get a light hoodie if you will need one.
- Comfortable shoes. You are going to be walking around a LOT.
- Food, Drink. Food and drinks are very overpriced at the venue. Pack some sandwiches, snacks and bottles of water. If money is not an issue, there are several food/drink stands that should keep your belly full.
- Ear phones/plugs. F1 cars are LOUD! After a few laps of taking in that glorious roar of the V6s zooming past you, you’re going to want to protect your ear drums.
- Radio. I did not have this on me, however I believe you can tune into a radio feed that tells you about the goings-on during the race weekend. If you can tune into a TV stream (maybe via YoutubeTV, you won’t need this; just make sure your phone has the power to survie the day).
- Bag for merch. Typically there’s always some free swag you can get at the track from different racing team stalls. Also, no matter how hard you try not to, you’re going to buy the overpriced merch at the races. :P
- Merch/signable stuff for driver autographs. If you plan on attending the sessions where the drivers come out to meet the fans, maybe get prints/merch to be autographed.
- Get to the autograph signings area early enough to be first in line or don’t bother. REALLY EARLY. After FP1, I made it over to the area (where the drivers were going to come out for autograph signings) around 30 minutes early and I still was about 20 people away from the front where people could get pictures/autographs. On Saturday, after FP2, I got to the arena 90 minutes early and there will still 2 rows of people standing in front of me! If you are interested in getting autographs, I recommend getting to the arena at least 150 minutes early, have something on you to keep you busy, but you’ll be guaranteed to get a lot of merch signed.
- On the first 2 race days, walk around the entire track, exploring the different viewing spots. Use this time to check out the concessions stalls and merch stands because race-day is going to be the busiest.
- If this is going to be your first race, definitely get to the entrance gates early to get on to the track as soon as the race ends. You’re likely going to have to sacrifice watching parts of the race because you have to be at the gates early since it get’s crowded very quickly. In hindsight, my recommendation would be to take it easy and get on the track at your own pace and avoid the crowd. When you do get to the track, definitely try to find some pieces of marbles (car-tyre-rubber) on the track. I picked some up for memory sake, haha. It’s interesting to walk along the pit wall and get a closer look into the pit garages.
I’ll try to add more to this as and when I remember stuff.
Here’s one of my favorite pics from the race