Tuesday, 25 August 2015

20 Things I Learnt at the Belgium Grand Prix

So for any of you that follow me on Twitter, you may have gathered that I spent this past weekend at the Belgium Grand Prix. It was a fab weekend and I'll be posting a more detailed blog post later in the week about it. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you the 20 Things I Learnt at the Belgium Grand Prix. Even if you're not an F1 fan, I hope you enjoy.

1) If you're interested in going, sign up to email alerts for tickets as it can get you an early bird discount.

2) Going early bird also means you can look into hotels/flights etc earlier than others and try and grab a bargain.

3) It is a completely different experience being at the F1 than it is to watch it on TV. Even if you're not that interested in the sport, the sounds, smells and speed of the cars are likely to blow you away.

4) Belgium weather is notoriously unpredictable and can change quickly. Surprisingly, we had constant sun over the whole weekend but this is fairly unusual. Pack accordingly - coat, umbrella, suncream, sunglasses and a hoody.. you never know what you'll need!

4) Layer up. It's easier to pile on the layers and take them off if it's warm than it is to shiver from cold if it does rain. I wore converse, jeans, vest top, cardigan, hoody and packed a coat which worked well.

5) Pack plenty of water. It was absolutely boiling over the weekend, so it was essential we stayed hydrated. Buying bottles of water from the stalls was extortionate, so we packed plenty of water.

6) Obviously drinking lots of water means lots of toilet trips. It is ALWAYS worth paying 70c for a wee. The portaloos are a no-go by Friday afternoon so grab some change and head to a 'posh loo' (granted, they're not the height of luxury but certainly beat the portaloos!)

7) As I said above, the food stalls are really expensive. If you can, pack a picnic. It'll make it much cheaper and probably more nutritious - there's only fast food on offer (burgers, hot dogs, chips, waffles etc) and it comes at a price. We couldn't really pack a picnic as we didn't have a fridge to store food in, so I seemed to live off chips for the weekend. A pile of veg when I got home was well received!

8) Spa-Francorchamps is one of the greatest tracks on the F1 calendar, and this becomes even more apparent when you see it in real life. It takes a while to do so, but definitely walk round the whole track... it's an amazing experience. We walked round it on Friday during practice so we didn't miss much and could scout out where we wanted to sit for qualifying and the race. It took us most of the day, with a few stops, but was one of my favourite parts of the weekend.

9) As per the above point - wear comfy shoes. You'll be grateful by the end of the day.

 10) If you're on just a general admission ticket (i.e. not in a grandstand) you won't have a designated seat so need to make sure you have a good spot for race day. A 5am alarm on Sunday morning seemed excessive, but it was so worth it for the view we had.

11) Speaking of, the hill at the 'Pouhon' section of the track is a lot steeper from the top than it looks. We wedged our camp chairs into the top of the hill, so we had an absolutely amazing view. Not being good with heights (and also being notoriously clumsy and not well balanced on my feet) it's safe to say I was petrified. but, by the time the hill filled up with people I was grateful for my brilliant spot and clear view of the race.

12) Grab a spot near a giant TV screen or you won't have a clue what's going on. Commentary is split between French and English so it can be a while before you know what's happening and, without being rude, the track commentators are no David Coulthard and occasionally get things wrong or don't pick up on changes that quickly.

13) Belgium is so pretty and away from the track we spent time in pretty little villages and towns, with great food, weather and a relaxed atmosphere. I loved it.

14) Speaking of, the Belgium people were really friendly. I always feel awful when I go abroad and I don't speak the language, it seems so arrogant to expect people to speak English, but I really am terrible at grasping languages. When I went to Paris a few years ago we encountered many waitresses and bar staff who were visibly annoyed by my inability to speak French. Although I understood it, it still made me feel uncomfortable. This didn't happen in Belgium - all the waitresses and bar staff we interacted with were helpful and friendly and more than willing to try and work out what we wanted (most didn't speak fluent English so we had to meet halfway!) which made it a relaxed and enjoyable experience.

15) We drove from Leeds to Belgium as it was cheaper and actually easier. It turns out that long car journeys aren't so bad if you do them with someone you get on with. In fact, they can be fun. Radio blasting, eating sweets, chatting nonsense... brilliant.

16) ...however, if there's bad traffic/weather/other annoying drivers then the drive can be long and tense. But, you'll get through it. Honestly.

17) It is well worth going to see the F1 in real life. I've never done anything like it and it's an experience I won't forget. It's an absolutely brilliant atmosphere, being surrounded by F1 fans makes it an electric experience - particularly on race day.

18) Even if you're not that much of a fan and are going with someone that is, it's not boring and I'm sure you'll enjoy it... even if it is just because of the brilliant people-watching opportunities it provides!

19) It's not a relaxing weekend away by any means. Early starts, long days and lots of walking meant that by the time I got home (after nearly 8 hours in the car) I was knackered. Take a few extra days afterwards off work to catch up on well needed rest!

20) If you do go, make the most of it and enjoy it! It truly is wonderful.

Have you ever been to an F1 race? What did you think?

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