19 November 2018 09:37

How to get up close to the stars and cars of Formula 1 whilst on a budget

I’ve always longed for the chance to get up-close to the drivers and cars, but like many, came up against the wall of exclusivity that surrounds the sport. At races there are sometimes autograph sessions and meet n’ greets, but beyond these moments the only real access is provided through the most expensive hospitality options.

However, the opposite is true at Pre-Season testing, located at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, Spain, the Montjuic Club is located above the garages in the main pit building, and is only £237 a day for access.

A day in the Montjuic Club starts at 9:00am. Accessing the suite from the hospitality entrance at the back of the circuit. Once signed in, the suite is laid out with a breakfast buffet, seating, and several bars for drinks service. This is all included in your package, so you can eat, drink, and be merry!

Passing through the sliding doors, I found myself standing the balcony over the pit lane itself. McLaren and Haas are working hard underneath me. The cars are already on track at this point, so it’s a great photo opportunity as they drive in and out the garages.

After a walk around exploring the area behind the suite, and enjoying views from the private hospitality grandstand (located on the entrance of Turn 10 – another great photo opportunity), it was time for lunch. The lunch menu changes each day, with a selection of hot and cold foods, and a generous dessert selection.

The other lunch time highlight is the pit lane walk. As the teams close up for lunch, we can walk up the pit lane, trying to take a peek into the garages, and looking at the pit wall set ups the teams use. Not much is seen of drivers or the teams themselves, as at this time of year they are trying to keep all their designs secret from each other.

The service road tour is a unique and enjoyable opportunity. With a tour guide, we jump aboard a mini bus and they take us around the internal service road of the circuit. This 30-minute tour essentially does a lap of the circuit whilst the cars are on track, stopping for occasional photo opportunities.

The walking paddock tour was the highlight of the day for me. We were walked into the paddock and given a 30-minute tour, walking between the team trailers and motorhomes. Team personnel are working, scrubbing tyres and running data between trailers. Occasionally a driver would run back to the motorhome or the garage, giving me the chance to take photos, and managing a selfie in some instances.

The rest of the day was mine to enjoy. Hospitality access allows General Admission access around the track and into the grandstands open on the day. Photographers – I suggest areas around Turn 3 and Turn 4 where you can shoot over the fence. Also, Grandstand A allows you to photograph Turns 1 and 2, and Grandstand H allows you to take photos of the cars in the final chicane.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience! Montjuic Club Hospitality is only £237, a fraction of the cost of race hospitality, and offers the best value access to the exclusive world of Formula 1. In the paddock you constantly see stars and broadcasters, both from the past and present. Personally, I saw Jacques Villeneuve, Ted Kravitz, Marcus Ericsson, Daniel Ricciardo, and Nico Hulkenberg. I’ve now attended this hospitality five times in the last three years, and can’t say enough good things about it.

Testing is broken up into two periods, confirmed as Monday 18th – Thursday 21st February, then Tuesday 26th February – Friday 1st March, and is a great way to get up to speed with the new season before it officially kicks off in Melbourne. Additional options are available for groups, with prices for Suites (up to 30) and Corporate Lounges (up to 40) available.

Words and images by Chris Griffiths, team member

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