We want to let you in on what it’s like to visit the Spanish Grand Prix as a Dutch Formula 1 fan. Sit back, read about our adventures and enjoy the ‘ride’!
Day 1 – Travel & arrival
We departed to Schiphol Amsterdam Airport late in the afternoon on our first day of this adventure. We were in light excitement all week, obviously when you get to attend a Grand Prix, but this time we got to attend the race for the Dutch travel agency TUI to do a report for their followers and online community. We arrive at Schiphol, get through security quite easily and we are right in time to enjoy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, just before boarding the airplane.
Vamos a Barcelona!
When arriving at the airport El Prat in Barcelona, we just walk straight out of the airplane with our hand luggage, traveling light makes you skip the annoying luggage belt waits. If you plan to stay a bit longer in Barcelona, of course it is possible to book extra luggage. Onto the rental company, which we found right away. TUI booked us a real Spanish car, a Seat Ibiza, what else could we wish for? Behind the desk of the rental company AVIS they go by the Spanish ‘Mañana Mañana’. We should get used to that in Spain.. let it go!
Once we got the keys, we picked up the car and navigate our way to the hotel (tip: use Google Maps). The traffic is low on the way to the hotel and we manage to get there at 23.00. Make sure you carry a credit card or have enough cash in your pocket for the toll roads you will cross on your way form the airport to the hotel. At a certain moment, when you are near the hotel, you need to let go of your google maps navigation. You have to access the hotels parking by driving all the way around the hotel. We check in and have a quick sleep before the long day tomorrow.
Day 2 – Friday – Formula 1 Free Practice
Rise and shine, first we have some breakfast at the hotel and afterwards we get our tickets at the hotel reception. We receive a neat enveloppe with our tickets to attend the Spanish Grand Prix. The breakfast is very good, there is a lot of choice in healthy and fresh food and the personnel is friendly and really helpful.
That’s that, but it’s about to start. We head in the direction of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the official name of this F1 track near Barcelona. Again traffic is easy going and we have a route on toll roads again, nothing much but keep in mind to carry some cash (or credit card). As we get closer to the track, traffic increases a bit, but it is nowhere near the chaos we are used to at for example the Belgium Grand Prix. We park our car at the A2 parking spot (parking tickets were included with our TUI package) and walk to our designated grandstand G. The Formula 3 class (formerly G3) is warming up now and we hear the sound of the engines was we get closer to the track. WOW, what a wonderful spot we got ourselves! Besides watching the action from one of the many grandstands, it is also possible to watch everything from the bronze areas. There are plenty of spots to watch the race, even without grandstand tickets, though we recommend experiencing the race from a grandstand for the best view possible.
The atmosphere at the track is great, the Spanish people are relaxed and besides the many ‘Max Verstappen fans’ there are also loads of Dutch and Spanish families who come to watch this Grand Prix. You really experience the F1 organization doing their utmost to make the sport accessible for a broader audience. There are plenty of food spots where you can eat and relax, if you like in the shadow.
Lunch was pretty good for an event of this size. Normally at these sort of events you have to be satisfied with a small tasteless burger, but not in Spain. We order a burger and a hotdog, which both are very tasty, that’s a good lunch for a very busy second day. Way payd about €20 for this lunch, included 2 Coca Colas.
The Formula 1 drivers start their engines, quite a speed these cars manage to reach, it’s incredible. The cars break full force after a DRS zone and enter the chicane part of the track at stand G. You can see the cars from the point where they first hit the brake all the way to the point where they unleash all the throttle to enter de main straight. We get goosebumps when they pass us for the first time. At this stand there is also a large TV screen from where we can follow the race, it’s always great to see what happens at the other side of the track. Besides the Formula 1 sessions, we also watch the Porsche Supercup, the Formula 2 (formerly GP2) and the Formula 3 (formerly GP3). This was one exciting day, racewise, but we are near Barcelona and decide to do a cultural trip in this wonderful city.
We head to the Seat Ibiza and start our journey to Barcelona, with our main goal to see the famous Sagrada Familia. It is quite easy to enter the city and get close to this architectural masterpiece. There are a lot of parking garages near the Sagrada Familia. What a great structure and massive building, unbelievable. But like all things in Spain, building this piece of art they are not in a hurry and it is still not finished. We wonder how long it will take to completely finish this project.. Just as at the track, the atmosphere is relaxed and there are a lot of cosy restaurants where you see locals eat at terraces on the street. Yes, this is Barcelona!
After our cultural detour, we take a look in the harbour of Barcelona. We drop our bags and sit down for a nice dinner. All the waiters try to get you to eat at their restaurant, and finally we give in when we’re offered a piece of delicious ‘Iberico ‘ham. The menu is very varied, and however the restaurant is specialized in fresh fish, we decide to go for a large steak. It’s 22.45 in the evening and we decide to call it a day, tomorrow is qualy day and we want to be at the track early in the morning.
Day 3 – Saturday – Formula 1 Qualifying
Entrance tickets? Check! Parking tickets? Check! We head down for a quick breakfast and leave to the track. It is a bit busier than yesterday, but still nothing compared to other Grand Prix. How chaotic some Spanish people may seem, they have this perfectly in order, maybe because of their years of experience of hosting both the Formula 1 and the MotoGP. We park at our designated parking area (A2) and head for our stand. We witness the third free practice, where we only see Max Verstappen drive a few laps due to electrical problems, or as the team said ‘Max hit the wrong button’. Do Formula 1 cars have ‘self-destruct’ button, we’re wondering? Don’t do this again Max 😉
Qualifying is very exciting, Max is second for a long period of time, but at the end has to accept that the Mercedes and Ferrari cars are quicker. The Red Bull driver still manages to secure a 5th starting position for tomorrow. Max thinks his race pace is great for tomorrow.. We will see!
After the Formula 1 qualifying, we see the first Formula 2 race this weekend, the main race is where the cars have to make a mandatory pitstop. This racing class is very exciting, Dutchie Nyck de Vries leaves from the second starting position, but after a few battles and change of positions, Nyck has to let the quicker George Russell go. Salient detail is that George Russell is the brother in law of Nyck, would be quite a cosy breakfast at the ‘De Vries’ house. Tomorrow race 2 is on the program, where the top 8 finishers of today will start in reversed grid order. This means that Artem Markelov, who finished 8th, will start from Pole Position tomorrow.
We head back to the hotel, time to draw up a balance while enjoying a nice pizza and a local brewed ‘Cerveza’. We come to the conclusion that this trip couldn’t get any better.. or does it?
Day 4 – Sunday – Formula 1 Race day
Today is ‘D-day’ or better ‘Race day’. This is why we are in Barcelona in the first place, ‘el Gran Premio de Formula Uno’ at ‘Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’. At breakfast we see a lot of Max Verstappen fans, however we also spot some supporters for other drivers. We travel to the track on the same route as the previous days, where there is a lot more traffic than the other days, so leave on time on race day! At the track we immediately feel the tension, there are no more training or qualifying sessions today, this is the day the points are handed out.
The Formula 3 class drives in the morning, followed by the Formula 2 sprint race. These championships drive in the pre-program of the Formula 1, where young drivers try to get in the spotlight of the Formula 1 team principles. During the Formula 2 race there is always a lot of action on track, daring overtakes, but also numerous crashes. Fun to watch and sometimes even more exciting than the Formula 1 race. After the Formula 3 and Formula 2 races, we go for a lunch before it’s lights out for the Formula 1. We manage to get ourselves a lovely authentic Spanish paella.
It’s 14.45, in about 25 minutes, the drivers will head for the first corner. We finish our lunch and head to our stand, stand G. The stand is completely full of Max Verstappen fans, but there are also plenty of fans for local heroes Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz. After a few installation laps, where the drivers and teams check all the systems for the last time, the cars drive to their starting position. On the grid the drivers do some TV interviews (that’s quite unique, in which other sports do you see this?) and get ready to start. All drivers first do a warm up lap, where they can warm their tires and brakes and head to the starting grid. We see the whole field pass and get really excited now, will Max make the first corner?
The cars are on their starting position, we hear the engines roar(!!), a sign the race has started. At the big TV screen we see that Max gets through the first corner without any hassle, he doesn’t get caught up in the chaos, created by the French driver Romain Grosjean. Everytime one of the local Spanish heroes pass the stand there is a loud cheer from the crowd. Back to Max, he drives an incredible race. The teammate of Ferrari driver Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen has to retire his car due to technical issues.This fact, combined with a badly timed pitstop for Vettel from the Ferrari team, creates an opportunity for Max to get to P3. It gets close when Max Verstappen damages his front wing on the Williams of Lance Stroll, who doesn’t notice the ending of the Virtual Safety Car situation.
This should not spoil the fun however, Max drives virtually unthreatened to the podium. Great to see this live from the track, instead of from the couch at home. After the finish we run towards the main grandstand, where we can enter the track to watch the podium ceremony, where we arrive just in time to cheer for Max. What a great race we just witnessed, the first podium of Max Verstappen in 2018, we hope for a lot more to come.
Day 5 – Monday – Our own driving experience
It is Charrel’s birthday today, that’s why I arranged a go kart experience at an outside track near Barcelona. It’s about a one hour drive to the picturesque village Castellolí. This is a track where Formula 1 stars like Lewis Hamilton drove. We drive through a fantastic landscape and see a lot of picture worthy places, where we stop the car and make a picture, to make the family jealous at home.
The track is hidden, somewhere behind the village, but the signage is good and we are able to find it rather quickly. The track itself is great, the karts are well maintained and the personnel is friendly. You should go here if you have the chance. We drive through the mountain ‘Montserrat’, where we see a lot of insta worthy scenes. After an easy day, compared to the Formula 1 days, we head to our hotel again, time for dinner. Tomorrow we will pack our stuff and will pay one last visit to the mid season Formula 1 testing, before heading back to Amsterdam.
Day 6 – Tuesday – One last shot of Formula 1
This is the last day of our Formula 1 adventure, we are lucky that we have the chance to visit the mid season testing with our Formula 1 weekend tickets, so this visit is practically free of charge. The teams work their way through the testing day, partly for tire manufacturer Pirelli and partly for their own testing program, to develop the cars for the rest of the season. We check out of the hotel and head to the track, today it is extremely calm on the roads and we even have the possibility to park at the premium parking spots right next to the entrance.
We are at and around the track all day, there is relatively a lot of action on the track and we can make some nice pictures. Check out our Spanish GP gallery for more pictures. Besides of the usual suspects, there are also some test drivers making their way around the track, getting used to the car. Great to see them get this chance form the team to prove what their word. Max makes a total of 146 rounds and manages to set the fastest lap time this day. Sources say that Max has the chance to win the next Grand Prix in Monaco, he is the absolute favorite.
“The art of attending a party is knowing when to leave.”
Barcelona has been great to us, it is 16.00 as we continue our way to El Prat, the airport of Barcelona. On our way we fill up the car and deliver it at the Avis rental company at the airport. On Schiphol we get a surprise welcome from our loved ones, nice to see them after 6 days of burning rubber, oil and fast cars.
See you at the next Grand Prix!