Travel is a lot about senses, but it's also about experiences and atmosphere. Each destination has its own and then there are specific events that add even more on top of it.
One of those specific events is the F1 Grand Prix in Monza. From the moment you drive towards the circuit, you see masses of people who are also heading there. Most of them in red, wearing Ferrari outfits and waving flags. Then you enter the grounds and you truly realize the size of the whole event. There are hundreds of people who ensure that it all goes smoothly. You turn around a corner and there it is... the sound of the first engines, somewhere far from the paddock area, where the engines are getting tested and warmed up and still the sound makes it to your ears. You get closer, the sounds get louder, the smell of tires and oil gets added, more people arrive. The excitement gets bigger each and every minute.
You walk around and then the whole spectacle starts... the first race is on its way. The GP3 cars drive their rounds and you know it's about time to get to your spot and enjoy the full show.
What is the best spot to watch a Formula 1 race?
I’ve seen races from the tribune, the hospitality area, but also from right next to the track where you bring your own chairs or simply stand. No matter where you are, you should make sure to have a TV screen in sight, otherwise you will miss the race while watching it. The chances that you will be able to see what’s happening right in front of you are very low. Usually you just see the cars passing you, having no idea who is actually in which position.
The start of the race is definitely special, as well as how the cars take the first corner. But usually those are also the most expensive seats and still you won’t see the highlights of the race, unless you have a screen close by or you record the race back at home on your TV.
That might demolish the picture you had of a race in your head, if you have never watched one before. No, you should not watch it on TV. Not at home or at the race itself. I would recommend a mix of both. When I was in Monza, I got invited to the hospitality section, right next to the start line and I enjoyed it, but it was also good to leave that area and just wander around while the race was happening.
The Formula 1 is a huge show! The Formula 1 is a huge spectacle!
That show is happening everywhere. Don’t just watch the cars pass by. Look around you and feel the excitement. Many use the race weekend as a social event. They come with their friends and families and go camping. They bring that festival atmosphere to the race tracks.
I’m sure that it’s not everybody’s wish to sleep in a tent and to wake up to the sound of engines. If that's the case then you should go for a ticket on a tribune. There are different ticket categories, and for the better views, you obviously pay a higher price. Usually the tickets start around €50-60 and end around €500-600. To get into the hospitality area it is a bit tougher, as that’s where you find the sponsors and you need to know the right people. If you get the chance to go there, say yes. That’s where you get closest to the teams and drivers.
The race atmosphere is all around, also in Monza itself.
You should definitely save enough time to stroll around Monza over the weekend! It seems like everybody is out there. The city is full of activites centering around (motor)sports. Ferrari, for example, simulated a pit stop. The fun part is, that you are the one who can change the tires! Each wheel gets changed by a team of 3 people and one can be you. The time will be logged, so that you can compare it with the pros later at the race and the others who are also giving it a try. Then, Ferrari has some F1 simulators and those ones are really crazy and fun! If the line of people is too long to give it a go, then head to a Ferrari store, which you find in Milan, Rome, Maranello, Barcelona or Dubai. In these stores you can also try to drive an F1 Ferrari. These are not the usual simulators, but they have been specially developed for the Ferrari Driver Academy. So even the F1 (and other) drivers are using the simulators for their practice, and also to test different settings. Obviously you can not get the actual G power into a simulator, but apart from that, it’s getting quite close to the real thing. Each store has slightly different versions. The one in Milan is one of the newest versions and comes to a reality degree of 70%.
You take a seat in the car body and already it's the real size and not that easy to get in and out of. The wheel also has lots of buttons and features, which will drive you nuts, if you want to drive it on manual. Still, you should know that the real F1 wheels have even more buttons.
Do not forget to wear the seat belt!
In this case it’s not for security reasons, but to simulate the brakes. The seat belt gets tighter the harder you brake. This feature is absolutely brilliant.
The gas pedal is very sensitive and you have to be careful using it, especially in case you go off track. To spin yourself around is very easy. The brakes feel like they don’t move at all, but they do their job. To find the right breaking point on the track is a tough one and it helps to know the circuit you want to drive on. I got completely lost in the first corner.
I chose Monza, as it’s a relatively easy circuit with only 11 curves and lots of speed on the straights.
A turn in the simulator takes 7 minutes and costs around €25, but I recommend you to at least have €50 to spend. This gives you some practice and gets you very close to the experience of driving a real F1 car…. And to be realistic, what are the chances that you will drive a real F1 car one day?
My best time was 1:35:.... I will not share the results of the other rounds, but was happy with this one. Try to beat it! ;-)
There is more in Monza than loud cars!
If the city gets too noisy, head into Monza's park. It’s big and will transport you to another world. Then there is also the Royal Villa. Seriously, I have no idea who had the idea to call this a villa. It’s a palace!
I also recommend that you visit the Royal Palace/Villa, as you can dive into the world of queens and kings and go back in time here. A tour will get you into their private rooms and one or other secret will be revealed.
There is an extra tour, where you get a set of Google Glasses with headphones. Give this one a try. I really enjoyed it! You wander from room to room and look through the glasses. Each glass has a tiny little screen in it, which you can focus on or just ignore it and see the real room with your eyes. The screen will provide you with extra information and the story of each room, all shown in pictures and videos with sound. Some rooms you really have to look around and the glasses react to it and show you a different perspective.
The chances are high that you will have some awesome weather in Monza. The park and the Villa Royal are then also a nice way to cool down a bit.
There is a restaurant facing the park, which serves some really yummy Italian dishes. Just thinking of the pasta I had, makes me hungry again.
A Formula 1 race weekend is a big event, but there is more than just watching the cars driving around. I enjoyed that, but the highlight was everything around it.
For example, after the race. Everyone was rushing onto the race track, trying to get a good spot for the award ceremony. You had to be quick for that one. We didn’t rush, but enjoyed watching how everyone else ran around. When the ceremony ended we headed out as well. Everyone was in a good mood, kissing the tarmac, taking photos of each other, sitting at the cars' start markers.
Some guys even found some souvenirs: F1 Car Tyres!
Can you believe this? I just hope that they arrived by car and don’t have to check-in this F1 car tyre as a carry-on for their flight home. ;-) I still have no idea how they got those.
There is also no need to rush home straight after the race. There are quite a few people who have this idea and the roads become packed very quickly. There will be no way to get through these jams and if there is, it won’t be much fun. So instead, take your time on the track and watch people or take a stroll and see where the first curve comes.
Walk around and…
Enjoy the Show!
Travel tip shared by Melvin for Travel Dudes.
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