Formula 1© GettyImages

This Summer, Get Revved Up For A Formula 1 Vacation

As I sit down to write this story, the Canadian Grand Prix (GP) is underway. Unlike the last three seasons, Red Bull have been finding competition in McLaren and Ferrari since the last few races. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is engulfed in a rain storm and if history is proof, this will factor into it being an interesting race weekend. As the camera cuts to shots of the poncho-sporting crowd, who are not detered by the weather, and I’m taken back to the time I experienced the aroma of the wet track mixed with the engine oil and burning rubber from tyres racing lap after lap in Imola (more on that later)...

F1 Grand Prix Of Canada Qualifying©GettyImages

It wouldn’t be wrong to equate the Formula 1 (F1) championship to a travelling circus if instead of magicians and acrobats, it featured engineering marvels and the fastest 20 drivers with almost superhuman reflexes. For 10 months each year, the F1 season goes all around the world; in 2024, there are 24 races, marking the highest number ever on the calendar. And if you like to take on new experiences when you travel, we recommend planning a holiday around these race weekends.

Pick a destination of your liking — you’ll be spoilt for choices no matter what your budget is, from Monaco or Las Vegas, the most expensive races on the calendar, to those that cost less like China and Azerbaijan. The allure extends beyond racing, as it stands as one of the most expensive sports in the world, drawing in the wealthy and famous to its events.

On most race weekends, celebrity sightings in the paddock are common. For instance, Brad Pitt, who is also working on a movie based on F1 with Lewis Hamilton, was present at the 2023 British GP in Silverstone. Tom Holland, another F1 aficionado, flagged the end of the Monaco GP last season. In fact, the world’s biggest names ranging from Rihanna to Elon Musk and even Serena Williams have been spotted at F1 races in the past.

Lewis Hamilton meets Brad Pitt and Tim Cook in the garage before the F1 Grand Prix of the USA in 2022©GettyImages
Tom Holland at the Circuit de Monaco in 2023©GettyImages
A$AP Rocky and Rihanna at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit in 2023©GettyImages

And with the worldwide popularity that Netflix’s Drive To Survive brought to this sport that will leave you at the edge of your seat with its incidents on and off the track, Indian celebrities have also been attending the races. Ranveer Singh was at the Abu Dhabi GP in 2022, while Priyanka Chopra Jonas was spotted at the same race in 2023. More recently, Nayanthara and Malaika Arora attended the race weekend in Jeddah earlier this year.

Priyanka Chopra attends the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a year later in 2023©GettyImages
Ranveer Singh on the grid at the Yas Marina Circuit in 2022©GettyImages

Race Week Breakdown

For the F1 novices, a race weekend usually spans across Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On the first day, drivers participate in two rounds of Free Practice i.e. an hour to test how their car is performing on the track. The second day includes a third round of Free Practice as well as the Qualifying race, which is divided into three parts. During Qualifying, the driver’s race positions are determined based on their fastest lap times. Sunday brings race day, where at the end of a set number of laps, the top three drivers stand on the podium, raise their trophies and celebrate by spraying champagne on each other.

Race winner Max Verstappen, second placed Sergio Perez and third placed Carlos Sainz celebrate on the Suzuka podium in 2024©GettyImages

Imola Diaries

A couple of seasons back, my husband and I made the impulsive and very expensive decision to buy grandstand tickets of the Emilia Romagna GP weekend that takes place in May at Imola, Italy, for our honeymoon. This track is special for F1 fans for a few reasons — not only is it located just a few miles from Modena, home to the factories of the biggest automakers in the world, ranging from Ferrari to Maserati; but it’s also the track where racing legend Ayrton Senna had his fatal crash in 1994. The F1 culture and love for motorsports in Italy runs deep, especially when it comes to their support for Ferrari. And so, it came as no surprise that during the race weekend, all the decent hotels and Airbnbs in Imola were booked up or priced exorbitantly. So, we had no option but to reserve accommodations in Bologna, a 30-minute train ride away from the small town. This worked fantastically in our favour given that we had a chance to spend some time in what we discovered was Italy’s culinary capital.

Colours of the Italian flag are released during a fly pass over the Imola track in 2022©GettyImages

Friday onwards, it was time to get into race mode. We made our way to Bologna Centrale and were elated to see fans of literally all 10 teams on the grid, waiting for the train and excitedly discussing who they’re betting on today. A short and thrilling train ride later, it felt like we had stepped into a medieval town full of stone buildings and piazzas, except everything was covered in Ferrari flags and posters. Our walk from the station to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit was like walking through a big party — music blasting, locals selling delicacies and drinks, as well as thousands of fans displaying creative ways of showing support for their favourite teams and drivers.

Bucket List-worthy Races

Circuit de Monaco: One of the oldest and most remarkable (and expensive!) city circuits in the world with strong ties to F1. Rent a yacht for a taste of the country’s glamour.

Circuit de Monaco©GettyImages

Circuit De Spa- Francorchamps: The longest F1 track, expect trackside action and thrilling races at the Belgium GP.

Autodromo Nazionale Monza: Ferrari is a religion in Italy, and Formula 1 is deeply woven into their culture. Experience the electric atmosphere at the track known as the ‘Temple Of Speed’.

Las Vegas Street Circuit: The newest addition to the F1 calendar, where the iconic strip transforms into aracetrack.`

Las Vegas Street Circuit©GettyImages

Red Bull Ring: The Austrian GP is a must for Red Bull fans. Anticipate a sea of orange and dark blue Max Verstappen and Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez supporters.

Things To Note When Booking Your F1 Vacation:

Picking the right seats are key to enjoying a race weekend, because let’s face it, at 300km an hour, it’s tough to keep track of what’s going on. We picked a seat on the grandstand which is positioned along a straight section of the racetrack that comes before the first corner following the start of the race, providing a good view of the overtakes. The added cherry on this sundae was that we were also seated right opposite the pit exit and a big screen that streamed the race as you see it on TV.

And given that the commentary was in Italian, it was a good thing we carried our earphones, so we could listen to the stream on our phones. If your earphones come with a noise cancellation feature, they can also come in handy blocking off the constant roaring of the engines, that can hurt your ears after long exposure.

Some other useful things to carry would be a poncho or umbrella if it’s scheduled to rain during the race weekend, wear sensible shoes, take plenty of dry snacks as the food available can be expensive. Keep cash handy and wear sensible shoes because tracks involve a lot of walking.

Three days of meeting F1 fans from all over the world, running into a couple of reserve drivers as you break to get a beer or a delicious prosciutto sandwich, buying some team memorabilia that you will treasure for the rest of your life, walking the track after the races or partaking in the pit stop challenge, the entire weekend will be engraved in my core memory for a long time to come — I have recommended this experience to every person who has the slightest interest in motorsports.

In fact, if budget is no bar for you, I’d advise you get Paddock Club passes that not only include VIP seating right above the team’s paddocks but also include a tour into the garages of different teams, meet-and-greets with the drivers and world-class hospitality. And with the staggering ticket cost, you’d also be likely to be seated alongside a celebrity.

Trust me when I say this, you need to add planning a holiday around F1 to your travel bucket list this summer!

For first-timers, book your F1 race passes (and hotels!) at least two to three months in advance; if you’re planning to attend the finale, you might need to book even earlier. If you opt for a General Access (GA) pass, find out which turn has had the most action in past races and bring along something to sit on for a comfortable spot to watch. Try to catch a ‘Sprint’ race to watch two races for the price of one.

Combine Thrilling F1 Races With The Best Sightseeing

Formula 1©GettyImages

Australian GP The race takes place in Melbourne, but you can also visit some nearby tourist hotspots like Canberra, Adelaide and Sydney.

Abu Dhabi GP The track, located on the Yas Marina Island, is surrounded by several tourist attractions like amusement parks, malls, beaches and the some top-of-the-line hotels and restaurants.

Japanese GP Besides the cherry blossoms surrounding the Suzuka Circuit, the fans‘ creativity and enthusiasm stealing the show.

Brazilian GP Interlagos, the birthplace of Senna, has an infectious energy. Lewis Hamilton fans will love this track because of how popular he is there — so much so that they’ve granted him an honourary citizenship. The city offers many sightseeing opportunities.

Hungarian GP The Hungarian GP has delivered some standout moments in recent years, while Budapest offers the famous thermal baths and iconic sites like Chain Bridge and Buda Castle.

This story has been adapted for the website from HELLO! India’s May 2024 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!