Combining major sporting events, like Formula One, with travel plans appeals to many.
If you’re like me, you might want to visit a Grand Prix race or two on your travels. So, with one eye on the F1 calendar, I’ve done the research for you.
Formula 1 Sport
Lewis Hamilton became F1 World Champion, at the second attempt, and Jenson Button followed up with Championship victory for Britain two years ago.
They both started in the same team (McLaren) last year and Michal Schumacher made a comeback (alongside fellow German, Nico Rosberg, for Mercedes).
I’m not a Formula One fan, in the truest sense of the word, but I do like travelling and I do like being ‘where something is going on’.
I’ve been to many Grand Prix races in my time, and although Monaco remains my favourite, there’s a special atmosphere at all of these events.
To Me, Each Grand Prix Race Has a Different Feel
Australia, when the Grand Prix was held in Adelaide, was a real ‘party atmosphere’.
Hindley Street was closed for the weekend and much of Adelaide turned into an open grill, with the sizzling sausages and ice-cold ‘tinnies’ second only to Christmas lunch on Bondi Beach.
The Australian Grand Prix used to be held at the end of the season; summer, in Australia.
In order to try and make the sport more interesting the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), continue to introduce new rules to the sport of Formula 1 and change the racing calendar from time to time.
In 2008 there were two new street circuits to visit: Valencia (European Grand Prix) and Singapore (for night racing).
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, made it to the chequered flag in 2009.
South Korea made its F1 debut in 2010, and India makes it to the starting grid for 2011.
Unrest in the Middle East forced the powers that be to remove the Bahrain F1 opening fixture from the 2011 Formula One calendar. Whether or not the Kingdom will welcome F1 fans later in the season remains to be seen.
For 2011, F1 racing starts in Australia.
The Turkish Grand Prix is brought forward from the end of May to the beginning of the month.
2011 F1 Race Calendar
Australian Grand Prix – Albert Park, Melbourne.
Malaysian Grand Prix – Sepang International Circuit.
Chinese Grand Prix – Shanghai International Circuit.
Turkish Grand Prix – Istanbul Park.
Spanish Grand Prix – Circuit de Catalunya.
Monaco Grand Prix – Monte-Carlo.
Canadian Grand Prix – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal.
European Grand Prix – Valencia Street Circuit.
British Grand Prix – Silverstone.
German Grand Prix – Nürburgring.
Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring.
Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps.
Italian Grand Prix – Monza.
Singapore Grand Prix – Singapore.
Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka.
Korean Grand Prix – Yeongam.
Indian Grand Prix – New Delhi.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Island.
Brazilian Grand Prix – Interlagos.
Formula 1 Circuits
The main race is on the Sunday but you might like to plan for the warm-up and qualifying days beforehand; where tickets are cheaper and you can often get better photographs of the cars, without too many heads in the way.
Albert Park: (Melbourne Hotels – Australia)
Australia is famous for Grand prix racing with a ‘barbie’ atmosphere.
Stylish Melbourne is Australia’s centre for shopping, restaurants, sport, arts, culture and big events. And it doesn’t get much bigger than the Formula One weekend.
Bahrain International Circuit: (Manama Hotels – Bahrain)
The first race to take place in the Middle East, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix won the FIA Race Promoters’ Trophy, for the organisation of the best Grand Prix in 2004. Unfortunately, unrest in the Middle East forced the racing meeting off the race calendar for the start of 2011.
The BIC shuttle makes pick ups from the Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Radisson SAS, Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Intercontinental, Gulf, Panorama, Novotel Al Dana Resort, Movenpick and Ramada hotels.
Spa-Francorchamps: (Spa Hotels – Belgium)
August is not as bad as September, but Spa seems notorious for Grand Prix races in the rain; so take an umbrella, just in case.
Although the original circuit was shortened in 1983, Spa still has the longest lap length of all the Grand Prix race tracks.
Part of the course uses public roads and the whole setting, in the rolling Ardennes hills, makes Spa-Francorchamps a favourite of many.
Centrally located (50km south-west of Aachen, 50km south of Maastricht and 50km south-east of Liege), the circuit is easily accessible through motorways E40, E25 and E42; making this a popular race weekend for Formula 1 fans from England, France, Germany and Holland.
Interlagos Circuit: (São Paulo Hotels – Brazil)
The Brazilians are almost as passionate about Formula 1 as they are about football and samba. But then that’s not surprising, considering they have produced some racing car legends in Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
Now there’s Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa to keep the Brazilian interest alive.
The Brazilian Grand Prix (Grande Prêmio do Brasil) is held at the Autodromdo Jose Carlos Pace, in the Interlagos district of São Paulo.
On race days there is a special bus service to the autodromo from downtown São Paulo.
Interlagos was the initial home of the Brazilian Grand Prix in the 1970’s, then lost the event for a decade to Rio de Janeiro (Jacarepagua), before taking the driving seat again in 1990.
Jacarepagua may be demolished, to allow the city of Rio to build new facilities for its 2016 Olympic Games bid.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: (Montreal Hotels – Canada)
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is beautifully situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River and conveniently served by the Montreal metro system (Jean-Drapeau).
2008 marked the 30th anniversary at the circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, but it was dropped from the calendar for 2009; only to appear again in 2010.
When visiting the race circuit, it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and get to the circuit early, as you may have a 2km walk to your grandstand seat.
Connected to Île Sainte-Hélène and the Lachine Canal bike path, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (on Île Notre-Dame) is also an ideal place for cyclists and in-line skaters during the summer months.
It’s no longer possible to spend a week in North America, visiting two GP races, as Indianapolis has been dropped from the F1 calendar.
Shanghai International Circuit: (Shanghai Hotels – China)
Shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’, the Shanghai Circuit made its Formula 1 appearance in 2004.
The F1 Circuit is located five minutes from the northern part of the suburban ring road; 40 minutes from People’s Square.
Hong Qiao airport is about 30 minutes away.
GP Magny-Cours: (Nevers Hotels – France)
The French Formula One Grand Prix took pole position at Magny-Cours in 1991 but was dropped for 2009.
The Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) slashed their prices in 2008, to make the French Grand Prix one of the cheapest races for European Formula 1 fans.
After examining the economic situation, the FFSA renounced its status as financial promoter of a F1 Grand Prix. As a consequence, and as long as no promoter comes forward to succeed the FFSA, the F1 Grand Prix de France is absent from the FIA calendar; although there’s always Monaco.
A nostalgic visit to Nevers, halfway between Paris and Lyon, can still be combined with a tour of the Loire Valley.
The German Grand Prix, as opposed to the European Grand Prix (formerly also held in Germany), usually takes place in the middle of summer and now alternates between Hockenheim and Nürburgring.
HockenheimRing: (Hockenheim Hotels – Germany)
Hockenheim is easily accessible from Karlsruhe and Mannheim by train, where you’ll find a shuttle bus from the train station to the Ring. On foot, it’s a good 30 minute walk from the station.
Nürburgring: (Adenau Hotels – Germany)
Once classified as the European Grand Prix, Nürburgring (near Adenau) attracts German campers in their thousands; the 300,000 square metre camping oasis is directly next to the Grand Prix course.
Nurburgring lies 90km southwest of Cologne or 60km northwest of Koblenz, with the nearest airports at Köln-Bonn (80km) and Düsseldorf (120km).
If you choose to drive, you’ll be pleased to hear that the car-parking is free. There may also be a bus-shuttle to Nürburgring, from the main station in Koblenz.
Silverstone: (London Hotels – United Kingdom)
Silverstone Circuit – current home of the British Grand Prix – is situated on the A43, between Towcester and Brackley.
Exit the M40 at Junction 10 (from the South) and follow the A43 signposted to Northampton, or exit at the M40 at Junction 11 (from the North) and follow the A422 to the A43.
Alternatively, you can exit the M1 at Junction 15a and follow signs for the A43 Oxford.
Hungaroring: (Budapest Hotels – Hungary)
The Hungaroring circuit is 19km from the centre of Budapest, alongside the M3 motorway, near the village of Mogyoród.
The track is in a natural valley, surrounded by 50 hectares of rolling hillside. This amphitheatre setting gives spectators a magnificent view of the race from just about anywhere around the course.
If you’re in the Lake Balaton region, during Grand Prix weekend, there are plenty of coaches (including race ticket) to Hungaroring for the Grand Prix.
Jaypee International Race Circuit: (New Delhi Hotels – India)
India has always been known for its love of cricket, but interest in Formula One has grown rapidly in recent years; especially with the presence of Vijay Mallya’s Force India team on the starting grid and the arrival of Indian drivers, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, behind the steering wheel of F1 cars.
The Jaypee International Race Circuit is a part of Jaypee Sports City (near Greater Noida, along the Yamuna Express Highway). Spread over 2,500 acres this is an ambitious project to include an 100,000 seating capacity Cricket stadium, an hockey arena, a sports training academy and infrastructure for other sports.
Autodromo Nazionale: (Monza Hotels – Italy)
The Italian Grand Prix, not to be confused with the Imola Grand Prix (also in Italy), has been raced at Monza for over 50 years.
Monza is located 15km north-east of Milan, in northern Italy, and is an easy day-trip for race fans based in Switzerland.
Many Formula One fans travelling to Monza choose to stay around the Lake Como area.
Fuji Speedway: (Tokyo Hotels – Japan)
Grand Prix racing was first held in Japan in 1976, at the Fuji circuit, then moved to Suzuka a decade later. Fuji made a return in 2007 but handed back to Suzuka in 2009.
With Mount Fuji in the background (on a clear day), Oyama’s Fuji Speedway really does symbolise motor racing in Japan for the purists.
With Japan’s efficient transportation network, getting to Fuiji Speedway is easy enough; although the diagrams seem to have been put together by someone more conversant in computer language than literary communication.
Suzuka Circuit: (Suzuka Hotels – Japan)
Suzuka’s figure of eight track is unique in Formula 1 racing.
After being dropped in 2007, for the Fuji Speedway, the Suzuka Circuit returned to host the Japanese Grand Prix in 2009.
The closest airports to Suzuka are Nagaya and Osaka’s Kansai International.
Tokyo is further away but the bullet train is a comfortable enough option of travelling to the race from the capital, if you prefer to stay in one of the Tokyo Hotels.
Sepang Circuit: (Sepang Hotels – Malaysia)
Located in the heart of Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor, the Sepang Circuit is only a 10-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport – voted the ‘World’s Best Airport’; in the 2005 AETRA awards and 2006 ACI-ASQ awards.
If you’re visiting the Malaysian Grand Prix, you may prefer to stay in Kuala Lumpur.
Grand Prix de Monaco: (Monte Carlo Hotels – Monaco)
As you already know, the Monaco Grand Prix is my favourite.
As the race often coincides with the Cannes Film Festival (11th-22nd May, 2011) some of the stars also make an apearance on the streets of Monte Carlo during race weekend.
If you decide to drive to the South of France, you can even take your car around the ‘track’ in the evening; when the Monaco street circuit is open to the public.
True, you can drive around Monaco anytime but it is a little special to drive around when the race barriers and chicane are in place.
Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari: (Imola Hotels – Italy)
Although called the San Marino Grand Prix, it was actually raced in Imola, Italy; from 1981 to 2006.
Singapore Grand Prix: (Singapore Hotels – Singapore)
New to the Formula 1 calendar in 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix is raced around the city state’s Marina Bay at night; making it the first fully lit street race in Formula One history.
With no lights on the cars and relying on powerful overhead lighting, things could prove tricky if it rains.
The F1 Singapore Grand Prix was also the first street race to be held in Asia and one of only a few races to run anticlockwise.
Formula 1 at Night – Singapore:
At the Chingay Parade in February 2008, a night-time preview was given of what night-time Formula One racing might look and feel like in Singapore, come September.
Korean International Circuit: (South Jeolla Province – South Korea)
The Korean Grand Prix made it to Formula 1 grid in 2010.
A brand new race track was constructed for the event in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province – 320 kilometres south of the capital, Seoul.
South Korea has also hosted other major sporting events: Asian Games (1986 and 2002); Seoul Olympics (1988), and the FIFA World Cup Finals (with Japan – in 2002).
Circuit de Catalunya: (Barcelona Hotels – Spain)
The Spanish Grand Prix is raced on the Circuit de Catalunya.
Sagalés Coaches take spectators to the Circuit from the centre of Barcelona, at the junction between Passeig de Sant Joan and Diputació St.; arriving at the Circuit’s East Area. Or you could use the Montmeló railway station with the other 10,000 passengers.
Circuito Urbano: (Valencia Hotels – Spain)
Calling a Formula One race the European Grand Prix now seems another way of saying this country has two Grand Prix events on the season’s race calendar.
Whatever, the Valencia street circuit (Street View) made its F1 debut in 2008; an event I missed.
Circuito Urbano – Valencia:
A preview of how Europe’s newest F1 street circuit looks, around the harbourside of Valencia.
The Valencia street circuit should not to be confused with Circuit Valencia, a racing circuit located just outside Cheste; 20km from Valencia.
If you are interested in Circuit Valencia, leave Valencia along Avenida del Cid and take the A-3 dual carriageway, direction Madrid. After about 20km, take exit 334 (Urbanizaciones – Circuito).
During race events, the circuit’s train station on the suburban train (Cercanías) C-3 line is open for fans arriving by rail.
Autocares Buñol also provide a Valencia-Cheste bus service.
Istanbul Park: (Istanbul Hotels – Turkey)
Turkey was a new addition to the Formula 1 race calendar for 2005. The track is located in the Tuzla Tepeören area, on the Asia side of Istanbul.
It can get very hot in Turkey during the summer but early May is still comfortable.
Although it’s quite a trek up to Istanbul for the sun-worshippers staying in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, the journey is feasible from Izmir or Ankara.
United Arab Emirates
Yas Marina Circuit: (Abu Dhabi Hotels – UAE)
The Yas Marina Circuit is a newly-built circuit on Yas Island, about 30 minutes from the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi.
This became the second Formula One race track in the Middle East; after Bahrain.
Access to the circuit is by a purpose built 12 lane highway which can be accessed from the Sheikh Maktoum (E10) highway from Abu Dhabi, or the Sheikh Zayed (E11) highway from Dubai.
United States of America
Formula 1 United States: (Austin Hotels – USA)
Thanks to Full Throttle Productions, Formula One returns to the United States in 2012; to a world-class facility purposely-built to host the event in Austin, Texas.
US GP Indy: (Indianapolis Hotels – USA)
The United States Grand Prix used to be held at Watkins Glen (NY), then Long Beach, Dallas, Detroit and Pheonix; before re-establishing itself again at Indianapolis – famous home of the Indy 500 – in 2000.
Although no longer on the F1 calendar, a possible Grand Prix return to Indianapolis in the future has not been completely ruled out.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located on the west side of Indianapolis, close to Indianapolis International Airport.
From I-465: Take Exit 16A, Crawfordsville Rd. Head east approximately 1.5 miles; the Speedway is located on the north east corner of Crawfordsville and Georgetown Roads.
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