Start your motors – Grand Prix season has begun. If you fancy experiencing life in the fast lane but can’t work out which race to attend, we’ve rounded up the most unmissable destinations on the Formula One calendar.
Melbourne hosted the first grand prix of the F1 season on 17 March; historically, it’s one of the most popular races, with more than 300,000 fans turning up for four-day event.
Albert Park is one of F1’s most spectacular settings – a rambling recreational space filled with walking trails and picnic areas.
The Melbourne event is usually one of the most exciting races, especially for Brits – Lewis Hamilton has started every race here on pole position since 2014 – and it’s also an incredibly family-friendly grand prix, with four music stages, a sprawling Kids’ Corner area and a packed calendar of events, including stunt shows and Q&A sessions with team principles and drivers.
This night-time street circuit race (it became F1’s first night race when it was added to the calendar in 2008) is known for having the best entertainment – this September, acts include the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Cardi B, Muse and Fatboy Slim.
The circuit’s tight turns make it one of the most exciting races too: the safety cars have put in an appearance at least once during every race to date. And there’s plenty to see beyond the circuit. When it comes to accommodation, consider the Raffles Hotel, which reopens this summer following a major refurbishment (its famous Long Bar – home of the Singapore Sling cocktail – has already reopened). Just be prepared for some serious humidity, although on the plus side, at least you’re not an F1 driver – they lose up to 3kg of fluid during this particular race.
Shanghai’s F1 is the cheapest to attend in terms of ticket prices (a mantle held by Malaysia until it was dropped from the calendar in 2017). Grandstand tickets for all three days start from just £65 (book a seat in the upper section of the main grandstand if possible – you’ll be able to see 60 per cent of the track). It’s also one of the most beautiful circuits, designed to resemble the Chinese symbol for shang (meaning “upwards”) and with easy access to Shanghai, more specifically the nightlife hub of Pudong. Simply hop on the Shanghai Metro’s Line 11 at the dedicated Shanghai Circuit stop. Make sure you squeeze in a visit to the Shanghai Auto Museum, with its enormous collection of rare vehicles, including a 1948 Maserati which competed in the 1948 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Baku is one of F1’s four street circuits (Hanoi in Vietnam will become the fifth in 2020) and the fastest street circuit on the calendar, with cars reaching speeds of up to 227mph. The city’s wonderfully diverse architecture – you’ll find buildings designed by Zaha Hadid alongside ancient minarets and sprawling fortresses – is the reason it’s regarded as one of the most breathtaking tracks. The best views are from the Icheri Sheher grandstand – nab a seat here and you’ll enjoy great views of the cars speeding towards the city’s ancient old town.
The hilly slopes which surround this circuit give the Hungaroring track the feel of a natural amphitheatre, and guarantee great views from most areas. The trackside offerings are stellar, with plenty of local food, including traditional fried flatbreads and cheap pints of Hungarian beer. Getting to the city is a breeze (we suggest the free bus service), which makes it easy to check out its best bits, even if you’re short on time. Grab a Budapest Card for free use of public transport and discounted access to the city’s biggest attractions. Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll across the beautiful Szechenyi Chain Bridge, which connects the city’s two halves.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
May’s race will be the 77th Grand Prix to take place here, and it’s one of F1’s flashier events, with many spectators taking in the action from the decks of their super yachts. Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the most expensive races in terms of ticket prices but being a street race, there are various ways to cut costs. Our favourite? Book (well in advance) a panoramic pedi at the Fairmont Monte Carlo’s spa, which has great views of the circuit.
Feeling flush? Splash out on a ticket for the Elite Terrace – you’ll spend two days watching the action from a rooftop while gorging on unlimited food and drink before a meet-and-greet with an F1 driver. Oh, and you’ll get a free race programme too, which is the least you’d expect given the £3,398 price tag.
Unlike many F1 circuits, Silverstone doesn’t offer easy access to a major city (Towcester is the nearest town, which admittedly has a rather lovely canal museum) but that’s irrelevant: the British Grand Prix is famously action-packed. Last year, the safety car made several appearances and there were a number of collisions, including Kimi Raikkonen taking out Lewis Hamilton, who made one of his most remarkable comebacks, eventually finishing second. The off-track entertainment is pretty impressive, too. Craig David will be strutting his stuff on the main stage (other acts have yet to be confirmed) and race fans can get the inside scoop by hiring an F1 Vision handset, introduced last year. These handheld gadgets stream footage from drivers’ onboard cameras and provide access to data relating to everything from pit stop analytics to tyre condition.
Austin’s races are also known for their drama, so it’s the ideal event if you tire of seeing the same drivers on the podium time after time – Mercedes is the only team to have won more than once at Circuit of the Americas, one of only five anti-clockwise tracks on the F1 calendar. Given Austin’s musical roots, it’s hardly surprising the line-ups are pretty spectacular. Although details of this November’s entertainment have yet to be released, racegoers will undoubtedly be treated to some of music’s biggest names: Bruno Mars, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake have all performed in recent years.