22 May 2011 report by F1 reporter Andy Price
I love Barcelona, it is a lovely city with beautiful architecture and a great cafe culture. My wife and I have been a couple of times and said that we would return every five years to check building progress at the Sagrada Famila, also known as Gaudi’s Cathedral. Earlier this year my wife and her friend were planning a visit and she suggested going the same weekend as the grand prix so that I could attend!! I agreed!!
This article is about my experience and I hope that it will assist others who are considering attending in the future. I need to get this out at the start – there are pickpockets and they got me on and escalator in the Metro whilst I was struggling with suitcases about an hour after arriving. The good news is they dropped my wallet and passport, after taking the cash. Despite this incident I still love the city and would not let it put me off going back!
On arrival at the airport there is an Aerobus that can be caught right outside the terminal building and which, for €8, takes you into Placa Espanya or Placa Catalunya. From either you can walk, get a taxi or the Metro to your hotel, depending on where you are staying. The Metro sells a T10 ticket that gives you ten journeys at a saving over the individual fare of €1.45 per journey.
The Circuit de Catalunya is located just outside the town of Montmelo which is served by rail link and a 20 minute walk to the circuit. However, Sagales, the local bus operator run a service from Passeig St Joan (at the junction of Diputacio and about 100m from Tetuan Metro station) for €8 return. The service leaves when the bus is almost full and takes about 30 minutes. It drops you about 400m from the circuit entrance.
I had a three day ticket for Grandstand K which gives a view of the pit lane exit, the first corner and most of turns 5 to 9. There is a TV screen opposite. The circuit commentary is rubbish although it can also be heard on FM radio (there are two channels one for Spanish and another for a combined English/French commentary) I forgot to take a radio with me and there non for sale at the circuit (business opportunity?)
On the Friday there are no checks of tickets once inside the circuit and you are free to enter any grandstand except the main one opposite the pits. I walked most of the circuit from turn four onwards and it was interesting to see the various lines the drivers take through the corners. (I have added some additional advice for photographers below).
On the Saturday you can only get into the grandstand for which you have a ticket but you can wander around the general spectator areas and I recommend turns 4 and 7.
There are only two covered grandstands, so remember the sunscreen!!!!! The circuit will not allow spectators to take in glass bottles or cans. When they sell you a drink they take the top off of the bottle and discard it. Apparently it is intended to stop spectators throwing full bottles onto the track, but they don’t confiscate plastic bottles or the tops on admission! My tip, take lots of water in with you. The food and drink is expensive – €4 for a 500ml bottle of Fanta or Coke and €11 for a pint of lager. The food is nothing special either. There is a full range of team wear available but it is all expensive, which ever circuit you attend.
The Spanish fans are great and they love Alonso, applauding him every time he appeared on the TV screen. The reaction at the start when he dived down the inside to take the lead into the first corner was incredible but they were very quiet and unhappy later in the race when he was lapped. It did not help that Hamilton lapped him. Hamilton is not popular with the Spanish fans!
The story of the race itself is well documented elsewhere and if you watched on TV you would have known much better than those at the circuit the detail of the events, but that is always the way of it. You just cannot beat the atmosphere of being at the race and I can watch the race later at home. At this stage of the season Vettel looks very likely to defend his title.
I applauded Vettel after he took the chequered flag and left the circuit. I managed to get on the bus without queueing and I was sitting in a city centre bar, sipping a beer and reading the BBC race reports (via the internet) within 50 minutes, but I might have been a bit lucky!!
In the city itself, I suggest that you should plan on a visit to Sagrada Familia, the interior of which is now finished and is stunning, and either Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera) or Casa Batlo. The latter two were blocks of flats, but don’t let that put you off. All were originally designed by Antonio Gaudi but the cathedral is not expected to be finished for about another 20 years, 100 years after his death. There are lots of good restaurants, but you may be better to avoid those in La Rambla itself which tend to be expensive and not of any great quality. We use Trip Advisor a lot and the three recommendations we tried this time were excellent choices.
If the chance arises again I would return to future races at Barcelona and as I said earlier it’s a nice city to visit.
Taking pictures from your allocated seat is very likely to be hit and miss depending on what you get. I did take some shots of the cars as they left the pits as they were not going as fast, but trying to capture them at full speed is difficult and in any case they were close to the safety fencing.
Clearly free access to most grandstands on the first practice day (Friday) is the best opportunity and I suggest the chicane, high up on grandstand H, and the final turn low in grandstand I. I missed out on the former planning to do that on the Saturday but could not get access. On the Saturday I suggest turns 4 and 7/8. At turn 4 the cars can be captured at track level as the mesh of the safety fencing is just wide enough to allow the use of a Canon 300m f4 lens and it is not too high. At turn 7/8 you can stand on the hill, see over the fencing, and pan as the cars take the corner.
I did not really take many pictures of the F1 cars on race day – just enjoyed the show.
I used a Canon 50D and could have managed with just my 70-200 zoom, which I used most of the time, but I also used a 300m f4 lens and tried it with a 1.4x converter.
Check out my pictures at: www.flickr.com/photos/garrellmillhouse
3072 – Mark Webber, Red Bull, takes the final turn in free practice 2
3255 – Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, takes turn 4 in free practice 3
3131 – Alonso fans
3136 – F1 Flag
3764 – General view of fans between turns 8 and 9
3795 – Lewis Hamilton, McLaren on the driver’s parade