motorsports

Solo Guide to Race Weekends

Travelling solo to races seems terrifying and, I won’t lie, for the first couple of hours it really, really is. You’ve got travel, meals and days totally alone, you can start to feel a little lonely…

I travelled to the Spanish GP at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya by myself because it was on my bucket list and I wanted to have a holiday in the sun. None of my friends could afford it so I thought ‘hey, I’m 24, I can do this alone’ and I don’t regret it at all.

So, here are a few things to do when planning your trip.

  1. Accommodation: Naturally, travelling alone means that you’ll be forking out the entire sum of your hotel/hostel/apartment so shop around, look for places on the outskirts or small hotels, prices vary dramatically around cities so it pays to look. Another major deciding factor is how you’re getting to the track; walk, train, bus, coach, taxi. If you’re relying on public transport then how far are you from your nearest station/stop? I had 3 things I wanted in hotel facilities/location: Free WiFi (first world problems), near the beach (only essentials) and near a train station. I chose Born, the Gothic sector. It had everything I wanted; walking distance from the station (Arc de Triomf was the closest), walking distance from the zoo, beach and from various cafes/restaurants. The location was everything I wanted and the hotel was less than £700 for 5 nights so zero complaints from me.
  2. Transport: I won’t address flights because, even in a group, you pay for your own ticket. If you’re like me, you might want to get a taxi from the airport if you’re new to the area but the majority of places will have direct rail links from the airport or from close to the airport (not including Silverstone because…yea). The R2 route from Barcelona El Prat airport takes you into the centre so you can make your way from there. I’ve already said it but how are you getting to the track? Do you know your train route? Is there a Silverstone style shuttle bus to and from the track? Driving? Taxi? Whatever your mode of transport, planning is KEY! I’m so into organisation, I plan my route weeks ahead of the event to prevent any mishaps. In the case of Barcelona, the trains are so simple to navigate (but still check online beforehand). If you’re staying in Born like I did then it’s super easy. A metro link (L1) from Arc de Triomf to Clot then change onto the main line (R2) to Montmeló. From Montmeló station, you just follow the crowd towards the track but it’s pretty much a straight line. The walk is about 20/25 minutes depending on how fast you walk. The train prices are pretty reasonable too, about €21 for a 2 zone 10 journey ticket (covers the metro and main line, not sure how many lines *sorry*).
  3. Food: In general, if you’re with or without people, food at the track is EXPENSIVE! If you want breakfast, there are bakeries dotted around no matter where you are. On race weekends, there are lots, and I mean lots, of people selling sandwiches on the way to the track (and beer, Barcelona is a dry track which I found out the hard way). For a sandwich and 1.5 litres of water, you’re looking at about €6. At the track, you’re looking at the same price for a shot of espresso and a packet of M&Ms so choose wisely. If I were to recommend anywhere in Barcelona for food, it has to be La Clotenca Pizzeria in Clot. Sweet Jesus, the portions are huge so, you know, amazing and the food is delicious plus it’s not at all overpriced and the service is brilliant. If you’re going to seek out anywhere to eat, go there.
  4. Company: I’ll say this loud and clear so you all understand me… IF YOU HAVE SOCIAL MEDIA, THERE IS NO REASON YOU HAVE TO BE ALONE ON A RACE WEEKEND. I was fully expecting a lonely weekend, exploring by myself and just generally chilling but I was wrong. One tweet about being at the track and I’d found a fellow fan in GA and arranged to meet up with other fans. Twitter and Instagram are prime places to find other fans and make new friends with the shared interest. None of us were supporting the same team but that meant nothing, we bonded over our mutual love of the sport.

There are many things that could go wrong when you’re away so always remember to have travel insurance and that your bank is able to help in these situation. Unfortunately, neither my insurance or bank were able to help when my purse was stolen so I lost all my money, bank/credit cards and my driving license. Shout out to Barclays for leave me high and dry.

Race weekends are wonderful and crazy and you will LOVE every minute of seeing all those cars flying around so if you have your heart set on somewhere and none of your friends are wanting to go… GO! Plan/save like mad, tweet about it, find like-minded fans at the same place and HAVE A BALL!

Life is for living. I would never have dreamed of doing this adventure a few years ago but I had the most amazing time.

Be smart. Be safe. Have fun.

P.S. if you’re planning to do Monaco, give this a little read.

x

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Underrated Drivers: #1 Pascal Wehrlein

Formula 1 is a cruel mistress and no-one knows this better than Pascal Wehrlein.

Pascal’s early career was a mix of single-seater and touring cars where he earned multiple poles and championships along his way.

  • 2010 – 6th in ADAC Formel Masters with 4 podiums and 1 win.
  • 2011 -1st in ADAC Formel Masteeres with 13 podiums and 8 wins.
  • 2012 – 2nd in Formula 3 Euro Series with 11 podiums and 1 win. 4th in FIA Formula 3 Euro with 6 podiums and 1 win.
  • 2013 – 14th in FIA Formula 3 Euro with 3 podiums and 1 win *he only competed in 3 races*. 22nd in DTM.
  • 2014 – 8th in DTM with 2 wins and 5 podiums and also became Mercedes test driver.
  • 2015 – 1st in DTM with 2 wins and 5 podiums. Mercedes and Force India test driver.

In 2016, Manor took on Mercedes backed Pascal for his rookie season. During his time at Manor, Pascal scored the only point for the team in the Austrian GP when he finished 10th. Now, 10th doesn’t seem like much of an achievement to most but to a struggling team such as Manor, that one point could have been their saving grace from their unfortunate collapse. At the end of the season, Pascal had secured 19th in the drivers standings ahead of seasoned drivers such as Esteban Gutierrez and Marcus Ericsson.

January 2017 saw Manor’s parent company announce they were going into administration forcing the team to withdraw their participation. After the announcement, Wehrlein was tipped for the vacant Force India seat but alas, it wasn’t meant to be and young Pascal instead landed a seat with Sauber.

Okay, to say that Pascal’s 2017 season got off on the wrong foot would be one of the biggest understatements of the year! A crash at Race of Champions ruled him out of the first two races of the season. The extend of his injuries were kept very hush-hush but, after lots of criticism over his decision, he released pictures of himself in a neck brace, silencing the once very vocal masses. 3 races in to his season, Pascal scored his career best finish of 8th position which earned 4 points for the struggling team. His next point scores was for a 10th place finish at Baku. Pascal’s point was the only points seen by Sauber in 2017, earning them 10th in the Constructors and Pascal 18th in the drivers standings.

Look at this through Pascal’s eyes. You’ve scored the only points for your teams for the past 2 years. You’ve been the life saver in the stormy sea, the only thing that is saving everyone else from drowning and all they do is throw you said once they’re done. We all know the reasoning behind it and it’s not based on talent. Pascal has just been another victim of a ridiculously expensive sport.

He’s outperformed his teammates time and time again, proved his worth and his talent but was since passed over. Much like Brendon Hartley, I hope his time back at DTM will do him good and show the likes of Mercedes and other teams what they are missing.

He deserves a chance at a top or middle team where he will be challenged and pushed to show his true potential. That is why Pascal is my most underrated driver. Not just to be passed over by your rookie teammate for a mid field seat and just carry on, delivering your best but to also push a back marker car into the points more than once is an achievement that few can do.

Good luck, Pascal. I wish you the world and more because you deserve it.

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Underrated Driver: #2 Esteban Ocon

Where do I begin with Esteban Ocon?

It was a tough decision to put him second, I must say. He only missed out on the top spot by the tiniest of margins but he definitely fits the underrated title.

His early racing career had a very similar theme: constant improvement.

  • 2012 – 14th in Formula Renault 2.0
  • 2013 – 3rd in Formula Renault 2.0
  • 2014 – 1st in FIA Formula 3 Euro and test driver for Lotus F1
  • 2015 – 1st in GP3 and test driver for Force India
  • 2016 – Became a member of the Mercedes Junior Driver Program and Renault F1 test driver

Now, Esteban had begun 2016 thinking that he would be competing in DTM with Mercedes *where he placed 26th after 10 races* but instead, midway through the season, he was called up to take over Rio Haryanto’s now vacant seat alongside Pascal Wehrlein.

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It’s not hard to see why he was chosen for the seat ahead of rival drivers if you look at not only his early career but also the performance through his 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Esteban gained the nickname of ‘Oconsistency’ during his 2017 career for his point scoring ability as he scored points in 18/20 races, only dropping points for a 12th place finish in Monaco and a DNF in Brazil.

Esteban was also one of the most reliable drivers on the grid when it came to finishing races. Until Brazil 2017, he hadn’t had a retirement since Macau 2014.

His consistent and skilful driving earned him an 8th place spot on the Championship standings, 13 points behind his team-mate, Sergio Perez, and ahead of experienced drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenburg to name a couple.

Esteban’s driving has only improved over the last few years and his ability to take learn from his mistakes and when to take risks will only make him better with each race.

I have rated him since he came onto the scene mid 2016. He showed great skill so early on and I won’t lie that I was devastated when he didn’t get the Mercedes seat. Logically and rationally, it would have been a huge risk for Mercedes to take but to land a Force India seat after only half a season in F1 was phenomenal.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else Esteban can do and I’m sure myself, other fans and Mercedes will all be watching him very closely.

He is one of my favourites. I think the way he comes across, his genuine, friendly nature makes him all the more likeable. He takes everything in his giraffe style strides and handles criticism with maturity beyond his years.

Bonne chance, Esteban!

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Underrated Drivers: #3 Antonio Giovinazzi

If you thought I could do a series on my top drivers, underrated or not, and leave out my favourite Italiano then you are very much mistaken.

Antonio’s early single-seater career was impressive, there is no denying that. In parts it was spotty but, in others, it was phenomenal.

  • 2012 – 1st in Formula Pilota China in his rookie season
  • 2013 – 2nd in British Formula 3… and 17th in FIA Formula 3 European
  • 2014 – 6th in FIA Formula 3 European
  • 2015 – 2nd in FIA Formula 3 European
  • 2016 – 2nd in GP2 in his rookie season

Antonio’s ability to continuously grow during his years in F3 as well as his exceptional rookie season in both 2012 and 2016 show that he is worth watching.

His GP2 rookie season was nothing short of breath-taking. From doing ‘the double’ in Baku* something that hadn’t been done since 2012 with Davide Valsecchi* to battling to the very last race with his championship rival/teammate/friend, Pierre Gasly, for the championship win. Now, THAT was impressive.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only person impressed by him.

In December 2016, Antonio was announced as the third driver for Scuderia Ferrari, a dream for any driver but especially a young Italian. He also participated in pre-season testing with Sauber which, in hindsight, was lucky because he was unexpectedly promoted to a F1 seat for Australia and China due to Pascal Wehrlein’s Race of Champions injuries.

Antonio’s call up story is one of my favourites because it’s just so adorable and pure which makes me smile overtime. When asked an interview with F1 before Australia, Antonio explained that he originally thought the call up was ‘a joke’ and he had received a text message from Ferrari and his manager but was ‘already in bed’. A sleepy Italiano didn’t know he was officially an F1 driver because he was snoozing.

Imagine waking up to that message though. ‘Hey, just a heads up, you’ll be racing for Sauber this weekend. Hope you packed your lucky pants. All the best. F x’ *if anyone has access to the real message, hit me up. Until then, I’ll stick with this being the message he received*

First impressions count and, in my opinion, he made a hell of a lasting impression *and not just on barrier. Hurt me to write that*. YES, he had some crashes. YES, he made some mistakes but he finished 12th. 12TH. 12TH IN HIS FIRST RACE! Why do more people not address this?!

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I could go on forever about how amazing he is. *He did top the Formula E Marrakesh test timing sheets so, you know, he can hold his own in different cars.* But I won’t because we will be here for days so I’ll leave you with a few last thoughts about him.

He deserved a seat. He deserves a seat. ANTONIO DESERVES AN F1 SEAT! I wanted him to be there, alongside Charles Leclerc, battling with the big boys. I wanted my boys to be side by side in the Sauber garage but alas, my dream didn’t come true.

I have my fingers crossed. I hold out hope every race that they may decide that he deserves the opportunity to show what he can do. He works well with his team. He apologised to his team after the incidents in both Australia and China. He took responsibility for what had happened instead of passing the blame to others. He’s a nice person, a genuine person. It’s hard not to look at him and not smile *if you’re me*.

Fingers crossed for my favourite Italian. I’ll see you on the grid someday and when I do, I’ll be there to cheer you on.

Buona fortuna, Antonio!

x

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Underrated Drivers: #4 Carlos Sainz Jr

Oh Carlos! His driving is wonderful but his lion like mane is just the cherry on top of the lovely little cupcake that he is.

Some things run in families: hair colour, height, birth marks. In the case of the Sainz men, it’s a love of racing.

With a rally world champion as a father, Carlos was always going to end up behind the wheel of something fast and boy, has he thrived behind it.

Carlos Sainz Sr and Jr

In 2010, Carlos was inducted into the Red Bull Junior Program after an impressive start to his single seater career, scoring 2nd place in the opening race and then 4th in the following race. This mighty fine performance was what caught the attention of Helmut Marko and cemented his future with the Red Bull squadron.

His early career was a bit of a mixed bag of tricks:

  • 2011 – 1st in Formula Renault 2.0 with 12 wins.
  • 2012 – 6th in British Formula 3.
  • 2013 –  10th in GP3 with 2 podium finishes.
  • 2014 – 1st in Formula Renault 3.5

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In 2015, Carlos joined fellow child driver *just kidding* Max Verstappen as they debuted for Toro Rosso after Daniil Kvyat was promoted into the now vacant Red Bull seat,

In his first F1 weekend, Carlos qualified in 8th position and ended the race in 9th position. Not too shabby for your debuting weekend. His year wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine though but he also wasn’t a one hit wonder. By the end of 2015, Carlos had secured a respectable 15th place, outdoing the likes of Jenson Button and his own childhood hero, Fernando Alonso.

Carlos’ career only improved from his debut. 2016 saw him 12th in the World Championship standings and last year, 2017, saw him improve yet again to 9th in the standings.

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You have to admire the skill and maturity that Carlos has demonstrated over the years. Driving is one thing, lots of people can do it but being able to handle difficult situations like your younger teammate being promoted ahead of you and just move forward takes a level of maturity that many his senior would lack.

Carlos has shown how skilful he is in both the Toro Rosso and the Renault. From scoring a 4th in Singapore, his best result to date, to a 7th place on his debut in the bumblebee car of Renault. He handles pressure as if it doesn’t touch him and adapts to new situations and teams with ease.

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Plus, on a non racing related note, his bromance with Fernando Alonso makes even the worst race weekends seem slightly better. The encouragement they give one another will always make me smile.

Vamos Carlos! Buena suerte!

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Underrated Drivers: #5 Daniil Kvyat

Love him or loathe him, you have to admit that Daniil Kvyat has put on an impressive show over the years.

If you looks back on his racing career to date, you will see exactly how he landed that full time Toro Rosso seat back in 2014 at the tender age of 19.

Dany started off his career in karting like pretty much every other driver. After 5 years, he moved onto bigger and brighter things in the shape of Formula BMW and Formula Renault 2.0.

His career improved massively over the next few years.

  • 2011 – 2nd in Formula Renault 2.0 behind his Red Bull compadre Carlos Sainz Jr.
  • 2012 – 1st in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps with 7 wins and 2nd in Formula Renault 2.0 behind Stoffel Vandoorne.
  • 2013 – 1st in GP3 with 3 wins.

Dany’s GP3 performance was his shining moment that made the F1 world, specifically Red Bull, sit up and take real notice of him.

In his rookie season, he not only scored 3 wins and 5 podiums but he was rarely out of the points and successfully claimed the world championship title.

In 2014, at the tender age of 19, he made his F1 debut in Australia with Toro Rosso alongside Jean Eric Vergne. During that first weekend, not only did he qualify within the top 10 but he also finished the race in 9th position, beating Sebastian Vettel’s record for youngest points scorer. That wasn’t the end of his points scoring in 2014, he went on to score more in Malaysia, China, Great Britain and Belgium, landing him 15th in the championship standings.

Move forward to 2015 and a promotion to play with the big boys at Red Bull and Daniil scores his first F1 podium in Hungary with a 2nd place finish. This meant that, once again, he beat a record set by Sebastian Vettel for the youngest podium finisher. By the end of the season, he was 7th in the world championship, quite the achievement for a 21 year old.

2016, the dreaded 2016. It started off so well. A third place spot after an eventful in China which saw him gain the nickname of ‘Torpedo’ due to his ‘suicidal’ dive-bomb down the inside of Sebastian Vettel.

It all went downhill from here. After more drama and contact with Sebastian Vettel at his home race in Russia, Dany was unceremoniously ousted from his Red Bull seat to make room for Max Verstappen. At the end of 2016, Daniil was 14th in the championship standings.

It’s been rocky and he’s made some BIG mistakes but he is one of the more underrated drivers to grace the F1 grid last season and you just have to look at his early career to see his talent.

The midseason upheaval caused an obvious knock to not only his confidence but also to his overall mental state. Post Spanish Grand Prix, Daniil appeared downtrodden and defeated, worrying a lot of media and fans alike. His deflated appearance and comments along with his ‘just a human’ Instagram biography did nothing to diminish the concern from the F1 world as the summer break began but

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14 Years And 1 Day

Where did/do you see yourself at 25?

Married? Kids? Travelling the world? Settled in a dream job?

Me, I wanted 3/4 of those things. The more stable ones, now I want the adventure because hey, I’m 24 now and I want some excitement while I’m still young.

You’re still young at 25. Your whole life stretched out ahead, ready for you to make your mark on history *if that’s your thing*.

Now, take a second to imagine *if you can* how the ever lovely Marc Márquez is feeling right now. Just turned 25 on February 17th, 6 world championships under your belt, an army *the only way it could ever be described* of loyal fans ready to fight to the death to defend your name and women throwing themselves at you from every direction *I won’t lie, I am one of them*.

Do you think, as a child, he ever dreamed this would happen at such a young age?

Do you think he believed that, when people he went to school with were just finding their feet in a job, he would be considered one of the greats in his?

He’s superhuman, that much is true. All you have to do is take a look at some of his saves and you’ll understand that the laws of physics tend to leave some wiggle room for Mr Márquez.

Not only does he manage to save the seemingly impossible, knee and elbow to the floor and STILL you manage to keep it going(!?), but he’s also undoubtably one of the most skilled men to ever grace a MotoGP circuit *if you don’t know why then just watch*.

But he’s not the only legend with legions of fans ready to fight for his honour.

Born 14 years and 1 day apart, Valentino Rossi, born February 16th, is and always will be a legend.

Vale won his first championship in 1997 at 18 in 125cc after a rocky start to his career *it was only one season where he was still finding his feet so we’ll let him off*. After graduating in 1998, he then went on to win 1999 250cc title and, again, graduate to 500cc in 2000 with Honda.

Now, this is quite possibly my favourite piece of MotoGP trivia ever. Valentino Rossi, the Doctor, who some may call the G.O.A.T. was there, racing, for the birth of MotoGP.

Can. You. Imagine.

Incredible.

So yes, MotoGP was born in 2002 when the 500cc bikes became obsolete and 990cc bikes came into fruition *since changed to 1000cc. FEEL THE POWER* . Teething issues for all riders were natural but he prevailed and took the first MotoGP world championship title.

By 25, Valentino had scored 5 world championship titles which is both amazing and sickening *I have done nothing with my life* and that wasn’t the end as he then went on to win another 4 titles. FOUR. PHENOMENAL.

As well as being a legend on the track, Rossi is also a legend and mentor off it *kinda*. In 2014, he started the Moto3 team Sky Racing Team by VR46 with riders Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia. Valentino obviously has an eye for talent as Bagnaia has just been announced as one of Pramac’s 2019 riders.

I’m in awe of the pair of them for what they have achieved at such a young age. Truly in awe.

Is it coincidence or fate that two people who are constantly compared to each other should have birthdays within touching distance of each other?…

It’s easy to say that someone is too young or too old to do something, to make a difference and make impact but legends such as Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi are testimony that no matter your age, if you want to be the best and make history, you can do it if you put in the hard work and time.

P.S. Before anyone complains, Rossi’s ‘5 world championships at 25’ does just mean the number of WC he had when turning 25 like Marquez having 6 by 25. You get me?