After her exploits in Jerez, Badger fan Sarah Merritt took the plunge and headed back to Spain for the third, and final, pre-season test in Barcelona. Ever thought of heading there for the F1? Luckily she can give you the heads up!
Well, I’m back again. That’s me, Sarah (AKA @Sareyware) and this Bobblehat journey led me back to sunny Spain to have a further taste of testing ahead of the 2015 season. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of the company of a gaggle of Bobblehats (that’s my best guess at what the collective noun should be!). We had all travelled from disparate parts of the UK to meet up in Barcelona, having become acquainted through Twitter (yes Bernie, that’s right, it’s that social media thing that we all communicate through) and what is nice about all of this is that we weren’t all fans of one team – there was quite a mix. A proper #F1Family, you might say!
I flew into Barcelona El Prat airport which is not far from the city itself, and extremely well connected with public transport. It is worth noting that the circuit itself is some 25km further on the other side of the city. Depending on where you plan to stay you may find it easier to hire a car, or to reach the circuit via train to Montmelo, and make the 15 minute walk up the hill to the circuit itself. On this particular trip, we stayed about 6km from the circuit, but I’ve also previously stayed in the city, or at various locations along the coast.
A few facts about the circuit itself; The Circuit de Catalunya consists of 16 turns over a distance of 4.665km. The lap record of 1 min 22.670 is held by Kimi Räikkönen from 2008. The circuit opened in 1991, and this year celebrates its 26th consecutive grand prix, as well as hosting other motorsport events including the Moto GP.
Upon arrival at the circuit, you can walk around and take in the view from various different locations, but most fans head to the main grandstand. There’s a circuit shop, some “tat stands”, and places to grab a snack or drink here. The main grandstand itself can be quite chilly, as it is a large concrete structure and often in the shade, but from here you can get an excellent view of the main straight, into the garages and pitlane, and the hospitality and roof areas. It’s also a great place to hang your banner outside your teams garage and show some support!
Entry to testing is very reasonably priced at 1520 Euros depending on the day of the week, or free if you have a race ticket for this year’s grand prix, or an annual circuit pass. The annual pass also allowed access through the tunnel under the main straight through to the periphery of the paddock, and the gantry above by the media centre – a great place for piccies! I even saw JB going to run the track! Many of my friends went on the official circuit tour that gave them access to the podium, media centre and more – this costs 70 Euros and they highly recommended it.
At lunchtime each day, if you were on your tour, or had the circuit pass, there was an hour long pitwalk. Many of the teams had put a show car in front of their garage, but I have to say hats off to McLaren, who each day displayed the iconic MP44 for the fans to appreciate. A great gesture, as the car had been at the circuit for a filming day prior to the test. This is my favourite car of all time (yes, I even had a 40th birthday cake of the beauty!)
There were also opportunities to sneak a look in a garage, see the team perches on the pitwall, and check out the general kit like the pit stop gantries, wheel guns, pitboards etc. I was particularly chuffed to have a photo with Jenson’s! We even had a look at the FIA weighbridge.
I was lucky enough to walk around the paddock, and for a girl who likes tyres, there were plenty to see!
As a guest of the lovely bunch at Lotus, I was one of the privileged few able to watch them go about their work inside the garage, and see the car up close as it came in to the garage. It’s fascinating to watch. A highlight was seeing them dealing with repairs to the car after Pastor Maldonado had his accident on the last day. There’s nothing some gaffer tape and superglue can’t achieve! It was just a shame that the time was against them to get things rebuild by the end of the day.
Standing behind the cordon in the pitlane was a great vantage point to see other cars passing by, and very easy to nab a photo as they proceeded out on track (or came back on a truck).
On the Friday evening, we were lucky enough to be invited on a track walk that Mercedes had arranged with our friend Antonela (@SilverArrowsHam) to get us all together. The plan was to tweet as we walked. We set out from the pitlane exit after the days running had completed, still in daylight, but it became very quickly apparent that it was going to descend into darkness before we’d gone too far! As we walked the track we noted the gradients and kerbs, saw the mark on the wall where Fernando Alonso had gone off, and also picked up marbles from the track. We even found some pieces of carbon fibre bodywork from Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso!
At the end of our walk, we reflected on our lap time of 1 hour 23 minutes, and Mercedes were kind enough to invite us into their garage. We felt very glamorous sitting in the cinema style seating with our headsets on, watching the team work on the car! Thank you very much to the social media team @MercedesAMGF1 for this opportunity.
A write-up from me wouldn’t be complete without a few driver pictures. As usual, we took our opportunities to grab a driver as they passed by (although we did let Pastor off when he was running to the toilet with his helmet on!). A special shout-out from me goes to Kevin Magnussen. He’s such a friendly guy, always has time for the fans, and I was genuinely chuffed to see him in Barcelona, whatever the circumstances surrounding it. We all loved our chat with K-Mag! I also had a chat with Jolyon Palmer, a truly nice chap, incredibly humble, whom I wish every success and hope to see getting opportunities to drive in practice this year, and new Lotus recruit, Carmen Jorda, as well as the BBC F1 team.
There’s one more driver that I need to give a special shout-out to, because whilst we were out in Barcelona, one of our group had her wishes comes true and I was dead chuffed to witness it. Not only did Bex (@beckitastic) have her banner noticed by Romain Grosjean, he also went the extra mile to climb up the stairs to a locked gate where she was waiting to sign her mini helmet. Gold star, RoGro….! Then, when Bex was in the paddock, after Romain had acknowledged her from the car, he spent time chatting to her outside the garage before leaving for the airport and INSISTED on taking a selfie with her! He duly posted this on his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Now there is a guy who really made a fan feel special!
I’d highly recommend a trip to Barcelona for testing, the race, or the Moto GP. I’ve done all three now, so feel almost at home there. There are stands/tickets to suit all budgets, and it’s a great city, perhaps especially good to do as your first European race!
Bye for now!