Rachel Clarke, an F1 fan and friend of Badger went to the Turkish Grand Prix last weekend and so say she had a good time would be somewhat of an understatement – here’s her ‘diary of an F1 in Turkey’
Last year, my friend and I travelled to Spa and met up with a great group of people via Twitter. We enjoyed their company so much we decided we’d go together to Turkey and have some fun there. And after suffering with the rain and cold in Belgium, we definitely thought we’d get some better weather! But no, our trip to Istanbul started with cold and rain and even if the sun came out later, the underlying temperature in the shade and wind was still needing at least 3 layers! We didn’t care though, Sofia, Jo, Lindsey, Kathryn and I were going to have a great time whatever the weather.
We did some sightseeing – if you’re in Istanbul go and see the Aya Sofya, it’s just wow, absolutely wow – and eating and just hanging around. We found a great bar, the Sah Bar/Cafe that became our main base for the stay; it had good food, friendly people and free wifi (for a group of Twittering people this last bit was key!)
On Friday, I was the only one who decided to brave the weather and go to the track – I had got onto a McLaren garage tour group for later in the day. First of all I needed to brave the transport system, which turned out to be, in the main, effective but at times slightly chaotic when they were waiting for the appropriate boss to tell them what to do. I expected an afternoon getting cold in the grandstands, taking dull pictures and then waiting around for the quick tour. However, due to the lovely people from Marussia Virgin, I had a far more special day than was planned.
I can’t do without my data on the phone and luckily i had just settled in my seat and was checking Twitter when I saw that the team had sent out a brilliant opportunity. They had 2 Paddock Club tickets available, tweet them and they’d pick a winner. I tweeted, and waited…and I got them! Yay, time to see how richer people than I view F1.
It’s a different world! There are girls lined up to welcome you, lovely seating, a open bar (free champagne!), an ice cream and sweet counter, an F1 simulator and lots more, including a spa. Yes, a spa, I can only imagine that this is the sop for the wives of all the corporate men being entertained. Attendees also get pit lane walks during the weekend. The seats are the ones overlooking the garages (on the other side you can see over the paddock), so you get a close up view of the pit lane action. I grabbed myself one of these, over the Team Lotus garage as the Marussia Virgin one was overlooked by an even more exclusive set of seats, and settled in to watch FP2.
Now the only disappointment I had was that I could not take my champagne out with me, but given the choice I’d watch fast cars. I watched the cars, took loads of photos and then headed back in to sample the other elements.
I didn’t stay for long though, as I then got a tour around the Marussia Virgin Garage by the lovely Ewen, whose tours are apparently legendary. I can see why; the cars where in pieces after practice and I received a lot of great information, got to see all the new parts, the computers, and just the general activity. I loved it! I’m a complete geek and just adore getting this sort of information. Not too many photos from that, as I was asked to keep the camera quiet for bits of it.
After that, time to run back to the grandstand area to meet up with the McLaren group tour. I mentioned that I’d just been around the Marussia Virgin garage and they were quite confident that their tour would be better, but no, the one-to-one tour with Ewen was far better than a group tour 😉 When the group got into the paddock, there was a lot of standing around taking photos and running up to the drivers who were around. Most of this time was spent waiting for them to hurry up! I have to admit, as I had a short time there, I’d much rather spend it looking at gadgets and shiny things than drivers…but I did take the odd photo
We all stood out front of the garage, asking questions and taking more photos before being ushered out back into the wider world. McLaren offer these tours to club members, so sign up if you’re going to a GP.
That was the end of my first day. It was absolutely brilliant and I spent the rest of the day (in fact the rest of the weekend) grinning madly! An amazing opportunity from the Marussia Virgin team. I have no idea how I’m going to top it at the other races I’m going to this year. But I’m open to suggestions 🙂
The rest of the weekend however was not a letdown. How could it be? I had great friends and fast cars. I’m happy sitting and just watching them all go by. Saturday morning was spent up at Turn 8, where it was easy to notice the difference in the downforce and balance as the cars flew round the corner. Then back to our seats at turn 1 for qualifying before a mad dash to the buses to get back for a relaxing evening, some of which was spent moaning about the sunburn we all had, given the weather had turned and the sun was out, it was still deceptively cool though with the wind though.
Sunday was another great sunny day; I was there early enough to watch the support races (leaving the rest in town again). The race looked to be great, there was plenty of passing down in turn 1, but I never really watched it all on the big screen as I kept getting distracted by the cars going by. I’ll rectify that this weekend when I watch it all on the TV!
Would I recommend this as a race to visit. If it happens again, then definitely. Istanbul is a fascinating city, everyone was lovely, even when hassling the tourists, although I would not want to drive there! The transport to the track worked well and the track itself has good facilities. Especially as it was not that crowded, which is a problem! Not enough people are going and that can be seen in the empty grandstands, at least 3 of which weren’t open. So if the opportunity happens next year, I’d recommend it.
All photos by me and can be found, along with others at Flickr
Follow Rachel on Twitter here