Suzuka is fantastic but its actual location is pretty terrible. Budapest is a super city but the circuit is far from the best. And who on earth wants Silverstone’s weather? There’s plenty of pros and cons for each venue but what would the ‘perfect’ grand prix experience look like if we could pick and choose from the current roster? Motorsport Week gave a thought to 10 categories and had a ponder.
Is Baku the best circuit on the calendar? Well, it isn’t a mega hold-your-breath track in the Silverstone, Suzuka or Spa category, nor is it steeped in history akin to Monaco or Monza. But it has been compared to junior classic Macau, creates a set-up headache for teams and poses a challenge for drivers. It is certainly unique. And it has a castle section. Which is just a few metres wide. It’s a bit bonkers and you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Every venue has the best fans, of course. But some places have the best-er fans than others. And where are they? Suzuka. The spectators will be there from dawn to dusk, fully respectful of everyone and everything, but harbouring a passion that belies the typical Japanese calmness. Local schools get involved by having pupils send messages of support to teams. The costumes are astonishingly creative and detailed: fans don’t just clad themselves in merchandise they construct sensational headgear, helmets and other assorted items. And when all is said and done they leave the venue in the state in which they found it.
Paddock and atmosphere: Mexico
Some paddocks can feel interchangeable, particularly some of those within Europe where the prominence of the motorhomes mean you can be anywhere. They can also feel detached from the remainder of the event. But organisers in Mexico go above and beyond to ensure the vibe remains in place from Thursday morning through Sunday night. Last year there was a traditional Mexican village that included a barber shop, paint shop, ice cream vendor and taco stand. And the backdrop of the Foro Sol stadium enhances the atmosphere throughout the weekend. It’s no wonder the organisers keep winning the FIA’s best promoter award.
Facilities: Red Bull Ring
It should be noted that this comes from the perspective of the media. We can’t speak for the marshals, the engineers or the mechanics for which facilities they enjoy the most. So we’ll speak for us. A large portion of venues treat us very well and have comfortable facilities, but the Red Bull Ring is next level. Not only does the glass-fronted media centre have a view of most of the track but it is spacious, the Internet is fast and reliable, while there is ample complimentary food and drink.
Weather: Paul Ricard
This is something that is ever-changing, particularly in the current climate, but we’ve gone for Paul Ricard. The days are beautifully long in mid-summer, with hot and sunny afternoons, and warm and pleasant evenings. And, given that this is a European summer, there’s the lingering threat of a thunderstorm breaking out too. The flip side is that a week after the 2019 event the south of France recorded temperatures of around 45c, which is a little on the toasty side. Hot and sunny weather with the risk of rain? Sounds ideal.
Support events: Silverstone
At some Formula 1 events there is little in the way of on-track spectacle beyond the main showpiece itself. On occasion there’s a sparsely-attended regional Formula 4 round and an amateur sportscar series. It’s fairly sub-standard. So for a packed schedule we’d go for Silverstone, which has Formula 2, Formula 3 and the Porsche Supercup. Why different to other European events? Well last year it had the Historic Formula One series and usually finds time to squeeze in a spectacular demonstration run or two as well.
Formula 1 visits several fantastic cities each year though the amount of time you get to spend in them depends on their proximity to the venue. Montreal and Melbourne? Yep. Barcelona and Tokyo? Nope. Too far away sadly. We’ve plumped for Budapest. It is just a stone’s throw from the Hungaroring, has some spectacular sights, and is a melting pot of cultures as west meets east across the Danube. It’s small enough to be cosy but big enough not to feel suffocating. Throw in a range of bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs and it’s the one we’d choose.
Now this is something that can be argued over considering that everyone’s palettes are different. There are those who adore the cuisine that China and Japan has to offer (and anyone who has ever had gyozas will nod approvingly), others who salivate over the enormous meaty dishes you’ll find in the Americas, and even some who eagerly anticipate the British pub food. But for us it’s Italy. Pizza. Pasta. Gelato. You cannot go wrong in Italy with any of these. Just don’t mention Bolognese. Or Hawaiian pizza.
Okay, so Singapore may not be the most convenient location for Europe-based teams, and a huge chunk of fans, but once you get there Marina Bay is one of the easiest events of the year. The circuit is entirely city-based, the metro network makes access straightforward, while some of the hotels are closer to the paddock than they are to the track’s outer reaches. That’s never a bad thing. And the airport is but a 20-minute taxi ride away. The time change (staying on European clocks) also makes it seem as if there’s 26 hours in one day, somehow.
Singapore pioneered the music events that run alongside Formula 1 while Abu Dhabi and Azerbaijan certainly attract some headline acts but we’ll plump for Austin. Not only have they had some proper megastars in recent years – Sir Elton John and Taylor Swift spring to mind – but head beyond COTA and visit Austin itself and there’s a plethora of live music venues. There’s a mandatory 2am shutdown time (well, in our non-coronavirus lives there was) but before then there are plenty of venues to explore and enjoy.