The Thrills of Watching the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya

Despite owning a Scalextric track and coveting a black and gold Emerson Fittipaldi JPS Lotus Corgi car when I was a nipper, I’m not a fan of Formula 1.

I’ve known who the big name racing drivers have been over the years and have even won one of those office F1 fantasy leagues, much to the bitter annoyance of my much more learned colleagues. But watching cars go round and round a track hasn’t really captured my imagination to date.

When my nephew, who is a massive F1 fan, heard I was going to be at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona I’m sure he viewed it as a wasted ticket. But he did offer some sound advice anyway: “Your ear drums are going to explode if you don’t wear plugs,” he warned, before adding with a serving of sour grapes. “Catalonia is the most boring circuit on F1.”

The Noise

Avenida de los Campeones, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
Boy, was my nephew right. By the time we were walking under Fernando Alonso’s face, smiling down from the Avenida de los Campeones at the Circuit de Catalonia, the fever pitched screaming and revving of Formula 1 cars created an electrical charge that surged through the body.

Room with a View

Platinum Suite, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
Our platinum suite was a cushy number from which to watch the build up. The jet engine levels of the cars was dulled slightly by the glass windows. Anyway, there was a container full of ear plugs which saved our drums from being shredded the second we stepped outside of the room.

The Build Up

Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
Super cars, girls with model looks combined with passing former F1 heroes and the likes of Gerard Pique (sadly without Shakira) as we wandered from one hospitality suite to another above the pits just oozed glamour. There’s no escaping that F1 has lashings of seductive ingredients.

Icons of F1

Lotus, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
One of the biggest thrills I got was from seeing Niki Lauda and watching the behind the scenes preparation by teams with historic names.

In Pole Position

Fernando Alonso fans, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
For the actual start of the race we were in what seemed to be a dream of a position at the neck of the first curve giving us views over two sections of the course. There were no prizes for guessing which driver the partisan crowd opposite were cheering on.

Green Light

Start of Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
By the time the cars rocket launched from the grid I was gripped. The sheer volume of noise and the speed with which the cars flew past came as a massive surprise even though I’d seen races on TV plenty of times.

Fernando Alonso, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona

Trying to photograph them was like shooting elusive ghosts – I’ve got loads of images that are just bits of track.

And no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t capture that illusion of speed… no problem getting loads of blurry shots though.

Red Bull Renault, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona

Funnily, I seemed to be able to nearly always hone in on the Red Bull car, maybe due to some sort of affinity built up late at night in bars over the years.

Team Work

Pit Stop, Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
As the race drew to what was becoming an obvious conclusion we shifted back to the platinum suite where we witnessed the aspect of Formula 1 that wowed everyone whether race fans or not; the pit stop. I’ll never forget Julie Collazo, as a car glided into the pits, saying ‘I’ve got to get a shot of that,’ then bending to get her camera, standing up and exclaiming in amazement ‘where did it go?’

The Chequered Flag

End of Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catlunya, Barcelona
Thinking I was sharp as a pin, I skipped out of the hospitality room and down to the stands to get a shot of winner of the Spanish Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado, as his car crossed the finishing line. Unfortunately, being a complete red neck in F1 terms, what I thought was the finishing line wasn’t, that was a couple of hundred yards up the track. This isn’t the line, this isn’t the winner… but it’s all I got.

Race over.

So, the question is am I a convert to Formula 1? Will I be watching the rest of the Championship on TV?

After my mouth has dined out on burnt rubber, my nostrils have pumped the dizzying but heady aroma of petrol fumes into my brain and my ears were left battered by the unrelenting and adrenalin pumping sound of a squadron of sexily sleek, mean machines screaming around the Circuit de Catalunya, watching it on TV simply wouldn’t be the same.

I was revved up by the Spanish Grand Prix as a guest of Catalunya Tourist Board.

Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

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