The joy of the travel and the chase in Formula 1

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the familiar pattern of travel for everyone involved in Formula 1, the joy in chasing the racing can still be found and will only become greater when normality returns.

The joy of the travel and the chase in Formula 1

One of the many joys of covering grand prix racing is the opportunity to travel to far-flung areas of the globe and experience all that other cultures have to offer. The Formula 1 world championship calendar has a foothold in every continent bar Africa, and even that may change in the coming years.

While some traditionalists bemoan the expansion beyond F1’s traditional European heartlands, and prefer the more ‘organic’ circuits to the grand clean-sheet architecture of recent arrivals, for the journalists each new destination brings a fresh adventure.

From hitting the street food emporia of Singapore at 4am for ‘dinner’ after the track sessions have finished for the day to catching Paul McCartney live at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, it’s not all work…

And, let’s face it, travel isn’t as challenging as it used to be. When Japan joined the championship calendar in 1976, getting there required a stopover in Anchorage. The world is a smaller place now. No need to cart a typewriter around, faff with fax machines or dictate your copy down a crackly phone line either.

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed new working patterns on everyone, and the journalists are no exception. But while there’s less travelling to races, it’s still possible to report from the ground.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, in the paddock

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1, in the paddock

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Flights have been harder to come by, the airports unusually quiet, and it’s a curious and disconcerting process when you’re used to the hustle and bustle of busy travel hubs. As vaccination uptake enables the restrictions loosen in the months to come, this will change. Right now, it’s almost as if the people at passport control are pleased to see you.

Formula 1 has moved proverbial mountains to lay on a full calendar, and the process has required sacrifices: intrusive nasopharyngeal swabs before, during and after the event for everyone planning to attend; strictly demarcated areas for team personnel and the media; and reduced interview access. Even so, F1 hasn’t switched entirely to virtual press conferences, and the FIA is now furnishing a specific area at every race for socially distanced face-to-face meetings. These are key opportunities to get exclusive insights.

When last year’s F1 season kicked off with a double-header in Austria it was a genuine light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment, because for all the precautions everyone had to take, the locals in Styria were palpably delighted to have F1 there. It was a welcome relief from lockdown measures.

While forthcoming events in Portugal and Spain are going to be held behind closed doors, race promoters elsewhere are super-keen to get spectators back in this year. So too are the teams and drivers, because the novelty of performing in front of an empty house has long since worn off. Fans bring an atmosphere and energy that’s been lacking. The season-opener in Bahrain was extra special because spectators were allowed in and the drivers responded to it.

Fans in a grandstand

Fans in a grandstand

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Depending on developments in the coming months, there’s the tantalising prospect of an epic road trip for the triple-header which brings the European leg of the championship to a close as August fades into September. Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort and Monza are steeped in history and individual character, and the prospect of visiting them on successive weekends is genuinely exciting – regardless of the grind involved in working a triple-header. It’s a confluence of greatness which may never happen again: what’s not to love about it?

Tickets for the Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix are currently on sale with Motorsport Tickets. Italian Grand Prix tickets are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

shares
comments

Related video

Horner: Switch to F1 secret ballot voting would be ‘a shame’
Previous article

Horner: Switch to F1 secret ballot voting would be ‘a shame’

Next article

F1 Portuguese GP: Hamilton tops FP2 ahead of Verstappen

F1 Portuguese GP: Hamilton tops FP2 ahead of Verstappen
How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future Plus

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future

Multiple-title-winning designer and team boss Ross Brawn is finally leaving Formula 1 after nearly 50 years in motorsport. But he still has plenty of insights on what’s working and what comes next, as he revealed to Autosport in a far-reaching exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2022
The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat Plus

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat

OPINION: Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari will naturally bring a range of changes across the Formula 1 team. But how the changes shape up and the impact they could have is set to be dictated by a key direction Ferrari’s top dogs will need to pick

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2022
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Plus

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2022
The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022