Barcelona was high on the list of stops for our aborted trip to the Mediterranean in 2020. And we’re big Formula 1 fans, but hadn’t attended a race since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2018. So when a last-minute opportunity came together to attend the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, we jumped on it.
Our flight from Seattle to Barcelona was through Heathrow, with some great views from the plane, particularly of the Spanish coast. We once again used Welcome Pickups for easy transport to and from the airport, and arrived in the early evening with time for dinner on the appealing terrace at our hotel, ME Barcelona. There we had the first of many delicious tapas meals of the trip.
We spent the next three days at the track, and had a fabulous time. The good grandstand seats were already sold out when we looked into attending, so we decided to try the Paddock Club instead. The Paddock Club is an expansive hospitality area at each race positioned above the team garages, with excellent food and drink options and tables for dining. But it does not have any seating with a view to the race. Rather, attendees stand to watch from two-row balconies that have great views to the pit lane, team pits, and the main straight, including the start/finish lines.
We were a little concerned we’d not get a good viewing spot, or that if we did we couldn’t move for the entire race for fear of losing it. But the balconies were rarely full expect right at the start and finish of the F1 race, so we were fine.
We spent some time in the Formula 1 paddock area behind the team garages, where drivers and other team members can often be seen. The multi-story team buildings are all temporary, and are erected just for the race.
We also toured the Formula 1 Broadcast Center (pictures aren’t allowed). The Formula 1 broadcast is higher quality and more expansive than ever. Ironically, the on-track production facility is much smaller than when we visited in Abu Dhabi because they’ve moved to virtual production. This is the new wave of sports production, where a large and well-equipped central facility and then smaller on-premise satellite centers. Their central location is just outside of London UK, and we’re sure it’s worth visiting.
We jumped on an opportunity to tour the pit lane, and get close views to the cars as the teams prepared for practice and qualifying.
We also took a guided tour of the track in a truck similar to that used for the driver’s parade, and on race day in a small van that included an opportunity to hold the trophy.
Marc Gene, test driver for Scuderia Ferrari, took us on an excellent and detailed tour of their garage area. And we also had a super-interesting meeting with Scuderia Ferrari team principle Frederic Vasseur. Ferrari was very kind to allow us to take pictures in their garage area.
We always like spending time in the garage areas for the supporting races, where the crowds are thinner and you can get quite close to the cars and their drivers. The Spanish Grand Prix had both Formula 2 and Formula 3 supporting races that we watched from the Paddock Club after touring the garage area.
Rain fell on Saturday, bringing out umbrellas, ponchos, and wet tires. We walked the grid as the cars were being setup and positioned for practice, and managed to stay dry for the most part. The rain made for a much more interesting F1 practice session.
Later that day, James got a rare opportunity to sit in a box along the pit line during F1 qualifying. Being so close to the cars at speed was super-exciting.
It’s always fun to spot in person some of the people we see when watching the races on TV.
On race day, the grid was a hive of activity as teams and drivers prepared for the race, and spectators looked on.
For the start, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was on the pole, with Scuderia Ferrari driver Spaniard Carlos Sainz in P2. In a somewhat uneventful race, Verstappen dominated the field, never leaving P1, and took his 3rd straight win. He finished 24.09 seconds ahead of 2nd place Lewis Hamilton, whose Mercedes’ teammate George Russell placed 3rd. Strictly speaking, the race wasn’t amazing, but being there in person always is. Formula 1 is incredible.
At the end of the race, we rushed down to the podium area and arrived just behind the Mercedes and Red Bull teams to watch the finish interviews and team celebrations.