Today I fulfilled my raison d'etre in Barcelona - going to watch the F1 testing. I woke up early again, but stopped at a cafe for breakfast, so wasn't on my way all that early. I had to go to Barcelona Sants station and buy a return ticket on the local train network to Montmelo, near the Circuit de Catalunya where the testing (and F1 race) is held. Once I found the right ticket window, this was all very straightforward, and it was an easy half-hour train ride to the circuit. I had read online that there is a shuttle bus to the circuit for the race, but not for testing. The website said although the walk to the track was only half an hour, it was "difficult" and said it was best to catch a taxi. I was worried about getting lost, since I had no idea what direction the track was in, so decided to take that advice and quickly found other F1 fans to share a cab with. Problem was, there was apparently only 2 taxis in the whole town, and it took 45 minutes before we were able to catch one! One good thing though - a Spanish guy who was going to a hotel next to the track hopped in with us and offered to pay when we got there. Of course, everyone said "no, no" and tried to give him money (it was actually only 8 euros between 5 people anyway) but he said his company would be paying anyway, so sweet, free cab ride.
By the time I finally got to the track, it was about 11. I bought a ticket on the gate - 15 euros. To compare, on race day the tickets (not counting hospitality suites and things like that) range from 100 pounds for General Admission (no seat) to 400 pounds for the best grandstands. Most are in the 200-300 pound range. Of course, the atmosphere on race day is really great - and the teams are actually racing! - but in terms of getting a good look at the cars, this is pretty good value for money. I even got to see Schumacher overtake a slow car (I think the Marussia) and the Red Bull team doing practice pit stops.
I started off in the pit lane, before making my way to the North stands, where I stayed until about 2 pm, stupidly leaving just as the lunch break ended, and then walked all the way around clockwise (same way as the cars) until I ended up back at the pits. The circuit itself is 4.6 km - obviously it twists and turns a lot, so I don't know how much the perimeter is, but it definitely felt like I did a lot of walking! It took 3 hours (obviously with lots of stops to go in the different stands and watch the cars) before I made it back, and I went home shortly after that. After the debacle getting the taxi there, I had no faith in finding a taxi to go back, and decided to walk. Luckily (unlike what the information online said) it was an easy walk on a footpath along the highway, pretty much straight all the way, so although I was pretty tired it was otherwise fine.
It was a long day, but I enjoyed myself (and it was nice just sitting in the sunshine reading my book when there were few or no cars on track to watch). Just walking up to the track and hearing the noise of the engines for the first time was exciting! I also got to see Schumacher out on track - I'm not a fan, but he is obviously a legend and he wasn't racing when I went to the Italian GP, so it's nice to know I've seen him driving, even if only in testing.
One of my friends asked on Facebook who I'm picking to win this year. I impressed her with my legendary skills by telling her in 2009 that Jenson Button (my boyfriend) would win the championship before the season even started. Sadly, since then my track record's been bad - I picked Alonso to win the last two years, and although I think he definitely should have in 2010, he really had no chance last year. So I'm hoping that if I say Vettel will win this year, I'll be wrong again and one of the McLarens will take it!
Please note that you will probably think all the photos and videos herein are terrible quality and boring, so don't come complaining to me if you look at them! Times like this I wish I had a proper camera with a zoom lens that doesn't take a second to react after you press the button (a second in F1 is a very long time!) Cars go very fast and it can be very difficult snapping them at the right moment. I must say, though, it is definitely easier in testing, where you can move around the track and there aren't thousands of other people in the way.
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, in the pit lane (one time when they're going slowly enough to take a proper picture!)
I can't actually tell the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos apart. I know they're sister teams, but they should sort that out. Anyway, here's one of them with Jenson Button in the McLaren following behind
Me at the circuit, rocking the ear defenders
Schumacher in the Mercedes
McLaren and the Red Bull/Toro Rosso again
Jenson Button driving like the champion he is
Jenson in the McLaren again
The McLaren in the pit lane
Timo Glock in the Marussia (what was the Virgin last year). My favourite (slash only) story about Timo Glock, who is German and whose first name is pronounced Teemo, is that apparently when he was racing for Irishman Eddie Jordan's team, he went by the name "Tim O'Glock" ha ha
Paul di Resta in the Force India and Felipe Massa in the Ferrari - whose seat, wild rumour has it, di Resta is lining up in his sights
Paul di Resta heads out of the garage
Massa in the Ferrari (boo, you suck, enjoy your last year in the team!)
The Ferrari again. Quite a few cars were running with the weird fin/antenna thing sticking up, but Ferrari's was the most out-there of all. I wonder what it was? They had taken it off by the second session.
Videos - be warned, they are quite loud. Also, seriously, they're a bit better on my computer. The uploading process has not been kind.
Can't quite tell who this is - possibly Pastor Maldonado in the Williams followed by the McLaren?
Button in the McLaren, Di Resta in the Force India and Massa in the Ferrari
I think we have Jenson in the McLaren, followed by either the Red Bull or Toro Rosso, then the Williams, then the Force India, then the Ferrari and the other one out of the Bull or Toro bringing up the rear
McLaren and RB/TR, Force India, Ferrari
Mark Webber's Red Bull comes in to the pits for a practice pitstop. Red Bull are quite the masters at the ultra-speedy stop.
Two cars cross in opposite directions
Massa navigates a chicane.