Ever since I started to watch Formula 1 in 2017 I had the dream of attending a race weekend in person. In 2019 I then finally booked tickets for the 2020 Belgian GP but due to Covid-19, it wasn’t open to the public. I was incredibly sad as I had already been looking forward to it. Another year ran its course and in 2021 it was then finally time for me to attend my first ever race weekend. And let me tell you, it was unforgettable!


Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Orange smoke flares, passionate fans, Belgian food, fast cars and tons of rain.

 

On the road

I started my journey to Stavelot, Belgium around 10 am on Thursday morning from the middle of Germany. Traffic was really good and after some minor issues with my navigation system, I arrived around 4 pm at the track. I had never driven such a long route on my own but I really enjoyed the wide motorways with a gorgeous landscape of mountains in the Eifel. I also made two stops on my way: one at a parking area at the motorway and the other one at a supermarket in Malmedy. Malmedy is a really cute little village in Belgium and it was easy to get the last missing provision for the weekend including water, some meatballs, beer and some sweets. After packing everything in the car I then drove the remaining half an hour to the circuit where I also stayed for the weekend.

After finding my way to the north part of the circuit I shortly had to wait in a queue before driving onto the campsite. I decided to stay on the one in the green area which was closest to my grandstand. It was just a normal field where you were given a piece of land to park and put your tent on. That was also the first thing I did as the weather forecast was not the greatest. After everything was then done I headed to the circuit to get my first glimpse. Spying through a fence I could see several parts of the track and it was just then that I realised I was really there. I went on to explore other parts of the campsite and found some food trucks where I got myself some fries. While devouring them I searched for the entrance closest to my grandstand to be prepared for the next day. It then though started to rain and I decided to return to my car and sat at the trunk. I enjoyed the evening with a drink before going to sleep.

 

There’s a First time for everything

Friday I woke up quite early to the noise of the historic F1 cars going around the track. I then got up to be at the track for Formula 3 practice. I walked to my entrance and went on to master the muddy challenge of getting to the grandstand. But in the end, I absolutely loved the view of the cars from my seat. F3 was much noisier than I anticipated but it was amazing to finally hear and see those cars in real life. After it finished I decided to stay on the grandstand as it was not long until FP1 would start. Those cars were quite a bit less noisy but much quicker. These were actually some of the few sessions without rain as well. 

I then decided to pay a visit to the fan zone. On the map, it looked like it wouldn’t be a long walk but boy was I wrong. It actually took me 30 minutes to get there but the view of some parts of the track was rewarding enough. The fan zone was full of little shops with merch, Belgian food and mechanical challenges to master. My highlight though was seeing the new 2022 car which I personally feel will look really cool on street circuits. After spending some time there watching F3 Qualifying and not being able to decide what kind of merch I wanted to buy I made my way back to my grandstand during FP2. It was one of the best decisions as I got to see the cars speed at many different spots. After getting once again a portion of fries I went back to my tent and ended the evening reminiscing about my first day.

 

The beginning of the end

As I wanted to attend the first Formula 3 race of the weekend I had to get up quite early to be at the track around 10 am. It was a gloomy morning with light rain so not ideal conditions. For this session, though I didn’t go to my grandstand but decided to watch the race from another part of the track. It was a really cool experience and I also got to see one of my favourite drivers on the podium. Jak Crawford finished second which made me incredibly proud after also talking to him earlier this year. After that, I had lots of time on my hands so I first got myself a bratwurst and then wandered to the fan zone. There I tried a dutch frikandel and had a cherry beer which I can both recommend. I also watched FP3 there and returned around 2.30 pm to my grandstand to be set for qualifying.

In the beginning, the conditions were really nice: it was mild and the sun was peaking through the clouds. But midway through the session, it all changed and rain came down heavily. This resulted in delays and Lando Norris’ crashing at the end of Q3. It was absolutely devastating being at the track but not knowing what had happened. Luckily he was fine in the end. But that was not the highlight of qualifying. For mere seconds George Russell was on pole and everyone was going crazy. I remember there was a guy in front of me, I think he was a volunteer, and he was cheering loudly for both Max and Gorge who locked out the front row. An epic ending to such a chaotic day. As it then started to pour again I decided it was time to return to my campsite and enjoy my last evening with some homemade noodle salad and another beer.

 

It never rains, but it pours

After packing up my tent and getting the car ready for later, I returned the next morning early to the track to not miss the last bit of F3 action. It was again raining quite a lot but there were some amazing battles in the field involving the MP Motorsport cars. I got quite hungry afterwards and decided to try the burgers which were really good. There were two boys my age working in that truck and they actually made my day by attempting to speak some german. For the rest of my free time before the race, I made it my mission to buy some merch. Therefore I made my way to the fan zone for the third time and purchased a blue Lando Norris hoodie and an orange Max Verstappen t-shirt. I still absolutely love both of these pieces. I also got myself finally a Belgian waffle which I had been eyeing for the past couple of days.

Around 2 pm, during the drivers’ parade, I then decided to return to my seat in time for the race. At that time I was still very hopeful and excited to see my first race but that changed very quickly. From the start onwards I knew this race would have many delays but after the first couple of updates, I was done. I knew we wouldn’t get a full race due to the weather but also because of the dark approaching. After waiting for several hours and chatting with other fans I decided it was time to head home. The waiting game was over for me and I returned to my car to get ready for my drive home. But the issues weren’t over. The rain had made the campsite so muddy that many cars had difficulties getting away. I was anxious as well but with just a little help I was on the road around 6 pm. On my way, I started to hear cars going around the track and became nervous to have made the wrong decision. But when I later found out it was just a three-lap-race I knew I had done everything right. After a long way home I could finally fall into my bed at 3 am. You ask yourselves why it took so long? My car had some mechanical issues so I had to call a breakdown service and wait until my car was ready to go again.

In the end, though, this weekend was something that I will forever remember positively. I saw cars going fast on one of the most traditional and beautiful circuits in the world, experienced the craziness of dutch fans and tried some delicious food. Obviously, there was no race which is a big bummer but all of the above made my weekend so special that I can keep it as something wonderful in my memory.


My tips:

  • be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions
  • if you stay at the campsite don’t expect quiet nights and be up for some partying
  • plan lots of time when leaving the circuit as there’s lots of traffic
  • parking and camping are located on fields which can be a problem when it rains
  • be aware of the distances around the circuit (e.g. grandstand- fan zone – food)

 

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