F1 returns to Europe



Formula 1 is back in Europe; that has a nice ring to it. Drivers seems to enjoy it, journalists too. Is it the familiarity, or maybe the fact that we’re only away from home for three nights instead of up to two weeks, and we don’t suffer from awful jet lag? I’m not sure, but it’s probably all of the above.

I love being back in Europe at the circuits I grew up going to. Even though I’ve spent many long, cold days at the Circuit de Catalunya already this season, it is always nice to go back. The atmosphere is buzzing, sponsors are there, teams bring even more personnel and even more exciting is that the motorhomes are back and so is the BBC office.

On the downside, even more journalists and camera crews turn up so the grid is chaos. Trying to get interviews is harder, but to be racing in Europe, I’ll take the trade off.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the other races. Australia, Japan and Brazil are some of my favourites but that is because although we are in far-flung places, there is an atmosphere just like you get in Europe. Of course I do appreciate the world wide web, upon which I write, is not solely European and many of Motor Sport‘s loyal readers are in those so-called ‘far-flung places’!

Let’s start with the motorhomes, hospitality areas, brand centres, energy stations, whatever you want to call them. Although some of them are big, smarter and considerably more expensive than my home, they do serve a purpose. The European circuits are older and more compact, so there are none of the sprawling paddocks that we get in China and Malaysia, and less office space for the drivers and team bosses to hide away in. The motorhomes are perfect as it is so much easier to see the people you need to see and find out information. There is no hiding place and ultimately it is much more social.

On Thursday, Red Bull welcomed the return of the Energy Station with ‘Chilled Thirstday’ for some music and drinks. Friday night was curry and beer at Force India and also Sauber always has its ‘Cuervo Moment’ and whilst I am often presenting Inside F1 on the BBC News Channel at that point, it is a great fun event and something that attracts a huge crowd in the paddock as the Cocktail Masters do their finest work. There were many people delighted to see Sauber retain the tequila sponsorship after Sergio Pérez left for McLaren, and Esteban Gutiérrez has never been so popular! On Saturday, things are starting to get serious, so not many teams do a set thing on that night, but there is normally someone who will pick up the paddock’s thirsty masses. Others take part in Run the Track which is a great initiative to raise money for charity and keep fit.

In amongst all the fun, with just seven races in Europe and a decreasing number every year, it is clear that times are changing. F1 is a global championship and as my friends in Australia and other ‘far-flung places’ tell me, they have to get up at ridiculous times of the day to enjoy the Grand Prix, especially when we are in Europe. While Europeans enjoy giving up their Sundays, others are having to give up their sleep!

F1 support races used to be 10-round series starting in April or May and finishing at Monza in September. Now, to make up rounds, GP2 for example starts in Malaysia and finished in Abu Dhabi. The cost of the Championship has gone through the roof, drivers can’t find the €1.7m that is required and many teams are really struggling to survive. Some of the current teams barely make it from race to race while others, like former giants iSport and Supernova, left while they could.

This weekend in Spain, we might not have been treated to a spectacle of racing but hopefully the rest of the European season will do itself justice.  I really believe that we need to be going to these countries that are steeped in motor sport heritage.

The fans, the history and the circuits provide an atmosphere that is impossible to recreate at most of the new venues. It might only be seven races but I will enjoy it while I can.

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f1  Drivers proving their worth in Formula 1

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