Valencia Street Track was a brand new addition to the Formula 1 calendar and from what was seen and said and written it promised to be an exciting new venue. I was lucky enough to be able to fit European GP into my annual summer trip to Europe and see this new Grand Prix live.
The venue and organization
As it is the case with the street or park or city tracks, the biggest plus from a spectator point of view is the convenience. In Shanghai the trip from city to or from track may take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on how bad or very bad the traffic is. In Valencia the taxi ride took about 10 minutes. It then took about the same time for me to walk to my seat.
Some people think that the reace should have taken place somewhere around the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències – a new modern part of Valencia near the harbour rather than in the dockyard. Well, perhpas it would provide better backdrop if those parts still under construction could be somehow be avoided. But the race track was build a bit closer to the sea, near that dockyard. Yes, once you sit there you can’t miss the sights of cranes and containers. But the views from grandstands also offer this:
From where I was sitting, it took about 5-10 minutes to get to that beachfront – on the right the beach, on the left, behind the palm trees many cafees and restaurants in case the Aramark offer within the venue was not good enough.
The gate security was very efficient and friendly so getting in and out of the race track was not a painful experience at all. That made those visits to the nearby cafes easy.
Within the venue the selection of food and beverages was quite OK. Not as good as in Melbourne, but I would say about the same level as in Montreal and way way above the lousy standards of Shanghai or Sepang tracks. Even pricewise I would say it was OK (having in mind this was Formula 1) except for one thing – the beer. EUR4.50 for tiny little beer and EUR8.50 for a normal size … come on … I am used to ridiculous beer prices over here in Hong Kong, but these Valencia prices were even higher than in Monaco …
The Formula 1 Village was quite simple but the setting was very nice.
Right by the sea, at one side the view of circuit’s landmark bridge, on the other side some yachts, including Mallya’s Indian Empress conveniently docked right in the middle of the track (not visible on this photo, but you see it in the photgallery – see link at the end of this post).
Well and then there were the food stalls including this impressive paella station:
I am not a paella expert but I definitely liked the taste of this one.
From a fan point of view the track layout also offered quite good photo taking spots. Most of the pictures in my Valencia photo gallery were taken from my seat (or from around it), some from the bridge over the track connecting the gate area with the F1 Village.
Not too many people spoke English making it a bit more difficult to communicate but somehow it did not cause me any real problems. Cerveza, vino, agua, jamon, taxi and gracias that is pretty much all one needs to learn .
There has been a lot written about Spanish fans after those unfortunate events during testing in Barcelona earlier this season. I myself have only good experience with them and I enjoyed being surrounded by them. They are perhaps the most enthusiastic and passionate F1 fans I have seen so far. Fernando Alonso is their hero and although I am not Alonso’s biggest fan I felt quite sorry for him and for the fans after his race ended on lap 1. The Spanish fans were also very passionate about Lewis Hamilton. They do not like him and are openly expressing their dislike of Alonso’s former team mate. There were boos and thumbs down anytime Hamilton appeared on the TV screens or his car passed by. Well, a bit unsporty perhaps, but often followed with exchange of smiles and laughs with the nearby group of Hamilton’s fans. Nothing dirty, nothing evil.
The track, the race
The F1 race has been rather disapointing but that may not be a problem of the track. GP2 provided two exciting races with overtaking at several different parts of the track. So saying that it is impossible to overtake on this track would be a bit unfair. Part of the disapointment perhaps is that everybody expected many brushes with the walls and few safety cars messing up the order. That did not happen this time. The only car that lost it was Sutil and even he ended up in the run off area and no safety car was needed. At the end the main entertainer was Kimi Raikkonen, first running over one of his crew members, then blowing up his engine. Other than that not much happened. Perhaps next years when new rules kick in and new cars appear …
In general however it was fun weekend. Going to Formula 1 race in Spain is a great experience and I would not mind going to Valencia again sometime in the future.
Click here to see my European GP photogallery – more photos (from GP2) to come