It is the Tuesday following the German Grand Prix, I'm sitting in the English countryside sipping a pint and it is beautifully hot and sunny. Three days ago I was sat at Innentribune B at the Hockenheimring, near Mannheim in Germany, rain lashing down during qualifying for the German Grand Prix and whilst all my friends know I am a sun-fiend, take me back to that seat now.
A lot of people ask me why I would go to a Grand Prix - it's expensive, you see more of it on TV, you only see cars whizzing by for a few seconds...the list goes on. The easy answer is to tell them that it's something I'm passionate about, but I feel I need to set the record (and my argument) straight once and for all.
In 2012, there are 20 races set across 19 countries (Spain has two races this year). For the adventurer, that allows for a range of destinations to consider, and a Grand Prix track is often set away from a tourist trap so a great way to see the true culture of a country you may never have been to. The cost...okay, my ticket to the German Grand Prix was €249, and that was certainly not the most expensive option. For me, a Grand Prix is my FA Cup Final equivalent and instead of something that lasts 90 minutes, a Grand Prix lasts three days. Depends how you look at it, but if you turn up for just the race it is an expensive €249 - if you make the most of it, it's a very affordable €249.
Anyone who has been to a premium sporting event, be it rugby at Twickenham, football at Wembley or tennis at Wimbledon among many others will know why it is so special to be "in the crowd" - nothing beats being part of the emotion and F1 is a very emotional sport. But the one thing which I love about F1 that does set it apart from any other team sport is the genuine sense of appreciation of whoever wins. Sitting in a crowd largely filled with Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Mercedes fans - all German, when Fernando Alonso (Spanish) in a Ferrari (Italian) drove his victory lap after winning the race on Sunday, everyone stands and applauds the winner - there is no malice, no crowd chanting hatred just a polite acknowledgement that the best driver and team won on that day. To be part of that is something I hope F1 never loses.
This was my eighth F1 race that I have attended - Britain '99, '05, '07, '08, '10, Belgium '01 and Italy '11 being the others and whilst we had a bizarre statistic in F1 this year of seven different winners in seven races, I have now beaten that as I have seen eight different winners in eight races - albeit across 13 seasons! For the record they are: David Coulthard, Juan-Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso - not a bad list of drivers I must say. People have already said to me that it was a shame Lewis retired from the race on Sunday (I am before any other driver a Lewis fan), but when you are actually there you sometimes have to pinch yourself that what you usually see on TV, you are seeing with your own eyes - if the result goes your way it is simply a bonus.
So where next? Every fibre of me would love to be in Austin in November for the return to America for the US Grand Prix, but realistically looking at either Spain or Hungary 2013.
Bring. It. On.
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