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Formula 1: Valencia Street Circuit

24 August 2009 No Comment

After arriving in Spain Saturday night, we quickly got ready and drove to Valencia Sunday morning for the Grand Prix of Europe. Although the race started at 2 pm, I wanted to arrive early to see part of Valencia. We left the house at 9:30 am and finally parked our car at 11:30 am.

As we arrived in Valencia we followed signs to an “official” parking lot which was no where near the circuit. We paid 15 euros and then had a lengthy walk to get to the track. However, the walk did bring us by the Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences) – one of the main tourist attractions in Valencia.

Obtaining Tickets
With the temperature in the 90’s and ticket prices between 150 and 200 euros each, the Ultimate Sports Wife decided she would skip the race and instead chose to go to the Museo de las Ciencias Principe Felipe. Given the fact Formula 1 races are over within two hours and the museum was within a short walk of the track it made sense for us to enjoy the short afternoon separately.

I walked to the main box office figuring most people with extra tickets would try to sell their tickets there. Before arriving in Spain, I looked online and saw that the cheapest seats available were 195 euros. The actual cheapest seats were in the general admission section for 100 euros but those seats were already sold out when I checked online. With such a high price point, I figured I would be able to buy a ticket for under face value. When I arrived at the ticket office, the 195 euros seats were sold out and the cheapest seats were now 250 euros – quite expensive for any race if you ask me.

The first man I talked to had a 480 euros seat he wanted to sell for 300 euros – still too much money for me. The next woman (and men helping her) had a 375 euros ticket they also wanted to sell for 300 euros. In Spanish, I told them I only had 235 euros in my wallet and that was still more than I wanted to pay. They eventually agreed to sell it for 230 euros after a bit of haggling but that price was still too high. A third gentleman also had a 480 euros seat. I did not even ask how much he wanted for it. I began to get concerned that I might actually have to pay 250 euros for one ticket from the box office (I still needed money to buy lunch). However, as I was debating whether to walk around the track a bit, a young couple arrived with one extra ticket – face value 195 euros. They wanted 150 euros and we eventually agreed on 140 euros – still more than I wanted to pay but it was still less than face value and 110 euros less than the tickets available at the ticket office.

The Race
I entered the track after I bought the ticket. There was no point to walking around the track in the blaring sun. It was about an hour before the race was scheduled to begin so instead of sitting in my seat (there were no shade seats), I stood in the shade behind one of the temporary grand stands. I entered my section around 1:45 pm as the preliminary laps started.

At 2 pm, the race started. To my surprise, I actually did not need to use ear plugs. As opposed to NASCAR, which seems to blow out your ear drums, Formula 1 cars have a high-pitched tone that does not actually hurt your ears. Nevertheless, I used my ear plugs – thinking it was better to use them than not use them. However, most of the fans around me did not use ear plugs and were probably making fun of me.

Also to my surprise was the constant breeze that kept smacking me in the face coming from the Mediterranean Sea. This breeze kept me cool for the entire race which was a great plus since I thought I would be dying by the time the race ended.

A second difference Formula 1 has from NASCAR is that NASCAR tracks are mainly ovals – meaning as long as you are seated high enough in the stands you can see the cars race around the entire track. On the contrary, Formula 1 races are street circuits – meaning you can only see the cars as long as they are on the stretch of track you can see from your seat and you watch the rest of the race on the giant screens in front of your section.

The third and major difference between Formula 1 and NASCAR is that there were no yellow flags which always slow down the race in NASCAR. A couple of times, cars slid off the road but were able to gain control of the car, turn it around and keep racing. These lead to temporary yellow flags – where only the cars on that part of the track were told to take caution.

In the end, the race lasted about one hour and 40 minutes. Rubens Barrichello won the race and Lewis Hamilton finished second.

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