Featuring the fastest road-course cars and the most cutting-edge technology, the Formula 1 series has been the pinnacle of auto racing for nearly 70 years. Truly an international competition, each of the 21 races (or Grand Prix) on the 2019 schedule takes place in a different country. New venues are added and others go on hiatus each year – Hanoi, Vietnam, will host an F1 race for the first time in 2020 – but these five stalwarts are tried and true spots to see the rubber hit the road.
L-R Second place driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes Head of Vehicle Dynamics Loic Serra, winner Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen on the podium at The Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 17, 2019 in Melbourne © Speed Media/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
The F1 season kicks off in Melbourne with the Australian Grand Prix, the second oldest auto race held in Australia. The Australian Grand Prix moved to Melbourne in 1996, and each March, some 300,000 people make their way into Albert Park to watch their favourite driver zoom around the 5.3km circuit surrounding shimmering Albert Park Lake. Though it’s a bucolic place to enjoy a day at the races, the park is relatively flat, which means you’ll need to spring for a grandstand seat for the best views. Still, we love this track for its proximity to the city centre and the bubbling energy that surges during the year’s first F1 competition.
Getting there: It’s easy to access Albert Park on the tram line from anywhere in Melbourne, but staying in the CBD or South Melbourne is recommended. Extra trams run to/from the track all weekend, though they’re as crowded as you might expect – if you’re travelling at peak times, a seat will not be an option.
Port Hercule, Monaco during preparations for the 2014 Formula 1 Grand Prix © Keith Moore/500px
Circuit de Monaco
The Monaco Grand Prix has long been considered one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. This highlight of the F1 circuit was part of the roster for the very first season in 1950, and has been continuously run since 1955 – it’s considered part of the ‘Triple Crown’ of motorsports, alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the 24h of Le Mans. The 3.3km Circuit de Monaco winds through the streets of Monte Carlo and is probably the most treacherous race on the F1 schedule: it’s certainly the only one where two drivers have ended up in a harbour (both survived). In addition to this natural hazard, hairpin turns, elevation changes and even a tunnel combine to challenge even the most seasoned F1 drivers, making for a thrilling race. If you only go to one Formula One race in your lifetime, it should probably be this one.
Getting there: While staying in Monaco for the Grand Prix is ideal, it’s not budget-friendly – Monte Carlo isn’t an affordable place at the best of times, and during events like the Grand Prix, hotels book up far in advance and prices soar. Luckily, regional trains to Monte Carlo from Nice, France or Ventimiglia, Italy, are relatively cheap, frequent and quick.
The Singapore skyline at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 14, 2018 in Singapore © Lars Baron/Getty Images
Marina Bay Street Circuit
When the Singapore Grand Prix launched on the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 2008, it was the first night race in F1 history, and the first street race in Asia. Like Monaco, it’s a street race with a harbour-side component (although as of yet, no cars have crashed into the Singapore harbour), and the city’s distinctive architecture serves up a stunning backdrop. Night races are a special beast, and Singapore’s has a festival atmosphere, with afterparties on the nights leading up to the race and plenty of live music – typically a world-spanning lineup that reflects Singapore’s multiculturalism. One warning: the humidity in Singapore is oppressive even at night, so don’t forget to stay hydrated.
Getting there: Singapore’s excellent public transportation system can get you within walking distance of the track from just about anywhere.
The Army Golden Knights parachute down onto the track before the F1 United States Grand Prix on October 21, 2018, at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX © Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Circuit of the Americas
One of the newest F1 venues, the Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin, Texas, has been hosting the United States Grand Prix since 2012. This very modern, 5.5km track was the first in the US to be built specifically for F1, and has been designed to maximise viewability: elevation changes both increase the difficulty and allow spectators to take in as many as four turns from the same vantage point. Though F1 is still growing in the US, decades of NASCAR and IndyCar racing have set standards for a motorsports event, and concerts and local food vendors from Austin (tacos! fried chicken in a cone! grilled cheese!) are ready to keep spectators entertained.
Getting there: The track is about 25km from Austin, but the city’s notorious traffic issues means you should allow up to two hours if you plan to drive. Parking passes cost between USD$55 and USD$135 a day, and must be reserved in advance. A shuttle bus to the track runs daily from Austin’s Convention Center downtown. RV or tent camping is a popular option – the weather in November is still mild.
Legendary British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the crowd at Silverstone in 2017 © Peter J Fox/Getty Images
Along with the Circuit de Monaco, the Silverstone Circuit is one of the original Formula One tracks – it first hosted the British Grand Prix in 1950 and has hosted it annually since 1987. At 5.9km, it’s also one of the longest tracks in the series. Current F1 superstar Lewis Hamilton holds the record for the fastest lap at this track, which drew the biggest crowd on the F1 circuit in 2018. For the liveliest viewing experience, check out the grandstands at the International Pit Straight, which overlooks the start/finish line and is full to the brim with cheering fans each year.
Getting there: Silverstone is a rural track, and lots of fans camp to avoid driving in/out daily. Milton Keynes and Northampton are the largest towns nearby; special shuttle buses run to and from the train stations in these towns to the track on race weekend. Brackley, a small town just a 10-minute drive from the circuit, is also the home of the Mercedes F1 head office. It's not unusual to see members of the team in the locale, so keep an eye out when you're stocking up on provisions!
What should I bring to a Formula 1 race?
While rules about what you can bring in to each track vary, here are a few tips that might make your day a little more comfortable.
- Earplugs. Cars are loud and races are long, so bring these if you think you'll need respite from the screaming engines, and find a comfortable spot to enjoy the action.
- Hat, sunscreen & sunglasses. Most of the F1 season takes place in summer, so sun protection is a must.
- Bottle of water. Most tracks don’t let you bring in your own food, but a bottle of water is typically permitted and will save you money.
- Blanket or chair. For the General Admission folks; those with grandstand seats may want a grandstand chair.
- Race-scanner headphones. Loudspeaker commentary is often inaudible or distorted, plus you can listen to what your favourite teams are saying.
- Closed-toe shoes and long trousers. If you have a pass for the pits or garage areas, be aware that shorts, skirts and sandals are typically not allowed.
Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.