So you’ve grabbed your smoke flares and squeezed into your faded Nigel Mansell t-shirt. But what else should (and shouldn’t) you bring to a Grand Prix?
© Kylie & Rob (and Helen) FLICKR
What you take to a Grand Prix will depend a lot on where it is, what kind of experience you’re expecting, and your personal needs. If you’ll be nibbling canapes and knocking back champagne in a plush Monaco hospitality suite, you probably won’t need to bring your own toilet paper. Likewise, if you’re watching in Bahrain desert it’s safe to assume you can leave the rain poncho at home this time.
Take a look over this checklist before you next visit a Grand Prix to see if there’s anything you forgot. But exercise judgement before you pack everything here into a huge suitcase and hop on the shuttle bus.
Here’s Everything You Need at the Grand Prix
Tickets and Essentials
First and foremost – don’t forget your F1 ticket. You may be one of those free spirits who’re happy to leave it to the last minute and risk buying your ticket at the circuit. But more than likely you’ll have received your ticket in advance through the mail. Make sure you take it, and any other tickets and passes you might need for parking or travel.
More and more circuits now send e-tickets and if you’ve received some make sure they’re available offline on your mobile or tablet.
If you’re picking up pre-ordered tickets at the circuit, you might need to show the credit/debit card used when you made your purchase, a ticket voucher and photo ID. You’ll also need to show identification if you’ve bought any discounted tickets for children or seniors.
If you have separate physical tickets for each day, it’s a good idea to separate them and just take the one you’ll need for that day. That way you won’t be risking any of the tickets getting lost or stolen. If they’re paper tickets put them in a waterproof folder or lanyard. While you’re at it, pop in a map of the circuit or download one on your phone so you’ll have your bearings when you get to the track.
The long periods of waiting between the action are enough to push even the most frugal of fans into an impulse buying frenzy. Like at any large event with a captive audience everything inside will be pricy.
Besides food and drink you might buy a copy of the official program and splurge on entertainment in the F1 Fan Zone.
If you end up buying team wear or driver merch there’s no limit to how much you could spend. Buying in advance from the F1 Store will save you money, give you the most options and save you queueing.
ATMs are available at some venues but bringing plenty of cash with you is wise if you want to avoid the lines.
Depending on which Grand Prix you’re at, how you choose to dress will be vastly different. It’s not uncommon for fans at Monaco to dress to impress but would look quite out of place on a wet weekend at Spa. Check the weather forecast first and dress accordingly.
In regions where the weather is changeable, choose a lightweight, layered clothing system for more or less warmth when you need it. A lightweight rain jacket or poncho that can be easily carried during dry spells is ideal. Top it off with a broad-rimmed hat or baseball cap to keep the sun off.
A good comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must for general admission or grandstand ticket holders. Many first-time racegoers are surprised by how large F1 circuits are. The cars might do a lap in 80 seconds but be prepared to be on your feet much longer. Between the excitement, you should expect a lot of walking, standing, queuing, and the odd Mexican wave.
Finally, it’s not a bad idea to bring a change of clothes if you want to ditch your sweaty or rain-soaked clothes for the return journey.
Food and Drink
Make sure you keep your fluids up and always keep a bottle of water with you. Some circuits will impose restrictions on the amount and type of beverages you can take into the circuit. Avoid bringing any glass containers as these will be confiscated. Alcohol is often, but not always prohibited.
Generally speaking 500ml of water contained in a clear plastic bottle or the original sealed and labelled bottle should be okay. Inside there will sometimes be a water fountain where you can refill the bottle free of charge.
There will be food available inside but the range and quality varies a lot from venue to venue, and will of course be expensive. Most circuits have no problem with fans bringing their own food and where they do the rules are rarely enforced.
As well as lunch, bring along with a few energy bars for when you need a quick boost. It can take hours to exit a Grand Prix circuit after the race—have some snacks for the return journey stashed in your car or your backpack. Pack food in a small cooler bag to keep it fresh but avoid bringing in a large cool box which will be cumbersome and may not be allowed in.
Phones and Photography
For some of you budding photographers, capturing the perfect shot of a Formula 1 car is what it’s all about. Others will just want to preserve the memories of a great weekend or impress your Instagram followers.
You’re likely to take more photos than you think—it can be hard to get a good shot of an F1 car at speed. Don’t be surprised if you have a lot of pictures of empty asphalt.
Whatever level of photographer you are, bring enough battery power and memory capacity to last the day. You don’t want to run out of power just as the podium celebrations kick off, so bring a power bank or spare batteries.
Large lenses (>300mm) may be refused access along with tripods and anything else that might obstruct the view of other fans. A small monopod or selfie stick should be ok.
Some grandstand seats are hard metal bleachers so if comfort matters to you bring a cushion. For uncovered grandstands bring a small travel towel to dry the seat first.
If you’re in general admission you could be in for long periods of standing. Consider taking a collapsible chair or stool (if allowed by the circuit), especially for the periods between track sessions. If rain is a possibility, at least bring something waterproof to put on the ground to stay dry and comfortable.
I find bringing an umbrella is the surest way to guarantee it won’t rain. Take a small umbrella but try to be mindful of blocking the view for other fans. Avoid bringing large sports umbrellas which are often not allowed at the circuit.
Use sunscreen, and if you think you’ll need to reapply it, bring some with you. Even on a cloudy day, you could get burned standing so long in one spot. If you forget it, you’ll find first aid stations dotted around the circuit which may be able to help.
However much you might love the sound of an F1 car, at some point you might want to protect your ears. Not so important in the days of the turbo-hybrid engine but if you are very close to the track or at a high-speed section it is still quite loud. Children have especially sensitive hearing so some earplugs or ear defenders are a must. Both are available at the circuit, but buying in advance is recommended.
Watch, Listen and Stay Informed
A portable FM radio with headphones is still a handy thing to have to stay informed during the session. The radio can be tuned to the race circuit’s own broadcast if it has one, or whichever local or national station you prefer.
A pair of binoculars is usually worth the extra weight. If you have a view of the pits, podium or starting grid they’ll let you see the action in more detail. They’re also invaluable for reading the text on the big screens which can be hard to read with the naked eye.
The F1TV app includes a live leaderboard, GPS driver tracking, tyre usage data and team radio. You might want to download the app and get a subscription before you go. Data coverage at Grand Prix is getting better but bear in mind at any large, crowded event the signal can get spotty.
If you really want to nerd out, you can go medieval and bring a notepad, pen and stopwatch to keep your own lap chart.
There can be a lot of waiting around at an F1 race and if you’ve been at the track since gates opened the wait can seem an eternity, especially for the kids. Bring something to stave off boredom such as a book or magazine or download a mobile game or some of your favourite podcasts.
Wet wipes or hand sanitiser are great for these sorts of occasions, especially if you’ve brought the rugrats. Perfect for a post-lunch cleanup or after touching that strangely sticky handrail.
Toilet facilities at F1 venues can run out of toilet paper towards the end of the day so consider bringing some of your own.
If you want to get driver autographs bring a good reliable pen and something to get signed.
Finally, and I’m sure I don’t need to say this to our enlightened readers, bring something to put all your rubbish in until you get to a refuse bin. Sebastian Vettel won’t always be there to pick up everyone’s trash.
Grand Prix Packing List
Tickets & Essentials
- F1 Ticket
- Parking or travel passes
- Waterproof folder or lanyard
- Map of the circuit
- Photo ID
Food & Drink
- Bottle of water
- Energy bars
- Cooler bag
- Credit/debit cards
- Spare batteries
- Power bank
- SD card
- Selfie stick
- Travel towel
- Collapsible chair or stool
- Lightweight rain jacket or poncho
- Broad-rimmed hat or baseball cap
- Light comfortable clothes
- Walking shoes
- Ear plugs or ear defenders
Watch, Listen and Stay Informed
- FM radio & headphones
- F1TV app
- Notepad, pen, stopwatch
- Books, magazines, games, podcasts, etc.
- Wet wipes or hand sanitiser
- Toilet paper
- Pen & something for autographs
- Container for refuse
I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.