From the stands: Tommy B and Katy watch the German GP at Hockenheim

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Long-standing F1 Fanatic fans Tommy B and Katy were in Hockenheim to watch the German Grand Prix.

Read their account from the Hockenheimring as they squeezed in plenty of driver spotting and – thanks to a bit of clever Tweeting – were invited into the paddock. Here’s their view from the stands.

Formula One holidays aren’t cheap and as such we had to save as much as possible getting to the German Grand Prix. This involved going by coach from Leeds to Hockenheim – a long trip believe you me, but it was made even longer as it was the day after Katy’s graduation.

We left Northampton at 2am to get to London Victoria in time for our 8am coach. We were travelling with Select Motor Racing, a tour group run by fans for fans. After a day of travelling we arrived at the hotel, tired but excited to get to the circuit in the morning.

We arrived at the circuit in plenty of time for Free Practice 1. By the time we’d walked round to our stand at the hairpin, the cars were out for the installation laps. As expected it was raining so not many cars ventured out on track and for a long period only the Toro Rossos ventured out. It was great to see the cars in the wet and we got a great view of drivers trying to find the limit into the hairpin, many having to take to the run off area.

After the session we received news about a possible invite into the paddock from Virgin Racing. The team is very active on Twitter and have been allowing fans to experience F1 from the pit lane. Luckily Geoff from Virgin Racing had a couple of spare paddock passes – still warm from the necks of potential sponsors – and came to meet us.

Once in, we walked past all the team’s motor homes, right down the paddock to the Virgin Racing garage. It was clear to see how little space the new teams had compared to the huge hospitality areas dominated by the top tier teams.

As we made our way to the back of the garage Lucas Di Grassi’s engine was fired up and we grabbed some headphones to protect our ears, before noticing we received all the team radio from Glock and Di Grassi’s cars, which was a fascinating insight

Free Practice 2 with Virgin Racing

There was plenty of action in the garage and it was amazing to be so close to the cars as the team worked on setup to try and close the gap to the established teams. At the end of the session we were taken to the front of the garage where we were allowed to take photographs. Whilst doing so we brushed past Timo Glock who had just jumped out of his car.

After an amazing opportunity with the Virgin team, we left the paddock to get the coach back to our hotel. Whilst doing so we saw a few drivers being interviewed outside their hospitality areas, including Jenson Button, Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.

The next day we arrived at the circuit early in time for Free Practice 3, where we watched from the long parabolic curve, just up from the hairpin. During the session we cheekily sent a message on Twitter to @redbullf1spy asking if we could say hello. Unbelievably we were offered the chance to go into the paddock again and see the team prepare for qualifying.

Not long later we met up with the elusive Spy and made our way into the paddock. We were told to wait for a minute outside the motor home while he found out if we were allowed to go into the garage. As this was happening we noticed Eddie Jordan behind us. Before we could get a picture with him, along came Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and the BBC camera crew.

Just ten minutes before qualifying we made our way into the Red Bull garage and watched as the team went for pole position number ten. The atmosphere was markedly different to that in the Virgin garage, in keeping with a team going for its first world championship.

As we looked to our left we could see Sebastian Vettel putting on his special Hockenheim helmet before getting into his car. We were literally a few metres from the drivers, the dream ticket for any Red Bull fan.

We were in the garage for about 20 minutes, until the drivers returned to the pit lane when Liuzzi had a shunt and the session was red flagged. We were on our way out the paddock when walking passed Red Bull’s Energy Station, Katy suggested hiding inside. Unbelievably we were told we could go watch the rest of qualifying from there, an offer we naturally accepted.

We were guided onto the rear balcony, where we could see the stadium section. It’s the only circuit other than Hungary where you can actually see the track from the motorhome. Vettel promptly stuck his car on pole and as he drove past the air horns blasted and the crowd cheered – he had made it by just 0.002 from Alonso’s Ferrari. Finally it was time to leave the paddock.

With about 40 minutes to kill before our coach left, we decided to stay outside the paddock hoping to see a few drivers. Sure enough we did, non-other than double World Champion Mika Hakkinen. We also got to see Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel before they left the circuit. A great end to an unforgettable day.

The circuit was jam packed with F1 fans for race day. Vettel seeming to have the most supporters, closely followed by Schumacher. The race wasn’t a classic but being at the hairpin we got to see many of the key moments in the race. Kubica going side by side with Schumacher, Hamilton overtaking Webber and – heartbreaking for us – seeing the two Toro Rosso’s collide. We didn’t think we’d see anything more disappointing but we all know what happened next.

Looking at the TV screen we kept seeing shots of the pit wall and we joked about them switching the cars, little did we think they would actually do it. The crowd gasped in amazement as Felipe let Fernando by. Next time round there was a mixed reaction. Cheers from Alonso/Ferrari fans and thumbs down and booing from everyone else.

As most people ran on to the track we stayed in the stand for the podium ceremony. There was silence as Alonso picked up his trophy but Massa received a well deserved round of applause. Vettel also got a great reception despite not being in the place thousands of fans would have hoped.

It wasn’t until checking Twitter on the way home did we realise what big news the race was. If anything positive came from the Ferrari switch, it at least turned a potentially mediocre race into an unforgettable one – we’ll always be able to say ‘we were there’.

But after spending time with the Virgin and Red Bull teams not even the Ferrari farce could ruin the most amazing weekend of our lives.

Tommy B and Katy’s pictures from Hockenheim

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29 comments on “From the stands: Tommy B and Katy watch the German GP at Hockenheim”

  1. Awesome write up of the weekend!

    Glad you two had a great time, F1 weekends are always the only weekends that are truly unforgettable.

  2. Thanks for posting. Although the video is the wrong one from my twitvid. This is the FP2 video from the Virgin Racing team –

    1. Thanks – I’ll change it. Anything else you want me to add?

      1. Looks Ok to be honest, the last two Red Bull cars are actually Toro Rosso. Having sub headings for Qualifying and Race would be good too but that is just being picky I’m honestly not fussed.

        Thanks for putting it up :)

        1. Sorry – had so much coffee I think I’ve gone slightly blind. I should stick to road cars.

          1. Honest I’m not fussy it’s fine. Glad to see it’s up on the site :)

    2. Great write up Tommy, so jealous that you made it into the paddock twice and even got to watch qualifying from the energy station! What a weekend!

      1. Cunning Stunt 8
        21st August 2010, 13:49

        Tommy, what a great weekend and a well written story. Man I’m so jealous right now.

  3. What a lovely account of life in F1 !!
    Thankyou for sharing such magic moments,and enlightening to see F1 teams responding to fans,its about time.
    Memories forever.

  4. Damn, that sounds pretty cool! Finally, a good use for twitter…

    My company builds motion platforms, and we found that a visit to the paddock would have been a bit more difficult. We were in Valencia with our distributor, who inquired about a spot in the paddock for our simulator; Ecclestone’s goonspeople said, “Sure. That’ll be one million euros, please.”

    Nehhhhh… not so much. We stuck to having our kit on a private balcony overlooking the track; it was cool, but not as cool as what you guys did!

  5. Well, you seem to have had a perfect weekend. Must get myself to a race some day soon. If it turns out anything like yours, as you say, it’l be one to remember. Great write up! Thanks.

  6. Looks awesome. I need to go to a race soon. But at 16, that won’t be easy, when your the only person in your family who likeS F1.

    1. I’m 14 and in exactly the same situation.

    2. Same, the exact same as me :P

  7. Awesome weekend guys!Thanks for sharing,if I save enough money I want to hop the pond and tag along with you for a grand prix.You seem to be very good at navigating yourselves into the best places!

  8. that was cool!
    nice read, you made lot of people jealous. but just ho exactly did you get those paddock passes and how did you use twitter for that?

    i’m really happy for you guys!

    1. Virgin – A guy on a tour has been quite matey with the Virgin Racing team. He is going on a crazy journey, going to every GP this year! We’d spoken to him on Twitter and Virgin have been offering tours of the paddock for F1 fans to help their team get more support. He told them we were nice guys and we got a message asking to meet the Virgin Racing guy outside the paddock.

      Red Bull – We won a competition on the Red Bull site. We went Karting/Factory Tour/Dinner in Energy Station and there we . got to meet the RedBullF1Spy. He gave us his number so we just text him and asked if we could say hello… Then he said come meet me :)

      Couldn’t believe our luck.

  9. Meeting Brundle must have been the icing on the cake!

    1. Haha yeah it was awesome. All the German fans were running after the reports and Brundle strolled out to nothing so I went up and asked for a picture :) I’m a huge fan of his, I had to explain who he was to some German guy after too….

      “Who was that?”
      “Martin Brundle”
      “Commentator for F1 in the UK, he used to race”
      “He was Schumachers team mate at one point”
      “No idea….”

  10. Nice work guys, I’m sure you had a great time!

  11. Wow that’s amazing. Utterly cool how you got into the paddock and even into the garages, two times!

    1. It sure was an experience, especially 2 opposite ends of the grid :) Thanks

  12. I am jealous. Well written. Paddock passes that’s cool. & I have to say the sound of that V8 in the garage sounds really cool.

  13. Amazing weekend “for sure”! It’s amazing how fan-friendly @VirginRacing are! They have let a few twitter fans into the paddock and garages, very generous of them! Wish the other teams pick up on that :p And to allow you to hear the team radios that’s beyond amazing!!

    And @redbullf1spy gave you guys a real treat! Very kind of him! Now that’s special treatment ;) and it’s great that you got to see Seb! What really intrigued me is that you mention the difference between the two garages- great insight!

    I’m sure your weekend would never be forgotten based on the paddock alone, but Ferrari beautifully marked it for you lol. It’s funny that you didn’t realize what a big deal it was until you went back. Watching the race live very different than on tv! You can miss out on plenty of action specially if the huge screens aren’t great (which is why I definitely recommend getting a Kangaroo TV if it’s available) but hearing the cars and seeing their sheer speed is something indescribable..

    Great read, hope you attend many more races I know this isn’t your first, and hope all F1Fs get an opportunity to attend races as well because we deserve to as fans :D if only Bernie could make it easier :p

    1. Thanks LAK.

      Virgin are great and all the support they are receiving is well deserved.

      Red Bull spy is a legend. We were in the garage and we knew how important it was, everyone else there you could tell was a big deal! We even stood with Ricciardo at one point :P

  14. Great weekend you had. Your abslutely right about the race, mediocre but will be remembered for the “Ferrari switch” for a long time.

    You must have some great luck or you are very persuasive on Twitter (or maybe just having the guts actually to ask for it?) to get into the paddock not once, but twice!

    Nice video and pics, i think the hairpin is the best place to sit for the race, that’s where most of the action is at. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Haha yeah it’s a bit of a mix of being lucky and being cheeky :) we were lucky because Geoff from Virgin Racing invited us, and I was cheeky and text the guy from Red Bull saying if he had any spare passes we’d happily take them off his hands and he said my charm had worked again and he had a couple of passes for us :-D he’s such a great guy and so friendly. He showed a couple of other people around the Energy station and garage before us, someone we know from Twitter. Then we were lucky again that he was running late meeting us, so instead of going in at 1.30 we didn’t meet him till just before 2 so we were in the garage for qualifying instead of just before :-D and then I was cheeky again asking is we could hide in the energy station! So yeah it’s definitely a mix of being lucky and asking for things haha.

  15. Brilliant write up – what an epic weekend you guys had! I’d like be all humble and say say I’m not at all jealous but obviously I am! Thanks for sharing!

  16. HounslowBusGarage
    20th August 2010, 12:12

    What a fantastic weekend! Worth all the travel from Northampton at stupid o’clock (with a hangover?).
    Sounds as though you had a marvelous time and took every opportunity to maximise the experience,
    Cari/Keith, can we make this kind of personal experience of a race more of a permanent feature? It’s a great read.

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