Getting to and from the circuit is a real nightmare if you choose to use public transport and I genuinely think that this will put some people off attending in the future. It's perhaps something they are working on as I understand the facilities themselves have been greatly improved once you're inside the grounds.
My friend Spencer and I had decided to get the train to Milton Keynes and had arranged a taxi to pick us up and take us to the circuit as we knew that the champagne would be flowing. However, it soon transpired that the closest the driver could get us was a 30 minute walk from where we needed to be, traipsing across camp sites and hotel grounds before having to blag a lift in a minibus to get to our destination. We were very grateful that the young, friendly minibus driver was happy to help by going a different route because none of the other staff we encountered up until that point knew the site well enough to direct us. Apparently this is because security staff are hired in and aren't briefed properly, certainly a far cry from the superb staff at Wimbledon who seemed to know everything when I was there the prior weekend.
To be fair, the complex is massive and very impressive. The Porsche Experience Centre is clearly visible on the way in and you can watch people pilot 911s through water jets and around a dedicated circuit as they develop their handling skills. I assume that is why there were so many hybrid Panameras driving around the roads that connect different parts of the complex, one of which gave us a lift during our attempt to make it to the taxi after the race. The race circuit itself seems to provide spectators with numerous vantage points, with some long, well-sighted sections allowing you to watch the cars flying along straights before dropping some gears and winding through corners. As we arrived it was the Porsche Supercup cars that were in full flow and the speeds these modified road cars carry through corners is astounding.
Things quickly improved once we had made it to our base for the afternoon having arrived hot and bothered after our long walk. This had a lot to do with Spencer having secured tickets for us to enjoy the race from the Paddock Club meaning that we were soon being offered champagne and a comfortable seat whilst we cooled down. The hospitality in here was some of the best I have experienced, the staff excellent, and very good food and drinks available all day. The windows and large balcony of the building - which also includes separate hospitality areas for the teams and sponsors - overlook the starting grid and the pitlane, whilst the grass bank and dedicated grandstand overlook the exit from the pitlane and the first two corners, meaning that there was always a good view available. The numerous TV screens in the Paddock Club ensured that we knew what was going on with the race as well.
Before the race we also had an opportunity to wander around the pitlane and peek into the garages of the different teams. Truth be told, we didn't get to see anything in great detail as it was only sponsors and their guests that were allowed behind the barriers and it was generally very busy but it was still interesting to have a bit of a look behind the scenes, such as the Toro Rosso garage below.
The race itself was good fun and I felt a bit more 'in the loop' than I had at Monaco as a result of all the TVs and different vantage points. It really gives you a chance to enjoy being close to the action yet still manage to follow the 'story' of the race as it unfolds. It's always a pleasure to witness F1 cars screaming around a race circuit as you simply can't appreciate how absurdly fast and loud they are by watching coverage on television. I think anyone that has a passing interest in cars and racing should go to at least one race in their lifetime.
We were fairly surprised to discover that BBC Sport was filming the follow-up discussion to their Formula 1 coverage from the sofa right next to our table. This meant that we had a front row seat to hear Eddie Jordan, David Coulthard, Murray Walker, Damon Hill and Christian Horner discuss and analyse the race whilst finishing off some excellent wine.
This was a great way to end an excellent afternoon and I look forward to attending another race in the F1 calendar soon. If it's a possibility I would certainly like to spend the day at the Paddock Club to add a little luxury to a fun day out... unless one of the teams would like to invite me of course.