Well we got there just as Friday first practice was starting. The rule is no ear plugs for the first practice. We take our seats in the stands just after the chicane and listen to this horrible noise as the cars accelerate out of the chicane. It's the traction control and it sounds awful. A kind of heavy farting noise in 1st and 2nd gear until the car gets traction. Then the beautiful sound of an F1 kicks in.
We see Enge total it at 130R. He's lucky to walk away. Montoya looks really crap over the chicane. Villeneuve takes it differently to everyone else, kind of sliding into it. We see quite a bit of tyre locking and short cutting as some of the newer drivers realise how blind and slow the chicane is.
Practice finishes and we all have headaches! Backpacks are loaded and we trek off to spoon curve just in time for 2nd practice.
Earplugs are in. Now we get to see what the drivers are made of as this set of corners really shows up the good guys from the bad guys. A bunch of slow guys come around and we are not impressed. Here's Schumi on a flyer. My God he's visible quicker than everyone else - much quicker. Not smooth though. On the edge all the way round. No sign of the Mclarens yet. Barrichello looks awful and Montoya seems uncomfortable. Wait here comes Hakkinen. Mr smooth. By far the fastest entry speed and he takes spoon in one long smooth curve. Very impressive.
Friday finishes and we learn Alesi is fastest. Eh? He didn't seem that fast and he spun right in front of us, but hey it's his last GP and it gives us something to talk about as night approaches. We pitch the tents on Spoon. We're not supposed to but a couple of security guards don't say anything when they come past and sit in the make-shift stand for a smoke.
Gareth and I are up bright and early at 6:30am to get the tarp down for a good place on spoon. Michael sleeps on and wakes up when we start cooking breakfast.
Free practice starts and it's obvious a lot of cars were running heavy loads yesterday as even the Minardi's look fast. Schumi messes up every run but he has masterful control and we see him catch two would be spins. Montoya is getting there. Villeneuve has an interesting oversteer technique which is fun to watch. Ralfy looks fast. DC and Barrichello look slow when compared to their team mates. Hakk baby takes the award for fastest MF through spoon. A joy to watch. No-one comes off today.
Tent is packed and the backpacks are on as we trek back to our seats in the stands again. It's time for qualifying.
Wow! Schumi puts in one mega lap after another as we watched him in awe on the screen. The crowd aplaud politely everytime he sets a new pole time. We look on stunned as Barrichello seems to have held second place. Where are the Williams? 5 mins to go. Montoya and Ralfy put in 2 last gasp laps and take 2nd and 3rd. Phew - Bazza wasn't that quick surely? Fisci snatches 5th and we aplaud him as he pits. Good stuff.
We look on in horror as we realise our ususal camping spot in the middle of the circuit has been replaced by a new media centre. Gareth and I set off to find a camping spot inside the circuit. We find two possible places. One dirty embankment just next to the track down from the pits and another under the big wheel on some very luxurious grass. We stake out the big wheel but the security guard there looks non plused by our presence. We bottle it and set up camp on the embankment arguing who gets the only flat spot. Gareth loses but takes it like a man. The cards come out and I wipe the floor. Lots of banter and what poor losers the others are. After sitting in the main stand, watching the pit crews and the pit babes practice we cook up a meal, discover a luxurious toilet and hit the sack.
Apparently I snore quite loudly.
Day Three - Race Day
We're woken rudely at 8:00am by a female security guard who tells us "we can't see here". We tell her we have tickets and she let's us off the hook but she wants the tents packed up NOW. We take an hour and a half to do so.
Back to the stands to watch a crap warm up session. Nothing happens. Schumi is fastest. No-one is surprised. It's off to the shops to buy some souvenirs and to sit in the shade as it's really bloody hot. Everyone visits the toilet again as it really is that nice! The other option is the bushes or a 'haven't been cleaned out for 3 days' port-a-loo.
Back to the stands in time for the race at 2:30pm. We're all hoping for Ralfy or Montoya to snatch the lead. It doesn't happen and the crowd go nuts as Schumi pulls a Schumi and keeps 1st place. They come round and the there's a huge gasp as there's only a Ferrari to be seen. He's pulled out a massive lead. What's going on? We get to see Raikkonen and Alesi collide, shake hands and trudge back to the pits. We see Barrichello take Montoya and then lose 2nd place straight away. Later he takes Ralfy - all right in front of us. Hakkinen and Schumi have a good fight. Montoya looks excellent and he goes right up in my estimation. Ralfy has a number of brain farts and Bazza twats about on 3 stops! Good one mate! Alonso does some amazing overtaking and embarrasses Panis, Frentzen and a couple of Arrows. What's going on? The race finishes and Hakkinen get's the loudest cheer. Well except that damn Ferrari fiend who won the race of course.
It's time for the 2 hour hike back to the train station and off home. We're all knackered and duly fall asleep on the train. We smell quite bad. The wife is happy with the present I bought her so that's good. The video came out quite well too!
A good weekend is had by all and I throughly recommend it if you haven't been to an F1 race. It was Michael's first and we're all ready talking about next year.
Smoothest Driver - Hakkinen (Shame he won't be around next year)
Totally on the edge, bloody hell, how the f**k did he do that drive - Schumi.
Most impressive drive - JPM
Least impressive driver - Barrichello
I really am not that fast driver - Yoong
Loudest car - Mclaren
Coolest sounding car - Ferrari
My God call that an F1 car, piece of crap - Arrows
Most annoying event - listening to Enya trough the tanoy system at 7:00am
Best crash - Enge
Best Spin - Alesi
Most disappointing drive - Trulli - he didn't look with it at all for most of the weekend.
Idiot of the day - Ralf