Tips for Attending a Formula 1 Race

Stars, cars and top-shelf hospitality, plus high octane and over-revved excitement are on tap at a Formula 1 race. We went to the Austin Grand Prix with Alfa Romeo to see what it's all about.

Trackside At The Austin Grand Prix Formula 1 Race
Trackside at the Austin Grand Prix Formula 1 Race. This is the way to see F1. Photo: Scotty Reiss
Trackside At The Austin Grand Prix Formula 1 Race
Trackside at the Austin Grand Prix Formula 1 Race. This is the way to see F1. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Don’t cheap out on this luxe sport experience. You’ll regret it.

Unless you’re a true Formula 1 race fan and don’t mind long days in the hot sun, crowded shuttle bus rides and walking miles through the venue, you should think about an F1 race as a vacation: Plan ahead, set a budget to make the it worthwhile and create a lifetime of memories. 

This may include flights, hotel, restaurant reservations, outfit planning and more, just as you would with any dream vacation. 

Formula 1 is one of the most see-and-be-seen, luxury, jet setting events of the year. If you like luxury, excitement, exclusive cars and being treated like a VIP, there’s nothing like it.

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Getting Tickets to the Hottest Event of the Year

The good news is, you can pretty much buy as exclusive a VIP experience as you’d like. Want to sit trackside? Sure! VIP tent access? Of course! Sit with the race teams near their garages? Not out of the question.

All it takes is money.

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The Grandstand At F1
The grandstand at F1. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Formula 1 Race Tickets Cost — and What You Get

Yes, there are cheap “seats.” General admission tickets start at about $200 and for the weekend (depending on the race and location). This gets you into the race venue and access to the festival grounds, public events and public bars and restaurants. View the race from the grassy seating areas or standing room near the track, but there are no actual seats; bring a blanket or a foldable chair and lots of sunscreen. 

For $800 or so, grandstand tickets offer a better view of the track, but are still in an open-air space. Grandstand tickets include access to all the festival exhibits, post-race concerts and more. 

For GA or grandstand tickets, plan on budgeting another several hundred dollars for food and beverage. As with any large sporting event, even water can be costly and you can’t bring in food or beverages, other than a single water bottle.

And then, there are VIP experiences, which are pricey but completely worth it: Air conditioning, open bar, snacks, buffets and driver meet and greets. 

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Garage Row And Hospitality Tents
Garage row and hospitality tents. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Pick Your VIP Experience at a Formula 1 Race 

Yes, you get to pick your team experience. Are you an Alfa Romeo fan? You can buy tickets to sit near the Alfa Romeo tent, come and go from the bar and buffet, enjoy the air conditioned tent and photo ops with their drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu. You’ll also rub shoulders with Alfa Romeo execs, top dealers and other VIPs. 

Same with McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Haas, Red Bull.

There are several levels of tickets to choose from. Shop carefully for the things that matter most: Racing team, experience details and special opportunities. 

Basic Hospitality packages start at about $2,000 and probably are just that: Basic. These may include house-level bar brands and simple snacks at the buffet. Also, the locations of these tents may not be premium and it may be competitive to get a good seat to view the race.

The Paddock Club hospitality tickets offer a more premium experience; from about $4,000 per person you’ll get premium seating, a higher level of food and beverage, and more perks like a paddock tour and/or a meet and greet with drivers.

For those who really want to be close to the action, the F1 Garage experience comes in at about $30K per person and puts you right next to the action near the team’s garage space. 

Many of the hospitality tents will have trackside seating and an Instagram worthy lounge-like environment with a DJ, velvet ropes and waitress service. It really South Beach, track side.  

Tickets are generally for all 3 days of F1— Typically Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but times and days can vary based on the race and location. There may be additional options outside of published ticket information that’ll your ticket will get you access to, so pay attention. 

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Make the Weekend Special with a Hot Lap

Before the races begin, most race teams offer hot laps to VIPs. Rules and access to these can vary, so get there early and keep your antennae up for the possibility of a hot lap. Often brands offer these for their top dealers and other VIPs, so it’s worth asking (nicely) if you can be included. 

It might be the best memory you’ll have of any vacation, ever. Hot laps are generally just that: A quick spin around the track a sponsoring brand’s vehicle, driven by a pro.

Your driver may be one of the warm up drivers, an engineer or other pro who knows the car and the track. You’ll get to see the track up close and understand all its hills and curves, see where the drivers will be most challenged and where the action will happen. 

Typically, hot laps are not taken in one of the F1 vehicles; instead they are  in a super sporty and supercharged model from the car maker with a team in the race. 

For a hot lap, you’ll don a helmet and sit in the “right seat.” Get your camera ready and hold on tight; you’re sure to feel all the G’s.

Our Private Seating Area At The Alfa Romeo Garage

Our private seating area at the Alfa Romeo garage. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Else is there to Do at Formula 1?

Oh, lots and lots. And lots. The event I attended in Austin was sort of like a festival, with rides, food and exhibits. You can walk the grounds and see all there is to see, play some games, ride some rides, and hear live music. And there are cars: New cars on display, show cars, vintage cars, racing cars and more. 

And there’s music. Formula 1 races typically feature an arena-worthy musical act, or 4, following the race. For instance, this year in Austin, fans will be treated to a concert by The Killers and Queen + Adam Lambert, as well as a number of local performers at one of the many stages around the event campus. 

If that’s not enough, in the days leading up to the race there are fan meet-ups, VIP experiences and more. 

Our Group With Drivers Valtteri Bottas, Center Cowboy Hat, And Zhou Guanyu

Our group with drivers Valtteri Bottas, center cowboy hat, and Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa ball cap. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Traveling to a Formula 1 Race

With all the event costs, don’t skimp on your travel. A lovely hotel to return to at the end of a long day is a treasure. Get there early and take advantage of the pool, the parties and restaurants. 

If you really want to feel like a celebrity, book your flight on JSX or Boutique Air in the US. Business class airlines like these will whisk you away to your F1 destination in a leather seat with lots of legroom and champagne service. And, they are not hugely expensive so they just might be the best deal of the weekend. 

But book all your reservations early; all the good ones get snapped up quickly. 

Me, Larry Dominique, President Of Alfa Romeo And Krisin Shaw

Me, Larry Dominique, head of Alfa Romeo and Kristin Shaw. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Race Day: What You Need to Know

Even though you’ve booked the exclusive ticket, the 5 star hotel and the best after parties, be prepared for anything. Some tickets may offer a shuttle from the hotel or a parking pass for the lot closest to your seats. Others may simply inform you of the shuttle locations. Traffic is highly regulated, so you may have to walk quite a bit, especially once through the main gate. Some guests will get golf cart service, especially to and from the hot lap location, but even then, there’s a lot of walking. 

And, there will be weather. Typically F1 races are planned for hot, sunny weather, but you never know. Plan for hot days, cool evenings, hot asphalt and lots of walking. Bring a hat, sunscreen and a water bottle, but keep it to the basics; you won’t get a large bag through security. <

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And then, have the time of your life. Even if you don’t follow the teams and the races, attending a Formula 1 race is the event of a lifetime.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Alfa Romeo for hot laps at the Austin Grand Prix Formula 1 Race. All opinions are my own.


Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss