Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010 - Part 10 // The final updates in Alex's incredible global adventure

Published by Alex J Snell

So here we are! We've made it to the end of the season, and more importantly, Alex has. His mission to attend every single Grand Prix this year has been an outstanding success, and he's became a regular in the paddock - making friends with teams, and getting his name up in lights! We've got just one more race to look at, and then, quite frankly, I don't know what we're going to do with ourselves. Can you do it again next year, please Alex?

Race 19 - Abu Dhabi

Wednesday 08:23

As I sprawl myself across these typically awkward airport seats, people watching as I usually do, it's struck me that I'm actually going to miss these moments. Not the actual airport itself you understand, but that mix of excitement and apprehension that accompanies each new chapter of this adventure, the sense of never totally knowing what lies on the horizon.

Wednesday 20:11

I'm now in Bahrain and awaiting my connecting flight. It's just occurred to me that my journey has now come full circle. Almost exactly 8 months ago, this was where the adventure began, and now I'm back. It's the beginning of the end. No time for reflection now though, boarding is underway.

Wednesday 21:34

Looking to my left as I type this I've my first glimpse of the Yas Marina circuit. As our plane banks around for the approach to the airport the sheer scale of what's been achieved here is now clear. It's monstrous! You've Ferrari World which looks akin to some form of arachnid-alien mothership that's set down in the desert. Then you've the luminescent Yas Hotel, glowing oh-so-splendidly, encircled by rows of hideously expensive yachts. Impressive is not the word.

View at the first corner of Abu Dhabi
View at the first corner of Abu DhabiCredit: Alex J Snell

Thursday 00:04

I'm all checked in and have managed a splendid job of sprawling the contents of my case across the floor of my latest temporary home. Getting here was no problem, and stepping out into the warm evening air I chanced upon Jérôme D'Ambrosio. A quick chat later and it turns out he's staying in the same hotel, albeit only until tomorrow when he upgrades to one of the swanky circuit hotels! Not that there's anything wrong with this place, although tonight was definitely the first time I've had to put my bags, and myself, through an x-ray scanner when checking-in!

Friday 02:49

I've only just now made it back to my hotel, after what was a memorable day to say the least! Hopping into a taxi this morning I was soon at the circuit and making my way to the free pit walk. Once inside I barely had a chance to get my bearings before I was being ushered into the paddock by James from Virgin. Luckily for me he'd spotted me in the crowd, and so the makings of a blissful, and completely unexpected day were set!

The hotel lights up in the twilight hours at Yas Marina
The hotel lights up in the twilight hours at Yas MarinaCredit: Alex J Snell

Most of the day was spent up on the VR roof terrace, attempting to comprehend a view that constantly dazzled & evolved as the light faded & the neon glamour took hold. To label it as opulent would be doing it a disservice, it was other-worldly in it's luxury and extravagance. In fact, so was the entire day. It was without doubt a privilege that literally, money can't buy.

The team were their usual wonderfully welcoming selves, and being recognized by so many of them now when I visit is an amazing feeling. Although everyone, unsurprisingly, had the same question for me - how does it feel to be at the end? A question that at the moment I'm trying my damnedest not to think about!

On the theme of question dodging I was interviewed today, twice in fact. The first being by Will Buxton for Speed TV, which was actually to camera - a totally bizarre experience for me! And the second with Felipe, a really terrific guy from the Brazilian press. So after an afternoon of pretending to be newsworthy, the day all too quickly turned into night, as it always does. And by the time night was considering turning back to day, Geoff and I were still up on the roof, quite possibly the only ones left in the entire paddock! Taking this as our cue we decided to sample the delights, and a sneaky libation, in the nearby Yas Hotel. Finding a table out on the decking we were greeted by the downright ridiculous sight of Eddie Jordan serenading Christian Horner and Adrian Newey with his musical spoons! At this point we both agreed that we'd indulged far too much to comprehend this, so with EJ's cutlery-inspired rhythms playing us out we called it a night.

Friday 22:33

Alex finds some friends whilst visiting McLaren hospitality
Alex finds some friends whilst visiting McLaren hospitalityCredit: Alex J Snell

I'm now on the way back from the circuit after a day that will surely be one I never forget. So unbelievable was this day that I've no idea of how to cobble together it's moments. So rather than bore you with waffle, I'm taking the embarrassingly lazy option of listing the insanely surreal highs of today:

  • VIP guest of McLaren - This came about after a rather lovely lady at Vodaphone saw the article in F1 Racing. A couple of phone calls later she got hold of my number and the rest is history.
  • Met @thefifthdriver.
  • Quickly sworn to secrecy by @thefifthdriver, the exact words being 'you ain't seen me, right?'
  • Spent free practice in McLaren garage - This was rather special. As what they've done is create a booth at the back of the garage, which they call 'Race Control'. Inside here you'll find a mock up of the pit wall, complete with screens, headphones, and radio switches. Therefore giving the fan a chance to play pretend 'Team Principle' for the afternoon!
  • Met Jenson and Lewis - Both of whom were really genuine guys, and notably both with bone-crushingly strong handshakes!
  • Given McLaren book, signed, to me, by both drivers!
  • Chatted to Jenson's dad out on the McLaren terrace - Without doubt the term 'Diamond Geezer' was invented for John Button. We had a great chat about his life and his plans for when Jenson finally hangs up his helmet. We decided that some form of Jacobs Creek ambassadorial role would suit him best!
  • Attended LG 'Moments of the year' event up on the roof terrace of Redbull home - This was to showcase their collection of the best moments of the year, as captured by a selection of commissioned photographers. And also to showcase F1 in 3D, which was pretty darn cool!
  • Spoke at said event to an audience that included EVERY team principle - This was a tad unexpected to say the least! I'd been lured in on the premise that as the eventual winner was to be chosen by the fans, having me there to cast the first vote would be a nice touch. It wasn't until I was actually there, with around only 10 minutes to go, that the bombshell was dropped - I was actually part of the presentation! The real plan all along had been to introduce me and give a short interview! Now I wasn't too flustered at this stage, that is until the guests started to arrive! As on this particular guest list was every single team principle! So as one by one they appeared, so my pulse became progressively rapid, and my palms worryingly sweaty! When the moment came it was over as quickly as it began, and I quickly scuttled out of the spotlight, thinking to myself that this, surely, was the most surreal moment ever...
  • Post 'appearance' found myself surrounded by Martin Whitmarsh, Stefano Dominicali, and Christian Horner - All wanting to congratulate me on what I've achieved and to shake my hand! Now THIS brought a whole new definition to the term surreal!
  • Now totally freaking out over the ludicrously fortunate situations I've found myself in today!

Saturday 13:45

Sebastian Vettel storms to pole position in Abu Dhabi
Sebastian Vettel storms to pole position in Abu DhabiCredit: Alex J Snell

I've now found my spot for the weekend in the West Grandstand, and it goes without saying that the view here is phenomenal! But in truth, wherever you view this circuit from, it never fails to stop you in your tracks. You'll find yourself simply in awe of the scale and ambition of what has been achieved here.

Sunday 03:34

So, how do I explain this evening then! It was yet another experience that would have been unimaginable for me 8 months ago (and if the truth be told, despite having just come back from it, it still is!). The evening began with an invite from QNet, Virgin's new sponsors, to their unveiling bash. This I later found out was at the request of the sponsor himself, who after hearing my story asked to meet me - crazy! So after a few handshakes and publicity shots (yes, I did just say that!), the party mingling began.

Here is where the old adage 'It's not what you know....' comes to the fore. I was introduced to a man who went by the fantastic moniker of 'Doctor Chocolate'. He, it turned out, was Johnny Herbert's manager, and he just happened to have a £24 million yacht moored up in the harbour. No doubt you can all see where this is going! So there we were, myself, Geoff, and a bunch of the Virgin guys, all quaffing champers up on the top deck, and every one of us with an impossibly wide grin etched across our faces.

Sunday 12:34

David Croft and Holly Samos share a toast as she waves goodbye to the paddock
David Croft and Holly Samos share a toast as she waves goodbye to the paddockCredit: Alex J Snell

I've just come back from Holly Samos' surprise leaving bash up on the Force India roof terrace. Crofty gave a typically humorous, but genuinely poignant speech. Whilst Holly herself did her very best to hide from the crowd whilst stifling the tears! Having a quick chat to Jason from 5live it seems that the interview this afternoon is very much on, and so I have a date at 16:10 with a Mr. David Croft and a Mr. Colin Murray! I think perhaps a little Dutch courage may be in order!

Sunday 19:54

And so it is, congratulations Sebastian Vettel, 2010 world champion. Seems the championship had one final twist in store for us! Whilst my day wasn't perhaps as impressive as his, in my little world it was yet another unbelievable one. Once again Virgin were supplying the pass and pulling the strings. So what did I do today? First up I made my radio debut, stood alongside Crofty on the Yas harbour front, live on air chatting to Colin Murray. I've pretty much run out of superlatives to describe this weekend, but I think you can imagine how that was for me!

Alex meets Richard Branson!
Alex meets Richard Branson!Credit: Alex J Snell

That was then followed by meeting the one and only Richard Branson. Who very kindly signed my paddock pass which is now mine to keep!

Well, I've no time for reflecting now, we're speeding back to my hotel for a quick change then it's back to the circuit. Hopefully in time to catch the end of Prince (the end of his set that is, not him literally!). Then it's on to the Virgin Party, I feel this could be a late one...

Monday 06:10

And so the sun has set on the day, set on the season, and set on my dream. So where to from here? I mean, what do you do once you've realised your dream? It was inevitable that this moment would come, but just how I would feel when it did, well that wasn't so easy to predict. I've had, literally years, to contemplate this adventure and what it would, and already does mean to me. So at this moment I've a whirlwind of emotions coursing through me. The elation of the greatest experience of my life, and the satisfaction of having realised a dream. But counter-balanced with now being slightly direction-less in terms of my life, and by that hollow feeling brought about by the terrifying question, 'after all that's happened, how do you return to the life that you had before'?

To think it was 5 years past when the original seeds of this adventure were sown, and from that point onwards it has been the sole focus of my life. Never then could I have imagined just how epic it would turn out to be.

The past 8 months have been nothing short of phenomenal. I've found myself being welcomed into, and made to feel a part of, a world that I previously thought totally exclusive. The warmth and generosity that I've found in everyone I've been fortunate enough to meet has been overwhelming. I'd contemplated jotting down a list of names of people I'd like to thank, but the list is just too long. So to all of you, my eternal gratitude for playing your part in making this year so extraordinary for me.

Alex admits he's running out of room for wristbands come the end of his epic year in F1
Alex admits he's running out of room for wristbands come the end of his epic year in F1Credit: Alex J Snell

So, I guess this is it? After 107 hours of trackside action, 167,804km travelled, 18 countries visited, countless friendships born, and a collection of memories that I'll treasure for the rest of my life. It's been one hell of a year!

Someone told me recently that it's always best to end on a quote. So with that in mind I'm signing off with the words of a personal hero of mine, one Ferris Bueller:

"Life moves pretty fast, you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

All content in the series The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010