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The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010 - Part 6 - Heading to the Hockenheimring for the next stop on Alex's travels

Published by Alex J Snell

Alex has been faithfully travelling across the globe on his epic F1 World tour, and we are keeping up with him as he goes. From the early days in Bahrain, through to the Virgin Racing camping in Britain, we've followed each step. You can do the same by reading his travel blog or following on Twitter. Now we're on to the final two races before the summer break - Germany and Hungary.

Race 11 - Germany

This one was a little different in that I did it through a tour company (mainly for two reasons, 1. The price 2. Hockenheim is in the middle of nowhere!) and so I found myself at Victoria station for 7.30am and facing a 14 hour coach journey across Europe. I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about the whole coach tour idea, flashbacks of school trips past weren’t helping, and seeing the coach pulling up complete with tiger-emblazoned side didn’t ease my concerns! But I needn’t have worried, all of us on board were bound by our shared passion for F1, and our tour guide Kevin was obviously a big fan himself.

The inclement weather keeps the grandstands empty in Germany on Friday
Credit: Alex J Snell

Arriving at the track on Friday, the first thing I noticed were the Forest surrounds, accompanied by the distinct smell of beer and bratwursts drifting along on the air. The weather was pretty horrendous, so unfortunately the crowds were a little thin on the ground, or perhaps it could have been the 80’s soft rock they were pumping out of the PA system - who knows! One really surprising thing to me was that you could walk around anywhere without a ticket, in fact the only time you actually needed your ticket was for getting into your grandstand. So any enterprising punter could easily find a spot by an uncovered fence and get a great view of the track for free! (not that I'm condoning that you understand!)

Saturday at the track was thankfully a lot busier. Seeing the cars squirming their way through the first turn was superb, Hamilton especially was fighting the car on the limit on every flying lap, whilst Schuey & Webber both pushed it a little too far and as a result were forced to take full advantage of the ample run-off. The weather was still changeable to say the least, and had everyone guessing right through qualifying - and what a qualifying it was! Something like only 15cm separated Alonso & Vettel after an entire lap - amazing!

Sebastian Vettel works his way round to pipping Alonso to pole position on Saturday
Credit: Alex J Snell

Race day was now upon me, and walking into the track through the leafy paths the atmosphere was fantastic. The place was already heaving with people and it was only 9am, and not that the fans needed any further encouragement but Red Bull had put on a mobile carnival float which was driving around amassing a frenetic following as it did.

My first port of call was the entrance to the TV compound, hoping for a glimpse of the BBC guys I figured I’d hang out there for a little while. I wasn’t disappointed as within 5 minutes DC & Brundle came sprinting through, quickly followed by Jonathon Legard and a few of the Spanish presenters. Thinking that was my lot I glanced down at my camera to see if I’d managed to catch any of them, and as I did there was an almighty clatter from behind. Looking back I could barely believe my eyes! Before me was the crumpled body of Eddie Jordan, tangled up in a cycle which he’d obviously just crashed into the gate! This alone was comical enough, but the icing on the cake was that before he’d even had a chance to pick himself up a fan had pounced on him, and did this fan offer to help? Nope, instead he asked for a photo, while Eddie was still un-wrapping himself from around the gate - Unbelievable! But to EJ’s credit he picked himself up, posed for the photo, then hot-footed it to escape the whole embarrassing scene.

Eddie Jordan recovers his composure after a small biking accident
Credit: Alex J Snell

As for the race itself, well, we all know what happened there, so let’s not dwell on that! As an event it was a great weekend, and despite my earlier reservations, sharing it with a group of like-minded fans made it all the better. The circuit itself has some great views, and even though the home fans didn't get the result they were after it didn't dampen their spirits, and nor did the weather for that matter. It's now a day's break for me then onwards to Hungary - see you there!

Race 12 - Hungary

Even the Safety Car needs to top up with fuel occasionally
Credit: Alex J Snell

Getting here was a thankfully short flight over, and one that I was fortunate enough to share with the five live guys, and also Andrew Shovlin whom I managed to sneak a seat next to (for those who are wondering who? He’s Schumacher’s race engineer). Unfortunately though I couldn’t think of anything to say to him other than cracking a Schumacher joke, so I just left him to his cycling magazine while I chuckled away to myself at my own poor humour!

My first full day in Budapest was spent wandering along the Danube, taking the sights & sounds of this beautiful looking city. Come the afternoon Matt & myself headed to the track for the pit lane walk, or at least that was the plan….

Jumping off the train we were presented with an epic walk to make it to the circuit gates, taking a cross-country route we stomped our way through what seemed like a never-ending series of fields & campsites - which even on Thursday were already heaving with Polish fans out for Kubica. Making our way up the painfully steep hill to the main gate it was obvious that literally thousands had turned up, and checking the view onto the pit lane confirmed it - it was absolutely rammed! So despite both of us wanting to check it out we opted to head back & dodge the sweaty crush.

The crowds pour in to the Hungaroring to see the action
Credit: Alex J Snell

Friday was a painfully early start to get to the track for FP1. The track itself is great, it may well be a little too tight & twisty for F1, but the contours of the landscape offer the fan great views. I’d plumped for the higher stand on the final corner, and taking in the view on Friday I was pretty happy. I could see the cars in full view for easily 25+ seconds as they negotiated the final sector, sweeping round the corner & thundering up the main straight, as well as being able to glimpse them flashing through the tree cover over the far side of the track.

Virgin Racing prepare their car for the upcoming Grand Prix in Hungary
Credit: Alex J Snell

Moving on to race day I was fortunate enough to be given an invite for breakfast at the Virgin motor home. So after another hideously early start I arrived bright (ish) and early at the paddock gate for 9am. We then took a wander through the garage where the cars were completely stripped down, and I was lucky enough to be able to see a complete under tray flipped over. Seeing the flow of the infamous double-diffuser it’s easy to see why the teams last year couldn’t simply bolt one onto their cars - it really is a complex & fully integrated piece of kit.

After a short wander through the paddock, which it has to said at early morning as the sun was rising was an empty but visually stunning sight, we popped back into the motor home to say my goodbyes. Trundling in we found none other than Five Live’s very own Crofty tucking into his full English. Not missing an opportunity to make my visit even more memorable Geoff was kind enough to introduce me, and yes, he really is as funny in real life as you imagine! After saying my goodbyes I made my way up and out of the paddock back to my grandstand.

It was Vettel versus Alonso all over again
Credit: Alex J Snell

The race itself wasn’t exactly a classic, but there were enough pit lane incidents & pit wall squeezes to keep us entertained. Joining in the track invasion after the race we were a little disappointed to find that guards had been placed along all the gaps on the pit wall, meaning that getting any photos of the garages was pretty impossible - that is unless you wanted to shove you camera through another man’s legs to get the shot! But to be honest the teams were packing up so quickly that there were really wasn’t much to see, plus the track walk was limited to only an hour before they herded us out. Taking our cue we boarded the sweaty bus back to Budapest & to our last night before Matt was off.

And so we’re now going into the summer break as far as F1 is concerned, and although they’ll be no racing a little break will probably do me good, especially after this last weekend! See you all in Spa!

Stay tuned for the next chapter in Alex's adventure, and check out more great pictures on his Flickr account.

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