But let's start with a bit of background.
Sandra likes the Formula 1 racing. If you have ever watched it on TV, you'll see that there are lots of spectators - those sitting in various grandstands and even people sitting on the grass watching. There are many types of ticket at different prices and many places to buy tickets (some of which are a con as we have discovered in the past). However buying from f1.com should be pretty safe and you should get what you expect.
Some years ago we had the best holiday ever in Singapore. We went for the F1 (night race) and we got the best tickets you can from f1.com - "paddock club". The paddock club meant we ended up in an air-conditioned suite overlooking the pit lane and start/finish line. There was free flowing champagne and wine as well as nice food. We were well looked after and it was a great event and a great holiday. Paddock club is expensive, but if you can save up enough, it makes for a very special event. What is important for me is that the temperature and humidity in Singapore is not even in "bearable" let alone "comfortable", so the air-con was great. Obviously being at the track you can only see some of it, but the suite has large TVs and race data screens and so on.
This year we decided to try paddock club again. It is a big wedding anniversary in just over a week, and my wife has a big birthday coming up, and so we decided to splash out once again and this time go to Austin, Texas.
No air con?Again, air-con is a must - sadly the air con in the suite appeared to be broken, meaning that on Friday it was hot, humid, sticky and uncomfortable. Whilst the air con seemed to be fixed by Saturday, ironically, by Sunday the temperature in Austin had dropped to the point of almost being cold and so air con was not really an issue.
Paddock access!This year F1 are doing an extra feature. If you are buying the full three day tickets, and for a limited number of people, you can pay a mere $930 per person extra for Friday evening paddock access and evening meal, and what is described as "unparalleled access to the Formula 1 teams, drivers, international media and VIPs" and we will "mix with the teams as they put the final and vital tweaks to their cars ahead of Qualifying". Somehow with Victoria reading the details and telling Sandra they assumed there would be drivers at the dinner, and Sandra has been looking forward to this for months. It was to be the key feature of the trip (even more so with this weather)...
However, it was not quite what was promised. Yes, it was access to the paddock (area behind garages) but at the end of the day on the Friday. The original schedule had a period of wandering around the paddock, but the revised schedule sent the day before had removed that. We saw the Pirelli garage, the safety and medical cars, and did get to see the Lotus garage. Not quite "mixing with the teams" but it was interesting. Then the meal, which was a tapas affair and was good food, but no sign of drivers. In fact, there were no drivers to be seen at all. To be fair, they did not say drivers would be at the dinner, but we were promised "unparalleled access to the Formula 1 drivers". We did not even see a driver, let alone meet one, not any one.
"unparalleled access to the Formula 1 drivers"To say it was a disappointment is an unbelievable understatement. As it happens, Sandra got caught in the storm at lunch time, but stayed, soaking wet (100% humidity and broken air-con, not even warm air dryers in the toilets) for three hours because "at least we will see some drivers later".
You stand more chance of seeing a driver on the pit walk you get as standard with the paddock club tickets.
I have massively let Sandra down. I have been stupid in thinking that we would get what was described on the web site. I am really pissed off and upset. I have spent a lot of money trying to make a special event and failed.
WeatherIn other news, and not something that they could control, there a hurricane that has hit Mexico, and resulted in rain, lightning and flooding. No idea if we will actually get a race or not. If we had managed to meet some drivers, maybe it would have been worthwhile coming this weekend. If only.
Whilst paddock club itself is usually good, do not believe the extra "unparalleled access to the Formula 1 drivers". In my personal opinion it is a con and a shame that f1.com has stooped so low.
Update: Qualifying on Saturday was delayed and delayed and at 4pm we were told qualifying would be 9am Sunday, and sorry, "nothing more is happening today". That was it. Loads of people leaving and so did we. Apparently 16:20 they opened the pit lane and allowed fans to meet the drivers. If they had said they were going to do that then of course we would have stayed. Why the fuck did they not say. Seems that the people paying extra for "unparalleled access to the Formula 1 drivers" are the only ones that did not meet any drivers. Fucked off or what?
Update: On Sunday we spoke to a representative from f1.com and explained how unhappy were were. He is obviously sorry about the issues, and wants to take on board the feedback - the one thing he did say is that they do have Massa coming in to the suite next door to us at 11:45. Great, at least we meet one driver. We went next door 11:38 and apparently have "just missed him" FFS what more can be screwed up today? Sandra is in tears now - what a special wedding anniversary this is turning out to be.
Update: Andrew, from f1.com, redeemed himself a little. Managed to get Sandra a Kimi signed cap, and get us behind the barrier at the Mercedes garage on the pit walk. James took the chance for a pic!
Update: Andrew also mentioned that we were allowed all the way down the end by the podium. This was not a "special" extra, just "normal" paddock club. However, we did not realise we could, so thank you Andrew for pointing it out. We'd also like to thank Kate who got us a nice F1 hat for our wedding anniversary. At the start of the race Sandra was the only person by the podium. But by the end it was some pushing and shoving. Even so, we managed to hold our ground, and get sprayed in the face with Champagne by Lewis... James managed an awesome shot...
Even during the race Sandra was very much "don't think I am ever doing this again"... After finally seeing some drivers close up at the podium she was somewhat happier. Even so, the paddock access was not as described and set us up for disappointment from the start - without that I expect the weekend would have been much better. F1 need to improve that offering, or describe it properly.