Ronin traveled from the Netherlands to Austria to attend her first live Formula 1 race this year, and shares details of her unforgettable weekend at the Red Bull Ring.
- Images supplied by Ronin
Austria 2023 was my first ever Grand Prix. I had wanted to go to a race for a long time, but I had no one to go with. I never even considered the option of going solo, until one of my friends reached out to me saying she had tickets for the Austrian Grand Prix and asked me to join. At first, I was apprehensive. She only had Sunday tickets and she’d be with her family, so I figured I would sort of be the odd one out. Despite my doubts, I eventually I said yes and started planning the trip.
I bought weekend tickets for the T3 grandstand from P1 Travel for about €300. My reasoning was that this way I’d be close to my friend in general admission, but still in a grandstand, since I couldn’t bring chairs for GA with me on the train. I also got a ticket for the pit lane walk on Thursday. They sold out quite fast, so a few weeks before the race I checked every day if they had gone on sale yet.
Finding Somewhere to Stay
Finding accommodation was a real challenge. I planned this trip only a month in advance, so everything was fully booked. I even thought I was going to have to stay in Vienna (which is a 2,5-hour train ride from the Red Bull Ring), but I ended up finding a travel agent on Facebook after a frantic search for a place to sleep. He had camping spots left, but after further inquiry it turned out that it was only for 2+ people. He asked me to call him, and when I did, he told me that although he officially wasn’t allowed to do so, he’d give me a tip. He’d been to the Austrian Grand Prix more times than he could count and told me that if I just went there and asked a farmer if I could put my tent up on their land, they would say yes.
Although this probably would have worked, it seemed too risky to me, so I opted for a safer alternative (which, I have to say, he inspired me to do. I must give credit where it’s due). I went on Google Maps and looked up campsites and farmers in the immediate vicinity of the track. I emailed all of them asking for a quotation, and eventually ended up going for a farmer who asked €20 a night for just my tent, without parking. All the facilities were there, they had showers, toilets, and electricity, and the cherry on top: it was only a 2-minute walk to the circuit.
Getting to the Red Bull Ring
I booked the night train from Amsterdam to Vienna, which was cheaper than flying, because I had to bring all my camping gear. At this point, everything was taken care of, and I was ready to go.
I departed from Amsterdam on Tuesday evening and arrived in Vienna on Wednesday morning. From there it took me about 3 hours to get to Spielberg. You first take the train from Vienna to Knittelfeld, and then it’s a short bus ride to the track. It cost me €45 in total, which, in my opinion, is very reasonable. The trains in Austria have reserved seats, which I didn’t know, so if you want a guaranteed seat I’d recommend you reserve one. It worked out for me without a reservation though, and I managed to find a seat for both me and my 20 kg backpack. The scenery on the way to Knittelfeld is absolutely gorgeous, and this was the start of what would turn out to be the best weekend of my life.
Arriving at the campsite around 13:15, I took my time setting up my tent and then walked to Zeltweg, a little town near the track. It was a 30-minute walk with gorgeous views of the mountains, and when walking past the small airbase, I saw Ferrari’s Vistajet. There are a few supermarkets, a gas station, and some restaurants in Zeltweg, but it’s all very small. I ended up eating dinner at the track and going to the supermarket just for snacks and drinks. The rest of my Wednesday was spent relaxing at the campsite, and before I knew it, it was Thursday and time for the pit lane walk!
Thursday: Pit Lane Walk
On Thursday I walked around the fanzone for a bit, since it wasn’t too busy yet. There were some really cool cars on display, plenty of merch stands, and the atmosphere was amazing. After checking out the fanzone, I decided to head to the grandstand for the pit lane walk, but no one seemed to know where it was. It wasn’t on the ticket, and I asked a few different staff members where to go, but none of them knew. After asking a few people from the crowd someone told me it was at the Start-Ziel grandstand, near the Welcome Centre. This was the only part of the weekend that wasn’t perfectly organized. It was a minor inconvenience though, and I got to my seat more than an hour before the start of the pit lane walk.
There were no assigned seats, and I got incredibly lucky, because I snatched a spot in section B. Being alone helped a lot, as there were lots of free single seats. After about an hour we were allowed to go on the track, and it was an amazing experience. After walking on the track to the pit lane, there turned out to be no time limit, so I ended up staying in the pit lane for almost 3 hours. The people in section F had to wait for hours, and eventually got about 20 minutes in the pit lane, so I’d definitely recommend being there early so you can secure good seats.
In the pit lane you could see all the pit boxes up close. The teams were working on the cars, doing practice pit stops, and some drivers even came out. The highlight of the day was the Ferrari boys coming out, and after watching Leclerc’s seat fitting, I managed to get both drivers’ signatures and a picture with Charles. Gasly, Verstappen and Alonso also came out, but they didn’t sign anything. All we got was a little wave from them.
At around 18:15 they kicked everyone out (which took some effort) and we walked back over the track to the fanzone. I didn’t do much else after that, I just grabbed some food and headed back to my tent. Speaking of food, there weren’t a whole lot of options. The fanzone did have more choice, but next to my T3 grandstand there was only one stand with burgers and fries. The food wasn’t great either, but it was decent enough, and the prices were reasonable (around €10-15 for a meal; drinks were around €7). The worst part was that the lines were very long, especially next to the grandstand. Most people went to get food in the middle of the F2 & F3 races so they could avoid the lines as much as possible. I didn’t try this, as I wanted to see all the races, but I’ve heard from others that it worked well, and the lines were much more manageable that way.
Friday: Fan Forum & On-Track Action
As this was a sprint weekend, we had qualifying on Friday, but I first went to the fanzone to see the Alpha Tauri, Williams, McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin drivers. I woke up at 5 am to snatch a spot at the front, and I managed to do just that. It was awesome to see them all from up close, they gave a short interview and some of the drivers signed some items that were thrown on stage. I even got my cap signed by Lando Norris! He was the driver that interacted with the crowd the most, which was amazing to experience. When I yelled, “Lando, please sign my cap”, he gestured he would do it after the interview, then told me I had a nice hat. The other drivers didn’t do this (as much). McLaren and specifically Lando really stood out from the other teams and drivers with that.
After the drivers’ forum, it was time to go to the T3 grandstand for free practice and qualifying. It was pretty hot on Friday, and the 20-minute, partially uphill walk wasn’t pleasant, but it’s doable if you bring water. When arriving at the last ticket checkpoint (about a 5-minute walk away from the actual grandstand) there was a long queue, but it didn’t take as long as I initially thought it would. However, I’d definitely recommend taking 30-40 minutes to get to your seat from the fanzone. Eventually I sat down about 5-10 minutes after free practice started.
It was spectacular to see the cars and drivers live on track. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and on top of that, the view from the T3 grandstand was breath-taking. You could see both the beautiful scenery with the mountains in the background, as well as about half of the track, which is unique to Austria. It truly was a wonderful view, and next time I go I’ll most likely buy T3 tickets again.
After an amazing day I headed back to the fan zone to grab a bite to eat and buy some merchandise. I got a shirt for €60 and a cap for €50. Merchandise is way cheaper online, but there was an outlet store near the T3 grandstand with previous season’s designs for discounted prices. When I was walking back to my campsite it suddenly started to rain. The weather in Spielberg is unpredictable, so I’d recommend taking some rain gear with you, even if the forecasts say it’s not going to rain.
Saturday: Fan Forum & F1 Sprint
On Saturday, there was another chance to see the drivers in the fanzone, this time for the bigger teams. Again, I woke up at 5 am and made my way to the entrance around 6 am. Upon getting in at 7, I had to run to be at the front, but I made it (albeit very out of breath). After a few hours of waiting in the rain, the Ferrari boys came on stage, and afterwards they even came down to sign autographs. I managed to get Carlos’ autograph for the second time, but Charles unfortunately walked the other way, not towards me.
After Ferrari, the other big teams like Mercedes and Red Bull came on stage. Some of the drivers signed a few items that were thrown on stage, but most of them just did their interviews and left. It was surreal to see all the drivers in real life, and it was worth waking up early and waiting in the rain for.
By the time the sprint shootout rolled around, I was seated and had my camera ready. Seeing them race in the rain was spectacular, and I managed to get some nice shots. After the sprint race I went to the Steiermark village (which was literally across the road from my campsite) for some food and a beer. There were more food options here, and the prices were similar. The only downside was that there were people partying 24/7, so there was no place to sit and eat your food in peace, and with me sleeping across the road I couldn’t sleep in peace either. That’s what I signed up for though, and it did give a nice lively vibe to the entire area, but if you’re after a relaxed camping experience with more than 4 hours of sleep, I’d advise a campsite a bit further away.
Sunday: Race Day!
Sunday was the day we had all been waiting for: race day. The Styrian Green Carpet event was on before the race, and again, I woke up insanely early (at 3:30 am to be precise) to stand in the front row, and waiting in line to get in for hours had its perks. I made some friends, saw a beautiful sunrise, and most importantly: I made it to the front row. I did have to run, FAST, and I even asked security to check my bag before the doors opened at 7 am so I could make a beeline for the green carpet.
I made it though, and all the drivers that attended the event were within arm’s reach. Not every team walked the green carpet, which was a bummer, but I got an autograph from Lando again, and a selfie with him, which was my main objective. Mission more than accomplished, as I also got the autographs from Carlos and Yuki. The latter even included a free Alpha Tauri cap, by pure luck.
At around 10:30am, the Styrian Green Carpet event was over, and I made my way to the fanzone to finally get some breakfast. I hung around there for a bit, and eventually walked to my grandstand for the drivers parade at 1pm. After getting some nice snapshots of the drivers during the parade, I walked over to catch up with my friend, who was near T4 in general admission. The view from here was surprisingly good, albeit not as good as from my grandstand, but you could still see a big part of the track. I walked back to my seat 30 minutes before the start of the race.
A cool detail: everyone in the grandstand got a flag, either red or white, and we were instructed to wave it around. The grandstand further down the track did it as well, and it made the colors of the Austrian flag, which was a nice touch and made the atmosphere even more ecstatic.
The race was, once again, really exciting to watch. We got to see some good overtakes in T3, and Hülkenberg’s car got towed right in front of us. After the race I rushed back to the fanzone for the track invasion. This was the only real downside to the T3 grandstand, it’s very far from all the off-track action. I managed to get there within 30 minutes, which was too late to see the podium, but on time to get some nice pictures of the pit lane, the trophy, and all the cars that were lined up.
After I had taken all my pictures I went to the area in front of the Welcome Centre, which I hadn’t seen yet, because it was at the complete opposite end of the track from T3. They turned out to have more food options here, and it was less busy, so next time I’ll probably go there instead of the fan zone.
When I’d had some dinner, I decided to wait for the drivers to leave, together with two new friends that I had made at the track. We saw Lando leave, and he waved and leaned out of his window, but the rest rushed by or left via another route under police escort.
And with that, my race weekend was officially over. There were some big parties going on, fireworks and all, but I didn’t join given that I had to get up early the next day to go to Vienna.
Monday: Time to Head Home
On Monday, most people had left already, but it was still very busy on the bus and train. If you come by car, Monday is a much better and quieter day to leave, but if you rely on public transport like I did, prepare for it to be busy. The bus was packed, and I couldn’t find a seat on the train from Knittelfeld to Vienna, so I had to sit on the floor. I personally didn’t mind too much, but it’s probably a good idea to reserve a seat beforehand to avoid this.
Looking back, it was the best week of my life. I was really worried at first, because I’d heard from a lot of people that women were getting harassed at the race in 2022, but that wasn’t the case at all this year (for me, at least). There was one instance where a drunk fan put his arm around me, but I managed to get rid of him quite easily. It wasn’t pleasant, but it didn’t impact my experience at all. I felt very safe all weekend, even at night with all the parties going on. I didn’t once feel like I was in danger or something bad was going to happen.
All in all, it was one of the best events I’ve ever been to, also logistically speaking. It was very well organized, the atmosphere was wonderful, and the people were very friendly. I did speak German with the locals, but English-speaking people got treated the same from what I could tell, and nearly everyone spoke English (although not always fluently). The staff at the track did all speak English fluently.
I’d absolutely recommend going to the Austrian Grand Prix, whether it’s in a group or solo. It was a unique experience, unlike anything I’d ever done before. Arriving a day early and just taking the time to walk around and take in the scenery is really nice, as you get to relax and get a bit more familiar with the environment you’re in. I’d recommend camping as well; it completes the experience and is way more convenient at this track. And whilst Austria might seem like one of the more boring races on the calendar because there’s no glamorous parties and no celebrities walking around, this is one of the weekends that attracts the true fans and is a true celebration of Formula 1 and our love for the sport.
- Train from Amsterdam to Vienna: €280 (return)
- Train & bus from Vienna to Spielberg: €85 (return)
- Spot at the campsite for one tent: €100 (5 nights)
- Race ticket (T3 grandstand): €289 for the whole weekend, Fri-Sun
- Public pit lane walk ticket: €25
- Food and drinks: €135 (for the whole week, so Wed-Mon)
- Merch: €140 (shirt, cap and keychain)
- TOTAL = €1054