Team McLaren Fan Blog: Sarah Merritt
Hola from Barcelona! I'm writing this blog as my flight is just about to take off and head homewards. I was really chuffed to be asked to be a Team McLaren Blogger this weekend, and alongside my fellow blogger Helen, we did our best to take as many photos and tweet as much as we could from the track!
So who am I? I'm Sarah (@Sareyware) and I'm 39, live in Chelmsford, UK and work in IT in the City of London. I've been a Mclaren fan since I was a little girl, and watching F1 was something I typically did with Dad on a Sunday...I have great memories of it. So much history, moments in time. After he died in 2001, it felt too raw to keep watching it, and I slipped away from the sport for a while...but over time I found my way back!
For me, the moment it all kicked back in with a vengeance was watching Jenson win the WDC as a Brawn driver in 2009. It reignited my passion, and his move to McLaren was the final piece in the jigsaw!
I graduated from being an armchair supporter to one that wanted to see the sights and hear the sounds up close. In the last few years, I've found lots of people with this common love of the sport, mainly on twitter, and started travelling to races. I'm a total petrolhead, and I love the techy side of F1.
Barcelona is a great race to go to - if you've never travelled to a European race, I can heartily recommend it to you. For UK based fans, it's a short flight. The city itself is a great destination. There's good public transport that is easy to navigate, and a fantastic atmosphere at the track. You'll meet up with many other fans and spark up conversations in the queue, getting food, or in your seat for the race. It's great to hear other people share their experiences and return the favour! I've made many new friends this weekend.
My Barca Grand Prix experience started on the Thursday. There are pitwalks in both the morning and afternoon for 3 day ticket holders. It's a great opportunity to see the garages up close, and maybe meet a driver or two...get your camera ready is my top tip - bring a battery pack to keep it charged!
At the morning pitwalk, we often see drivers going off down the pitlane to do their walk of the circuit, and they are mostly happy to oblige with a selfie or to sign something for you. It's a more relaxed experience than the afternoon pitwalk, for which we saw big crowds. Of course, I made a beeline for the Mclaren garage along with my fellow Team Mclaren members!
By queuing up early, we managed to position ourselves right at the front against the crowd barrier, ready for Jenson's and Kevin's arrival. I was really chuffed to get my 1/2 scale JB helmet signed, and my cap too. The team also hand out great autograph cards for the drivers to sign. I had a photo with JB and a quick chat, and K-Mag took a selfie with me, which I understand from the guys back home was featured on the Sky Sports F1 show back home! The guys take time to pass along the crowd and sign as much as possible for the fans.
A bonus in the afternoon is that towards the end of the session, the teams have pit stop practice. It's really great to see up close, and don't underestimate how exciting it is when they push the car in, and you hear that distinctive sound of the wheel guns going off in unison!
My seat for the weekend was in the main grandstand, lower tier. I was opposite the start line, so a great vantage point over all of the days. A good tip is to look at buying annual Circuit de Catalunya membership for a seat in the stand you would like an F1 ticket for. It works out as very good value, and you get your name on the seat too!
I had brought my #BelieveInMcLaren banner with me and I hung this on the stand, it was great when the guys tweeted from the garage that they could see it!
I had a excellent view of the grid assembling for the race (and the support races too - it's worth remembering you can also watch GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup, so you can see up and coming drivers, like our very own Stoffel Vandorne!). I could see Bernie, Jackie Stewart amongst others, and of course all of the various media crews, as well as the drivers and teams themselves. We all like to watch Ted Kravitz gathering info for his Notebook!
For me, there's a real adrenalin rush as the teams scurry off the grid fully laden with equipment, and the cars depart for their warm up lap...and that moment when we hold our breath, and watch the lights go out....that noise cannot be beaten!
A lot of people tweeted me throughout the race asking about the sound of the new regulation cars this year. We've all read the comments in the press during winter testing, and since the first race in Australia, so I was asked "is it too quiet?" Well, yes, it is quieter. It's a different sound all together. And I didn't feel I needed to wear earplugs as I usually would (and certainly had for the GP2 races!) But did it detract from my weekend? Certainly not. Would it put me off the sport I love? Most definitely not!
After the race, the track is opened up to the spectators, and I headed for the podium, and walked along looking in the pitlane. We could see the Mercedes team having their victory photo, and huge crowds at Ferrari as you would expect, calling for Alonso. As the track cleared, it was a great opportunity for a few last photos, such as in the pole position grid box, and with other fans.
We stayed at the track quite late into the evening, and our patience was rewarded with a few more opportunities to see some drivers. Highlights were a group photo with K-Mag and his trainer, Antti, seeing Jenson and Jessy leave the track together, and meeting the legend that is Alain Prost.
I also got to see some of our hardworking guys packing up and doing the important tasks like cleaning the wheels! It's worth remembering that whether we win the race, or finish lower down the standings, the same amount of hard work has to be put in, and the team are pushing hard to get us back on that podium. It may not have been the result we had hoped for in Barca, but as team members we still #BelieveInMclaren, as I told some team members from other teams who were engaging in banter with me!
So as I type this on my flight home to London from Barcelona, I can whole heartedly recommend this race as one to attend, and I encourage you to keep tweeting our guys messages of support to give them a boost!
Give me a follow! @Sareyware. Adios!