Formula One (F1) came to Austin November 16-18th and it was AMAZING. The cars were incredibly loud, we were able to get closer to the track than I thought was possible (or safe!), and the weather was perfect. There were several other car races in between practices/qualifying/etc so there was activity on the track most of the time we were there which kept it very exciting. The days were long and we had to walk a minimum of 2 miles from the shuttle bus to our seats each morning and then in reverse each afternoon, so we definitely got our exercise.
We could have purchased grandstand seats and arrived later and gone to our assigned seat, but we opted to save the money (the cheapest actual seats were at least twice the price – so an extra $350 for my wife and I) which would have made the days shorter, but it would have eliminated some of the experience. As the Circuit of The Americas track is brand new, the F1 race would be its first, so it was impossible to know where the best place to sit would be. In addition, not having physical seats meant that we were out on the grassy areas(well, some of them were just dirt) with the tightly packed crowd which definitely heightened the experience. I wrote about the weekend in a previous post and shared the prepaid expenses and my expected expenses for the weekend. Now I’ll share what we actually spent. Just a reminder – my estimate was that we would spend at total of $600 for the weekend (approximately $350 for tickets, $100 for gas, and $150 for food) – so we’ll see how close I was!
Tickets – $347.32 – This figure hasn’t changed, I just wanted to make sure everyone remembers it
Gas – $78.31 – We spent $21.69 less than I was expecting on gas. A combination of lower gas prices (we paid under $3.10/gallon each fill-up and I was thinking it would cost more) and better gas mileage (we averaged around 22.5mpg for the trip and I estimated using 20mpg). Overall, the driving piece of the trip went smoothly. We drove there and back with no incident, drove to the shuttle bus lot each day with just minor delays on the first two days due to traffic backups, and around town in the evening.
Food – $175.50 – We went over on food, but not by much. A big part of this was because we forgot to pack snacks the first day. The “prohibited item” list said we couldn’t bring any food/drink other than waters with us and we completely spaced out on attempting to bring in other snacks, so we ended up buying a few overpriced items ($12 small/crappy pizza and $7 funnel cake!!!!!) and mostly by going hungry! Day two and three we made up for it by shopping at the local grocery store (higher prices than a Wal-Mart) and bringing in sandwiches, drinks, snacks, etc. We also went out with friends a couple of nights and paid for a friend’s meal. So all things considered – I think we did pretty well by only going over by $25.50 on food.
My estimate for the weekend was $600 and the final total came to $601.13 – pretty damn good if you ask me! While I didn’t do an excellent job of figuring out which category the money would be spent in (the estimate was mostly just a guess), the total still came very close – which is the important part. We had an awesome time at our first F1 race – and did it relatively cheaply considering what we got out of it. The alcoholic drinks started at $12 and went up from there, so it would have been easy for a couple to spend $150/day on food and drinks – and I think I sat next to many people who did just that! Tickets ranged from the $175/ticket that we paid to over $5k for a ticket…to see the same race!!! I’m sure there would be some special privileges with those seats or a better view, but wow – I could do a lot with the extra money!
I’m not saying that anything worth doing should be done cheaply, but my point is that spending more money doesn’t mean you’ll get a better experience. I wasn’t drinking, so I didn’t spend my whole weekend in the bathroom, so I saw more of the action, so I got more of an experience – oh, and I saved money while doing it! That right there is an example where saving money having a better experience definitely go hand in hand.
While we had a great time at the race, my wife and decided that this will be our first F1 race and probably our last for the foreseeable future. The track is 3.4 miles and as a spectator you only get to see a small slice of it, so you end up watching a lot of the race on video screens. As it was our first race everything was new and exciting, but I think it would get old pretty fast if we made a habit out of attending. And really – who wants to go to the same place every vacation??? I like new experiences, so if we end up at another F1 race – maybe it’ll be in a more exotic location once we’re financially independent and have some serious cash to burn!
Do I have any other F1 fans out there? Did you enjoy the new Austin F1 race?