Shanghai F1 Grand Prix

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Well it's been a few weeks since we’ve written, and a busy few weeks it’s been too!

Firstly, Shanghai – it was an incredible weekend as most of you know from our Facebook updates and photo’s! A real dream come true weekend.

We headed off on Thursday 11th April on the high speed bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai, taking 4hrs 50mins, stopping once at Nanjing. We had first class seats, 2 together like club class on a flight really, plenty of space and very comfy. We enjoyed sitting there watching the world go by, listening to music and reading books.

Our friend Dale who had just moved to Shanghai from Beijing, had arranged for his driver to collect us at the station which was very nice, so we didn’t have to worry about finding where we were going. We arrived at our apartment booked through (click to see the apartment), which was nice, 50 a night which was good for the F1 weekend, and a great location, only a short walk to the river & The Bund. After unpacking, we wandered out for a look around, walked along The Bund, then had some food. Later Dale sent his driver to collect us, and we met him for a few drinks & food at his local, the Boxing Cat Brewery. 

We had tickets for the F1 Grand Prix for the whole weekend, which started with general entry on the Friday for 1st & 2nd practice, where you could sit anywhere. It took us just over an hour on the subway, which went right to the circuit, and decided to try out the main Grandstand seats, where we were sat right opposite the pit lane. Fortunately enough, we appeared dead opposite Jenson Button’s garage!!! We watched both practices, it was awesome to see, hear, smell and feel the cars go right through you, and see the action in the pits too, the drivers coming & going. We got a real feel for the weekend, and found where our stand and seats were, a great location.

Friday night we met up with another friend who’s also just moved from Beijing to Shanghai, Joel. We met at a popular drinking / eating area, at a pub called the Shanghai Brewery (yes, it seems that we were doing a brewery tour for the weekend!!). A pub full of ex pats, we had a few beers & some food, bumping into a guy we knew from Beijing in there. Funny, we’re used to bumping into people that we know here now, but somewhere else?!! The same thing happened later on just walking down the street from one bar to another….! We joined up with some others that we knew who were in Shanghai for the race for a few more beers.

Saturday we set off early for the 3rd practice and qualifying, grabbing a McMuffin for breakfast along the way. This time we had to sit in our grandstands, although we decided to watch 3rd practice from the grass slopes just before the finish line to see a different angle, it was really quiet here so we got some good views.

A few drinks at lunchtime, and a wander around the stalls just outside the entrance, we headed to our stand for qualifying, where again, we bumped into some more people we knew who ended up sitting with us! Fantastic views, we could see a long straight approaching, a hairpin bend, and the run off to the pit lanes, as well as the start / finish line in the distance. Amazing vantage point, seeing lots of action. We especially enjoyed on 2 separate occasions seeing Mark Webber come off at the corner, and have to have his car towed back, and for him to be taken back to the garage on the back of a moped…. now we don’t like him that much so that gave us much amusement!!

Qualifying was fantastic to watch, very exciting, and we had a big TV screen in front of us to keep up with the race, there is so much going on, fantastic atmosphere, and the cars whizzing by you, the noise, the energy, and trying to keep up with who’s where! So the TV screens were invaluable. Not the best of weekends for Jenson Button, however Lewis Hamilton got pole position, so it was great to see a Brit on pole.

Here comes the lucky part…… a friend of mine, Po / Jock Clear from many years ago (friends of Tanya & Stephen in the UK) is a senior performance engineer for Mercedes, and works for Lewis Hamilton. So when you see the race on the TV and hear the team radio, it’s him talking to Lewis. He’s worked with Jaques Villeneve when he was champion in 1997, as well as David Coulthard, Nico Rosberg, Takuma Sato and last year was Michael Schumacher’s race engineer (that’s quite a good CV huh!!). I hadn’t seen him for years, but Stephen put us in touch again, and we were in contact by text. He said if we could get to the paddock gates after qualifying on Saturday, he could get us into the paddock……. wow…. of course we can get there!! A few jobs worths on the entrance later, we met one of the Mercedes team who came to get us, gave us very special Mercedes guest passes, and in we were!! Strolling along chatting, we found ourselves behind Bernie Ecclestone, before meeting up with Po, big hugs and congratulations for getting on pole position, he took us into the garage for a tour, explaining all the equipment, how they get it there, what everyone does etc. Then he told us to wander up & down the pit lane and he’d meet us back out the front in half an hour. There we were, stood in front of the Mercedes garage, staring across at the empty grandstand, and the start / finish line. Quite surreal.

Off we wandered along the garages, some cars still in parc ferme, some being worked on – some work is allowed but not much, and officials are stood next to the cars noting what each of the teams are doing. We were told we could walk along, and take photo’s but not go behind the line into the garage. We strolled along to the McLaren garage, looking for Jenson of course, no-where to be seen, then we saw his car in parc ferme, which they then pushed back into the garage, so we watched the team do that. A stroll passed Ferrari, Red Bull, and lots of wow’s along the way! Andy then spotted David Coulthard, it was pretty quiet everywhere apart from the mechanics & film crews, so I asked David if I could have my photo taken with me, he obliged, then we shook hands & I said it was a pleasure to meet him! Cool! Back at Mercedes, we spotted Lewis Hamilton coming out, to have an interview with David, they went off on a bus around the track to do the interview. Exploring more, we found Damon Hill being interviewed with Sky, and we were back at Mercedes when Lewis came back again, there were a couple of Chinese fans there, but after talking to them I introduced myself as a guest of Po’s, he was really friendly, asked if we lived there or were just there for the race, so I said we lived in Beijing, and he asked what the weather was like there!! There you go, one moment with someone famous, and what do 2 Brits end up talking about?!?! Yep, the weather!!! Another surreal moment.

Everyone we met was so friendly, and we felt very welcome there.  We found Po after his meetings & de-briefs, reluctantly had to give the passes back L and said our goodbyes, wishing so much we could be there again on the Sunday, alas no!

Still on a high, I decided it wasn’t right to be gutted at not seeing / meeting my main man Jenson Button, and I figured that a girl couldn’t have it all!!

We found the rest of our group at the bar, so we had a few drinks with them, showing off with our tales & photo’s from the pit lane, before heading back into town on the subway, with a random group of high spirited Venezuelans, where we had a mini after party on the train, singing & dancing!!

A good friend of ours, Bruce, a Scot who lived in Beijing, moved to Singapore a few months ago flew over for the race, so it was great to see him – he invited us with another couple for dinner at the hotel he was staying at, a great hotel on The Bund, restaurant on a high floor with fab views, and a great steak restaurant. He treated us to a great dinner, some lovely wine, and a good catch up. After that we headed to a very trendy club called M1NT, to try it out before the official after party on Sunday. A few mojitos later, it was time for bed.

Sunday, big race day……. Met up with friends before the race for some drinks & some food in the lovely warm sunshine, around 25 degrees on the Sunday, very nice. Then took up our seats for the big race, excitement building in the stands.  One guy near us decided to propose to his girlfriend 10 mins before the start of the race, she said yes, got a ring and a bouquet of red roses, and a massive round of applause from the crowd!! The lights go out…. they’re off!!! The roar of engines, the approach down the straight, the chaos around the corner, all cars together – immense to see. The cars fly by, then you watch the TV screens again in between, only hearing some of the commentary on the loud speakers before they’re back again, roaring by you. There is so much going on, so much to concentrate on. A very exciting race, sadly Lewis didn’t manage to hold onto 1st for long before being overtaken, however finished 3rd which was still a great result, Jenson held it together too & came 5th which was also a good result for him. Alonso won, for some reason the Chinese are massive fans of Kimi Raikkonen so they were pleased with his 2nd place.

Re-grouping at the band stand & bars, to chat about the race, and enjoy the atmosphere – and avoid the crowded subway back into the city. Once quiet, we headed back. A few of us met later in the evening for cocktails & Tapas at Unico, at Three on The Bund (as an aside, with the bird flu scare in Shanghai, and reports in Beijing, this was the only place we came across where chicken & eggs were off the menu). We had a table reserved at the official after party back at M1NT club, so we headed there. It was free to get in, but every table had a minimum spend, so we split that between the 8 of us & had some champagne, a bottle of vodka and a bottle of JD. It seems to be the thing here in China in clubs, ordering bottles of spirits & mixers for the table rather than individual drinks. A great night, our table was by the 'shark tank’ hmmmm…. yep, it was by a shark tank – with around half a dozen mini sharks swimming up & down, random! Lots of entertainers during the evening, flash car show outside, trapeze artists, semi naked women, women dancing with snakes and so on, just your normal night out really! Sadly no F1 stars, they get invited, but didn’t seem to show, but still a great night and a cool way to finish off the weekend.

A last minute wander along the river & The Bund in the sunshine on Monday morning, before heading off to the airport to catch our flight back (treated to Dale’s driver again there!). Sat on the plane for at least a 2 hour delay (notorious in China for internal flights) we finally set off for our 2 hr flight back to Beijing, wishing we’d caught the train! Finally back home, Beijing felt really cold, and we wearily crashed home around 7pm, totally done in!

Felt like it took us a few days to recover, my cough & cold returned with a vengeance (a mild panic that I had bird flu of course!!), still have it now, Andy had 3 dry days in a row, amazing ;) and all systems go for another weekend!

We’d been helping Helen from the Migrant Children’s Foundation to promote & sell tickets for a charity Murder Mystery evening, which was last Friday. A great success, 120 people at a very plush 5* hotel,  The Legendale, a 3 course meal, glass of wine, and entertainment by actors, telling the story of a KTV killer, all very amateur which added to the fun & craziness of it all!! Andy & I manned the entrance with Helen & some volunteers, I collected tickets, Andy sold raffle tickets and with his persuasive skills (basically no-one could get passed him!!!) he sold all the tickets, making a clear 800!!! Amazing.

Bowling Saturday night, lunch on Sunday, and watching the Bahrain F1 race at the James Joyce on Sunday evening, another weekend had passed by.

A whirlwind of a few weeks, Shanghai left us wanting to travel more, and to go back there as well – we didn’t really get much chance to explore the city as we were so busy with the race, so we’ll definitely go back. Looking at booking somewhere for a few days away for Andy’s birthday in June, which will give us something to look forward to.

Still working hard (honestly, I know you don’t believe it!!!) I have another deal, and Andy has signed yet another great deal too, things are going well. 

Time to sign off, and find a few piccies to go with this blog!

Hope you’re all ok – I even heard that the sun shone at the weekend!!


The Perry’s

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Lizzie on

I have been waiting for this blog entry (been checking daily for updates!). Sounds like such an amazing weekend - so jealous but so pleased for you both also! xxxxx

Ellie and Dave on

Fantastic !Such an exciting time and all those pictures with the stars!Great read.
Love to you both and special good wishes for Friday XX

Dad and Mum on

Enjoyed reading that, speak on Sunday.xxxx

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