Emma Pickering, ITC Travel Group’s Chief Financial Officer, was one of the exclusive Paddock Club guests at the Italian Grand Prix 2019. Here, she reveals her insight on this most luxury of sporting clubs…

I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and had previously only been lucky enough to attend the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where we camped and had a fabulous time. For my birthday, my husband John secretly planned the most incredible visit to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

I’m amazed he managed to keep it a surprise – I check all the company accounts every day! – but the Spectate team were absolutely amazing at keeping the secret, working closely with John and really listening to what he asked for to make the entire weekend perfect. For example, we’re both into wine and prefer more classically authentic places to stay and experience, so we were booked into an amazing Italian hotel with a fantastic wine selection. It was amazing to see first-hand all the little things Spectate do for clients, from getting us the first seats on the plane to arranging for us to have the same chauffeur from start to finish.

The Paddock Club

I hadn’t really heard of the Paddock Club before we went, so every part of the trip was a really exciting experience. The Paddock Club is basically the ultimate backstage pass for the F1 – an ultra-luxury, super exclusive club. Upon arrival, Paddock Club guests are given a guide to all the different activities and events included – there’s even a hair and make up service! There are video driving simulator games, all-you-can eat ice cream, phone charging stations, incredible food… everything you could want, they’ve already thought of.

We had gorgeous meals of lobster, with champagne all day. We got to hold the actual Grand Prix trophy and have our photo taken with it. It was really incredible – if you a fan of F1, it’s absolute heaven. Though saying that even my husband, who isn’t really into F1, had an amazing time. I mean… when else are we going to spend all day drinking champagne?!

There are big screens for watching events on the track if you want to stay at your glamorous table. They have drivers, team owners and experts come in to give amazing talks. We were incredibly lucky that we had Charles Leclerc booked in our lounge to come and speak to us the weekend he got pole and went on to win the race.

Saturday, we did three paddock walks. You get to walk up and down and see them practising changing the tyres. Then we were actually lucky enough to be taken inside the Red Bull garage.

  

The Highlights

Aside from the sheer glamour of it all, the biggest surprise for me was all the extra things that I just hadn’t even considered. Things like going out on the track ourselves, hearing first-hand what it’s like to be a driver or on a team – I really felt like I was getting insider knowledge that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.

We were incredibly lucky to be taken to the Red Bull Lounge for a quick tour – the Spectate team can arrange for guests to visit a team lounge to see all the inner workings and everything that goes into each race weekend.

It was amazing to be able to see so much – we saw two lots of qualifying (the F1 and F2), and then all the other races besides the F1 that were going on on the Sunday.

In terms of race viewing, I can’t imagine it gets much better – but we didn’t even have the very top level passes! We were right over the pit lane, so we were able to watch the race and all the goings on in the pits at the same time, which was a really unique perspective that’s great for big racing fans like myself.

  

Emma’s Paddock Club Top Tips

The dress code seemed to be ‘anything goes’ when we were there. We’d expected it to be very posh and formal, but there was a mix of people in fitted dresses and suits and then people in more casual shorts and trousers. So I’d say take a couple of different choices, and remember the weather can be changeable in these exotic destinations!

Do everything. It’s tempting to just sit back and indulge in all the amazing food (and endless champagne!), but it would be criminal to miss out on all the included experiences you get with a Paddock Club ticket.

Get there early. Lots of people seemed to turn up in the afternoon, but I’m so glad we arrived early on both days – it meant we could do a pit lane walk with fewer people so we got more time with the experts, and it meant we had a lot more time to soak up the atmosphere and wander around.

Watch all the races – we were fortunate to see the F2 practice and race, and got to actually go inside one of the garages and talk to one of the owners. That was really insightful.

 

To be there, trackside, to watch the F1 season unfold, speak to our F1 Specialists.

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