Finally, the time has come. I've made it to a Formula One event. It wasn't the race, though, only free practice. But even that was enough to re-evaluate some of my ideas about the world of F1.
The Hungaroring is a great venue for your live experience of race cars as it can support great visibility of the majority of the circuit - as it was planned so.
Approaching the hills surrounding the circuit you bump into a swarm of people and RVs parked in the campsite, with their owners and passengers going about their business of barbecue, drinking beer and flying flags of their respective country and/or famed driver. With all the heat and sunshine it really looks like a NASCAR race, especially in 2013 when the race met a two-month draught. All the grass died for that one, everything all over the country was brown. The surroundings of the Hungaroring then made it feel like the race was held either in Arozina or a middle-Eastern country.
From the parking lot you can clearly hear the action on the track and it also sounds like as if it was on TV. Not so much on the track. For a general audience I wouldn't tag the cars as 'quiet'. They are loud enough to sense their power, but quiet enough to talk over them.
Interestingly enough, you can hear differences between the three power units. The Renaults felt slightly louder than the rest of the two - especially with the Toro Rossos - and the Ferraris had a distinctive overtone that made them recognizable, almost with closed eyes.
TV just doesn't do justice to the looks of the cars. For my taste their sound live was pretty enough, even more so - every single one of them are beautiful machines. Even with the bonkers nose they are just fascinating-looking vehicles when you see them moving at speed. Especially the - on TV - quite bland Saubers. Their matte and shiny combination of graphite finish is absolutely gorgeous in the sunshine.
The mind boggles how much grip they have as they are coming around the final corner and slingshot through the straightaway with unbelievable acceleration. You see them turn and 'BOOM!' across your total field of view in a second.
The two sets of free practices were spiced up with GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup practices and qualifying. I couldn't wait to get to GP2 as a reference point in speed and sound. Clearly, their speed isn't that far off from F1 cars, but their naturally aspirated 4-litre V8s are just plainly ear-shattering. Beautiful sound when one goes by, but when the noise just does not wish to drop, you search for your earplugs. I cannot imagine the experience of V10 F1 cars cca 2004 screaming down the straights of Monza, but it must have been absolutely beautiful at one end, and a terrorist action against your vital organs on the other. Same went for GP3. Their 3.4-litre V6 engines do not sound as refined, but rather raw and loud as hell.
All in all, the spectrum of the three categories made me think about F1 a bit. To enhance spectacle and competition, you do not need the FIA or Bernie to come up with some obscure on-track strategy to up the game of the show.
They only have to maximize the number of people turning up at each event and enable everyone to see these cars live doing free demonstrations, parades or just exhibitions in cities, towns, across the country, so that everyone can relate to an electrifying, tangible, once-in-a-lifetime experience to remember each time when turning on the TV on Sunday.