The Formula 1 calendar continues to expand with a record 23 races scheduled for 2023. These races include several marquee events that have two objectives: (1) attending the race weekend from practice sessions on Friday to the main race on Sunday, and (2) visiting the host city or region as a holiday destination in its own right. Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is one such event. It hosts the Formula 1 season finale in November and is just an hour’s drive from Dubai, the Middle East’s playground.
But this is only one of the 23 races. So the question becomes: what are the best F1 races for Americans and why? How to coordinate travel, tickets, accommodation, transfers and extracurricular activities? For a group of two to 20 people? Luckily there are companies like Grand Prix Grand Tours that offer turnkey packages that include flights, transfers, accommodation and tickets. Depending on the budget, these are offered in several stages. This means you can visit pretty much any F1 race you want from a single source. It couldn’t be easier.
The following are my top 5 picks based on destination, race quality and historical significance.
1. The United States Grand Prix: This is a pretty obvious choice for Americans. The USGP takes place in Austin, Texas, which is a worthy destination for the live music and BBQ alone. It is centrally located, making it easy to travel from all other 49 states, and takes place over the weekend of October 19-23. What else is going on in the US this weekend? Nothing. There is zero conflict. However, the venue at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) makes this race so special. The track was specially developed for F1 racing. As such, it consistently proves to be one of the best events of the year as voted by the fans. My first F1 experience was the 2018 USGP where Kimi Raikkonen won the last race of his career – with Ferrari of course – and it was voted the best race of the season. For 2022 I would place it third behind Silverstone and Brazil.
2. The Monaco Grand Prix: For 2023, the Monaco Grand Prix will be held on Memorial Day Weekend from Friday 26th May to Sunday 28th May. This historic race in the Principality of Monaco is often criticized for being mostly a procession. Today’s F1 cars are too big to pass the narrow street circuit. Therefore, the real race takes place on Saturday during qualifying. It’s also a challenge to follow the race in person, as you can only see a small portion of the track from any given point. However, the dirty secret of attending an F1 race is that you watch most of it on TV. And that’s fine because it’s more about the collective energy of actually being there and watching the race with tens of thousands of other F1 fanatics. But like that, participating in Monaco is unlike any other Grand Prix (so I’m told). Nowhere else can you get this level of glitz, glamor and fame than Monaco in May.
3. The Italian Grand Prix: This is Monza, also known as the Temple of Speed. It’s Ferrari’s home race where the stalwarts Tifosi appear in full force and storm the track for the podium ceremony. When Ferrari wins? It’s absolutely amazing and would be one of the best F1 moments imaginable to actually experience live. Regardless, Monza should be among the top three Grands Prix to attend in the life of an F1 fan. The Italian GP is traditionally scheduled right after the summer break. For 2023, it will take place on Labor Day Weekend, September 1-3. If Leclerc and/or Sainz look like they could be fighting for a title after the first few races, they could be The year to be in Monza.
4. The Canadian Grand Prix: Montreal is a historic North American city with a distinctly European flair and a unique Quebecois culture. It’s also incredibly clean with world-class restaurants and nightlife. One of the best times of year to visit is mid-June, ie June 15-18 for the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Memorable moments from the Canadian GP include Jenson Button’s win in 2011 and Lewis Hamilton’s first-ever win in 2007. That year Robert Kubica also had one of the most spectacular crashes in F1 history while driving down the back straight. Racing in the wet or dry, the Canadian GP never fails to deliver epic races.
5. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: The bad news is that the F1 series championships – the Constructors’ Championship and the Drivers’ Championship – are usually decided before the final race of the season. Of course, the 2021 season was a big exception. Also, the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi doesn’t usually feature great wheel-to-wheel racing. However, it’s the grand finale of a sport where every race is like a Super Bowl. It kicks off with fireworks shows in all directions, drivers whipping up donuts all over the track and teams breathing a sigh of relief as they celebrate team victories – all at night in 70 degree weather under the lights. For 2022, this event took place on the weekend before Thanksgiving, but for 2023 it is November 23-25, i.e. Thanksgiving weekend.