One of the reason to visit the Suzuka F1 Grand Prix, which I frankly only discovered after buying my F1 ticket online, is its strong focus on other members of your family who aren’t actually interested in F1. For one, there is a dedicated grand stand for families. Secondly, if you buy any grand stand tickets, it includes full access to the Motopia theme park which is probably one of the best kids theme park I’ve ever seen focused on motorsports, and best of all, it is right next to the F1 track itself! Thirdly, it is possible to rent a stroller for just 500 yen to wheel your little ones around all day! So bringing Ethan (being a 3 years old) to this grand prix ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. Let me elaborate..
Our drive there on the first day (Saturday qualifying) was met with heavy traffic on the express way requiring me to take a detour, followed by parking issues (which required reservation apparently). We managed to find parking about 15 minutes walk away, on private land, which charged 3000 yen for the day. Aside from that, it was a smooth walk to the F1 main entrance. We picked up a stroller which Ethan seemed fairly happy to settle in…
And didn’t take long to explore Motopia theme park right away. This has to be the best part of this F1 Grand prix event, which meant Ethan didn’t have to be bored watching F1 grand prix cars, while he gets to sit on rides actually designed for his age! For example, the police car ride…
There’s the ‘eco’ car challenge, the Zeppelin, water ride.. the list goes on!
And the best part of all, was that there were barely ANY lines in ANY of the ride! We were able to sit on every ride almost 3-4 times each (basically until Ethan says ‘no’). Now, the most annoying part wasn’t the rides itself, it was arguably the staff! Without a single person in the queue, they would repeated ask us to exit the ride, come back to ‘queue up’, show them the ticket (to prove that we are eligible) before we jump on the ride again. And once we are on the ride, we feel like we are constantly watched because just about every move we made was ‘wrong’ by their definition. e.g. telling us off for taking our camera phone out while riding, or insisting we all ‘line up’ to leave the ride compound. This is where Japan’s hyper process orientation gets annoying for me. Instead of just letting us ride continuosly, we ended up being slightly annoyed. It’s no fault of the staff, and they have their reasons (especially when it’s crowded especially) and process is necessary. But we were mostly the only ones riding the rides! Surely, this makes them ‘robots’ and appear brainless?? Anyway, it’s not the first time their processes get in my way and just seemed plain stupid. So we let it go, and just kept going.
Watching the qualifying itself, lasted only 1 hour in the afternoon, which predictably.. Lewis Hamilton scored pole. I have no doubt Ferrari (i.e. Sebastian Vettel) isn’t going to win this year, so my interests waned quite quickly. Besides, the track commentary was entirely in Japanese, which was useless to me. Fortunately, I did have a screen which was good enough to keep me posted on the happenings around the track. I got a ticket in section C2 grandstand which is basically the first corner after the high speed straight / pit stops.
The other reason I came here to see was the fanatic fans, which was noticeably absent on qualifying day. So essentially, I spent just 1-hour at my grand stand seat, while the rest of the time was spent at Motopia with Ethan and wifey!
To end the day, we even ventured to the onsen in the nearby hotel, which looking back was a bit of a rip off (with 1300 yen entry each, even for kids). It was great for a bath, but was nowhere near compared to the one we experienced at Nagashima Spa Land a day earlier. It didn’t even have restaurants, and we ended up settling for Family Mart for dinner!
On race day, the exercise repeats.. got a car park spot, this time for 2000 yen. And the crowd was noticeably bigger. Once again, we went straight for Motopia rides, though the queue got noticeably longer today too. I only managed to line up for 2-3 rides before I had to go to watch the race itself starting at 1pm. I managed to sit through the whole race, though not terribly excited with Lewis pretty much leading the race from start to finish. Sebastian’s car broke down and was out after just a couple of laps!
Once again, I spent more time outside the F1 circuit and managed to cover the ferris wheel, a photo with Ethan in an F1 car…
.. And even a 9-laps go-kart session for 20,000 yen. Oh.. I hated that go-kart track.. which I only managed around 40 seconds at best. Apparently a good time is 37 seconds.
Arguably the F1 Grand Prix was a side show for me this time round. I’ve got to say, out of all the F1 tracks I’ve been to (Singapore, Melbourne, Malaysia), this is the first one with such a strong focus of family! Can’t say that I’ve been to a grand prix where all of us were happy!
To finish off the day.. I found a much better onsen in Suzuka town itself, which was not only cheaper, it was much better with a kick-ass restaurant as well to sample curry udon!
Would we come back to Suzuka F1 circuit some day? Absolutely YES!!