The other day I was asked to figure out how much we travel in Formula 1. The article was never used, so I figured I would publish it here instead:
There are a lot of people who go to all the Formula 1 races around the world and it is heavy duty travelling to get to all 20 races, without taking into account any tests, launches or leisure travel, which adds to the total. Travelling from London or Paris, the basic flying mileage in a year is somewhere around 108,000 miles, or 173,000 kilometres. This is four and a half times around the globe. It equates to something like 192 hours of flying, or eight 24-hour days. Turn that around and you see that it is 24 eight-hour working days.
Most of us do our flying in Economy Class, in order to keep costs to a minimum. The longest hauls of the year come at the start and at the end of the season with the triangular Australia-Malaysia trip being the toughest with 21,000 miles of flying, but surprisingly this is not that much longer than the USA-Brazil double-header, which amounts to 20,200 miles. The two trips to China-Bahrain and Japan-Korea amount to15,000 and 16,000 miles apiece.
Some choose to drive to the European races, which brings down the total flying time, but adds something like 6,000 miles of driving, which probably costs more than flying – but is a great deal less stressful.
So what does it all cost? That is a difficult calculation because it depends on what one is willing to accept in terms of stress and strain. If one flies around in Business Class and stays in good hotels, your costs may be as high as $200,000 a year. Hotel prices at Grands Prix are hiked disgracefully, with five- and even seven-night minimum stays and prices that can go off the clock in places like Monaco. Even in Korea, one can find rooms for as much as $1,000 a night.
The costs are largely dependent on the deals that one can get and whether one is willing to share hotel rooms. A season of F1 can be done for about $32,000, flying in Economy and not staying in nice hotels. A more comfortable figure is about $40,000, once again without anything fancy. Internet costs at circuits each year are probably around $1,000, although more enlightened races offer the connections for free; while visas depend on your nationality as things are much more difficult for a South African than they are for an Englishman. Visa costs are probably in the region of $750 a year.
One would think with all this mileage it would be easy to get to Gold Card status in frequent flyer schemes easily enough, but that is only if one can fly everywhere with the same company. This is not always possible because we go both east and west and a lot of the European airlines employ convoluted tiered schemes and fare-linked points benefits that make it hard to reach the required levels. The truth is that their frequent flyer schemes are not designed for frequent flyers, but rather for people who have companies paying for their flying.
Many of us use Emirates because not only does it provide a pleasant stop halfway to Asia, where there are good lounges, but also because they regularly upgrade their Economy Class gold card holders if Economy is full. This makes a big difference, especially on the new Airbus A380s.