So, you’ve been watching some races and enjoying the on-track action; maybe you even have a favourite team or driver, now. If so, you might be admiring the uniforms and clothing worn by the drivers and other team members around the circuit. And, if you’re doing that, you’re probably wondering the best way to get some of that gear for yourself. As always, TPL is here to help.
Photo credit: _chrisUK via Flickr
At the first F1 race I ever attended, the 2002 Canadian Grand Prix, all I wanted was a McLaren hat or shirt like the ones I saw David Coulthard wearing every Sunday. After an hour of scouring every souvenir booth I could find, I gave up and settled for a Mercedes shirt that no F1 driver ever came close to wearing.
When Sébastien Buemi got a race seat with Toro Rosso a few years ago, as a Swiss-Canadian I was excited to have a new Swiss driver in F1. I thought his driver cap might have a Swiss flag on it, but even if it didn’t, I still wanted it to show my support for him. Instead, the team sold generic Toro Rosso hats for two years. Once, I saw a photo of Buemi wearing a hat with his personal logo on the side. I emailed the photo to the team and asked where I could buy the hat. The response: those hats are for drivers only.
But that is exactly the point. If you’re going to spend $40 on a hat or twice that on a shirt (did I mention F1 gear is not cheap?), you want the ones the drivers are actually wearing. Of course last season, with Buemi serving as a test driver, the Toro Rosso race drivers each had personalized hats, which were also sold to fans. As teams realize the amount of money to be made from merchandise sales, they are all offering more and more official products to their fans.
Once you have figured out what you want, there a lots of options for where to buy it. Before we go over them, I want to make it clear that TPL is not receiving any compensation from any of these retailers. I am just giving you my opinion based on more than a decade of shopping around for the best deals on team merchandise.
Photo credit: Dr Photo via Flickr
In my experience, believe it or not, the best place to order F1 gear is the official F1 store. They carry all the teams, the prices are generally reasonable (at least compared to those at the track), and you know you are getting officially licensed products. They always offer free shipping within the UK and, usually on race weekends, free worldwide shipping. I have placed a couple orders through the official shop and have always been happy. You can also usually find good deals on last year’s merchandise, as the changes are often subtle, anyway.
Another good option is eBay. You may find better prices on eBay, but you cannot be sure you are not buying counterfeit gear. I once ordered a McLaren shirt on eBay and, despite the seller’s claims, it was certainly not an officially licensed product. I could have reported it to eBay and probably gotten my money back, but it still looked good, and the price was right, although the quality was noticeably lacking. Still, once you know what you want, a quick eBay search can’t hurt – you might find a great deal.
If you are planning to attend a race, you will have the opportunity to buy your merchandise at the track. Most teams set up merchandise booths on grand prix weekends, and other vendors will be there, as well. Although the prices will likely be higher than anywhere else, there is the advantage of trying clothing on before you buy it.
Photo credit: pdbreen via Flickr
Similarly, all the teams operate online stores where you can find all their merchandise. I have only ever seriously looked at the Sauber, McLaren and Toro Rosso team stores, so I cannot speak for all of them. However, with that limited experience, I can say that the prices seem similar, although maybe slightly higher, than the official F1 store. I once tried to order a year-old Toro Rosso shirt that was on sale, but the shipping to Canada was going to cost twice as much as the shirt itself (sorry if it seems like I am picking on Toro Rosso, I just happen to have had a couple less-than-stellar experiences trying to purchase their merchandise).
Finally, there are many stores, online, physical, or both, which specialize in motor sport merchandise. Most of them are located in Europe, so if you don’t live there, shipping can be expensive. Also, many of them only carry the more popular teams, as these are obviously the best sellers. In my experience, the prices from a lot of these stores can be slightly lower than other places, and you can generally trust the products, but the shipping costs to Canada are usually too expensive to make it worthwhile.
So there you have it – your official TPL guide to F1 team merchandise. There are also some stores that sell cool, but unofficial, products. For example, I got a great Jo Siffert vintage t-shirt from a company called Warson Motors. As an added bonus, if you are a new fan, wearing something like that might gain you instant street cred when dealing with more experienced fans. Another great site is Unlap, which has shirts and other products with cartoon depictions of most current drivers and teams. By far their greatest collection, though, is the Kimi Räikkönen quotes range, featuring some of Kimi’s greatest sayings.
If you have any merchandise or other F1 questions, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org