Belgian Grand Prix race day — Trip to Belgium part 3

F1 start lights

Day 5 — Sunday — Race day

Me with my can of Lewis Hamilton Monster

It was the big day, and with bigger crowds it took some time longer to get into the circuit. On the way in, people were giving away special Lewis Hamilton-branded cans of Monster energy drink. It was quite funny watching people begging for a free can, only to discard it with disgust when they realised it was a Hamilton special!

Alex's Instagram post of the queues: "Ladies line / mens line - hahahaha"

Because people were being body searched, there were separate queues for men and women to get into the circuit. This delighted Alex, who got in much quicker than me and Gordon, and told the world via Instagram.

We caught the start of the second GP3 race as we caught sight of La Source. This ended up being quite an exciting race.

Jake Hughes during the GP3 race

The GP3 cars were quite spectacular in their own way. Because they still use normally aspirated engines, they are loud. Alex wasn’t very impressed with the digital DRS counter on the side of them though!

Jack Aitken and Tadasuke Makino going side-by-side towards Eau Rouge during the F2 race

Then it was time for the Formula 2 sprint race. The F2 cars are also fun to watch.

Formula 2 cars heading up Eau Rouge

They distinctively bottom out on Eau Rouge, creating a blue haze.

Porsche Supercup car driven by Larry ten Voorde

Thereafter followed the Porsche Supercup race.

Then it was a long break before the F1 race. So it was time to get some beers.

Alex and me posing with the Porsche mascot

We bumped into a Porsche mascot. In fact, the mascot literally bumped into me, almost as if he couldn’t see properly or something. I quickly forgave him and we posed for a cheesy photo.

Fernando Alonso during the pre-race driver parade

For the drivers parade, the F1 drivers sat in some vintage cars and waved at the crowd. That’s Fernando Alonso in the distance there, following our fashion trend.

The grand prix itself

At long last, after all the anticipation, it was race time. Truth be told, the grand prix was a bit of a damp squib.

Nico Hülkenberg’s careless start effectively wiped out five cars from contention at the first corner. Because we couldn’t see La Source from our seats, we didn’t even see Hülkenberg or Alonso race at all — after our investment in Alonso’s headgear as well! We saw the remains of Charles Leclerc’s car park up at the side — thankful he was OK after Alonso’s car dramatically hit his halo.

Kimi Räikkönen and Daniel Ricciardo were also both affected during the same accident. Räikkönen trundled on with a wounded car for 8 laps before giving up. To ensure he could continue, Ricciardo changed his rear wing — a very rare sight in F1 these days. But he was two laps down, and finally retired on lap 28 when it became clear he wasn’t in with a chance of salvaging anything from the day.

To be blunt, these are all our favourite drivers. So it was pretty frustrating to see them all struggle, and not to see Alonso at all.

Kerb and drain at La Source

We did witness Valtteri Bottas overtaking Brendon Hartley going through Eau Rouge, which was really exciting to watch.

The rest of the race was fairly action free. Almost immediately, the cars all spread out to be around 2 seconds apart from each other. We hear a lot about how the aerodynamics of F1 cars make it difficult for them to follow each other. It was stark to see exactly what that means in real life.

Sebastian Vettel during the race

The race was won by Sebastian Vettel, and it was never really in doubt.

Post race

Me running towards the podium

We made our way onto the circuit for the podium ceremony. I picked up a bit of rubber to add to my little collection from Le Mans, and ran my way up the hill, round La Source and along the pit straight (no gold ticket required!) to reach the podium.

Podium ceremony

Gordon, Alex and me after the podium ceremony

An epic sax guy and a singer on the roof above the podium

After the ceremony was complete, an epic sax guy appeared on the roof and the party started.

A man carrying a Rolex advertising hoarding as a souvenir

One guy decided that his souvenir was going to be one of the giant polystyrene trackside Rolex adverts.

Me taking a selfie with crowds on Eau Rouge

Then we headed back to Eau Rouge, where the crowds were making their pilgrimage.

Alex and me with our beer and waffles at Raidillon

Gordon, me and Alex on Eau Rouge

Alex eating her waffle on Eau Rouge

We purchased waffles and Heineken (F1’s official piss beer being the only one on offer all weekend), then sat on Eau Rouge to soak it in.

Some people tried to surf down the F2 pit lane exit on advertising hoardings.

Gordon and me posing at Raidillon looking down towards Eau Rouge

As with Le Mans, walking on the track after the race was one of the highlights of my weekend.

Workers spraying over the trackside advertising

We walked back to La Source to make our way back to the campsite. But not before we witnessed some of the advertising already being painted over. What’s the rush?!

Day 6 — Monday — Spa-Francorchamps Circuit Museum

Car from 1909 on display in the museum

After leaving the campsite the next morning, we drove round part of the old circuit, then made our way to the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit Museum in Stavelot. It plays host to a variety of cars and bikes that have raced around the historic circuit.

Cars on display in the museum, including a Tyrrell and a Benetton

Our mission for the day was to take Gordon to Brussels, where he’d booked an Airbnb so that he could go home the next day. But not before we did a few other things in the Spa area. Alex and I continued our Belgium holiday for a few days longer. That will be the subject of an upcoming post.

3 comments

  1. I’ve never seen race entry queues segregated by gender, and I wouldn’t have thought it was legal unless there was some demonstrable increased threat from men. For that matter, searching every bloke isn’t the most efficient use of resources either, since not all men pose the same risk level, and I can think of some threat markers that would make it more likely. Every time I’ve been to a race track, either nobody was searched (common for events of largely national interest), or some specific criteria that could plausibly be an increased threat marker was used (the one time I got searched in Hungary, I was carrying a backpack near – but within – the capacity limit specified for the track, and the searcher specifically mentioned that as being their cause of concern. It included a “scan” but not a pat-down).

    The fact women got in so much quicker demonstrates how far F1 has to go if it is to be an attractive “live” prospect for ladies. That such a queuing system would split families, with the resulting awkwardness involved, is but one factor I’d cite.

    The GP3 cars are loud, but the sound is far more pleasant than the F1 cars because it lacks the little bleeps, bloops and staticky cut-off sounds. (And they’re both loud enough for me to need ear defenders regardless…)

    Thank you for not collapsing during the race (like I did during mine) and actually being able to confirm that the race itself was a damp squib. It was exciting for me on TV, but that’s because I’m a Force India/Racing Point fan. For anyone not having that undercurrent, this race was over in four corners – even F1’s official review of the race appears to agree, as it squeezes everything that happened after Turn 4 of 988 into just over a minute.

    Glad you got to enjoy the track walk, and the museum.

  2. Glad it was an enjoyable first experience at a grand prix. I was torn between Hungary and Belgium this year, but eventually went for the Hungaroring (I later learned that an ex-colleague of mine went to Spa! So I can pass this on to him). It was my first GP since 2014 (Monza) and it did feel like going to a race, for a fan, is a bit like a festival, or even a pilgrimage. As I wrote: “But my main conclusion is that attending the race did, to this F1 fan, feel – in some tangible sense – special. And it should, in my view, be forever thus.” Interesting to see that both races (Hungary and Belgium) came out well in the official attendance figures that the F1 Group published today too.

    Didn’t know that Spa has a good museum but of course there is also the Michael Schumacher Museum just over the border (and the Ardennes forest) in Kerpen now! Admittedly it is probably a bit of a trek still but could end up being part of an F1 trail for Spa visitors in future.

    P.S. Thanks for quoting me in an earlier piece on Vettel & Ferrari. Glad that it was a useful segue into the article.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Alianora, it was great to see Force India doing well, especially considering we weren’t even sure they would race when we arrived at the circuit.

    Rishi, Hungaroring is one of the other races I’ve considered attending. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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