It was Friday morning on a brisk, but sunny, break of dawn in London as the Gullivers F1 team arrived at St Pancras to greet our clients for check in onto the Eurostar for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. The station was buzzing as everyone headed off on their travels, and all our clients were very excited for the weekend with plenty of familiar faces amongst the crowds.
Once everyone had fuelled up on coffee, we all made our way through security to await the train to Brussels. The journey was smooth with many of our clients, and myself, never having travelled on Eurostar before and enjoying the views of the strikingly green and summery French and Belgian countryside as we sped along, dipping in and out of tunnels at over 200kph!
On arrival into Brussels, we weaved our way off the train to clear the way through to the coaches for our excited Brussels clients, and then onto the connecting local train for the Liege clients to continue their journey. On arrival into Liege an hour later, the coach was waiting to transfer everyone to their hotels - three different options, on a short 15-minute journey. As I unloaded the final clients at the Pentahotel, there were plenty of oohs and aahs as they checked in via the trendy bar area and admired the alternative décor the Pentahotel offers.
Every tour package offers the option to attend a first night welcome drinks event, which the ultra-cool Pentahotel provided the perfect backdrop for. All the clients had the chance to ask any questions about the weekend from myself and Sam, whilst enjoying some well-deserved icy cold drinks and nibbles. Discussions about the impending race began to flow and it became clear we had a clear 50:50 split between those supporting Lewis Hamilton and those who were certainly not! As the clients ventured off into the night in search of dinner, we stayed at the hotel to eat and prepare for the first day at the track.
Qualifying day began for Team Liege with a hearty breakfast and plenty of “pick me up” coffee for the bleary-eyed travellers who had relished a few too many Belgian beers the night before! At 8:30, we made our way through the notorious Spa traffic chaos to the circuit in the Belgian Ardennes countryside; approximately two hours for Liege clients and 3-4 for Brussels' clients. A bevvy of smiling clients set off to enjoy the qualifying rounds in some rather unexpected 26-degree sunshine. Lewis Hamilton beat his Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to claim pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, equalling Michael Schumacher's record tally of 68 career poles with a magnificent execution. At 4pm, I transferred the Liege clients who had opted for the early departure back to the hotels to get an early dinner and relax ready for the big day.
Early mornings all round, as Team Brussels departed at 7am and Team Liege at 8am to navigate the winding roads down to the circuit for the second and final day of the weekend's race action. The skies were blue and the journey from Liege was swift, with a film playing and the sweepstake making its way around the eager coach. We arrived at the circuit in plenty of time for everyone to take to their seats ready for the start of proceedings, with the Porsche Super Cup leading the way. The usual race schedule of the driver’s parade was made even more special by the fact that the drivers took various classic cars to make their way around the circuit, giving a great spectacle for the sell-out crowds. Verstappen’s reception was loud and proud, a vibrant sea of orange for his ‘home’ race. An extra special addition came in the form of Michael Schumacher’s son taking a lap around the three mile circuit in his father’s debut F1 car from 1991, an emotional tribute to a legendary driver.
The race brought plenty of action and drama for the enthusiastic spectators. Starting with the engine failure for Max Verstappen in front of 40,000 livid fans, a collision between Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, several appearances of the safety car and plenty of thrilling overtaking that we have come to know and love from Spa and the infamous Eau Rouge sector. Hamilton took a well-deserved win from a phenomenal race and, although Vettel is still in title position, the gap at the top of the table has drawn much closer in anticipation of the Italian Grand Prix next weekend. Exciting times ahead for the rest of the season!
After the race, we gave our clients an extra two hours to allow them to enjoy the track atmosphere and take the opportunity to venture on to the track for the podium presentation and to relish walking on the historic circuit. This also allowed for the quietening of heavy post-race traffic and a significantly shorter trip home. The journeys back to the hotels were quiet as many clients either enjoyed the documentary on Senna or took the chance to get some pre-dinner shut eye. Lots of happy faces arrived back into Liege and fizzled off into the balmy evening to enjoy their final night.
On departure day, our 6pm train meant that everyone was free to enjoy lovely Liege in the glorious sunshine until 2:30pm when we all reconvened to begin our journey back to the UK. We took the one hour journey via train from Liege to Brussels and then awaited the departure of the Eurostar as our final leg of the journey, where all clients were in good spirits looking forward to getting back to their beds after a busy and enjoyable weekend. As the train rolled into St Pancras everyone departed into the London night, another super Belgian GP trip complete.
- Cat. P