With the summer break starving us F1 fans of any action, the end of August signals the welcome return of motorsports most prestigious discipline. With no better place to kick-start the season, the F1 roadshow headed to the Ardennes forest the spiritual home of Formula 1 and the Belgian Grand Prix.
Famed for its fast and challenging circuit, Spa-Francorchamps is always a driver and fan favourite. For Gullivers, our tours started bright and early on Friday morning from London St Pancras with a selection of trains leaving throughout the day for the Belgian capital. The very civilised Eurostar was a nice change of pace from the normal rigmarole of airport security with our clients able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the way (and a couple of glasses of something fizzy for some).
The Tour options for the Belgian Grand Prix are varied and allow between a 3* to 5* stay in Brussels or to get a bit closer to the circuit the picturesque city of Liege in either the funky 4* Pentahotel or impressive 5* Comte de Mean hotels.
For the early arrivals, it meant a chance to get their bearings and explore their chosen city before meeting up with the Gullivers Staff Members for a couple of drinks in the evening and start the weekend off discussing the return to racing action as well as the all-important restaurants and bars that Belgium has in abundance. After the drinks, our staff team headed to Chez Leon on Rue de Bouchers and after a suitable amount of Moules Frites had been consumed we all decided we can thoroughly recommend the restaurant for future years!
On Saturday and after breakfast, those that chose to attend qualifying, our comfortable coaches made the trip to the circuit. Arriving in time for the first GP3 race, a full day of action lay ahead including the latest instalment of a fantastic F2 season and the noise and fun and games of the Porsche Super Cup, before the main event of the day - the F1 qualifying – with the weather always changeable at Spa it did not disappoint this year – a downpour in Q3 mixed up the grid and with the newly owned ‘Racing Point’ Force India taking P3 & P4 behind Lewis Hamilton on pole, once again showing his skill in the wet and his championship rival Sebastian Vettel in the second spot – it seemed as though this race would be as close as the championship. With the option to return after qualifying or at the end of the day all our clients made their way back to the hotels and a bite to eat before the real business of race day!
As the sun shone, our coaches made the trip back to the track in record time dodging the notorious Francorchamps traffic and the atmosphere did not disappoint – some exciting warm-up racing lead to the wonderful sight of twenty F1 cars lined up on the grid, five lights turning red and then out to signal charge towards Turn 1 (La Source) – as it turned out the most dramatic moments of the race would occur in the first lap with Hulkenberg locking up and spectacularly sending the newly retiring Alonso into the air and on top of Le Clerc, two drivers at the opposite ends of their career both being denied the chance to test their machines against the rest of the field or even one corner of the track but thankfully no one was injured in the crash. However, before the clean-up operation began Vettel seized his moment with a brilliant pass on Hamilton, then the Ferrari and Mercedes’s managed to hold of the ambitious attentions of the Force India pair down the Kemmel straight towards Les Coombes. Once La Source was clear the race resumed and gave Vettel and Ferrari the chance to flex their impressive engine and dominate the rest of the race before taking the chequered flag ahead of Hamilton and much to the delight of the ever-entertaining Dutch fans, Verstappen – managing his first podium at Spa. The first corner incident is one sure to be repeated on TV for years to come and provides another wonderful ‘I was there’ moment for our clients.
After being able to walk around the track and experience the Eau Rouge corner (something long to be remembered) and the post traffic dealt with we made our way back to the hotels. My coach enjoyed the original Italian Job on the DVD player, a nod to Ferrari’s performance in the race and next week’s Italian GP in Monza, attention turned to dinner and a couple of well-earned drinks for the evening at Brussels’ famous Delirium Bar before turning in for a good night’s sleep.
With afternoon transfers and Eurostar’s back to St Pancras on Monday, our clients were able to enjoy their final day in Brussels and Liege before the short 2-hour train trip home and the end of another fantastic Belgian Grand Prix weekend! In Summary:
Days Enjoyed – 3
Happy Clients – Lots!
Tired Staff - 7
Moules eaten – approx. 10 kilograms!
Belgian Beers drank – potentially one more than needed.
Points difference in the championship – 17.
Excitement levels for next weekend in Italy (and the rest of the season) – Off the chart!
- Ali Hills