E there are racing weekends that we are really looking forward to especially. The Belgian Grand Prix is definitely one of them. It's the only race I've done every year since my first full season in 2009. So this season was my anniversary visit. And after the tenth trip to the Ardennes, I have to say: Spa-Francorchamps is getting better every year!
This time, the headlines were dominated by the death and rebirth of Force India for the entire weekend. When we got to the paddock for the first time on Wednesday, the mechanics were just scratching the old logos from the race trucks. At that point in time nobody knew exactly how things would go on.
Thanks to his good contacts with the team, his colleague Schmidt was the first to publicly announce the plan for the survival of the racing team. When he explained to me that Force India would lose all the points collected in the team standings, I honestly couldn't believe it. At the beginning of the summer break the sale had already been reported as practically complete. And now everything was suddenly on the brink again?
Force India on the edge of the abyss
In the paddock there was a tension all Thursday that I hadn't experienced for a long time. There were always meetings of the team bosses. F1 boss Chase Carey went from motorhome to motorhome to bring all parties to a common denominator. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer always had the phone on his ear. Finally, at some point, the necessary documents were signed in which the modalities of the new racing team were defined.
And in the evening by point At 7:07 p.m., the FIA announced thenew name of the old team: Racing Point Force India should be called the shock birth. The world association had also helped to ensure that Formula 1 does not suddenly lose a team. Racing Point was allowed to race, but, as mentioned, had no more points in the team account. Nevertheless, everyone was somehow relieved.
Normally, the big upgrade packages are always the topic of conversation in Belgium, which traditionally are screwed onto the cars after the summer break. But this time there was only Force India. As soon as the future was secured, there was wild speculation about the driver's staff. It was clear that Lance Stroll would switch to the newly formed team of his billionaire father. Only when was the question?
Esteban Ocon was suddenly supposed to switch to McLaren and replace Stoffel Vandoorne there. But of course you couldn't announce that at his home game. And the Belgian also had an ongoing contract. Nobody wanted to pay the contractual penalty. The Kubica fans were also excited. If a place had been vacated at Williams, the Pole would have celebrated his Grand Prix comeback.
Again there was a lot of discussion and negotiation behind the scenes. But in the end nothing changed. At Force India, those responsible were not particularly disappointed that the stroll change was delayed. With Ocon and Perez, the chances of climbing as many places as possible in the team classification were expected to be significantly better. You just had to sell that to new owner Lawrence Stroll in nice words.
Force India miracle in qualifying
The race to catch up for the reformed team has already started with a good qualifying. The two pink cars catapulted themselves into the second row on the semi-damp track. To describe the atmosphere in Force India as “euphoric” would be an understatement. When I meet Technical Director Andy Green and tell him that the new Force India team is much better than the old one, he threw himself away completely laughing. So I didn't even know the otherwise supercooled engineer.
On Sunday it was the first timeagain the title duel between Mercedes and Ferrari in focus. Hamilton was also ahead in qualifying thanks to the damp conditions. But in the race, Vettel made short work of it. With an unbelievable excess of power and speed, the Ferrari rushed up the mountain on the long straight, past the Silver Arrow and finally to victory.
I can still remember how my colleagues from the Bild-Zeitung followed discussed a planned story after the race. They asked my opinion on which of the remaining routes Hamilton was the favorite and which Vettel. At that time I could only answer that Vettel should actually win everything with this superior Ferrari. But then things turned out a little differently.