N after the regular cancellation of the race in Hockenheim that was Classic in Spa for us the Grand Prix with the shortest journey. The Ardennes course is not even 400 kilometers away from our editorial office in Stuttgart. This ensures a relaxed atmosphere upon arrival. There was a KIA Sportage from our vehicle fleet, which offered enough space to import a couple of six-packs of the delicious Belgian Leffe beer home from Belgium.
Before we went to the beverage store, we had to wait a minute Visit to the racetrack. After the summer break, the teams always have many new, large upgrade parts in their luggage, despite the forced vacation. Of course we tried to reveal a few secrets on Wednesday. Conveniently, the Toro Rosso truck with the two racing cars just came around the corner. So we were able to take a few pictures while unloading that you don't see that often.
Vandoorne starts with a handicap
At least colleague Schmidt was able to find out that local hero Stoffel Vandoorne has to start from the back because of a penalty at his home game. Honda's PR department didn't like the fact that we announced the transfer on Wednesday evening. Some of our English-speaking colleagues were also annoyed that we put the explosive information on the website before they even set foot in the paddock.
In such cases, I always wonder why the teams are imposing such penalties long in advance, not alreadyMention it in the official press releases that are sent out before each race weekend. At some point the installation of new engine components will come to light anyway. At the latest when FIA inspector Jo Bauer sends out his official technical report.
The durability of his drive unit in Belgium also played an important role for Max Verstappen. To the annoyance of the many orange-clad fans, the Dutchman dropped out after just a few laps. To experience the euphoria the youngster caused in his home country, you really had to be there. All grandstands were sold out on race Sunday. Every second spectator felt like a Red Bull cap on their head.
Verstappen party on the camping sites
To document the Verstappen madness, we met on Wednesday looked around the campsite behind the Les Combes passage. Two days before the first training session, the meadow in the middle of the forest was transformed into a mobile party town with a mechanical bull, a disco and lots of beer counters. The alcohol level of the residents had already reached the Ardennes level in the afternoon.
In our hotel we did not notice the hustle and bustle around the route. The inn in Trois Ponts is located at the back of the world, hidden between hills, forests and pastures. If a nuclear war broke out in Germany - you would certainly not notice it here. In the antiquated corridors there are baby dolls in little beds, which always makes the evening walk into the room a bit scary.
We would have changed hotels long ago if the regular chef in the in-house restaurant hadn't done this every evening would serve sensational food. Even our colleagues are happy to accept the long and complicated journey to enjoy the sophisticated 4-course menu. Last year we almost hit the blow when a 'For Sale' sign at the entrance. But 12 months later, the owners were still the same. Nobody buys this hotel in the middle of nowhere that only generates real sales once a year.
Luggage chaos in Brussels
OnOn Thursday on the track our somewhat sour colleague Roger Benoit greeted us. The Swiss Blick reporter landed in Brussels by plane. But unfortunately the employees who take care of the luggage went on strike. His suitcase was now somewhere in a huge pile with thousands of others in a hangar. To bring the hastily bought replacement clothes back home, Force India gave a small trolley on Sunday. The suitcase didn't arrive in Zurich until a week later.
Pascal Wehrlein was also a bit sour. As usual at this time of year, my first question was about his unresolved future, whereupon the pilot only had evasive generalities to offer. When I asked a little annoyed whether he had a plan B in case things didn't work out with the cockpit in 2018, Wehrlein dropped his jaw. It looked as if he hadn't even thought about that.
I then tried to explain to him that I was having a hard time finding a team that still had a place for him. But he didn't seem to think my question was justified. When Speedweek colleague Mattias Brunner then asked whether a test driver job was an alternative for 2018, Wehrlein just shook his head and said: “I think we're going to break this off now.”
Usually Pascal Wehrlein is a nice and polite boy who has earned his place in Formula 1 in terms of driving, but in this case he seemed a bit naive to me. I don't know if he relied too much on Mercedes for help. Or whether he believed the praise of some journalist colleagues who had already compared him to Senna or Hamilton.
Hamilton announces winning streak
Apropos Hamilton: The big World Cup rivals came back from the summer break like a different one. He presented himself in front of the world press and announced that he did not want to lose any more races from now on until the end of the season. And that he mentally prepared himself for the tough title fight in the summer and was prepared for everything. Was Hamiltongone megalomaniac? Had he forgotten the nasty gossip before the summer break, when Vettel won with the steering cracked?
Then Hamilton made a challenge: 'I'm here for blood', the Briton dictated to the media representatives in the blocks. What sounds good in English is unfortunately difficult to reproduce in German. We discussed eagerly among our colleagues about finding a sensible and uniform translation so that something else is not found everywhere. In the end we agreed on the formulation: “I fight to the blood.” The alternative: “I want to see blood” was a number too exaggerated.
And whoever accused Hamilton of megalomania at the time, had to Apologize in Austin at the latest. He had won five of the first six races after the summer break. Only in Malaysia did he have to admit defeat to Max Verstappen. The World Cup was decided earlier than everyone had thought. Of course, the Ferrari series of bankruptcies was not entirely innocent. But Hamilton drove at the same time in the shape of his life. Since then we have known that you should take your announcements seriously.