20th Edition of Lorenzo Bandini Trophy

In 2013, no F1 driver will receive the Lorenzo Bandini  Trophy. In the 20th year of the award, the Honorary Committee of the Lorenzo Bandini Association has decided to award the trophy to the Vice President of the Scuderia Ferrari, Piero Ferrari.

This is in keeping with other special anniversary years such as the 30th anniversary of the death of Lorenzo Bandini, the trophy was presented to Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and at the 10th edition of the event to Michael Schumacher.

Piero Ferrari (left) (c) Motorsport.com

The association’s President Francesco Asirelli explains: “Italy and Romagna in particular, have always had a soft spot for the “Ferrari”. The name expresses the best Formula 1, not only for patriotic spirit but because the “Ferrari” has been able to arouse emotions that are not within the reach of any other team. This has led us to identify the Vice President, the assignee of the Lorenzo Bandini Trophy in 2013, the 20th edition”

13 years after Jarno Trulli received the award, the trophy is back in the hands of an Italian. The ceremony will be held on Sunday June 2nd at a ceremony in Brisighella, Italy.

Click here for information on last year’s recipient of the award, Bruno Senna and previous year’s winner, Nico Rosberg.

Split F1 Coverage – A Year On

Shortly after the announcement that UK F1 coverage was to be shared between BBC and S*y, I wrote a blog post explaining what I would only be watching the sport on the BBC (see article here). A year has passed and on the whole, I have stuck to my convictions (and boycotted S*y – with the exceptions of YouTube clips). While I appreciate why some presenters choose to work for S*y, I still have reservations about the company itself.

Nonetheless, I wanted to examine how both broadcasters have fared in the first year of “split coverage” but since I have not been watching S*y, I have asked 4 viewers to answer a few questions and give me their verdict on the first year of split F1 coverage in the UK.

For each of the following categories, score each from 1 (poor) – 3 (average) – 5 (excellent):

The Presenters & Analysists (Average Scores)

  1. Simon Lazenby = 2.5
  2. Georgie Thompson = 2.25
  3. Martin Brundle = 4.5
  4. Ted Kravitz = 4.5
  5. Jake Humphrey = 4.5
  6. David Coulthard = 4.75
  7. Gary Anderson = 4.75
  8. Lee McKenzie = 3.75

Pre-show features / Post Race Interviews, based on Content, Duration, Variety

  1. S*y = 3.5
  2. BBC = 4.5
Best Feature / Article / Interview from BBC:
AM: In general, their Intro pieces, the Forum & a more light-hearted nature of the presenting team. Gary Anderson’s technical pieces are very informative & I enjoy Ben Edwards’ enthusiastic commentary very slightly over David Croft.
TN: Not so much a feature but BBC got the scoop of the year with the Hamilton to Mercedes story. Best Interview was Lee McKenzie’s with Lewis on leaving Mclaren as part of Brazil build-up.
K: I think the BBC red button stuff after the race is really good and better than post-race stuff they broadcast.
SB: The BBC F1 forum; this is viewing brilliance and is unbeatable.
Best Feature / Article / Interview from S*y:
AM: Use of their S*y pad to analyse key race moments in detail, Ted Kravitz’s Qualifying & Race notebooks to bring more detail into parts of the race weekend we may have missed & having a weekly magazine show in their F1 Show on Fridays to catch up with the latest news.
TN: A piece featuring old reel-to-reel tape recordings of James Hunt and Aryton Senna. I found this a fascinating evocative feature
K: Damon Hill is a bit wooden when he’s talking/ interviewing on sky. Impressed by S*y’s build up. Love Martin Brundle just not sure the team with him is as good. Still watch BBC over sky coverage.
SB: Best feature on S*y is Tooned!

Which areas of both broadcasters’ coverage do you think could be improved?

AM: S*y Coverage could be improved with a little less seriousness in their presenting team. Johnny Herbert provides some light relief to their team but it just seems like its too much a case of “stick to the script”. After starting the season with a lot of adverts in the pre-race coverage, S*y then stated they would have an hour of uninterrupted build up, but this seemed to be abandoned towards the end of the season. There are also a lot of random fillers in the S*y coverage on either side of the ads, such as a 60-second recap of the race that has just finished when returning from advert in the post-race coverage. Over the course of a race coverage show these fillers do add up where the time could be used more effectively.
BBC coverage I class as excellent in every way, yes Eddie Jordan has his critics, but I believe he does have an ability to get an impromptu interview with anyone which is something S*y are lacking. Having some more of the on-board options that S*y is able to carry would be better, but that could be more down to what they are able to provide on their Red Button.

TN: Obviously the BBC’s coverage could be improved by having all races live – but we know that’s not going to happen. On S*y, I’m still not warming to Simon Lazenby. He just seems to lack charisma and comes across as slightly awkward. Damon is a lovely guy and great world champion but it has to be said that his punditry can be dull. I wish S*y would make more use of Anthony Davidson. He has both insight and wit – he’s wasted stuck next to Georgi Thompson on the S*yPad. His analysis on the S*yPad is so insightful but he could do so much more!

SB: BBC will have a hard time replacing Jake and making it look as natural. More schedule time dedicated on race days would allow a few more features. If anything, I’d like to see Gary Anderson get involved with more features. S*y miss the charisma that the BBC has, it at times looks really forced and tries to dumb down a little too much, something that S*y Sports in general have always been guilty of. The race centre is a very pointless feature i think, just showing replays and close-ups could be done without the gimmick of a giant touch screen.

How do you feel about Suzi Perry replacing Jake Humphrey on BBC team?

AM: Suzi Perry knows her Motorsport, albeit having a 2-wheeled background in MotoGP. Having watched her presenting MotoGP coverage, she has proved very knowledgable in that field & I believe she will be a welcome addition to the BBC team & a worthy replacement of Jake.

TN: I don’t know Suzi well so I’m reserving judgement. However its hard to see how the DC, EJ, JH chemistry can be replicated. The same would apply to Lee – Jake is such a hard act to follow.

SB: As good as Lee is at what she does, presenting is a different ball game and i don’t feel she has the screen presence or natural ability to do this. Being familiar with the gadget show makes me think that Suzi will be a very strong replacement, she is natural, and good humoured and will be a match for DC and EJ.

Any other comments?

AM: A final comment about Sky, with a fully dedicated F1 channel & the vast library of F1 archive footage available, there is a distinct lack of programming for the majority of the day. Even during the season, most of the time viewers are left with repeats of the same features on an hourly basis & now during the off season that has been replaced by constant highlights & race repeats of the 2012 season. Surely with the archive footage they could show season highlights from decades past or full race footage from races during some of those periods? This would be so much better for new fans of the sport & give them a better understanding of the history of F1 (in much the same way how BBC show highlights of past seasons in the week building up to a Grand Prix on their red button)

SB: Both Broadcasters have done a good job all in all, but the BBC are still miles ahead, they package a product in a very simple way without having to overcomplicate things bringing in the experts and interviews at the right time, they do have experience on their side so it will be interesting as to what year 2 will bring.

Autosport Awards 2012 – Winners

Sunday 2nd December is the 2012 Autosport Awards ceremony. The event was held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

Photo (c) Amy Wozencroft

Live Commentary is available: http://live.autosport.com/commentary.php/id/548

List of Winners:

British Club Driver of the Year Award: Scott Malvern

National Driver of the Year Award: Gordon Shedden

1st Pioneering and Innovation Award: FIA medical team, acknowledging the remarkable work of Professor Sid Watkins

2nd Pioneering and Innovation Award: Nissan DeltaWing

1st John Bolster Award for Technical Excellence:  Peter Sauber

2nd John Bolster Award for Technical Excellence:  Bob Dance

Rally Car of the Year: Citroen DS3 WRC

Rookie of the Year Award: Matheo Tuscher

British Competition Driver: Jenson Button

Racing Car of the Year: Red Bull RB8

International Racing Driver: Sebastian Vettel (for the 3rd consecutive year)

Comments and Feedback:

Most motorsport fans assumed that the event would be available as a live stream online but were bitterly disappointed to find out that it wasnt the case this year. Some suggested it had something to do with Autosport’s recent announcement of a quote for non-subscribers. However, sponsors missed a trick by not insisting on live feed. Despite the unfortunate music choices during the un-censored live streamed event last year, sponsors’ logos were very visible during the awards.

There was also some consternation about Button being awarded the British Competition Driver of the Year. It must be noted that the nomination form was printed in an edition of Autosport with Button on the cover and the driver is known to host dinners for british journalists every year at the last race. Some also pointed out that Hamilton might have lost out since he recently announced his move from a British team McLaren to German team, Mercedes.

 ‏@EwanMarshall : Eh? So Hamilton has one of his best ever seasons yet loses the British Competition Driver award to Button?

 ‏@TalkingaboutF1 : Jenson voted British Competition Driver of 2012 ahead of Lewis. I don’t get that.

What did you think of the winners? Do you agree? Did you vote, if not, why not? Did you know much about the awards and the nomination/voting process? Is it reflective of most F1 fans opinions?

Motorsport Business Forum – Austin, 2012

To mark its return, KHP and its long-standing partner, the MotorSport Business Forum (MSBF), supported by payment solutions experts Rêv Worldwide, hosted the inaugural Texas Business Symposium in Austin, Texas on behalf of Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein, co-founders and investors of the Circuit of The Americas.
The full list of speakers  –  made up of Team Heads, Stakeholders, Series officials, Sponsors and Commercial Directors – were as follows:
  • Red McCombs, Founder of McCombs Partners and co-founder of Circuit of The Americas (Welcome Address)
  • Nick Fry – CEO Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (Keynote Address)
  • Paul Hembery – Head of Pirelli Motorsport
  • Roy Sosa – Founder, Chairman and CEO of  Rêv Worldwide
  • Geoff McGrath – Managing Director of McLaren Applied Technologies
  • Mehul Kapadia, Vice President of Commercial Alliances and Sponsorships and Tata Communications.
  • Graeme Lowdon – President & Sporting Director at Marussia F1 Team
  • Pablo de Villota – Formula 1 Sponsorship Manager at Banco Santander
  • Bobby Epstein  Co-founder and Chairman at Circuit of The Americas

Here are excerpts from @rachelclarkef1’s notes and @MSBForum’s tweets from the event

Nick Fry: “Typically, teams spend $200m a year because there are so many people and because of the rate of development of technology. We start designing in July, design and develop till Christmas, then start manufacturing, ready to go at the end of January, test for a couple of months, start racing in Australia in March, race through to November in 20 locations.  For major corporations who want to advertise globally, there is nothing like it [F1]. Not dissimilar to Olympics or World Cup. It is a significant marketing opportunity”.

“This leads to different opportunities all around the world. We are good at going into emerging economies early on and getting a high level of interest early. We have been adding new venues regularly. That number will continue to grow, substituting European events. Russia and Mexico show huge demand for races, amplifying the marketing benefit”

“As an example, Airtel (India) decided to sponsor one race for Mercedes. They did an advert, got 2.5million views of the video in 2 days. Another unique aspect is technology. The people who watch are interested in the technology behind the car. Tech is important and what we need to do is to combine it with entertainment. Technology spins off to other areas, not just automotive. There are about 45,000 people who work in associated areas; all highly paid, signficant tech jobs”.

“The spin-offs are into defence, space, aerospace. The technology on cars, the composites, the electronics, the engine, the telemetry,  energy recovery etc is being used in lots of other areas of business. For example, train industry and fly-wheels, buses using hybrid tech. In our own case, the energy recovery system is going into the SLS Mercedes car. Next version is purely electric, all technology developed with help of F1 team. These are examples of direct spin-offs”.

Challenges: Like most sports, one of the main problems is with costs. Money is difficult to raise. Teams at the back and middle of the grid are struggling. We need to bring down costs. The benefits of winning are huge, so people spend vast amounts of money to be successful, to get more TV and publicity. And the FIA is trying with things like DRS, which allow overtaking; this keeps the excitement with more passing (and keeps viewers engaged).

Photo from MSBForum (c) @MSBForum

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Austin GP Experience

Local F1 fan @McChiken116_TS was at the inaugural Austin Grand Prix and this was his experience of the event.

Trip: We live in Texas, so my family just drove up from Houston, and this was the big family vacation. On arrival, the locals were the friendly Texans and friendly F1 fans I had expected. It was a tad colder than I thought it might be.

Weather: The swing in temperatures meant that you had to be prepared to bundle up in the morning, and shed layers as the day went on. And I noticed on the last two days they kinda gave up on trying to stop people bringing water into the complex.

Food: The array of food available at the track reminded me of how diverse Austin is, and I thought it was great they got local food trucks involved.

Transport to and From Track: The Shuttle service was excellent and we never had to wait in the morning. The only wait we had was after the race on Sunday.

Viewing Buddies: The mix of people around me and my family was very surprising. All sorts of people from everywhere in the world. It was great. We tried to get a few Fanvisions but they were always sold out when we tried, so we sat next to a big screen. We stayed after a while to eat, and mingle with the fellow fans. (And of course I had to bask in a McLaren Victory)

I have to say Jenson Button had a fantastic drive. As did Massa. Also, I can’t help but like the Marussias and Caterhams.

Tweeting from Track: As weird as this sounds, if I wanted to use the internet, it meant going into a portapotty due to those having great signals. On friday, the internet was fine though, but the last two days the AT&T system kinda freaked out under the load.

This was my first GP in 12 years, so I have to say I enjoyed it much more this time since last time I was too young to enjoy it. I loved the noise and the atmosphere, and if you can see one race (That isn’t Monaco) this is the race to go to.

Unique Significant Achievements

Guest blog by @naijaSolar.

November 8th  2012, Barack Obama, the first mixed-race President of the United States of America was re-elected.

November 18th 2012, Lewis Hamilton, the first mixed-race Formula 1 champion won the United States Grand Prix.

While both accomplishments are not comparable but there are a few coincidences/similarities common to both men.

2008: Lewis won his first World Driver Championship in the same year Barack was elected as USA president for the first time, both men “breaking into” a position that had previously only been occupied by caucasian men.

Ethnicity: Both men are of mixed-race parentage: white caucasian mothers and black African/Caribbean fathers who separated while their children were at a young age. Both are only children, although they have step-siblings.

Impact in rookie year: Just as Lewis rattled F1 and his team-mate in his first year in the sport, Barack was an unknown senator before he became the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2008. With their respective stratospheric rise to fame and success, came the Hollywood friends and endorsements.

However the successive years were less forgiving. Lewis’s 2009 MP4-24 was not competitive at the start of the year and he has not in contention for the WDC for several years. 2011 was a particular bad year for Lewis, even by his own admission. He was involved in several accidents and failed to score more points than his team-mate; in a way this is analogous to the Democratic Party’s heavy losses in the 2010 elections.

Resurgence: 2012 has been a major turn-around compared to 2011 for Lewis – his driving, mature and controlled. His demeanour has remained relaxed even after deciding to leave the team that nurtured him from a very young age. Despite not being the running for the 2012 World Driver Championship, he has fought for every point and only other drivers and reliability issues have scuppered his attempts.

2013 onwards: All eyes on Lewis and Barack in the next few years: both face new challenges, trying to prove themselves to their critics – more than ever before. However, everyone’s expectations of them are lower; for Lewis – joining a new team which finished 5th in the World Constructors Championship and won only once in 2012. He is not expecting to win and his first year will be to about building new relationships and trying to build a new team around him. For the President, his 2008 slogan of HOPE has been replaced with a more tempered FORWARD during the 2012 campaign. And this is what America and the world will be expecting of him; moving them forward is important, how quickly is less so.

Other articles by @naijasolar: Italian GP Experience and FOTA Fan Forum – Barcelona

Read all about it

The F1 world eagerly awaits announcement of news which will set of the Driver-Market Chain-Reaction. Well, it will be more of a small re-shuffle, than a chain-reaction as most drivers out of contract at the end of 2012 only have 2 or 3 options of seats to fill.

This announcement was rumoured to be made on Wednesday 26th September. At time of publishing this blog, no such announcement had been made.

The past few months has seen a frenzy of rumours, claims, counter-claims, denials, conjecture…. by journalists all vying  for the scoop of the year. Some F1 fans say they are getting annoyed by the rumours and just want a final confirmation of which team these drivers will be driving for in 2013. Unsurprisingly, the most talked-about of these drivers is Lewis Hamilton and from conversations with other F1 fans via Twitter, we all agree that his contract has been the most talked about and written about, that we all can recall.

Just to “prove” this point, I have performed very complex surveys* to establish how many articles were written about drivers in the year they signed their most recent contract i.e. end of their season with penultimate team.

1) Jenson Button moved from Brawn to McLaren in 2009.

Date Range: 1 Jan 2009 – 31 Dec 2009

Search Results: 228,000

2) Fernando Alonso moved from Renault to Ferrari in 2010.

Date Range: 1 Jan 2010 – 31 Dec 2010

Search Results: 693,000

3) Lewis Hamilton rumoured to move from McLaren to Mercedes OR stay at McLaren in 2012.

Date Range: 1 Jan 2012 – 26 Sept 2012

Search Results: 39,200,000^

What does this tell us? Actually, not a lot we did not know already. (1) Hamilton is a well-known figure in F1 and further afield. (2) Blogs/Social Media use is increasing annually so there are more articles posted on the internet, (3) old articles are deleted or archived so might not show up on internet searches for the other drivers. But one can still appreciate that the volume of traffic Hamilton is generating at the moment is immense.

By comparison with other talked-about personalities or occurences over the same date range i.e. 1 Jan 2012 – 26 Sept 2012:

Kristen Stewart, Search Results: 95,700,000

Mars Curiosity, Search Results: 63,400,000

Fernando Alonso, Search Results: 12,300,000

That said, all F1 fans want is confirmation of Hamilton’s new contract or at least, no more unfounded rumours by journalists.

* = Google Internet Search

^ = Google’s Birthday is 27th September hence the new icon in the top left of screen-grab, just to prove it is a very recent search

Italian GP Experience

Guest Blog from a follower (@naijaSolar) who was at the Italian Grand Prix this weekend.

I have been to F1 races before but I had never been to the Italian Grand Prix, despite having friends in and visiting Milan and Monza. So after running out of reasons not to go, I decided to book tickets for the race and combine it visiting my friends. Milan in the lead up to the Italian Grand Prix didnt look very different – apart from the front of the Ferrari Store near Corso Vittorio Emmanuele and the Duomo. This area had been transformed into a mini-race track with several events for passers-by. I am not a “tifoso” but any F1 fan would be crazy not to visit the shop which epitomises Formula 1 passion globally.

To maintain a balanced, unbiased perspective, I also visited the McLaren showroom on Corso Sempione. Unfortunately, it is a showroom – accessible only by appointment – perhaps this was why not a lot of people were aware of its presence.

On my way back from the McLaren Showroom, I walked past a small bookshop on Corso Venezia. Turns out it is an automobile bookshop – one of the oldest in Italy. The owner spoke English and told me about the extensive array of books that he had.

Something caught my eye in the shop: I spotted a large red book with a pair of gloves on it. These, the proprietor explained, were to protect the book from customer smudges and stains. It was an iconic Ferrari book which had to be made to order, the most expensive version (Ferrari Opus Diamante Edition) costing up to a quarter of a million dollars! Sadly I didnt have that kind of change on me.

THURSDAY

On Thursday, I went to the track to collect my pre-booked tickets. As I was staying at a friend’s apartment on the outskirts of Milan, the entire trip to the Autodromo lasted about 2hours and involved the Metro to Sesto, a bus to Monza town centre and then another bus to the Autodromo di Monza. On arrival, it took just 5 minutes to process my ID and furnish me with the tickets. Then I had the rest of the afternoon to look around the track.

I discovered the entrance to the F1 paddock and the crowd gathered outside it implied that it might be a good spot for autograph-hunting. And sure enough, Kimi Raikkonen, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi walked by – none of whom stopped for autographs. However about half an hour later, a black Mercedes pulled up to the gates and Lewis Hamilton emerged from the car. I almost could not believe it was him! He stopped and signed autographs, flags, shirts, hats and shook hands with some of the people there. Everyone cheered for him and it was good to see him take time to acknowledge the fans’ support.

Lewis arrives at Autodromo di Monza, Italian GP

As part of the 3-day ticket package, fans were allowed onto the pit between 4pm and 6.30pm on Thursday. Unsurprisingly, the first garage most fans flocked to was the Ferrari garage and there were chants of “ALONSO, ALONSO”. There was even a random chant of “Grosjean is sheeeeeet” in a thick Italian accent, no doubt a tifoso still annoyed about the 1st-lap incident that took out Alonso at the Spa Grand Prix.

I saw Vettel and his minders as he went to conduct an interview, also saw Christian Horner, Jenson Button, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Timo Glock and FIA Deputy Race Director, Herbie Blash.

Thursday Night was spent at Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in Milan – a glamour-themed late shopping night in Milan. Parties at Pirelli, Vivienne Westwood, Missoni, Pinko and many other shops along Corso Venezia kept us entertained till the early hours of the morning.

Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, VFNO, Milan

RACE WEEKEND

Parabolica 21D was our home on Friday and Saturday, which provided a good view of the Monza track; with the big screen directly in front of us and bilingual commentary, we didn’t miss much of the session. The only thing that I wasnt prepared for was the unbearable heat!

Something else I was looking forward to was Santander‘s regular competition on race weekends: an initiative to get more females interested in Formula 1, by selecting the first 5 people to tweet them within a certain period. I was lucky enough to have been on Twitter when the “competition opened” and promptly sent a tweet for a chance at this money-cant-buy experience. I was elated to receive a message saying I had been selected for the Paddock tour, all I had to do was been at the paddock entrance at 9am on race day.

PADDOCK TOUR

I arrived an hour early on Sunday and myself and other competition winners met the Santander representative who gave us guest passes for the paddock and escorted us through the turnstiles leading into the Monza paddock. We met Ferrari’s sponsorship manager, Marco who had been enrolled as our guide for the day. He showed us the Ferrari technical motorhome and their hospitality area.

Later on, we went into the McLaren motorhome and spoke briefly with Sam Inskip (Sponsorship Manager at McLaren), after which we were introduced to a senior director of Santander. Finally we had a quick look inside HRT’s motorhome and as we exited the paddock, politely interrupted Pirelli’s Paul Hembery‘s conversation for a photograph.

It was such a great opportunity and I cannot thank Santander enough for making my first trip to Monza an unforgettable experience. This was made even better by the phenomenal drive and win by Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez. The fans at Parabolica cheered for most drivers – even when Button’s car ground to a halt right in front of our stands. However, the same cannot be said of the fans who crowded under the podium after the race and booed Lewis Hamilton. This was the only negative on a glorious race weekend.

If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing – well, perhaps I’d get covered grandstand tickets or better yet, not return the Santander Guest passes!

Special thanks to @SantanderGP, @PaulHembery, @InsideFerrari and @theFifthDriver. More photos can be found on my Twitter profile @naijaSolar.

Spa GP Experience

One of my followers on Twitter – Steve Mason’s recent birthday present was a trip to the Spa Grand Prix and he agreed to share his experience with fellow F1 fans. Here is a blog about his trip.

(c) @duskyBlogF1

TRAVEL

Was this your first GP or first trip to Spa?

This was my first trip to Spa but I have been to Silverstone many times including this year & also Monza in 2010. My other-half @MissGemmaClare booked [the trip] as a surprise, however, budget was not just about GP;  it included a mini break too. We based ourselves in Brussels for 4 nights at The Atlanta, a great hotel.

We booked in April so the GP tickets could have been cheaper. Whole thing, excluding airport transfers, were organised by Grandstand Motorsports www.grandstandmotorsports.co.uk. Our first time using them, I would definitely use them again.

Getting from track to hotel: Ease and Cost
In terms of ease, this is where I would say basing yourself in Brussels doesn’t work, look for an alternative. This however, is the dichotomy of Spa. 2 hour transfer times meant early starts & late finishes for us, whilst missing some of the support races. However, I’m not a ‘camper’ & there are limited hotels nearby but if you book now maybe there is a chance; La Source Hotel already fully booked for 2013! If you are in a Group renting a house seemed popular with other fans. Parking seemed easy with plenty of sites with fixed prices all weekend at €10 per day.
On another note I don’t know why Silverstone gets such a hard time for traffic, Spa is way way worse, Bernie needs to have a word 😉
How was the weather?
The local temp was nice & warm too on the Thursday, Saturday & Sunday. As for Friday practice that was cold and very wet.  Sunday was a hot day but in the covered grandstand but it was about 5 degrees cooler. We saw a lot of people who’d have done well to have packed some sun tan lotion!
RACE
Did you watch Qualifying and the race? 
Hell yeah! Also went for Friday practice, my £2.99 poncho a massively valuable investment before leaving the UK. Our view from La Source Gold 8 was excellent as you could see a great deal of the track with the added bonus of some of the pit lane & pit exit plus a Giant Screen. (So good was his view, he got this great photo of the first-lap carnage which resulted in Grosjean’s 1-race ban)

Spa Carnage (c) Steve Mason

How was the atmosphere/mood around you?
A real mix of nationalities from English, Dutch, Belgium, French, Italian and American fans. Atmosphere was great, some good banter and very knowledgable crowd.
We were sat opposite the big screen at La Source but also tried Fanvision for the first time – mightily impressed. At the circuit it was €45 per day, online delivered to our house €65 for the entire weekend!  Top tip, I got an earphone splitter so my partner and I could share a set; worked a treat. Having BBC5Live or SkyF1 commentary meant you always knew what was going on throughout the weekend & Will Buxton for GP2/3 races was excellent. FanVision bridges the gap of watching at a circuit & wholly knowing what’s going on. I found it particularly useful for Quali so you knew who was in the drop zone etc
Could you “pour”/get onto the track after the race?
Yes, it was great, access was easy. After a few minutes of fans being on the track, you’d never have known there had been a crash – the crowd devoured and collected carbon fibre souvenirs……spotless!
We went onto the track, listened to the new post race podium interviews (big fan of that) but had to leave to get our coach transfer. We flew from Manchester with Brussels Airways so plenty of options but we had didn’t fly home until Monday tea time, giving us the day Brussels.
VENUE/FACILITIES
Did you encounter any marshalls and were they helpful?
In terms of track marshalls no contact, however, stand stewards were all very helpful. However, English was not widely understood but a bit of schoolboy French was enough to get by.

Marshalls, Fernando, Lewis and Romain (c) Steve Mason

Food/availability and variety?
Brussels is a foodies heaven but at the track the range was very basic with only burgers or sausages plus obviously frites & mayonnaise. Prices remained same all 3 days, burgers €6, frites €5 + €1 for mayo or sauce, coke can €3.50 & Cafe €3.
We picnicked each day & there was no restriction on what you could take in to the track.
No free water but no restrictions on food or drink into the circuit.

Would you recommend this event to others?

The trip to Spa is part of my ambition to visit all the REAL F1 circuits on the Calendar. Would I recommend it, in a word……YES! Truly immense experience, fantastic & I have no doubt at some point soon I will return. Where next is now my only quandary.
Thanks to Steve for giving us an insight to his first trip to Spa. Follow his on Twitter @theSteveMason.

duskyF1Quiz Answers

Which driver won the most races btw 1991 and 2000? Schumacher And which driver was 2nd highest winner between 2001 – 2010? Alonso

If the current Championship was scored with 2008 points i.e. 10 pts for a win, 8 for 2nd place etc, what would be the total of Alonso + Hamilton’s current points? 111

Who is leading the DHL fastest lap table this season? Vettel

Which driver(s) has completed every race of the 2012 season so far? Alonso, Rosberg, Raikkonen (some of you answered Webber but he is short by 1 lap!)

How many points did Toro Rosso have before the summer break in 2011 – and how many do they have now? 22 in 2011, 6 this year.

If the WCC order at the end of 2012 is MCL, RBR, LOT, SAUB, MERC, FIND, WILL, TROSSO and there are no driver-changes; what car number would Daniel Ricciardo & Jean-Eric Vergne have in 2013? 16 and 17. Number 13 is not used

Photo round:
Helmets 1 – 5: Webber, Massa, Riccardo, Petrov, Vergne
Logo 1 – 5: Minardi, Benetton, Brabham, Super Aguri, Williams