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Paddock Club Diaries - 2023 Belgian GP - Day 2

Saturdays on an F1 weekend are the longest, mainly because of the number of activities lined up for Paddock Club guests. Although Aachen is closer to the circuit than Hasselt, it was still an early start to the Saturday for me. Having left from Aachen at 730 am, my friend and I reached the circuit around 845 am, just in time for Carlos Sainz Jr's visit to the Paddock Club ( more on that later in the post ).

Lets revisit the memories from the Saturday at the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix!

En route to the circuit on Saturday Morning:

As soon as I entered the Paddock Club, I rushed across to reach the Ferrari suite and thankfully, Sainz Jr hadn't arrived yet!

Carlos Sainz Jr visits the guests in the Ferrari F1 Club :

Video Link of Sainz' interview in the Paddock Club :

Shots of the Suite reserved exclusively for the Scuderia Ferrari Team guests in the Paddock Club :

And suddenly the weather changed at Spa-Francorchamps :

Gloomy weather called for some hot breakfast!

Kick Starting the day with some coffee and croissants :

After my coffee, I went downstairs to spend some time in the Paddock but the rain played spoil sport. Nevertheless, I got a selfie with Esteban Ocon from Alpine F1 Team :

Soon enough, it was time for Sprint Qualifying, better known as the Sprint Shootout!

Sprint Shootout gets underway :

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team during the Sprint Shootout :

Shots from Parc Ferme post Sprint Shootout :

Max Verstappen was the quickest from Oscar Piastri and Carlos Sainz Jr. while Charles Leclerc was P4 in the other Ferrari.

Post the Sprint Shootout, I was hungry & wasted no time in having an early lunch.

Enjoying some lunch, the chocolates were so good!

Post the Sprint Shootout, the guests had the privilege of enjoying an interview with the team's new Sporting Director ( announced on the weekend of the Belgian GP )

The newly-appointed Ferrari Sporting Director, Mr Diego Ioverno briefly joined us in the Ferrari F1 Club :

Video Link of his interview :

The action was relentless as now it was time for the Formula 2 Sprint race on the track!

The F2 cars line up on the gird for the Sprint :

F2 Sprint Race Formation Lap ( Video Link ) :

Due to a car stalled on the grid, the F2 cars had to go around for a second formation lap.

Video Link :

F2 Sprint Race Start ( Video Link ) :

Shots from the F2 Sprint :

Some closeups of Jack Doohan!

& then we had a Safety Car period due to an incident!

Back to flat-out racing!

Celebrations in the Parc Ferme for Enzo Fittipaldi, Theo Pourchaire and Dennis Hauger. Jack Doohan finished a fine P5.

After the F2 Sprint Race, I got some time to spend in the Paddock before the Formula 1 Sprint.

Walking through the paddock, the sun was out again!

Thankfully, I was able to meet more drivers during this time!

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Formula 3 :

Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team :

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team :

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Development Driver at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

I made my way back to the Ferrari F1 Club, to prepare and grab myself a vantage spot for the start of the F1 Sprint Race.

The grid being readied for the F1 Sprint :

The mechanics rolling the cars & the drivers into the respective grid slots :

The Ferrari mechanics doing the same :

Building up to the formation lap :

Drivers returning from their loo breaks, game face on!

As the cars got readied on the grid, the heavens opened and a downpour hit the track.

The teams had to bring out their gazebos to cover the cars on the grid. The race start got delayed.

Video Link :

The rain relented and it was time to go racing!

The Grid ready for the Formation Lap ( Video Link ) :

The track was quite damp and the stewards decided to begin the F1 Sprint behind the Safety Car.

Video Link ( shot with Sony RX10 IV ) :

Video Link ( shot with Samsung S23 Ultra ) :

Video Links of the Cars running behind the Safety Car

Shot with Sony RX10 IV :

Shot with the Samsung S23 Ultra :

Finally, the Safety Car got called into the pits and it was time to go racing. However, by then, many drivers deemed it safe to switch to the intermediate tyres. Several drivers pitted at the Race start while some ( most importantly Verstappen ) chose to do one full lap on the wet tyres before making a decision.

Video Link of the F1 Sprint Start :

The move to pit on the opening lap of the Sprint yielded dividends for Oscar Piastri who jumped Verstappen after everyone pitted for intermediate tyres. However, a crash brought out the Safety Car again & the field got bunched up, negating Piastri's advantage built from the earlier stop.

Safety Car Deployed ( Video Link ) :

After the track got cleared racing resumed and as expected, Verstappen powered past Piastri to retake the lead of the F1 Sprint.

Video Link :

The drivers battling it out in the F1 Sprint :

The cars returning to Parc-Ferme after the F1 Sprint :

The Chequered Flag is waved at the end of the F1 Sprint & the drivers return to the Pit Lane ( Video Link ) :

Max Verstappen won the F1 Sprint from Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly. Gasly, like Piastri, benefitted from the early stop and jumped the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz Jr & Charles Leclerc who finished 4th and 5th, respectively.

With the F1 Sprint done, the organizers decided to entertain the remaining crowd with a display of some F1 cars from the yesteryears. Loud, uncensored and still brutally quick!

The classic F1 cars doing some track time!

After the classic cars show, it was time for the final activity of the day - the Paddock Club Pit Lane walk!

Selfies from the Saturday evening pit lane walk :

Shots from the evening pit lane walk :

Stills captured with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra :

Stills from the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team garage on a Saturday evening :

I got to meet some more people from the Motorsports Fraternity during the Pit Lane walk.

Friends and mechanics from the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team! 

Jason Cozzetto, one of the senior mechanics at Alpine F1 Team :

Tiffany Cromwell, Australian Road & Gravel Cyclist & Valtteri Bottas' partner :

With the Pit Lane walk done, we were allowed access to walk on the track and get some selfies. Meanwhile, the parade was practicing for the pre-race ceremony.

Walking around La Source and enjoying the views from the tarmac!

After spending some time in and around La Source, I walked over to the F2 Paddock and then further on to the makeshift garages set up for the F1 vintage cars.

The classic racecars from yesteryears, so beautiful!

As I walked back to the entrance of the Paddock Club, I met a charismatic and very elderly gentleman who is as passionate as any of his younger colleagues!

Mr Fritz van Amersfoort, the founder, Team Principal & F3 Team Manager for Van Amersfoort Racing :

Finally, it was nice to get a selfie with Pietro Fittipaldi, Reserve Driver for Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Goodbye from Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps :

As I walked back to the Taxi stand to take my ride back to the hotel in Aachen, my heart was full of joy. Although I had a physically tiring and body straining day, I didn't experience any mental fatigue! It was just a wholesome Saturday, difficult to describe in words.

Once again, a Big Thank you to the Hosts of the Ferrari F1 Club for all their love and hospitality on the Saturday. 

The Sunday experience follows soon!