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The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Belgian GP - Day 3

Sunday at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix was an emotional one, a day of tributes. It was a day when the entire Motorsport community, teams and fans alike stood together as one to honour the racer that Anthoine Hubert was. It was a day when the Community reaffirmed, we stand together in the face of this loss and tragedy..we mourn today yet one day we shall rise again..

The Formula 2 Sprint Race was cancelled as a mark of respect. All the teams from both the Support Race and F1 Race Paddock congregated on the Pit Straight to pay tribute to the memory of Anthoine Hubert. The fans had decided to rise in standing ovation on Lap 19 ( the number on Hubert's car ) during the F1 race as a mark of the respect for the racer. The schedule for the rest of the day was unchanged. 


Making our way to Spa Francorchamps :


The Paddock on Sunday Morning, a busy day ahead for everyone but the atmosphere was sober and grim after the incident on Saturday.


Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren Racing F1 Team :


Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


I made it into the Motorhome and Breakfast was waiting for us :


Post breakfast I went for a stroll through the Paddock and some more heroes from this profession.

The fighter Robert Kubica, Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :


Esteban Ocon, Reserve Driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Double World Champion in Formula E, ex F1 racer Jean-Eric Vergne :


Sebastian Vettel! Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!


Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Time for a quick bite before heading out for the Pit Lane Walk of the day :


Shots from the Pit Lane Walk :


We took our spots outside the Paddock to watch the race start and the Belgian Air Force obliged us with an amazing Fly-Past :


Video Link :



The Grid Kids making their way back from the Starting Grid :


The Race got underway shortly after.


Formation Lap ( Video Link ) :



Race Start ( Video Link ) :



Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen had a coming together at La Source hairpin in the opening lap. The Finn was left with a badly damaged floor and had to go through 2 pit stops before coming out at the back of the pack. Max wasn't as lucky and ended up in the barriers before Kemmel Straight. There was a collective groan from all the Dutch Fans who had made their way to the race to see their hero race. Credit to them, they stayed back to honour Hubert ( lap 19 tribute ). The Safety Car was deployed on the Opening Lap. 

It was a difficult race for Kimi thereafter. 


Race Restart after Safety Car Period ( Video Link ) :



Shots from the Race :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team fighting hard in the Race :


I was in the Team Garage for the Latter Part of the Race and was able to watch a Pit Stop from the Garage!

Video Link :



Kimi came home in P16. Antonio Giovinazzi was doing a fine job in P9 until a mistake on the penultimate lap made him crash out of the race. It was a wretched weekend and zero points for the team :( Antonio also suffered from an impact ( whiplash ) injury and had to be attended to post race.


The cars making their way to Parc Ferme after the Race :


Charles Leclerc took victory from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Sebastian Vettel ended up P4 after some poor strategic calls by Ferrari. Ferrari were relieved to finally win a race in 2019. It was the start of a 3 race winning streak for the team, an indication that one should never write off the Prancing Horse.


Parc Ferme and Interviews for the Top 3 finishers.


Video Link :



The podium ready to welcome the Top 3 :


Presenting the Top 3 finishers of the 2019 Belgian GP :


Podium Presentation Video Link :



National Anthems time :


Trophy Presentation :


Video Link :



The cars sent to FIA Scrutineering :


I made my way back to the Motorhome and the team were distributing some Magnums. Helps cool everything down.


Packup time for the teams. The next race ( Italy ) takes place on the next weekend, so the turnaround time is very less for the teams.


Taking some more shots outside the Motorhome before its dismantled and shipped out :


I got to meet some more technical personnel!


Kimi Raikkonen's Race Engineer in Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team, Mr. Julien Simon-Chautemps :


Masahi Yamamoto, Managing Director for Honda Racing in F1 :


The Paddock being wrapped up :

After a certain time, it becomes quite unsafe to loiter around and its advisable for guests to leave the Paddock Area.


An earlier-spec Renault Sport F1 that was on display in the Paddock Club ( I guess ) :


Bye Bye Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, see you next year!


Walking back to the transfer area for my ride back to Hasselt. Some final selfies with my pass which would no longer be valid..a great souvenir to keep though!


I reached Hasselt pretty late at night ( thanks to the Traffic heading out of the track ). My friends Jane and Kaz had already reached the Hotel before me and were waiting for me at the bar. We sat together late into the night, talking, laughing remembering the weekend gone by. Kaz, Leclerc fan was overjoyed with his win..Jane and I, Kimi fans had forlorn faces. We also raised a toast to the talent Anthoine Hubert. He will surely be missed.


Before I retired for the night, I pondered on the weekend gone by..the excitement and the highs of Friday and Saturday, the joy cut short by Hubert's demise on Saturday, the emotional Sunday that was. I felt so honoured and blessed to be a part ( albeit a small one ) of the Motorsport family that is spread all across this world. 

I thanked God for His Grace and all the blessings I have had in life..I was living my dream..like so many others..

Once again, a Big Thank you to Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team for their Hospitality and Warmth over the weekend. True we didn't have a good weekend, but we keep our head down and keep pushing!

The Paddock Weekends will make a return soon..

Godspeed everyone!

The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Belgian GP - Day 2

Saturday on a Grand Prix weekend features the last Free Practice Session, FP3 and Qualifying for F1. Its shortly followed by the Feature Race in F2. This was a Saturday that we can never forget..

An early start to the day helped us beat some traffic to the track.

Enroute to the Circuit from Hasselt :


We were also in time for the Saturday Morning Pit Lane Walk.

Shots from the Pit Lane Walk :


The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage :


Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo being Fired up before FP3 ( Video Link ) :



A beautiful morning in the Paddock :


Healthy Breakfasts anyone?


It was then time for Free Practice 3 and I found a nice place to shoot some pictures of cars going up Raidillon :


I made my way back to Turn 1 ( La Source ) and met Porsche Carrera Cup Drivers on the way while going through the Support Race Paddock.

Dylan Pereira, Supercup Porsche Carrera Cup Racing Driver :


Some more shots of the cars coming out of La Source Hairpin :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP3 :


Charles Leclerc was fastest in FP3 from Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were P8 and P9 respectively.


A Quick Lunch in the Motorhome :


Timo Glock, Ex-F1 and DTM Racer :


The Motorhome, a busy place during Lunch :


Heikki Kulta of Finnish Press :


It was also time for the 2nd Pit Lane walk of the day. 

The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage!


I headed out to the La Source hairpin stand after the Pit Lane Walk to meet my friend and long time Kimi Supporter Zakria!


Qualifying got underway soon after. Shots from Q1 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during Q1 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in Q1 from Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Both the Alfas made it into Q2!


Shots from Q2 :

Antonio Giovinazzi's car suffered a mechanical failure in Q2 and couldn't set a time. He would eventually start the race in P18 after serving the penalties incurred for the parts change. Charles Leclerc was the fastest from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen made it into Q3.


Shots from Q3 :

Charles Leclerc took Pole from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen qualified a commendable P8 ( effective P6 after Ricciardo's and Hulkenberg's penalties ).

Ferrari were ecstatic after locking out the front row!

Post Qualifying celebrations :


Taking the Cars to Parc-Ferme :


I made it back to the paddock to unwind for a bit before heading home.

Mark Webber and David Coulthard, highly successful Racers in F1 and beyond :


Brett Arnall, Mark Arnall's brother and my friend Kimi Raikkonen fan Jane Bleach :


During the F2 Feature Race, a massive crash happened just after Raidillon. Young Drivers Anthoine Hubert and Juan Manuel Correa were involved in the incident. The Race was red-flagged and later cancelled. Both were rushed to the Medical Centre. 

Inspite of their best efforts, Anthoine Hubert didn't make it. We were shocked and shaken after hearing the news. True Motorsports is dangerous but a talent who was only 21 was taken away from us, in the cruelest way possible. Words fall short to describe the mood in the Paddock. Everyone rallied around the near and dear ones of this Renault Program young driver. It once again showed how closed knit the Racing Community. Juan is still under treatment and after a couple of critical surgeries is on a rough road to recovery. All of us shed tears, all of us were one...all of us..

As we head back to Hasselt, our hearts were heavy, our senses numb, we still didn't want to believe this to be true..but such is life..


This incident reminded us that racers sacrifice their all to live their dreams, to race, to enthrall, to entertain, to give us memories that will be etched in the hearts of us fans forever and yet, all it takes is a moment, one instance to end it all. This Sport unites us..as one big family..fans and racers alike..we race as one, we win as one....and in the times of mourning we mourn as one..There is an old saying "life goes on"..for Anthoine's Family, life would never be the same again..

May his soul rest in peace..


The legacy of Anthoine Hubert lives on..


The Sunday experience follows next.. 

The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Belgian GP - Day 1

The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix was a special Grand Prix. All the Grands Prix that I attended have been memorable but this year's Belgian GP was the beginning of a new experience - an experience of being a guest of the team in the Motorhome for the Entire Weekend. The weekend saw a beginning of a New Series on my Blog. 

The New Series is called "The Paddock Weekends". It was truly an amazing feeling to be the guest of the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 team for the entire weekend. I would get a Paddock Pass with my name on it, have access to their Motorhome, Garage and Podium Access post qualifying and the race. I would have to find a new spot to capture stills over the weekend ( no Paddock Club access ) which wasn't really an issue. Armed with my Sony RX 10 IV and Samsung Note 10+, I stepped out to live my childhood dream!

I stayed in Hasselt ( just like in 2017 ) and the drive to Spa Francorchamps was never more than an hour. Accompanying me were friends from UK Jane & Kaz!

This is the Friday Experience.


Enroute to the Circuit :

Some shots with the Samsung Note 10+ :


What an Elegant Race Pass!!


Friday Morning in the Paddock. Kimi Raikkonen walking in with the Alfa Romeo Team Manager Beat Zehnder :


The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Motorhome! The Chocolates served with Coffee were lovely. I was sharing the table with ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI! What an honour!


Sometime after settling in it was time for Free Practice 1 to begin. Kimi Raikkonen heading out with his trainer Mark Arnall :


I decided to get some shots of the Paddock while heading down to the Alfa Romeo Garage :


Waiting outside the Alfa Romeo Garage :


I got to the Garage and met a dear friend of Kimi!

Antii Pyrhonen, Team Manager for Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Team in Motocross & one of Kimi Raikkonen's closest friends :


A 40 minute stop in the garage and it was time to rush out and grab a spot to capture some stills.

Jos Verstappen, Max's father and ex-F1 Driver :


Shots from Free Practice 1 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP1 :


Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were the Fastest in FP1. Kimi Raikkonen & Antonio Giovinazzi were P13 and P15 respectively.


The Paddock in Belgium is a two - tier one. The upper tier is used for Debriefs and Engineers' meets while the Lower Tier houses the various motorhomes of the teams.


Kimi Raikkonen, in deep conversation with his Father-in-law Mr. Kimmo Virtanen! The Iceman..so close!!


Time to walk around for some more selfies!

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport F1 Racing Team :


Triple World Champion and F1 Legend, Sir Jackie Stewart!


Stoffel Vandoorne! Belgian Ex-F1 Racer now racing in Formula E :


Juan Pablo Montoya, another F1 legend!


Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi :


I decided to pay the F1 Village a visit and FP2 had already begun! It was nice to see the fans unwinding in front of the big screens in the Village.


Shots from FP2 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP2 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in FP2 from Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen was P7 while Antonio Giovinazzi P16.

I headed back to the Paddock after FP2.


The Famous Media Pen!


Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Reserve Driver and Indy Racer Marcus Ericsson :


Fredric Vasseur, Team Principal, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Toto Wolff, Team Principal, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


The day was winding down. A lot of the personnel left for their hotels. I was busy in conversation with the near and dear ones of Kimi Raikkonen when I was invited to share a seat at his table..THIS...


Mr. Kimmo Virtanen, Minttu Raikkonen's Father and Kimi Raikkonen's Father-in-law :


Beat Zehnder, Team Manager for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Christian Horner, Team Principal, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


Jehan Daruwala, Indian Racer in F3 racing with Prema Racing Team :


Ottmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, Racing Point F1 Team :


James Vowles, Chief Strategist, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


George Russell, Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :


Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Max Verstappen, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Alexander Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Kimi Raikkonen! Yes its Kimi Raikkonen!! The Weekend is made! He now races with Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Returning to our hotel in Hasselt :


It was an amazing Friday at Spa Francorchamps. The Alfa Romeo duo seemed quick and the weekend ahead promised to be a really positive one! 

I would like to thank Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team for the hospitality shown towards me over the weekend.

The Saturday experience follows next!