If you missed Part 1 from Saturday at Spa, do check it out here!
With the racing done for the day we returned to the cabins for a rest, a shower and a drink. We couldn’t really agree what to do with ourselves and we were all absolutely shattered from two days of walking the hills of the racetrack, braced against the rain.
At first we elected to be boring and stay to enjoy the hospitality of the site, nothing wrong with that as they were all very friendly and welcoming. They’d laid on food and drink although it wasn’t quite what we’d had in mind, lots of big meatballs and frites were involved and the local generic lager. Rude not to enjoy some of both. Not the high cuisine of Europe some of our group may have expected.
The food filled a hole. The beer was a bit underwhelming though as it tasted like Carling or Fosters (boring, can get that at home) yet we were in this place of beer experimentation. A few of us were getting itchy feet, particularly Bassano, Gavin and myself. We hadn’t properly explored the town of Spa itself yet, and we wanted a drinking session. Two of us would be driving Monday so Sunday night couldn’t be heavy on drink, that meant it had to be this night. Sadly some of the others didn’t want to go anywhere.
The fact I struggle to remember details suggests we were successful.
It was decided. A group of about six of us would head to Spa to explore, though some said they may only stay for a couple of drinks because they wanted to see town but not get rat-arsed. Not a problem, the important part was to get out and see the place. Those who chose to stay back were lambasted as was only right and proper!
We asked our mate ‘Bueb’ how we could get to Spa town. First he suggested a taxi. Then he offered to give us a lift and show us around, but only us, tap-end-of-nose, shh. So there we were in his old minibus on the back roads around Spa being shown the sights, in the dark of a September evening, after a couple of beers. One of the hotels where the drivers and teams stay. A cemetary (seriously!). The mineral water bottling plant. It was fascinating stuff as you can see. It was more entertaining watching the reactions of the ‘wide-boy’ Essex lads we picked up on the road from the campsite, as we meandered down these obscure lanes!
We got dropped in the centre of town and went to the nearest pub where we were presented with a beer menu. This was more like it! Proper Belgian beer!
Photos (courtesy of Bassano):
Beer menu and Belgian beers!
Very strong in both taste and alcohol content. You don’t need many of these to get sloshed. We had 2 or 3 of these alongside some great conversation which probably ranged from racing to things going on at home (I really can’t remember). We tried a bit to get into the Sidepodcast comments (since we’d all met on that site) but the mobile connections weren’t very good and people didn’t seem to want to play along by picking a drink from the menu, so we gave up on that plan.
One of the beers was green. It was a mint beer. It tasted like mouthwash but it was far nicer than the cola-flavoured beer I’d picked in that round, I didn’t like that at all.
After 2 or 3 drinks in this bar it was time to have a wander around the square and visit another establishment. As we were walking it struck us that some teams were staying in town, and we should find out if some of them were drinking nearby. Just minutes later we happened upon some guys hanging around outside a hotel lobby waiting for something/someone. A bunch of guys in their 20s and 30s, all in white shirts, on a GP weekend.. Since a couple of our group had to go inside to book a taxi for some of our number, we struck up a conversation with them to pass the time. Turns out, they were all Toro Rosso mechanics!
They were all confident of a good weekend and we wished them luck, great guys in high spirits after Alguersuari qualified 11th, they were hopeful of points the next day but sadly were only rewarded with 12th and 13th. We did get an interesting bit of information from them… they pointed across the road at a hotel where some teams were staying. Result! We hit a blank with the taxi so we decided to go over there to book it.
As we got to the door we passed a sexy-looking car. Someone opined that they’d seen it earlier in the day near the paddock entrance – they were convinced it belonged to Adrian Sutil. This must be a place where teams stay. Sure enough, we got in the door and there were about 30-35 folk sitting in the hotel bar all wearing team gear for Mercedes and Ferrari.
One of them was Fernando Alonso.
We’d also clocked Robert Kubica hanging around the lifts talking to a few Renault team members, he left soon after.
Play it cool. Just play it cool. Deep breath. Stand up straight. Walk coolly over to a table. Waitress comes over, yes we’ll have 3 beers please. I didn’t actually see him because you can’t exactly gawp at the man when you walk in, and had ended up seating facing the other way. I had to be casually told, oh by the way he’s at the very next table. I’ve got Fernando Alonso at the next table seated directly behind me.
The 3 of us behaved just like we belonged there, as a few guys just popping in for a drink we did belong there just like any other customer. That’s the way to be, no fawning or clawing for attention. Nothing to get thrown out. Just be calm, be normal, have a drink on the table next to a World Champion. Just like it happens every day. I’m sure we were all shaking a bit but we didn’t show it.. much.
There was a disappointing moment when a boy of about 10 plucked up the courage to ask for an autograph and Alonso said no. I understand the guy was off-duty, relaxing the evening before a big race and the last thing he wanted was people coming to him, but if a boy of 10 wants an autograph and there’s no-one else around but team personnel and a few guys keeping out of the way, where’s the harm? Just sign the autograph, make the boy’s day.
It was almost all team personnel, not all in team gear but surely afflilated, or sponsors, or guests, or maybe journalists. It felt like we were the only non-F1 people there and it felt like their eyes were on us as if they knew it too, but nobody said anything.
A few of our group decided not to join us, too much pressure perhaps, too close for comfort. Understandable but disappointing. They got their taxi back to the cabin. That left the three of us: myself, Bassano and Gavin. We had some good conversation too, really good to get to know the guys properly, especially Gavin since I’ve chatted to him online for over a decade and this weekend was our first meeting!
At one stage a couple of Ferrari guys went to the bar, which was next to us. Gavin decided to say hi, they said they were Alonso’s engineers and we wished them luck. We got ourselves another beer and carried on talking amongst ourselves for a while. Eventually Alonso and his people got up to leave, he looked over at us and we all wished him luck for the race!
Wow. Just amazing. On that note it was time to return (we may have had another beer first).
Of course twenty or thirty minutes later when we reached the campsite we weren’t quite ready to call it a night, and we happened to hear music and see lights coming through an open door next to the (closed) site bar. Surely it was calling us. It had to be. We went inside and up the stairs to find a bar, dancefloor and some incredibly bad music. By now were were pretty smashed so although we knew it was bad music, it wasn’t bad. Yknow what I mean? You could hear and appreciate the underlying melody. We all knew this was a sign we were hammered because it was blatantly terrible music yet a few heads started bobbing..
More beers were ordered, just the usual lager but that was fine. May have had something else but I really can’t remember. I don’t know how long we were there, it felt like ten minutes but it may have been two or three hours. Not a clue, though how else could you explain Alonso leaving the bar at midnight or so, and us emerging from the club at 3.30am…
We had to be up at 9am to get to the track. That was going to be fun.