One year on and Spa is a different place. Very different. Twelve months ago, when you arrived on Friday morning, it was best to avoid visiting the Ferrari and McLaren compounds. Do either and you were being seen to take sides.
It was the morning after the FIA delivered their verdict in a Paris courtroom. Remember that one? A fine of 100 million dollars and all of McLaren’s constructors points removed.
Talk about a poisoned atmosphere. McLaren were wounded in every sense and
Ferrari felt the verdict was not severe enough. Best place to go for breakfast was somewhere like Spyker or Toro Rosso in order to avoid causing offence.
I posted a blog on this website expressing surprise about the outcome and came under verbal assault from a Ferrari representative a couple of hours later. At least he had been reading a decent web site.
Lewis Hamilton was caught in the middle. All he wanted to do was get stuck into Spa rather than, as the media hoped, Ferrari and the FIA. Hamilton had been to the court to offer support and he came away giving the bemused impression of a kid who had been forced to go to the police station for riding his bike without lights. All he wanted to do was get on with his job and have fun and this, clearly, was not fun.
This morning he was all smiles as he strode through the paddock. The air high in the Ardennes is misty and cool but free of the suspicion and hatred that pervaded the atmosphere 12 months ago. Hamilton clearly loves this place. It’s a proper race track which, as Fernando Alonso says, gives the impression that you are actually going somewhere. And going very quickly.
At 4.35 miles, Spa is the longest track on the F1 calendar. It is also the best by a million miles. After the acrimony of last year and the constrictions of the Hungaroring and the limitations of Valencia a couple
of weeks ago, the inescapable feeling is one of getting on with what we’re here for. Let proper battle commence.