Aug 25

Race Day at the Belgian GP with Shell Motorsports

Belgian GP Race Day

Our final day at the track! Surprisingly the trip in on the morning was pretty much the same as on the previous days. We hit traffic at the same place and got to the track around 10 again. Before we left, our instructions for the end of the day were made plain – bags to be labelled with where they were going (airport or train), and everyone to leave as soon as the race finished! It was a long trip back to our departure points.

All clear on that, I made my way to the grandstand for the GP2 race, and got to see Alexander Rossi claim his first win of the season. Rossi is a driver I’d seen speak a few times, as when he was with Caterham, he’d turn up at quite a few fan events; it was great to see him on the podium.

Belgian GP Race Day

Back into the Shell suite and time to get into place for the Kimi chat. The room was full; the suite and the GP is used as a B2E/B2B event and they were in full swing in awarding prizes for great work across their forecourts in Europe. But as the time for the appearance got closer, the room moved from comfortably sat in seats to ‘how close can i get to the stage’ mode. There were lots of phones in the air recording Raikkonen’s brief interview; it was unfortunate that after stopping in Q2 and a gearbox penalty means he was going to start from 16th; he was not in the most chatty of moods before the crowd but even so, lots of pictures and videos were taken.

Belgian GP Race Day

Now time for waiting, we had 2 hours before the race start. Which meant lunch and a chance to take a look at the vintage cars that we lined up next to our venue all ready for the drivers parade.

Belgian GP Race Day

The grandstands were full for the race, well, almost. Some people had decided to stay indoors and watch on the big screen in comfortable sofas (and bar and food close by). But Sofia and I want to watch the cars so up we went for the 43 laps. The crowd in the grandstand were definitely partisan for Ferrari, being mainly (all?) Shell employees and guests, and were cheering all the moves being made. Or groaning when Vettel’s tyre went on the last but one lap. I think Grosjean would still have taken the place, but it was not a good way for that to happen.

Belgian GP Race Day

The chequered flag flew, Hamilton won and then we were out of there. Straight off the grandstand and outside the gates before the champagne was spraying. Onto our minibus to take 8 of the group onto Brussels train station. Well, that was the plan, it appears the police and road closures had other ideas, sending us south for 45 mins before letting us get on the motorway, where we promptly turned north, 15mins later going back past the track with a view across to the pitstraight grandstands. At that point, the phone said 2 hours to go; we would have made it but there was traffic and traffic and even more traffic. the minutes skipped by (every single one of them accompanied by a high pitched beep beep beep as there was an alarm they could not turn off) and our ETA was getting further and further away. One last burst of traffic and that was it, no chance of making the train now. Our friendly hosts had actually made it to the station before us – they were not subject to the bus detour – so we’d been in touch and they were busy re-arranging the arrangements. By the time got there (7:59, 7 mins after train departure, we were SO close), tickets were being sorted for the following morning and hotel almost re-organised – we were lucky enough to get the last set of rooms in the station hotel. Time for one last meal together before the early starts the next day. From hotel to work took me 2.5 hours – some of my colleagues have longer commutes than that!

In summary, a wonderful weekend. The team from Shell (and their agency) made sure we had a great time, ensured we had a few different experiences and made sure we learnt about Shell V-Power and the science that goes behind it with some conversations with some fascinating people who make the products. All of this at a classic F1 venue with plenty of time to watch the cars. Thank you very much!

(and below..the video from the event)

Posted in f1
Aug 22

Saturday at the Belgian GP with Shell Motorsports

It’s supposed to rain at Spa. A day at the track without full waterproofs in the bag is pushing your luck, you’re bound to get wet. Except, it seems, in 2015. So far, sun. And even more sun. It is very, very warm, so much so that I left the coat and brolly behind today and had no issues. The covered grandstand today was for shade rather than dryness.

Belgian GP Day 2

It’s hard to gather together 25 people, so we set off on the Saturday morning a wee bit later than advertised and hit the expected traffic. But overall, only about 1:15 in travel – I wonder what the race day traffic will be like? On arrival, I dashed out to go and meet Mike at Status Grand Prix for a chat and a quick look at the garage. The GP3 qualifying was taking place at the time, so also got to see the cars coming down the pitlane…if only any of my photos had worked!!! It was good to catch up and chat about the various financial challenges of F1 vs the Gp2/GP3 scene; I’d previously met Mike when he worked for Virgin/Marussia so he knows the issues there.

Belgian GP Day 2

Next up, back to the Shell suite where the Shell Motorsports team had arranged for James Allen to come and chat with the group. This time, I managed to make the chat instead of missing it to watch cars. The questions and answers ranged from Pirelli tyres to Honda engines to FOM social media. It also took in whether or not the sport was ‘good’ now vs in the past (or do all fans look to the past with rose-tinted spectacles, no appreciating what we have now) and with James assessment of the best and worst drivers on the current grid (Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel for the former, with Verstappen getting an honourable mention).

Belgian GP Day 2

Time now for FP3, a last chance to assess the cars before qualifying. Lunch was followed by the chance to take part in a pitstop challenge, the first one of these I’ve done. I was on the gun and it took a few goes before I worked out how to take the gun off and not leave the wheel nut on the wheel! But the team got it together and we managed a respectable 2.8 seconds on one of our attempts.

Belgian GP Day 2

We also got the chance for another chat with a fuel scientist, in their public facing lab (which was actually the one they use for Le Mans) and went into more depth about the oils they use.

Belgian GP Day 2

Time now for qualifying, which went, in the main as expected. Although Ferrari did not have a good day, with Raikkonen stopping on track and Vettel only managing ninth. We’ll see how they do in the race. Thankfully. for my fantasy league results, HAM got pole. All I need now is for VET to make up 7 places!

Belgian GP Day 2

Back to Shell suite for a meet up with István Kapitány, the EVP retail for Shell (ie the man who had to say yes to spend all the money on the competition/promotion I won). A nice guy all round who seemed very happy to see some very happy competition winners!

Final car event of the day was the GP2 race; due to the red flag we had to leave before it was finished however. I think that is the one big difference between doing this myself (when I’d be early and late to watch all the sessions) and being part of a party that has time deadlines. Twitter then becomes the friend to watch via text commentary :-)

Belgian GP Day 2

The journey back to the hotel was via another detour, but we made it in time for our lovely meal out. The Shell team have been brilliant at making sure we are fed, watered and entertained! Tomorrow, race day. It looks like HAM, ROS at least for the Podium, not sure who else will make it though, Spa is a great track to bring the surprises. The first of which is the lack of rain forecast!

(the following picture was taken on the way back to the hotel after the meal. I have NO IDEA what they’re trying to say in this ‘art’}

Belgian GP Day 2

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Aug 22

A trip to the Belgian GP, day 1

In the previous post, you’ll have read that I managed to win a lovely VIP trip to the Belgian GP, through a competition organised by Shell Motorsports. Finally, after a few email exchanges, that the day arrived and we were off to SPA.

Sofia and I were travelling by Eurostar, as were a number of others, both competition winners and journalists/bloggers. From Brussels train station, 7 of us piled into a cab for the hour’s trip to Maastricht, for our hotel. This in itself was about an hour from Spa – as the track is in the middle of the Ardennes forest, there is not exactly a lot of accommodation around and many people camp, or do a long trip to the track everyday.

Belgian GP

Once at the hotel, checked in, we got the all important timetable – and tickets! The precious tickets, 3 days grandstand and access to the Shell Hospitality Suite at the bottom of Eau Rouge. But before we would do any of that, our first treat of the weekend, dinner with the Ferrari reserve driver, Estaban Gutierrez. There was no time in his schedule to get all the way out to us, so we were bundled into a coach and heading to Spa, to a small place called Roannay just by the track. It is apparently the place where Bernie Ecclestone stays, which is why it must be one of the very few rural hotels with a helipad out the back.

Belgian GP

Our guest arrived, only a little late, and the photocall was done. Then dinner, and Estaban joined a couple of the tables for a chat, along with some of the Shell fuel experts to chat about how they develop the fuel for the teams.

Belgian GP

As with all aspects of a Formula 1 team, the development of fuels is a continuous battle, always looking for ways to eek out more power and more efficiency. This year alone, they have managed to find an extra 5HP through development. I asked our Shell expert if the fuel and the engine were co-developed, if they had ever suggested an engine tweek because of a fuel improvement. The answer, surprisingly was yes, it can happen that way and when it does, all improvements are considered. As expected, we also spent quite a bit of time chatting about Shell V-Power and how the race team fuel development has inputted into the road car fuel. Another interesting fact about that is that V-Power is now often used for racing cars themselves (club racing etc) as it works as well as the specialist fuel but is a lot cheaper! The dinner over, we headed back, one last drink taken in the lovely warm evening in the square.

Friday dawned bright and sunny. Yes, sunny,, hot, completely weird weather for Spa which is traditionally a bit wet. Back on the coach and we were finally headed to the circuit. Quite a few people in the group had never been to Spa (in fact for some, this was their first race) and it was great to see their reaction when they turned the corner to see Eau Rouge for the first time. Our home for the weekend was the Shell Hospitality Suite which is at the bottom of the Eau Rouge hill. Just up from it is our grandstand – which provides us with a glorious view!

Belgian GP

Before I got the chance to sit there for a while. we were first up for a whistlestop paddock visit to take a look at the Shell touring laboratory. We learnt about the fuel checking, taking samples every single time it moves containers and continuously checking them for consistency. Anything out of the ordinary, something as simple as contamination from a glove, can mean that the fuel no longer matches the reference sample and is therefor ‘illegal’. On the Helix oil side, checks are run that allow early signs of engine trouble to be detected. Anything strange in those samples can mean that a bit of the engine may be starting to break down – and the oil analysis can pick things up before anyone else.

Belgian GP

We also got to see Maldonaldo back in the paddock after his FP1 crash! Unfortunately, no garage tour though. :-(

Belgian GP

Belgian GP

The rest of my day was mainly spent watching cars. Which means I missed the visit from David Croft from Sky who came down to chat with the group – I was watching GP2. I did get to listen to Marc Gene at the end of the day though, when the group was invited to ask him questions about his career, the cars and how Shell helps them. He’s the one that mentioned the improvement that can be seen this year in the fuel and how it does get noticed in the car; he also chatted about how the whole system is getting more efficient, with fuell use now down to about 2.5 litres a lap (average over tracks) whereas before the recent changes, it was about 3ltrs.

Belgian GP

First day done…back to hotel for dinner and chat. Two more days to go.

Posted in f1
Aug 09

The Hunt by Shell Motorsport

Shell The Hunt London

It was a lovely day in London yesterday. It was made even better by Shell who ran an event – follow the clues, find the Ferrari, answer a question and see if you’re quick enough to get there first and win a trip to the Belgian GP. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that I was fast enough and I did win :-)

Shell are a long term sponsor of motorsport, with their partnership with Ferrari being one of the more longstanding ones in Formula 1. They also sponsor the Belgian GP, so they tend to do a lot of hospitality at the race, I heard the number of 800 people who would be guests over the weekend. And 1 of them will be me this year, along with the other winner of the day, our friends plus the winners of the other events.

The competition started off with having to register for the event, they then invited 70 people to the actual hunt, starting off on the Southbank. A surprising number of people did not turn up for this – i reckon there was only about 30, so the odds improved immediately. This is always an issue when running promotions like this, getting the people to actually enter and take part – but if you don#t take part, then you have no chance. As i looked around at the people gathered, I was trying to assess my chances. At this point, we had no idea what the form of the treasure hunt would take. Would we need to jum on and off tubes? How hard would the questions be? Just what were the rules going to be. I was expected to have to do some running – I came prepped with trainers – but not sure how much. There were definitely some speedy looking people standing around, I was not expecting to be able to win a footrace.

The briefing went through the rules. We were going to get the clues via DM, we had to make our way to each of the checkpoints, take a selfie, with the info, and tweet them, in the right order. At the end, we’d find a Ferrari California T and if we answered a question right, the prize was a VIP trip to the Belgian GP. The prize was only for the first 2 people to make it though, both to win a pair of tickets. It was clear that we could take whatever form of transport we wanted to get to all the locations.

Shell Motorsport The Hunt London

The clues were delivered, the countdown happened and we were off!!! I went off at a steady jog, first stop the Imax. quite a few in front in me but as I got close, for some reason quite a few seemed to be going the wrong way, I stuck to my plan and got the first image. Next stop, Somerset House. Up to Waterloo Bridge, taking the decision to run instead of catch bus or cab at this point. Found the next checkpoint on the Strand, repeat the selfie taking and then switch transport mode.

Shell The Hunt London

Living in London and knowing this particular area well, I knew it was a bit of distance to the next 2 checkpoints, time to take a cab! Not quite sure what the cab driver made of me out of breath..but he got to the Millennium Bridge as fast as he could for check point 3. Then another cab, luckily there was one right there. As I got next to the City Hall, I saw two people running ahead of me, so I jumped out the cab and dashed after them!. I had no idea if I was any where near the front but I kept going to see the Ferrari finally set out on the grass, with people waving checquered flags and the car surrounded by security.

Shell The Hunt London

A quick check that I’d done all the tweets then time to try and answer the final question. We’d been told to read all the checkpoints trivia, but the answer turned out not to be there, but right in front of me! It took my 3 tweets to actually get the right answer and all the time I was waiting for them to call another name to go with Jon, who was there first and had already got his prize. But yes, mine was the name they called out next and I HAD WON!!! WOOT!!!

Shell The Hunt London

I had so much adrenaline that I was still shaking 15mins later. We had to do a number of retakes but the film, as us winners had beaten the camera team to the final checkpoint, so we did a few more run ins and car openings. Then it was off to the pub where the Shell team had got food ad drink awaiting – plus everyone got fuel vouchers as well.

The was a final little bonus – a ride in the Ferrari. First time in a Ferrari – and it’s not often i get to sit in a car that cost more than my flat did!

Ferrari across Tower Bridge

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