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Paddock Postcard from Spa-Francorchamps 25 Aug 2013

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari at the Back In Time with Shell event.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 22 August 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 22 August 2013 Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jan McLaren (NZL) sister of McLaren founder Bruce McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber celebrates his 50th Grand Prix start with the Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Pat Symonds (GBR) Williams Technical Director in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Race 1 winner Sam Bird (GBR) Russian Time. GP2 Series, Rd8, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 22-25 August 2013. Julian Leal (VEN) Racing Engineering at the start of the race. GP2 Series, Rd8, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 22-25 August 2013. Podium (L to R): Second placed Julian Leal (VEN) Racing Engineering, race winner James Calado (GBR) ART Grand Prix and third placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GBR) Hilmer Motorsports celebrate with the trophies. GP2 Series, Rd8, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 22-2

Following the Formula One summer shutdown, there was a real back-to-school feeling this week as the teams arrived at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to the usual mix of wet/dry conditions for the 2013 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix.

Thursday saw Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa step back in time as they took a trip down memory lane at a 1950's-themed Shell event, featuring a classic Ferrari 250 GT Boano. Alonso and Massa looked quite the part, dressed up with flat caps, braces and with the obligatory goggles hanging around their necks.

Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen also caused quite a stir at Spa on Thursday - by not being there, as speculation continued about whether he will join Red Bull for 2014. Lotus cited illness as the reason for Raikkonen’s absence, but he had mercifully recovered sufficiently in time for first practice on Friday.

Hairstyles were another paddock talking point, as more than one driver returned from the summer break with a new style. Williams' Valtteri Bottas was sporting a grade-one close crop under his baseball cap, but most eye-catching had to be Sebastian Vettel's bleached blonde look at Red Bull.

At the driver autograph sessions, British fans had get-well messages on hand for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton's poorly bulldog Roscoe. Hamilton had tweeted before the weekend that his dog had pneumonia. Thankfully it didn’t distract the former champion sufficiently to prevent him storming to pole position on Saturday, with thrilled musician guest Professor Green watching on from the Mercedes garage. Afterwards Hamilton playfully copied Vettel’s famous one-finger celebration, having narrowly beaten the German to P1 on the grid.

McLaren are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and the 2013 Belgian round also marks 45 years since late founder Bruce McLaren’s maiden win for the team, and Bruce’s sister Jan was at Spa to join in the festivities. There were also celebrations at Sauber, where Nico Hulkenberg and colleagues tucked into a special cake for his 50th F1 race start. And at Williams, Pat Symonds donned his new team kit at his first race as their new chief technical officer.

Other famous faces in the Spa paddock included former McLaren, Ligier and Larrousse racer Philippe Alliot, now domiciled in Belgium, together with fellow F1 drivers Derek Warwick (the FIA drivers steward), Rubens Barrichello, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Stefan Johansson, Luciano Burti, Bas Leinders, Robert Doornbos, sportscar racers Andre Lotterer, Harald Huysman and Gerrit van Kouwen, McLaren upcomer Stoffel Vandoorne, former EFDA boss Dan Partel and Renault cars chief designer Laurens van den Acker.

On track, Briton Sam Bird flew to a convincing victory for Russian Time in Saturday’s GP2 feature race, ahead of DAMS’ Marcus Ericsson and Caterham’s Alexander Rossi. Bird beat fellow countryman James Calado (ART) into La Source as front-row man Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering) was slow away and Rossi, Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr (both Carlin) all slipped by Ericsson when the Swede ran wide.

The field was closed up quickly when MP Motorsport’s Daniel De Jong crashed at Eau Rouge: when the race resumed Nasr collided with team mate Palmer when a move at La Source went awry. Meanwhile points leader Stefano Coletti climbed into the points until a slow pit stop delayed him; he was later hit dramatically from behind by MP Motorsport’s Dani Clos.

Bird increased his lead with a good pit stop and was never troubled thereafter, leaving Rossi to hound Ericsson all the way to the flag in an intense battle. Seven seconds adrift, Leimer was a distant fourth with Tom Dillmann setting fastest lap for Russian Time on his way to fifth ahead of Racing Engineering’s Julian Leal. Ericsson’s team mate Stephane Richelmi held off a late challenge from Calado, who lost a lot of time with a slow pit stop but salvaged eighth place and pole position for Sunday’s sprint race. Hilmer duo Robin Frijns and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs picked up the last points of the race with ninth and tenth.

It continued to be a strong weekend for British drivers on Sunday, as Calado scored his first race win of the series by just 0.4 seconds. After starting on pole he took an early lead and with the use of a fresh set of prime tyres had an advantage by lap five and then held it for the remaining 13. Leal came home in second, Quaife-Hobbs third, followed by Richelmi, Leimer and Palmer finishing off the top six. The only retirement was Frijns.

The standings are now incredibly tight, with Coletti leading on 135 points, from Nasr on 129, Leimer 128 and Bird 121.

For more pictures, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.

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