Column Ialdo Belo – Belgium GP preview

Tue, 18 August 2015, 12:05

After unusual results at the Hungarian GP, F1 will be back for action after Summer vacations Spa-Francorchamps.

The Belgium circuit is known as an opposite to the Hungarian race track and it’s time to see what’s really going on for teams and drivers.

Did Ferrari really have progressed and can challenge Mercedes for the title? Did Red Bull found its way? We’ll all know next Sunday afternoon if conditions on race are normal.

But, that’s the first question: how about the weather? Changeable. Spa-Francorchamps is located in the Ardennes Mountains, which have a notoriously fickle microclimate. The extreme climb through Eau Rouge with clouds of spray hanging between the trees of the Ardennes forest is one of the sport’s most memorable sights, but everybody knows how this could be difficult to drivers to find the right set-up for its cars. And if the weather brings showers during qualifying but a sunny day at race, everything changes.

Nevertheless, almost every team are promising a real update.

“The Belgian Grand Prix can be considered the opener of the second part of the season, in which the Sauber F1 team is looking forward to stronger performances thanks to a number of upgrades that will be progressively introduced. At Spa, both C34 will be fitted with more powerful Ferrari power units and track specific wings. The track is an all-round favorite and demands high-speed cornering performance and straight-line speed, hence aerodynamic efficiency and power output. Traction and braking, although, as usual, important, are second to stability and reactiveness, therefore rather specific set-ups are being worked out. As for the tyre compounds, medium and soft are expected to fit the event well.” This was said by Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering of Sauber F1.

Rob Smedley, from Williams, said almost the same: “Returning from the summer break we are all refreshed and absolutely raring to go; the team spirit and motivation at Williams is tangible as we look forward to challenging for podium positions in the second part of the year. Spa should be a circuit that suits the FW37 and we, therefore, have to capitalize on this. The long straights twinned with the long sweeping corners in sector 2 are definitely characteristics where we’ve seen this year’s car perform really well. The weather is an important factor in Spa and we, therefore, have to be ready for all circumstances. We have been doing a lot of homework in this area recently and the team has made excellent inroads. Belgium is such a fantastic Grand Prix for the teams and the fans alike. It encapsulates the purity of Formula One very well, which is simply about the best cars in the world racing around the best circuits, and we are lucky to visit here each year.”

But, I think the most optimistic one is Mr. Yasuhisa Arai, Honda motorsport chief. According to him, Honda now is far superior to Renault, at the same level of Ferrari and will challenge the Scuderia this year and Mercedes in 2016. Arai also blamed McLaren’s car by the poor results so far…

This is not what I saw till now, but, only time will tell.


Start time: 1400 (local)/1200 (GMT)

Race distance: 44 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance/33 laps)

2014 winner: Daniel Ricciardo

2014 pole position: Nico Rosberg: 2m05.591s 200.766km/h (wet)

2014 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg 1m50.511s 228.162km/h

Safety Car: likelihood

Chances of a Safety Car: high. There’s an 80% chance that the Safety Car will appear in Sunday’s race – that’s largely due to accidents at Spa occurring at high-speed.

Don’t put the kettle on the start, when new FIA rules mean there will be more input from the drivers; also on laps 13 and 28. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy and, changeable weather aside, the same looks likely in 2015.
The race•

First race: 1950

Circuit length: 7.004km/4.352 miles

Run to Turn One: 265 metres

Longest straight: 2.015km, from La Source to Turn 5, Les Combes

Top speed: 322km/h on the approach to Turn 5

DRS zones: two – on the approach to Turn 1 and, again, on the approach to Turn 5.

Key corner: Turn 10, an 180-degree double-apex left-hander. The entry is fast (294km/h) and blind, and the drivers need to be totally committed in order to be fast.

Pit lane length: 390 meters, which is quite long. The time loss isn’t that great because the cars staying on-track have to negotiate the La Source Hairpin

Major changes on track for 2015: none

Fuel consumption: 3.35kg per lap, which is high

Full throttle: 70%
Brake wear: low. There are only nine braking events around the lap.

Gear changes: 48 per lap/2112 per race

• with information from McLaren-Honda

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