Mercedes unfinished business at Spa
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says the Belgian Grand Prix represents “unfinished business” as they look for a first win at legendary Spa-Francorchamps in three years.
Despite dominating F1 in the hybrid era, Spa has been a bit of an anomaly with the seven times only winning half the races. They have won three times with Ferrari winning the last two races, Although the Italian team appear unlikely this time, Wolff is expecting the usual challenges and variables of the Belgian weekend to make the outcome far from a foregone conclusion.
Wolff told Sky Sports, “Our next race takes us to Spa where we haven’t won since 2017, so it feels like there’s unfinished business as we head to Belgium. It’s an iconic track and one of the fans’ favourites, but finding the right set-up can be difficult because of the variety of characteristics.”
“On the one hand you want as little drag as possible on the long straights, but on the other hand, you need a certain level of downforce to be quick through the corners.”
Mercedes recovered quickly from the tyre blistering problems at the Anniversary Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton taking a dominant victory I Barcelona a week later.
Speaking about the recovery, “Winning in Spain was a great reward for all the smart work in the days before and it makes me very proud to see how this team just keeps raising the bar.”
On what is shaping up to be a hugely emotional weekend on the first anniversary of the death of Anthoine Hubert. The Frenchman died after a high-speed accident in the F2 race on the Saturday of last year’s event.
Wolff said: “It was a dark day for the entire motorsport community and our thoughts will be with his family and friends as we remember him this weekend.”
Speaking about Mercedes signing the new five-year Concorde Agreement, Wolff said, “We have always said that we wanted to stay in F1, so the agreement wasn’t necessarily all that surprising, but we’re happy that we could bring the negotiations to a positive conclusion.”
Hamilton not planning a boycott
Lewis Hamilton says he has no plans to boycott this weekend Belgian Grand Prix after action from athletes in the United States in recent days following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Several black athletes in the US are boycotting sporting events following Blake an unarmed black man, was shot by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
This has sparked another wave of protests less than three months after police shot dead George Floyd, which has lead to a summer of protests against racism, racial injustice and the higher number of BAME deaths from Coronavirus.
Fixtures in the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer were postponed on Wednesday following boycotts, sparked by the Milwaukee Bucks’ basketball team refusing to leave their locker room.
Asked after praising Naomi Osaka decision to withdraw from a major tournament in New York set for Thursday, with Hamilton – F1’s only black driver – writing on Instagram that he was “so proud” of her decision.
Asked if he was considering withdrawing for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix in protest, Hamilton said he had no plans currently to do so, but stood unified with those taking action.
Hamilton said, “It’s incredible what many out there in the States are doing within their sports, all the way down to the people that are hosting, the commentators for example.”
“So many people are standing with the players, and really pushing for change. It’s a shame that’s what is needed over there in order to get a reaction. But that is in America, and I don’t know if really me doing anything here will particularly have any effect. We’re in Belgium, we’re not in the United States.”
Hamilton says he will continue working with Formula One to see what else can be done, raise awareness. The six-time champion has lead the drivers who have taken the knee at each race this season and has been supported by the GPDA.
GPDA director Sebastian Vettel echoed Hamilton’s thoughts that a boycott may not have such an impact outside of the United States, but that F1 remained committed in its anti-racism messaging through its action.
Vettel added, “The measures that have been taken in the US with some players boycotting or going on strike, not going out for the games and therefore the games having to be postponed, I think maybe they are more US-specific.”
Teams go for low downforce
Teams have brought lower downforce wings for the Belgian Grand Prix in an attempt to boost straight line performance and top speed. Spa is traditionally one of the low downforce circuits, as well as Monza, they both often require bespoke aero packages to maximise the straights.
Spa, however, has a few lower-speed sections, requiring a little more downforce than Monza throughout the lap. This means that aero packages for the circuit a trimmed-out version of the configurations seen at Silverstone.
Haas has pushed this to the extreme, pictures show the V-shaped cut-outs at the quarter and three-quarter points along the wing, but overall features a much shorter chord length to create a very slim element.
This is paired with the wing mainplane, which has been moved upwards to reduce the overall area of the wing, taking out a lot of the drag produced.
McLaren appears to have removed the lower ‘box’ of its rear wing with elements hanging from the edge of the rear wing, the bonus downforce that the flap generates.
Alfa Romeo has taken a similar route with its design, adding a spoon section to the centre of the wing which should create more downforce. Although the rest of the wing largely remains the same but should offset the turbulence produced by the DRS actuator housing.
But the leading edge is noticeably curved, sweeping up at the outboard ends to create a lower-downforce specification either side of the wing’s centre third.
Hurbert to be remembered a year on
Formula One and Formula Two will remember Anthoine Hubert during this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, a year on from the French driver’s death in an accident.
A minute’s silence will be held before the feature race and Grand Prix on Sunday. F2 has also confirmed that the number nineteen will be retired as a mark of respect. The number will be incorporated into a logo that all F1, F2 and F3 cars will run this weekend.
Hubert was a highly respected and rate driver a member of Renault’s academy programme. He was 2018 GP3 champion and had won two F2 races in Baku and his home Grand Prix in France, what was his first season in the championship directly below F1.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who won his maiden Grand Prix the day after Hubert’s accident, has said he is racing this weekend for the memory of his friend.
Leclerc, said earlier in the week, “The Spa-Francorchamps circuit has a special place in my heart. While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year,”
Pierre Gasly also added, “I had known him since I was seven years old in karting, we were in the same school together organised by the French motorsport federation, from when I was 13 to 19 and we shared an apartment for six years.”
Hurbert’s death was the first driver fatally during a Grand Prix weekend since Imola in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna both were killed.
Correa’s “important” return to Spa
Ahead of the first anniversary of the accident which killed Anthoine Hurbert, Juan Manwell Correa has taken part in an interview with fans.
The American suffered severe injuries to his lungs and right leg in the accident, spending two weeks in a coma before enduring multiple surgeries to fix his leg. He’s since been recovering at home in the United States but felt it was important for him to return to Spa this year.
In a public Q&A on Instagram, Correa said, “It’s one year since the crash happened. I felt there was a way for me to kind of close the chapter, but more importantly to pay my tribute to Anthoine. I haven’t been able to do so properly from Miami. It’s just been something I had pending.
“I just felt that coming out here this weekend, I got the invitation from F2, and I took it in a heartbeat. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to see all the people from the paddock again. But it’s also going to be a very emotional weekend for me.”
Asked by Formula One Vault, if it had changed his view on disability Correa replied “yes” explaining that he was. Planning to do something this year, but due to the pandemic that had been put on hold.
He said that he was hoping to return to racing next year, but still has a few surgeries left but the frame should be gone by the end of the year.
FIA warns about track limits
The FIA has tightened track limits at three corners for this weekends Belgian Grand Prix, with drivers now warned that they must not run wide at three corners.
While the kerb on the apex of Raidillon has long been a focus of the FIA, with drivers pushing the limits in cutting the corner to try to gain time, F1 has now also made clear it will not allow drivers to abuse track limits at two other places.
Another aera drivers need to watch id the downhill left-hander after Rivage and the exit of the Bus Stop chicane which leads onto the start-finish straight drivers have been warned that in practice or qualifying that they run wide and cut behind the painted kerbs then they will have their lap times deleted.
For the race, drivers will have three strikes in total rather than three strikes for each corner before they will be reported to the stewards.
In his race notes, FIA race director Michael Masi, said, “On the third occasion of a driver cutting behind the kerb at Turn 4, Turn 9 – exit and Turn 19- exit during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards. For the avoidance of doubt, this means a total of three occasions combined not three at each corner.”
The FIA will not count any incident where a driver runs wide if he has been judged to have been forced off the track by another car.
The change in stance on track limits around the track comes with the FIA has confirmed that all artificial grass around the track has been removed for this year.
Also, the barrier at Raidillon has been modified following the death of Anthoine Hubert in last years F2 race. A second kerb on the inside of Eau Rouge.
The length of the pit wall on the support race pits has also been extended, while the four-row tyre barrier at the exit of Raidillon has been extended in the wake of the accident last year.
Zandvoort open to later race in 2021
Organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix say they are open to moving the race to a later slot so fans can attend the race. Zandvoort was due to return to the calendar this season after a thirty-five-year absence but was cancelled because of Coronavirus.
On Wednesday a delayed awarding of its Grade 1 licence, which Dutch Grand Prix sporting director Jan Lammers called a “milestone”, took place. Speaking to Motorsport.com, “The last Grand Prix was held in 1985 and now we have a certified track again. We can be very proud of our facilities.”
“This is a beautiful track with legendary character, which is still same. And we added some nice and surprising effects with the banked corners. We couldn’t wish for anything better.”
At the event, the circuit also announced a new title partner for the track, which will formally be known as CM.com Circuit Zandvoort.
Although many events have taken place this year behind closed doors, Lammers says if that had to be the case in the early part of 2021 he would be open to postponing the race until later in the year if it meant fans were allowed to attend.
He explained that the circuit doesn’t get public funding and wants to create a festival event over the three days. Lammers says it would not be possible without fans.
The Weekend Ahead
Mercedes are likely to be the favourites again this year, they have largely been dominant here in the hybrid era although in recent years they have been beaten by Ferrari. In the first six races Mercedes have appeared to be unbeaten, this circuit is again one which is more a Lewis Hamilton circuit.
Spa is traditionally the beginning of the final ten races, but we are still not halfway through this season. Normally round seven is Baku, which could make this weekend crazy. It’s a circuit where you can overtake but punishes those who make mistakes.
Red Bull you have to say will be fired up, this is Max Verstappen’s ‘home’ Grand Prix he was born in Belgium, he has been quick and beaten Mercedes this season. But I think for Verstappen unless something dramatic happens to Mercedes, he will likely be behind.
This weekend the forecast is for the first wet race of the season, but we know that the size of the circuit that there can be a huge variables in conditions. Strategy and being on the right tyres is going to be an important factor throughout the weekend.
This is going to be, as mentioned above, a hugely emotional weekend a year on from Anthoine Hubert’s death. A lot of thoughts will be on that.
You can join us for LIVE coverage of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix via Twitter @FormulaOneVault starting with FP1 Friday from 10:45 CEST / 09:45 BST, Qualifying 14:45/13:45 and forward race coverage 14:40/13:40 lights out 15:10 / 14:10