Prixview – Belgian Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round thirteen of the season sees Formula One head to the classic circuit at Spa – Francorchamps. The circuit is the longest of the season as the 4.3 miles runs through the Ardennes forest, an area in the south of the country. The backdrop is stunning but also can cause problems with local unpredictable weather patterns as the circuit sits in a basin of two rivers.

The circuit itself provides its own challenges to drivers, eighty-three years since the first Grand Prix Spa provides high-speed straights and corners. Meaning that the drivers need to be on the ball all the time, and the length can provide problems as it can rain at one end of the circuit and be dry at the other end.

Drivers have got it wrong, that can be hugely costly all of the top drivers have crashed out here. The most famous incident was twenty years ago this month, at the start of the race, David Coulthard lost control of his car in wet conditions causing a thirteen car pile-up into Eau Rouge causing a red flag.

Eau Rouge is by far the most well-known corner, Red Water in English, is named that because of the red water running from the nearby river. The corner itself

The original circuit was public roads between the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy, and Stavelot. This remained in public hands until 2000, when many of the roads were open to the public, however, a bypass was built nearby meaning Spa could become a full-time race circuit.

Later in that 1998 race, Coulthard in the awful spray crashed into the back of Micheal Schumacher, leading to them both retiring and a punch-up in the pits. This gave Michael brother Ralf a battle with teammate Damon Hill, however, Jordan intervened and used team orders to give Hill the win.

Spa has always been “the drivers favourite,” a phrase first used by Sir Stirling Moss in the 1960’s. Drivers like the challenge against not only each other but Spa, the weather and the car. It’s a challenging circuit physically and mentally, anything can happen at Spa.

Spa should favour the power of Mercedes, however, Ferrari will be looking to close the gap further. Kimi Raikkonen is the most successful driver of the current drivers, with Lewis Hamilton having three wins, another win for Hamilton will put Hamilton equal with Raikkonen. Ferrari has sixteen wins and Mercedes have six wins.

This year’s race once again comes off the back of the summer break, many if not all of the teams will bring a C spec car as August marks a chance for major upgrades. Watch out for Force India, traditionally the Silverstone based team has gone well at Spa. The teams only pole position came from Giancarlo Fisichella in 2009, he also scored the teams best result with second place.

Facts and figures

Race 2018 Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix
Venue Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium
Circuit Length 7.004km (4.352mi)
Laps 44
Race Distance 308.052km (191.410 mi)
Lap Record 01:47.263 Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2009
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (16)

Fast facts

  • The town of Spa is where the word ‘spa’ comes from. People as far back as ancient Roman times used to come to the town to bathe in the famed cold springs for health and healing purposes.
  • Belgium produces 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year. This amounts to 22 kg of chocolate per inhabitant annually. That is 61 grammes per day on average.
  • Belgians speak both Dutch and French, English should be the easiest language to learn for speakers of either language and even more so for those who already master the two national tongues.
  • Despite racing under a Dutch licence Max Verstappen was actually born ninety miles away in Hasselt. He races under a Dutch licence because “he feels more Dutch.” While Stoffel Vandoorne was born further away in Koereijk.
  • The fearsome Eau Rouge/Raidillon corner, arguably the most famous on the current F1 calendar, features an elevation change of 35 meters from its lowest to the highest point.

Event timetable

Session Local BST
Friday
P1 11:00-12:30 10:00-11:30
P2 15:00-16:30 14:00-15:30
Saturday
P3 12:00-13:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying  15:00-16:00 14:00-15:00
Sunday
Race 15:10 14:10

What happened in 2017?

The race was a very close fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the two world champions remained close throughout the race after both starting on the front row. Both drivers described the battle between them as fun, as they both tried to use different strategies to try and to get the jump on one another.

There was yet more drama between the two Force India’s as Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon had two collisions. The second contact after La Source proved very costly, the Frenchman get the run on Perez on the run out of La Source, the Mexican responded by closing him down and squeezed him into the wall. Contact followed, as Ocon front wing being damaged and Perez suffering a puncture.

What to watch for?

Spa is one of the more challenging circuits of the season, the race places huge pressure on the cars and drivers. Spa rewards drivers who attack, but punishes those who push too much. Mercedes are naturally the favourites, the car works well at high speed, low downforce circuits.

This weekend is also about upgrades, many teams would have brought changes for this race. Mercedes and Ferrari will be where most of the eyes are, we know after Monza that bringing upgrades will be more difficult as we enter the flyaway races. It also about building momentum going into the Asian and Americas leg, this is where we see titles won and lost.

Force India and their previous names have always performed very well here. They will be hoping that the turbulence of the last month is over by outperforming themselves once again.

2016 vs 2017 Race Data

  P1 Fastest P2 Fastest P3 Fastest Q1 Fastest Q2 Fastest Q3 Fastest Race Time Fastest Lap
2017 01:45.502 01:44.753 01:43.916 01:44.184 01:42.927 01:42.553 01:24.42.820 01:46.577
Diff -3.246 -3.350 -4.058 -3.835 -4.072 -4.191 -20:11.838 -5.006
2016 01:48.348 01:48.085 01:47.974 01:48.019 01:46.999 01:46.744 01:44:51.058 01:51.583

Data Profile

A lap of Spa

Lewis Hamilton goes around the Bus Stop Chicane goes to the inside of the track to begin his lap and as he heads towards La Source, he crosses the track to go to the outside. He breaks at 100m board before turning in and runs to the outside and along the kerb. Then pulls across toward the support pit wall, heading to the outside hitting the kerb on entry to Eau Rouge. Goes across to the inside before flicking back to the outside on exit. Stays there for Turn Four, before going to the outside along the Kemmel Straight.

Breaks around 75m before the first part of Les Combes hits the apex before running through Eight and around the inside of Nine. Down the hill and along the kerb stays on the outside, around the apex of Brussels and back to the outside. Switches briefly to the outside before going round the apex of Eleven. Goes to the inside on exit, builds speed through Pouhon. Runs to Thirteen, which he takes around the apex before crossing to the outside for Campus. Runs to the inside, along the kerb switches back to outside, goes outside on exit.

Tyres

Driver

Team     Supersofts Softs Medium

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 6 4

3

V. Bottas

6

4

3

S. Vettel

Ferrari 7 4 2

K. Raikkonen

7

5

1

D. Ricciardo

Red Bull – Tag Heuer

8

4

1

M. Verstappen

7

5

2

S. Perez

Force India – Mercedes

8

3

2

E. Ocon

8

3

2

S. Sirotkin

Williams – Mercedes

9

2

2

L. Stroll

9

3

1

F. Alonso

McLaren – Renault

4

5

4

S. Vandoorne

4

5

4

P. Gasly

Toro Rosso –Honda

8

4

1

B. Hartley

8

3

2

R. Grosjean

Haas – Ferrari

8

4

1

K. Magnussen

8

3

2

N. Hulkenberg

Renault

8

4

1

C. Sainz

8

3 2

M. Ericsson

Sauber – Alfa Romeo

8

4

1

C. Leclerc

8 3

2

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Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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