Belgium Grand Prix Preview: All you need to know about the Spa-Francorchamps Track
After the summer break the Formula One bandwagon returns, and first up is the Belgium Grand Prix and the Spa-Francorchamps circuit this weekend.
The Spa-Francorchamps Track
44 Laps of the 7.004km circuit (the longest on the calendar)
The track itself is an evolution of the high speed high danger track it used to be. The weather can be very unpredictable and the track can also have wet and slippery parts and dry parts at the same time, making tire choices in mixed conditions very difficult.
The start finish straight is very short usually leading to a tight bunch up at the start of the race, expect to see some carbon fibre fly if anyone is clumsy with their front wing. The first corner is La Source, a tight hairpin and the exit from this is much more important than the entry, leading on to the second short straight into Eau Rouge. The Eau Rouge - Radillion complex is one of the most iconic in formula 1 and letting the cur run through here whilst keeping tight to your lines is key to a good lap, leading on to the Kemmel straight and the second DRS zone.
Coming into Les Combes picking your breaking point is crucial and keeping the car neat and tidy through the twisty chicane and accelerating our of Malmedy is something Nico Rosberg did really well in a wet qualifying in 2014. Sector two is all about low speed downforce and good drive as drivers negotiate Rivage. Leaning on the cars aero capabilities is what the rest of the second sector is all about, with the almost double-apex turns 10 and 11 followed quickly by the quick right left of turns 12 and 13.
Accelerating out of the Curve Paul Frere the track starts to open up again with the kink marked as turn 16 barely noticed and Blanchimont taken near flat or with a slight lift if the car is heavy with fuel or it’s a bit wet. Pushing the breaking point on the last chicane is the final chance to make up a bit of time before accelerating back onto the start finish straight and staying right for the closest run to the line. Expect the last chicane to have some traffic backing up during qualifying, as drivers look to have some space for their qualifying run.
The Drivers and Teams
After the summer break there are always questions to be asked of the top teams' development and how much they have moved forward.
Big changes are expected from Mclaren but realistically it is a herculean task to bring their car up to speed, and all their issues can’t be engine related.
Mercedes will continue to be the team to beat but even last year, when their dominance was more pronounced Nico and Lewis tripped over themselves and handed a win to Daniel Ricciardo.
Lewis Hamilton may have spent the break mingling with celebrities but he will be coming back to the world of F1 more focused than before and keen to extend his championship lead.
Daniel and Daniil at Red Bull will be looking to get over all the negativity surrounding the Renault - Red Bull relationship and a good outing will be the best way to do that.
Ferrari are my tip for the team to watch, I think they could really challenge Mercedes, perhaps not in out-and-out pace for qualifying just yet but during the race I predict they will be right up there.
Williams have two thirds of a track that suits them, with sectors one and three being very fast, but without any long straights they will probably have to wait until Monza to challenge Mercedes again.
Toro Rosso could again be a surprise package, with their performances so far belying their low spend and young drivers.
Lotus and Force India will most likely struggle to keep pace with the front runners and a few drivers will not want to see a Lotus approaching them into turn one on the first lap, and not for the right reasons.
Sauber are a bit of an unknown, but they have struggled so far this season, and will be hoping for a good outing on a tricky track.
Manor are pretty much a certainty to be starting at the back of the grid.