2010 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
Round 13 - Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Summary
Following the summer break we return to action at arguably the finest circuit on the modern Formula One calendar. Nestled in a valley of the Ardennes forest between the villages of Stavelot, Francorchamps and Burnenville, Spa has been part of the cradle of motor racing since 1920.

The original nine-mile layout on public roads was terrifyingly fast, bearing left at Les Combes and looping through the valley beyond, returning towards La Source with a right-handed hairpin in the village of Stavelot. Latterly the premier Formula One cars and sports prototypes of the day could achieve an average lap speed in excess of 150mph. Exceptionally challenging, the circuit lined with trees and telegraph poles and passing between farm buildings was also exceptionally dangerous, and a series of serious accidents, several fatal, made changes unavoidable. Indeed Jackie Stewart's famed campaign for improved safety in F1 was born at Spa, for it was there in the 1966 race that he crashed, his BRM plunging into a ditch and rupturing its fuel tank. The experience of being trapped inside with broken ribs for several minutes - and only ultimately being rescued by his team-mate, Graham Hill - understandably left an impression on the young Scot.

The last Grand Prix on the old track was in 1970 (though events for motorcycles and sportscars continued for a further eight years) and in the interim, F1 visited the comparatively soulless Nivelles and Zolder circuits. A new circuit was conceived, with a new stretch of road linking Les Combes and Stavelot but retaining the Blanchimont-La Source-Eau Rouge section from the original. Immediately from its introduction for the 1983 race drivers loved the new layout, with the new section generally considered to be sympathetic and retaining the character, and flow, of the circuit. For many years the Eau Rouge and Blanchimont corners were the greatest tests of driver bravery on the calendar, with drivers going right up to - and in some cases beyond - the limits of their machinery in attempting to remain flat out. With improvements to the cars and grippier tarmac this is no longer the case but the commitment required for a fast lap remains as high as ever.

Races at Spa have been renowned from the earliest days for the unpredictable weather patterns found in the region. Localised showers have consistently defied weather forecasters and even on today's shorter layout, it is far from unknown for one side of the circuit to be bathed in sunshine while on the other side of the valley the heavens are opening. The chaotic 1998 race has become legendary for the incidents caused by the treacherous conditions, while a late shower in 2008 was the spark for much drama and controversy.

The lap is one of contrasts, with long straights and high terminal speeds in sectors 1 and 3 balanced by a series of long, medium-speed and fast turns in the middle sector. As a result cars with ample, efficient downforce and low drag are rewarded, and comparatively low wing angles are preferred to achieve this. Demands on the engines are high, although ambient temperatures are typically on the low side. Tyre wear is also rarely a problem, though with such a long lap, time spent behind the Safety Car will usually result in very low temperatures and pressures come the restart.

The overall finishing rate at Spa is around the average for this year's circuits.
The likelihood of a driver-related retirement is high.
Mechanical failures in Belgium are consistent with the average at other current tracks.
Finally, the circuit ranks as above average for first-lap retirements in the past five years.

The Last Five Years
2005201516011 - Tiago Monteiro (Jordan)
2006------
200722175006 - Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri)
200820182205 - Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) & Adrian Sutil (Force India) & Kazuki Nakajima (Williams)
200920141449 - Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
Overall82649124
[td]Year[/td][td]Starters[/td][td]Finishers[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Lap 1 retirements[/td][td]Most places gained[/td]

Circuit Ranking (of all 18 circuits)
Finishing Rate
...
9th Hockenheim 79%
10th Spa 78%
11th Hungaroring 78%
...

Mechanical Failures
...
8th Hockenheim 13%
9th Spa 11%
10th= Interlagos 11%
10th= Shanghai 11%
...

Driver-related Retirements
...
3rd Monte Carlo 15%
4th Spa 15%
5th Catalunya 14%
...

First lap Retirements
...
4th Sakhir 5.7%
5th Spa 4.9%
6th Silverstone 3.8%
...

Spa has been a special track for Michael Schumacher, with his debut at the circuit in 1991 for Jordan and his first win a year later for Benetton. Incredibly, he has scored more points at the circuit than this season's Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull drivers combined! Felipe Massa will be the only other former winner lining up this weekend, following his controversial victory in 2008. Rubens Barrichello (1994), Jarno Trulli (2004) and Lewis Hamilton (2008) have all taken pole position in the Ardennes previously. Last season there was a major shake-up in the competitive order at Spa and if there is a repeat this time, drivers such as Adrian Sutil or Tonio Liuzzi could be fancied to break their points-scoring ducks. Pedro de la Rosa, meanwhile, will simply be hoping to shake off some dreadful luck with his machinery and make it to the chequered flag.

Spa is among the most two-sided races on the calendar, with either Ferrari or McLaren triumphing every race since Damon Hill won for Jordan twelve years ago. Ferrari narrowly hold the advantage on wins, 5-4. Other results have been spread quite widely among other teams - Williams threatened to win a couple of times in the BMW years; Renault flattered to deceive in 2004; and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella couldn't quite repel Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari twelve months ago. In the event of changeable weather, the new teams may see this as one of few remaining opportunities to trouble the points-paying positions - or at least, to claim the upper hand on their rivals in the Constructors' Championship with a strong classified finish.

Current Drivers' Records at Spa
Michael Schumacher1391st (6)80124.38
Felipe Massa541st (1)23107.2
Rubens Barrichello1482nd (1)21519.47
Fernando Alonso532nd (1)19208.17
Lewis Hamilton323rd (1)11015.67
Sebastian Vettel323rd (1)101011.33
Jenson Button833rd (1)83211.38
Robert Kubica334th (1)8009
Mark Webber644th (1)8119.67
Heikki Kovalainen336th (1)4109
Nico Rosberg336th (1)40010
Jarno Trulli1166th (1)1328.09
Timo Glock229th (1)00010
Adrian Sutil3311th (1)00016
Vitantonio Liuzzi1112th (1)00013
Sebastien Buemi1112th (1)00016
Pedro de la Rosa4116th (1)03014.75
Sakon Yamamoto1117th (1)00021
Jaime Alguersuari10Ret00117
Lucas di Grassi0------
Nico Hulkenberg0------
Kamui Kobayashi0------
Vitaly Petrov0------
Bruno Senna0------
[td]Driver[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]

Chassis Records at Spa(since 2000)
Ferrari16141st (5)90125.44
McLaren16131st (3)67225.31
BMW Sauber15132nd (1)362010.56
Williams16123rd (2)21419.5
Renault1662nd (1)185510.75
Red Bull15103rd (1)135110.63
Force India16122nd (1)112214.56
Mercedes GP16103rd (1)84311.81
Toro Rosso1595th (1)62417.19
Hispania0------
Lotus0------
Virgin0------
[td]Chassis[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]
Results for BMW Sauber include Sauber
Results for Renault include Benetton
Results for Red Bull include Jaguar
Results for Force India include Jordan and Spyker
Results for Mercedes GP include BAR, Honda and Brawn
Results for Toro Rosso include Minardi


Engine Records at Spa(since 2000)
Ferrari36301st (5)1084310.42
Mercedes-Benz20161st (3)77235.75
Renault20102nd (1)27559.9
Cosworth1586th (2)43413.69
[td]Engine[/td][td]Starts[/td][td]Finishes[/td][td]Best result[/td][td]Points[/td][td]Retirements - Mech[/td][td]Retirements - Acc[/td][td]Average grid pos.[/td]
Results for Ferrari include Petronas and Acer
Results for Cosworth include Ford


All ranking figures are expressed as a % of total starts.
"Retirements-Acc" are retirements where the reason has been listed as Collision, Accident or Spun Off.
 

MajorDanby

Motorsports' answer to Eric the Eel
Contributor
Ahhh... I've been waiting for this for a while G, simply because the appearance GP Preview heralds the end of the summer break and the start of F1 yet again!!!

Excellent :D

Its good to remind everyone of the past glories and troubles of Spa, and what a brilliant track it is, changeable weather conditions non-withstanstanding.

Everyone will be doubly looking forward to this race, not just because it is the first for a month, but also because it should be one of the tracks that sees the top 3 a lot closer together than they have been over the past several races. Bring it on!
 

Brogan

🦶 Leg end
Staff Member
MajorDanby said:
Ahhh... I've been waiting for this for a while G, simply because the appearance GP Preview heralds the end of the summer break and the start of F1 yet again!!!
Indeed!
As soon as G posts his excellent preview then the GP "weekend" starts for me :)
 

Chad Stewarthill

Champion Elect
Contributor
Galahad said:
Indeed Jackie Stewart's famed campaign for improved safety in F1 was born at Spa, for it was there in the 1966 race that he crashed, his BRM plunging into a ditch and rupturing its fuel tank. The experience of being trapped inside with broken ribs for several minutes - and only ultimately being rescued by his team-mate, Graham Hill - understandably left an impression on the young Scot.

Is that the occasion when the leaking fuel started to fill up the cockpit that Jackie was trapped in, soaking his race suit? Very scary indeed.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
Chad Stewarthill said:
Galahad said:
Indeed Jackie Stewart's famed campaign for improved safety in F1 was born at Spa, for it was there in the 1966 race that he crashed, his BRM plunging into a ditch and rupturing its fuel tank. The experience of being trapped inside with broken ribs for several minutes - and only ultimately being rescued by his team-mate, Graham Hill - understandably left an impression on the young Scot.

Is that the occasion when the leaking fuel started to fill up the cockpit that Jackie was trapped in, soaking his race suit? Very scary indeed.

Indeed it was, terrifying.

I found this picture of the precipice where Jo Bonnier's Cooper came to rest...
http://es-la.facebook.com/photo.php?pid ... 0843070178

...such was Spa in the 1960s!
 

sportsman

Sidecar racers have the biggest cojones
Contributor
Being a newbie Galahad this is the first of your previews that I have seen.Excellent piece and you appear to have covered all the historic moments and much of the history.The stats at the end are extremely interesting.
Thank you.I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Wonderful work as usual, G.

The thing that is most interesting to me in the chassis stats is the poor finishing record of Renault. I had no idea they were that bad at Spa.

Spa also has a couple of "firsts" to its credit:

1) First win by a McLaren (in 1968)--Bruce himself at the wheel, beating out Stewart, who was driving with a broken wrist and was leading, but ran out of fuel.

2) First (and only) win for the car that I consider the most beautiful Formula 1 car of all time- The 1967 AAR Eagle Weslake with Gurney at the wheel.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Of course, Spa has been home of the Raikkopoly in recent years, explaining the poor records of essentially all the top drivers.

It is 18 years since Schumacher's first win - at Spa - and 19 years since his first race, for Jordan. It is also the only race Damon Hill won 3 times.

The drivers who've won the Belgian GP 3 or more times are:

Schumacher (6); Senna (5); Clark, Raikkonen (4); Fangio, D. Hill (3).

The only era missing from that list is the non-Spa years!
 

McFerrari

Rookie
Spa really is the one. The only circuit worth giving an 11/10! It's where the greats have really shown their greatness and the setting is just absolutely gorgeous. I always wonder what happened to our beloved F1 when it's visited soulless, dull tracks like Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi but when it visits Spa Franchorchamps, I realise why I fell in love with F1. It is a track of pure speed and adrenalin and always looks like a rollercoaster ride when we see on board footage.

And yes - I pray that this weekend is soaking!
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
It's worth mentioning that this race will be Rubens Barrichello's 300th Grand Prix. I think we all have our own opinions on the relative merits and demerits of Rubens driving but his longevity in such a dangerous and cut throat sport is quite some achievement.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
FB said:
It's worth mentioning that this race will be Rubens Barrichello's 300th Grand Prix. I think we all have our own opinions on the relative merits and demerits of Rubens driving but his longevity in such a dangerous and cut throat sport is quite some achievement.

Indeed so. Few of his races were more dangerous than his 299th, as it turned out.

*G resists urge to argue about the fact that he's only actually started 296...*

Rubens has been involved in well over a third of all the world championship races ever held! (832 and counting).
 

Brogan

🦶 Leg end
Staff Member
Ruben's stat's for anyone who's interested:


Only 11 wins, I would never have said it was that low if asked.
 

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teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Brogan said:
Only 11 wins, I would never have said it was that low if asked.

Only 23 drivers are on more than 11 wins:

A. Jones, Reutemann, Andretti, Hamilton, Coulthard, Ascari, E. Fittipaldi, Brabham, G. Hill, Moss, Raikkonen, Hakkinen, D. Hill, Alonso, Piquet Snr., Fangio, Lauda, Clark, Stewart, Mansell, Senna, Prost and M. Schumacher

In addition to Massa and J. Villeneuve on 11 each. There are 102 Grand Prix winners.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Not sure what difference this will make to the racing but F1Fanatic details these changes to Spa compared to 2009:

The Belgian Grand Prix organisers have made some tweaks to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit ahead of this weekend’s F1 race.

The outside of the La Source hairpin – turn one – now has a longer strip of astroturf which has been increased to three metres wide. This may discourage drivers from going off the track there to gain an advantage, as happened on the first lap of last year’s race.

Drivers will be also discouraged from cutting the corner at Radillion – the left-hander at the top of the hill after Eau Rouge. A a new electronic ‘control loop’ has been installed there which will inform race control when all four of a cars’ wheels are off the track.

There are further changes at Les Combes, which was the scene of a multi-car collision on the first lap of last year’s race.

The inside of the corner now has asphalt run-off and small bumps to discourage corner-cutting, similar to those used at turn one at the Circuit de Catalunya.

More asphalt has been added on the outside of turn six in the same sequence.

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2010/08/24/track-tweaks-at-spa-ahead-of-race/
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
Excellent preview G. I've never been more ready for a Grand Prix.

If anybody has a Spa highlight that they would like me to pull out of the archives, by all means, please let me know.

Here is some footage from the 1939 race at Spa-Francorchamps:

 
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