Grand Prix 2016 Belgian Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

People have different opinions about most of the F1 circuits but if there is something everybody agrees on is that SPA-Francorchamps circuit is great, for many their favourite.

How could it not, you've got the Ardennes forest, the very high speed, the ups and downs and iconic turns like La Source, Eau Rouge and Raidillon, Stavelot, Bus Stop. Could it be the motorsport heritage? For as long as cars have gone racing, Spa is associated with velocity. Of course at the turn of the 20th century they used the original circuit of 86km (or was it 118km?).

Even after it was shorten to 15km and then 7km, it kept its pedigree, its spirit. As the race comes closer, the anxiety continues to build in F1 fans; a 4-week summer break may be deserved for the drivers and teams but creates a void that cannot be filled with race reruns or silly season discussion. And it's mind-boggling that they have kept it as is but they've added more and more races (currently we are at 21) making each result of little relevance is the great scheme of things.

It is also Spa back in 1991 the race that saw the debut of F1 most successful driver ever, one Michael Schumacher. He never raced there before and went around the circuit in a bicycle to get to know it, before posting the best 7th time and running as high as 6th when his clutch gave up.

That was then but back to 2016, as it has been the case the past 3 years, Mercedes are the clear favourites. At the beginning of the year it seemed like this was going to be Nico Rosberg year, 4 victories in the first 4 races, a testimony of that, yet after his retirement in Spain the German has failed to recover his mojo and instead Lewis Hamilton seems destined to win his 4th championship (3rd in a row) with 6 victories in the last 7 races. It doesn’t seem likely that Rosberg is going to be a challenge for the remaining of the year which is a shame but confirms he’s not really a top-drawer driver.

Even though mathematically Mercedes can still lose the championship this year, it won’t happen and they have decided to go with a conservative approach to the race, having the fewest sets of supersoft tires. And why wouldn’t they, at the beginning of the year it seemed like Ferrari was mounting a challenge but they have clearly faded away. Also, after a stellar debut with the Scuderia last year, Sebastian Vettel seems to be at odds with the team. No longer have a quick smiled ear to ear but rather a wry one (if any); the German is conflicted by the lack of performance of his car and the off camera politics that are at play and seem to be more prevalent than ever. Almost the opposite can be said of Kimi Raikkonen who seemed to have recovered some of his flare, especially after his contract has been renewed for yet another year.

RedBull has taken over as the challenger to Mercedes but they are a few ways down the road when it comes to challenging the Silver Arrows. However the intra-team battle has been really interesting; Ricciardo the established lead and Max Verstappen the newcomer, very little separate them when it comes to qualifying and race results. If anything the young Dutch has allowed Daniel Ricciardo to shine again with superb performances in the past 2 races. Will the Aussie be able to capitalize and win a race this year? Let’s hope it is at Spa to mix it up a little bit.

Summer break also brought news of Manor racing demoting one of their drivers, Indonesian Rio Haryanto in favour of French DTM and F1 test driver Esteban Ocon, a moved caused by Haryanto’s inability to pay the 6.5 million pounds required to keep his seat. This in turn has lost Pertamina as Manor sponsor.

One of the best f1 weekends is just around the corner but the shadow of terrorism is upon it and the race organizers have made sure security takes centre stage. This is not really comforting for fans but it’s the new 2016 reality.

What are your predictions?
Not going to be anything other than a Mercedes 1-2, with Lewis most likely on the top step. The battle for third could be quite interesting with the Red Bulls getting faster and a circuit more suited to the grunt of the Ferrari motor compared to the Renault (I will not call it a Tag engine).
Not going to be anything other than a Mercedes 1-2, with Lewis most likely on the top step. The battle for third could be quite interesting with the Red Bulls getting faster and a circuit more suited to the grunt of the Ferrari motor compared to the Renault (I will not call it a Tag engine).

Unless Lewis takes his engine penalty, which is looking a likely choice. Could mix things up a bit.
I don't think the Ferrari's and Red Bull's will be easy to pass if he does take the engine penalty. He will do well to make the podium. 4th or 5th more likely.
Don't see anyone beating Mercedes to be honest given the track is a power circuit

Red Bull will be the nearest challengers but probably a second adrift

A typical Spa weather being overcast and wet would even things up
Unless Lewis takes his engine penalty, which is looking a likely choice. Could mix things up a bit.

I wonder if Mercedes will wait for Monza, in order to take Lewis's engine penalty. Hamilton was able to turn his engine down in both of his last two races, and in the last race said, " Honestly, there's is a quota that you are able to use with the engine, and I was nowhere near it." This current engine still maybe good to run at Spa, especially with the unpredictable weather conditions, which this circuit is noted for. Mercedes may consider in waiting for Monza instead of Spa, to take Hamilton's engine penalty.
I'm not so sure about that... under current rules overtaking is probably easier at Spa than Monza because the skinny rear wings used at Monza mean DRS is less effective there. (although Galahad might contradict me on that based on last year' s stats?...)

And as for Spa' s unpredictable weather, a wet race is certainly no bad thing for a leading driver having to start at the back. increased likelyhood of indicents in front of you and better chance of gaining "free" places.
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I would definitely take my engine penalty at Spa, rather than Monza. DRS does little to reduce drag when there's bugger all drag anyway.
Incubus....At Spa, a wet race could be less stress that Hamilton would have to put on this current engine. If Lewis could start towards the front and avoid any trouble, conceivably play to his strength of driving under wet or changeable conditions.
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Its much easier to overtake at Spa than Monza with the long straight after Eau Rouge or building up speed to pass at the bus stop if you managed to get a good downforce set up

The trouble with Monza is if the car in front runs a skinny wing this makes it very difficult to pass because the design of the circuit is mostly long straights with heavy braking chicanes.

So Hamilton ought to take a penalty at Spa
I suppose it is possible that Mercedes will be relatively stronger at Monza than at Spa. Mercedes should be concerned about getting trapped behind Williams/Force India (with Mercedes engines) at Monza with a tiny difference in drag and an equal engine. You'd expect the superiority of the chassis to be more helpful at Spa with the overtaking zones off the back of Blanchimont or Raidillon.

So long as they don't wait until Singapore 8-).
I'd have thought two would be better but the article reads like it's going to be one, unless they just don't want to give the game away.
They'll only do one, because they only want to drop into midfield. They're not in the position McLaren were in last year where they'd be last with one change so initiated a 55-place drop at Spa...
Don't you get a 6 place drop for every element of the engine you change? So a totally new engine is all the elements surely that means the back of the grid?
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