Giancarlo Fisichella says Spa Francorchamps, the venue for this Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, allows drivers to fully display their skills and overcome deficiencies in their cars. Can we look forward to a more exciting race than in Hungary?
F1 veteran Giancarlo Fisichella says Spa Francorchamps, the venue for this Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, allows drivers to fully display their skills and overcome deficiencies in their cars. Can we look forward to a more exciting race than in Hungary?
The previous race on the F1 calendar, held at the infamously dull Hungaroring circuit in Budapest on August 15, was described by some observers as one of the most boring grands prix in history. The Ferrari duo of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello dominated the event, which was not surprising, but there was no overtaking or exciting action throughout the entire race.
That’s why F1 welcomes the sweeping Spa Francorchamps back with open arms. The Belgian Grand Prix was omitted from the world championship calendar last year because of a ban on tobacco advertising but it was reinstated this year.
"I believe that there is a chance on this circuit for the driver's talent to make a difference," Sauber driver Fisichella said this week. "That makes it a very satisfying track on which to drive. That is why I have always been happy to race there. It is a more complete circuit than any other."
"The circuit has its own special magic," said Schumacher, who will attempt to win the Belgian Grand Prix for a record-breaking seventh time, but only needs to score two more points than his team-mate to win world championship title number seven. "It is where I have had some of the most memorable racing moments".
The track, now 6,973-kilometres long following a 10-metre extension thanks to alterations made to the Bus Stop corner for safety reasons, poses huge challenges for the drivers. From the Eau Rouge corner, taken flat out at 300 km/h, to the La Source hairpin, the scene of one of Formula One's biggest pile-ups when 12 cars were eliminated in 1998, Spa is an ultimate test of driver skill.
"You come into the corner downhill, have a sudden change at the bottom and then go very steep uphill," Renault driver Fernando Alonso described Eau Rouge. "From the cockpit, you cannot see the exit and as you come over the crest, you don't know where you will land. It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can lose a lot of time if you make a mistake."
Teams will adopt medium downforce setups to find a compromise for stability in the fast corners and traction for the slower parts of the track. "You don't run too much downforce so the car feels like it is dancing," said Sauber's Felipe Massa. "You really know you are a racing driver when you are there."
Tyres are also important for the fast sections and the track is quite abrasive, so compounds will be in the mid to hard area of the range. In addition, the weather can be temperamental and as it's a long track, it can often rain on one part of the circuit and not on another. The length of the circuit combined with the variety of corners and gradients also places high demands on engines.
"Spa is one of the toughest circuits in terms of duty cycle, and indeed is a reference circuit for engine validations on the dyno: this means we actually do more simulations of Spa than any other circuit during the year," said Renault engine technical director Rob White. "The lap is very long, placing high mechanical and thermal loads on the engine's internal parts."