2014 Formula 1 Report: USA Edition
Drafting the Circuits
Grand Prix Date Tire Compounds
Belgium Grand Prix August 22-24 Medium/Soft
Italian Grand Prix September 5-7 Hard/Medium
Singapore Grand Prix September 19-21 Soft/Supersoft
Spa! The Circuit at Francorchamps
There is something about this racetrack that gets the juices flowing in a way that no other track does…a few things actually.
The first is the anticipation that surrounds the return of Formula 1 after the summer break. The run towards the championship is always eagerly awaited especially when the teams return to the beauty of Belgium and the Ardennes Forest.
The Ardennes Forest is striking and watching the cars move through the longest circuit of the year is breathtaking. The current circuit runs just over 4 miles in length. Some of the older variations reached lengths of over 9 miles and the course featured public roads between Francorchamps, Stavelot and Malmedy.
But what really gets us excited and creates such respect for the circuit is the history of this glorious race. Long, beautiful, fast (very fast) and yes, dangerous!
Spa has a history, in any form, of being a track that must be respected at every level. Sir Jackie Stewart had perhaps his worst accident at the Masta kink, a part of the track no longer used.
The Stewart crash in the 1966 race was horrendous. In the rain at 170 mph, Stewarts BRM wound up in the basement of a farm building. Stewart was injured, and without marshals or medics to lend assistance. It was this crash which led Stewart to push hard, initiatives that would begin years of safety improvements for F1 racers.
The current, shorter layout maintains many fabulous elements from the original layout. Eau Rouge, Raidillon and the Kemmel Straight, take you up, up, up to the highest section of track. The cars then loop down a middle sector, which culminates in Blanchimont, a long sweeping full out right and then left sweeper. These three sectors have one thing in common, they are blindingly fast!
Take the first section with Eau Rouge, Raidillon and the Kemmel Straight. The drivers all aim to take this section flat out. As they fly through Eau Rouge the car compresses and snaps up Raidillon, a quick steep hill and crest that blindingly places the car onto the long Kemmel Straight. Fast, quick and if taken poorly, potentially deadly.
Watch a lap at Spa, It is essentially how close to flat out can you be the whole way.
F1 cars are born for this test. Which brings us to this year’s race.
Spa is a horsepower track and the Mercedes engine package is well ahead this year with horsepower. Christian Horner said that Red Bull’s chances of winning are low at both Spa and Monza. Given the lack of horsepower from the Renault engine package this season, it makes sense that Red Bull might be coming from a weak position.
I, however, have a hunch that Sebastian Vettel will be a factor this week. He dominated in Belguim last year. His remarkable move on Lewis Hamilton at the Kemmel straight on the opening lap allowed him to lead every lap. He understands Spa and I think he will be able to get everything out of his Red Bull machine and appear on the podium!
Red Bull aside, the primary contenders at Spa will be Mercedes, Williams and perhaps Force India. All Mercedes driven cars.
Nico and Lewis will resume their rivalry and these next few races will set up what should be an exciting championship. Given the double points awarded for the final round, both Mercedes drivers will be trying to rack up a lead that will protect them from being leapfrogged in the final event. It would be sad to see a driver with a 30 point plus lead lose the championship to something like mechanical failure in the final race!
Williams has marked the next two events to truly make some inroads into the Constructors Championship. Given the advantage of the Mercedes power package, they can gain substantial points during the next two rounds, gaining on both Ferrari and Red Bull. The key to this will be Felipe Massa showing some consistency and not getting caught up in other driver’s messes.
Strong results by Massa and Bottas at Spa and Monza would really help Williams! I foresee them battling Red Bull as opposed to Ferrari by the time the teams leave Europe for Singapore.
What could bring parity to the paddock this week is weather. Spa, a track located within the Ardennes Forest, can easily be dry at one end and wet at another. If this is the case, we could see the order upset slightly. Pirelli have also brought a more aggressive tire package this year with the soft tires replacing the hard from the 2013 event.
So welcome back Formula 1. We have missed you and can’t wait to see the gem that is Belgium and Spa.
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