A preview to the Belgian Grand Prix 2011

Written by Pjacques. Posted in Formula 1

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Published on August 23, 2011 with No Comments

After the 4 week break, where all teams including the factories had to take a compulsory 2 week break, the next race is at Spa circuit in Belgium on 28 August. The last three empty Sundays caused some serious withdrawal symptoms and I for one cannot wait for the race to get started!

Although in the lead by 85 points, it is clear that Sabastian Vettel is under pressure as he has not won in three races. He does seem to handle the pressure quite well though and it won’t take much to see him back to his winning ways. Vettel’s skill as a driver has been questioned by some who say that he is only able to defend and build a lead. If you ask me, he has had no reason to take any risks this season. Why perform a risky overtake and risk not finishing the race, when staying calm and in position can get him a second place and extend his championship lead? As the competition gets stronger and the gap closes we may see him take some more risks and it should be very entertaining to watch.

Belgian F1 - Spa Circuit

The Belgian Grand Prix Circuit - Circuit de Spa - Francorchamps

Lewis Hamilton on the other hand has nothing to lose and everything to gain and as a result pulls off some daring maneuvers that we all love to watch! He won the Belgian Grand Prix last year and it is very likely that he can do so again. It is also one of his favorite tracks. Here’s what he had to say earlier: “Corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are fantastic, just because they’re so fast – Pouhon, in particular, is incredible, because you’re really at the limit of the grip level, and you’re gently playing with the throttle and trying not to scrub off too much speed with the steering. Getting it right is an amazing feeling.” Look out for Lewis in the 1st and 3rd sectors where all out top speed are the most important factors. This is where McLaren definitely has the upper hand this season.

Jenson Button is a brilliant cool headed driver who excels in difficult conditions. McLaren won the last two races with Jenson winning the last race in Hungary. He has not finished this race for the last two years, Sebastian Vettel lost control and crashed into him last year and in 2009 he was involved in a collision on the first lap at turn 5 (Les Combes) when Romain Grosjean crashed into him. He has a way of winning the most chaotic races and making it look easy, this track has some serious potential to turn into one of those races.

Then we have Alonso who is one of the most experienced drivers in the competition and a two time world champion. Surprisingly he has never won a race at Spa, in 2010 he crashed out of the race in the wet conditions. He has been struggling with his car’s performance this year and one could only hope that the team has found a way to get temperature into the tyres quickly. They’ve been struggling with tyre temperature in cold conditions as they did in Hungary and this could happen at Spa if we have some rain.  If conditions work out right he is definitely one of the favorites for this year.

Although not in the running for the championship this year, Michael Schumacher is definitely worth a mention. This weekend marks his 20 year anniversary of his first race in Formula 1 in 1991, which was at Spa. He had his first Formula 1 win here a year later in 1992. This is also the track where he surpassed Alan Prost’s record of 51 wins by winning his 52nd race in 2001. Spa is the track where Michael took the championship title in 2004 after finishing in second place. He has not won this race since 2002 and I highly doubt he will this weekend, but he we could expect one of his best races of the season on Sunday.

Spa circuit is one of the most challenging circuits in the compitition. It is fast, hilly and has plenty of twists and turns to keep any driver busy for the duration of the race. Because it is such a long track it is a nightmare for strategists and it will be exiting to see how the different teams approach this race. We can expect an average amount of retirements, but most of them will probably happen in the first lap, on corner 1 (La Source). The person qualifying in pole position has only won the race twice in the last decade (Schumacher 2002, Raikkonen 2007), which is a clear indication that we are in for an action packed race with plenty of overtaking. The race consists of 44 laps of 7.004km, giving us a total race distance of 308.052km. The lap record for the present circuit (in use since 2007) is 1:47.263 by Sebastian Vettel, during his first season at Red Bull Racing in 2009.

Perelli announced the tyre choices for the race is Medium (White) and Soft (Yellow), and they expect about 1 second per lap difference between the tyres. It is the longest track on the calender, so there will be plenty of pressure on pit strategies. 7km is a long distance to drive while your competitor is undercutting you on his brand new set Perelli’s! The above assumes dry conditions, but the Belgian Grand Prix is famous for its unpredictable weather. Because of the wide area that the track is spread over (similar to the old Nurburgring Nordschleife) it often happens that one section of the track is wet while it is very dry in another section. This combination of the new Pirelli tyres and the unpredictable weather conditions at Spa is sure to cause plenty of headaches for team strategists this weekend.

The DRS Detection Zone will be just before the Eau Rouge corner (turn 2) and will be activated for the straight between turn 4 and 5, the Kemmel Straight. The DRS system increases downforce by about 10%, that results in an increase in top speed for a driver who is within a second of the driver in front of him at the Detection Zone. The drivers take turn 4 at about 297km/h so we can expect to see very high top speeds at this point. Watch out for Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button overtaking here!

The gap between Red Bull Racing and main rivals, Ferarri and McLaren, is getting smaller and it really can go to any one of the top three teams. Between Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso (not forgetting Button and Webber) we probably have some of the best drivers the sport has ever seen. We are in for three fantastic months until the end of this season!

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