2008 Belgian Formula 1 GP – Wolf’s Race Preview

2007 Belgian GP

2007 Belgian GP

The 2008 Formula 1 season continues with Belgian GP at Spa Francorchamps track, one of the few surviving historical F1 venues. The Belgian GP has returned to Spa circuit in 1985. It was missing from the F1 calendar in 2003 due to tobacco advertising issues and then again in 2006 while the track was undergoing the latest renovation. Slightly amenended, safer with larger run off areas, but still challenging, the Spa track returned back in 2007.

The location and length of the track can create tricky racing conditions and drivers can experience different weather at different parts of the circuit. It does not seem to matter to Kimi Raikkonen. He won the last three Belgian GPs – in 2004 and 2005 with McLaren and in 2007 with Ferrari. Last year’s win in Spa marked the beginning of the remarkable turnaround of Kimi’s fortunes that ultimately lead to his 2007 the drivers title. Being well aware that what he needs now is a win he sure would not mind if the 2008 Belgian GP worked out for him in similar fashion … Felipe Massa will have different ideas. He is on the roll after dominating last 2 races in Hungary (until his engine blow up) and in Valencia. With Ferrari openly stating that if necessary Kimi may support Massa in the final races of the season Massa would be well aware that a win may get him closer to getting full Ferrari resources behind his title bid.

Ferrari’s superior engine power may be an advantage on this track. That is if the Maranello guys fixed their reliability problems. But one can never discount Lewis Hamilton. He finished 4th here last year, dropping valuable points. He will not want repeat of that. The tricky and possibly variable weather conditions may also play in his favour. At the moment there is no rain predicted for Sunday, but the Ardennes forest is always ready to surprise.


Track technical info (ING Renault data):

Spa-Francorchamps is the most complete test of a Formula 1 car on the current calendar with every aspect of the vehicle’s handling tested to the limit. It combines 320 kph straights with 70 kph hairpins, with several sixth-gear sweepers thrown in for good measure – and, of course, the unique challenge of Eau Rouge. While this section of the circuit and the fast left-hander at Blanchimont may no longer be as testing as they once were, corners such as Pouhon, taken blind in sixth gear, still allow the drivers to make the difference. And all of that is before you factor in the notoriously unpredictable weather in the Ardennes, which can see the circuit soaked at one end and bone dry at the other.

Chassis
The circuit features a high number of “aero corners” (only 6 of the 19 turns are taken at less than 150 kph), and this would normally push the teams towards relatively high levels of downforce in order to maximise grip in the corners, as is the case at a circuit like Silverstone for example. However, Spa imposes a very different trade-off, because the two long flat-out “straights” on the circuit both provide genuine overtaking opportunities. This means that top-speed is a critical factor in order to protect position, and downforce levels must be determined accordingly. As a result, the teams run with a medium downforce set-up, aiming to achieve end of straight speeds of around 320 kph. Aerodynamic efficiency (generating maximum downforce for minimum drag) is the key to success at this circuit.

Suspension
In terms of suspension settings, the overall compromise is relatively stiff in order to ensure good aerodynamic performance in the quicker corners, and a good change of direction in the quick chicanes. However, good traction is also critical on the exit of the final chicane and La Source hairpin, as poor performance in either part of the circuit can leave a driver vulnerable to overtaking under braking for the next corner.

Tyres
Along with Barcelona, Spa is the most demanding circuit of the season for the tyres, and it is no surprise that Bridgestone will bring the two hardest compounds from its 2008 range for this race: the hard and medium compounds.

Ride heights
Our ride heights are limited by the high forces encountered through the compression in Eau Rouge. From the bottom to the top of the hill, the car’s ride height can vary by as much as 25 mm and if the car bottoms out too much, the drivers can lose control. With the V8 engines and the current aerodynamic regulations, Eau Rouge is now taken easily flat out at around 300 kph. The drivers will scrub off around 10 kph through the sequence, but it is important to conserve as much speed as possible in order to maintain position along the long straight before Les Combes.

Brakes
Almost the only part of the car which has a relatively easy time is the braking system. The circuit features just three very heavy braking events, before turns 1, 5 and 18. Overall, though, this is one of the easiest circuits for the brakes owing to the numerous high speed corners that require little braking effort.

Engine
Along with Monza, Spa is the most demanding circuit of the season for the V8 engines. The duty cycle is particularly severe, with 72% of the lap spent at full throttle (only Monza exceeds this figure, with 76% of the lap). Furthermore, this includes two prolonged full throttle periods of over 20 seconds. The most challenging of these is undoubtedly the run of approximately 23 seconds from La Source to Les Combes, which includes Eau Rouge. This sequence exposes the engine and its ancillaries to extreme positive and negative vertical ‘g’ forces through the compression and over the crest that follows. This is a factor we take into account when designing our lubrication systems, in order to avoid problems with oil feed under the extreme loadings.

Here are top 10 Spa finishers in last 10 years:

2007
1) Kimi Räikkönen – Ferrari – 1:20:39.066
2) Felipe Massa – Ferrari + 4.695
3) Fernando Alonso – McLaren + 14.343
4) Lewis Hamilton – McLaren + 23.615
5) Nick Heidfeld – BMW Sauber + 51.879
6) Nico Rosberg – Williams + 1:16.876
7) Mark Webber – Red Bull + 1:20.639
8)Heikki Kovalainen – Renault + 1:25.106
9) Robert Kubica – BMW Sauber + 1:25.661
10) Ralf Schumacher – Toyota + 1:28.574

2005
1)Kimi Räikkönen – McLaren/Mercedes – 1:30’01.295
2)Fernando Alonso – Renault +28.394
3)Jenson Button – BAR/Honda +32.077
4)Mark Webber – Williams/BMW +1’09.167
5)R.Barrichello – Ferrari +1’18.136
6)J.Villeneuve – Sauber/Petronas +1’27.435
7)Ralf Schumacher – Toyota +1’27.574
8)Tiago Monteiro – Jordan/Toyota +1 Lap
9)Christian Klien – Red Bull/Cosworth +1 Lap
10)Felipe Massa – Sauber/Petronas +1 Lap

2004
1)Kimi Räikkönen – McLaren/Mercedes – 1:32’35.274
2)M.Schumacher – Ferrari +3.132
3)R.Barrichello – Ferrari +4.371
4)Felipe Massa – Sauber/Petronas +12.504
5)G.Fisichella – Sauber/Petronas +14.104
6)Christian Klien – Jaguar/Cosworth +14.614
7)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes +17.970
8)Olivier Panis – Toyota +18.693
9)Jarno Trulli – Renault +22.115
10)Ricardo Zonta – Toyota – Engine

2002
1)M.Schumacher – Ferrari – 1:21’20.634
2)R.Barrichello – Ferrari +1.977
3)J.P.Montoya – Williams/BMW +18.445
4)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes +19.358
5)Ralf Schumacher – Williams/BMW +56.440
6)Eddie Irvine – Jaguar/Cosworth +1’17.370
7)Mika Salo – Toyota +1’17.809
8)J.Villeneuve – BAR/Honda +1’19.855
9)Allan McNish – Toyota +1 Lap
10)Nick Heidfeld – Sauber/Petronas +1 Lap

2001
1)M.Schumacher – Ferrari -1:08’05.002
2)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes +10.098
3)G.Fisichella – Benetton/Renault +27.742
4)Mika Häkkinen – McLaren/Mercedes +36.087
5)R.Barrichello – Ferrari +54.521
6)Jean Alesi – Jordan/Honda +59.684
7)Ralf Schumacher – Williams/BMW +59.986
8)J.Villeneuve – BAR/Honda +1’04.970
9)H-H.Frentzen – Prost/Acer +1 Lap
10)Jos Verstappen – Arrows/Asiatech +1 Lap

2000
1)Mika Häkkinen – McLaren/Mercedes – 1:28’14.494
2)M.Schumacher – Ferrari +1.104
3)Ralf Schumacher – Williams/BMW +38.096
4)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes +43.281
5)Jenson Button – Williams/BMW +49.914
6)H-H.Frentzen – Jordan/Mugen-Honda +55.984
7)J.Villeneuve – BAR/Honda +1’12.380
8)Johnny Herbert – Jaguar/Cosworth +1’27.808
9)Mika Salo – Sauber/Petronas +1’28.670
10)Eddie Irvine – Jaguar/Cosworth +1’31.555

1999
1)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes – 1:25’43.057
2)Mika Häkkinen – McLaren/Mercedes +10.469
3)H-H.Frentzen – Jordan/Mugen-Honda +33.433
4)Eddie Irvine – Ferrari +44.948
5)Ralf Schumacher – Williams/Supertec +48.067
6)Damon Hill – Jordan/Mugen-Honda +54.916
7)Mika Salo – Ferrari +56.249
8)A.Zanardi – Williams/Supertec +1’07.022
9)Jean Alesi – Sauber/Petronas +1’13.848
10)R.Barrichello – Stewart/Ford +1’20.742

1998
1)Damon Hill – Jordan/Mugen-Honda – 1:43’47.407
2)Ralf Schumacher – Jordan/Mugen-Honda +0.932
3)Jean Alesi – Sauber/Petronas +7.240
4)H-H.Frentzen – Williams/Mecachrome +32.243
5)Pedro Diniz – Arrows +51.682
6)Jarno Trulli – Prost/Peugeot +2 Laps
7)David Coulthard – McLaren/Mercedes +5 Laps
8)Shinji Nakano – Minardi/Ford +5 Laps

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