Spa promises close fight at classic track

2011 Belgian Grand Prix preview

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Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2010

With eight races to go and an 85-point lead in the championship, it is unlikely anyone is going to prevent Sebastian Vettel from retaining his crown.

But recent form suggests he will face stiff opposition in his bid to claim his first victory at Spa-Francorchamps.

Red Bull’s qualifying superiority

The RB7 remains unbeaten in qualifying this year and expect that to remain the case on Saturday. It is well-suited to the differing demands of the longest lap on the calendar.

Its highly efficient Drag Reduction System should serve it well through sectors one and three, where straight-line speed is all-important. And the RB7’s superior downforce will tell in the long turns of sector two.

But in race trim, with DRS limited to a single place on the circuit, the RB7 looks if not vulnerable then at least beatable.

Ferrari and McLaren give chase

Vettel’s immediate rivals are breathing down his neck. Fernando Alonso is enjoying a much improved Ferrari and has been dogged in his chase of the Red Bulls in recent races.

Surprisingly, Alonso is yet to record a victory at Spa, as is Vettel.

Ferrari were frustrated by the cool conditions at Silverstone, Nurburgring and Hungaroring. Spa is famed for serving up unpredictable weather and not a little rain, so it’s doubtful they can rely on the track conditions to work in their favour this weekend.

As we saw again in Hungary, those are exactly the sort of conditions Jenson Button thrives on. McLaren are the form team at the moment having won the last two races.

But it was Lewis Hamilton who won here last year in characteristic style, skirting disaster when he skidded off at Rivage while leading. Added to his ‘win that got away’ in 2008, he clearly has an affinity for this popular track.

Force India make gains

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Hungaroring, 2011

While the top three teams fight it out for victory, what of the midfield battle?

Mercedes are leading this group but they’ve come under pressure from Force India recently.

Spa was the scene of their best performance to date: Giancarlo Fisichella’s pole position and second place in 2009. While no-one would expect them to replicate that, a good point haul could bolster their chances of taking sixth in the championship off Sauber.

For Michael Schumacher, this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of his F1 debut.

He’s got little to show from his comeback so far. But if that’s going to change anywhere, surely it would be at Spa, the scene of his first race, first win, and his record seventh championship victory?

Renault headed the midfield at the beginning of the season but have slipped backwards since then. Rumours are rife that the team will drop Nick Heidfeld this weekend and replace him with Bruno Senna.

That would set up a compelling battle between Senna and Vitaly Petrov, who last faced each other in GP2 in 2007 and 2008.

The second half of the season

With the summer break behind us, the prospects look very good indeed for some close racing in the second half of the season.

It would take a major upset for Vettel to face any serious opposition in the championship.

All the same, expect his approach to be conditioned by the knowledge that consistent top-three finishes will almost certainly be enough to win him the championship. Particularly as his immediate rivals are regularly taking points off each other.

Who’s your tip for victory at Spa? Have your say in the comments.

2011 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel1.361.641411/11Form guide
Mark Webber43.552511/11Form guide
Lewis Hamilton4.093.61810/11Form guide
Jenson Button4.643.56169/11Form guide
Fernando Alonso4.183.51710/11Form guide
Felipe Massa66.225119/11Form guide
Michael Schumacher9.739.134178/11Form guide
Nico Rosberg6.55851210/11Form guide
Nick Heidfeld13.368.53128/11Form guide
Vitaly Petrov9.3610.231710/11Form guide
Rubens Barrichello14.6412.639178/11Form guide
Pastor Maldonado13.1816.2514188/11Form guide
Adrian Sutil12.5510.861510/11Form guide
Paul di Resta11.8212.271810/11Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi13.279.445169/11Form guide
Sergio Perez13.44127177/9Form guide
Sebastien Buemi15.6411.481510/11Form guide
Jaime Alguersuari15.1811.678169/11Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.0916.514196/11Form guide
Jarno Trulli19.416.7113207/10Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan2320.517246/7Form guide
Vitantonio Liuzzi2219.1413237/10Form guide
Timo Glock20.6417.7515218/11Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio22.4517.9142210/11Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa171212121/1Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo22.6718.6718193/3Form guide
Karun Chandhok202020201/1Form guide

2011 Belgian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    53 comments on “Spa promises close fight at classic track”

    1. I will be there. Hoping to experience some tornado as that’s probably the only way how my boy Heikki could get in the points. Or no, better leave it nice and sunny so that I can enjoy the race :)

      It’s really hard to predict the winner. I suggest there might be a close fight for the victory between Hamilton and Vettel.

      1. I quit predicting F1 results. I can risk who’s gonna get the pole but for the race… no way. However, I have my wishes, so I’d like to se Lewis winning the next three races, it’s hard but who knows.

      2. I don’t know about you, but I quit predicting Spa results a long time ago

    2. The RB7 certainly seems a better all-rounder than the RB6 was and I would expect them to lock out the front rows.

      When it comes to the race however, with no DRS they will really feel the drag and so will have to adopt a lower downforce setting to compensate, which may wipe out their advantage in the fats corners. So in turn, they might not be as strong in qualifying as we’d expect, with one eye on the race set-up.

      1. Yes I think it is; but in the races so far this year they’ve still been languishing at the bottom of the speed traps, have they not? I could be talking rubbish. Keith, any help?

      2. I guess u r sayin the exact opposite. RB6 was a better car than RB7( if u forget the reliability). I am taking into account the race pace as well as the qualifying pace. RB6 bwas untouchable in Bahrain until Turkey where Mclaren were stronger. Post canada, they only struggled in Monza whereas RB7 struggled in Spain, China, Silverstone, HUngary ( I am taking Canada into account as it was a very wet race).

        1. No, I dont agre Gill. This years car is a lot better, just McLaren brought a far better car as well. And Ferrari were also able to build on their car and improve.

          That is only logical, as hese teams are now catching up with Red Bull Racing after the 2009 rule change.

    3. Prisoner Monkeys
      24th August 2011, 9:42

      I think the reason why the RB7 is such a good car is because the team have recognised that if they build a good qualifying car, they can control the race from the start. And it doesn’t hurt that Ferrari and McLaren have had to overcome hurdles in the car design from the first race of the season.

      1. Their basic design was already the best non double diffuser car in 2009.

        If it wasn’t for the double diffuser, we would’ve been watching the third year of Vettel dominance – casual fans walking away, Ecclestone crying even harder for sprinklers…

        *here’s to the double diffuser*

    4. I just hope this can be another epic race. What would happen if Schumacher qualified in 6th only to have the clutch go after the first corner again, making it full circle?

      I would love to see Vettel fight for the lead with Alonso, Button and Hamilton. Even better if Webber can join in to that fray, as he did quite well last year.

      1. 7th, not 6th. and it can easily happen as the Mercedes is the 4th fastest car, but he’ll need to out-qualify Rosberg.

        1. No, I meant 6th to improve on that debut, a little

    5. I think that we’ll see some very surprising results here and in Monza. Conventional wisdom says McLaren will be very strong here and in Monza, and Red Bull weak, but I don’t know. I’m thinking something funky could pop in

    6. All I have to say is:

      Battle will be joined!

      1. I wish you wouldn’t have reminded me of Jonathan Legard’s pet phrase :P

        1. Was hoping Legard was top on Sky’s list of commentators until I realized I might end up watching some of the races online!

          Great stats.

          1. Actually I believe their contract says that DC + Martin will be the commentators for both BBC and Sky coverage in 2012

    7. Keeping an eye on Force India and Schumacher..
      Webber might be strong too..
      Spa is just the reward we deserve for being so patient..
      let the battle begin ;-)

    8. McLaren all the way!

    9. Fernando won at Spa in Formula 3000 I believe :P Sorry, I know you just meant F1 but I just had to be a bit of a geek and say something in his defence :P I do find it surprising Alonso hasn’t won here yet in F1 and I’d love it if probably the biggest name in F1, driving for the most well known team won at the favourite F1 track for many fans.

      1. Nah, sod him!, Hamilton or Button please!!

      2. I was really surprised, I checked it about three times! It doesn’t help that Spa wasn’t on the calendar when he won his second title in 2006.

        1. I’d also like to add that, apart from last year, in every race that Alonso could’ve won in theory(2004,05,07,10), apart from the last one there was a certain Kimi, who at Spa was simply better. And last year he was hit by Rubens but could’ve won.

          1. He wasn’t likely to beat Hamilton or Webber last year from 10th on the grid.

            1. I know, but stranger things happened at Spa before. Schumacher won from 16th in 1995 for example.

      3. I’d argue Schumacher is a bigger name in F1 :P

        1. And I would agree.

          1. Gonna be tough to arrange Schumacher to ditch Mercedes for Ferrari at Spa and then win.

    10. Its highly efficient Drag Reduction System should serve it well through sectors one and two, where straight-line speed is all-important. And the RB7′s superior downforce will tell in the long turns of sector two.

      I think you mean sector one and three, eh Keith?

      1. Indeed, changed it.

      2. In reality, RB7 and MP4 26 should be pretty evenly matched but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want Mcalren to “Pouhon” the competition.

        1. Or Mclaren even. Der Bwain!!

    11. Wondered if Raikkonen showed interest.In other races as much as he showed in Spa everytime…Spa wouldn’t be the only race where Alonso is not Remembered..

    12. Massa’s statistics are terrible compared to the beautiful record of the top 5 drivers. I’m surprised by Heidfield and Kobayashi’s stats however. Great race average position!

    13. I wish Mercedes have the power to help Schumacher have a good result in this race as they has been very good on the straight throughout the season.

      Is it the case that from the recent field on Hamilton & Schumacher have won here?

      1. Any news on where the DRS will be? I heard that it will be after they cross Eau Rouge.

      2. Well, technically, Massa won here as well…

      3. Massa won here in 2008.

        1. Oh I yeah I forgot about well that race was so much between Hamilton & Raikkonen.Though I still think it was sad that Hamilton was strip from his victory.

        2. To be honest, he did not win as much as get handed the results.

    14. i think Force India could be a dark horse, they still have decent straight line speed and also enough downforce to be quick in sector 2. if they are able to get sector 1 & sector 3 right then they have a chance…

    15. Forgive me if it’s been pointed out elsewhere – I’ve obviously missed it – but DRS is enabled along the Kimmel (Kumel?) straight, correct? Is the detection point before they descend into Eau Rouge, or at the top of the rise where the pit lane exits (Radillon)?

      1. detection point:235m before Eau Rouge.

        activation point: straight after Radillon.

        1. Thanks for that. So the detection point is just after La Source; correct?

          1. No, I’ve been to Spa and it’s much more than 235m between La Source and Eau Rouge.
            so maybe halfway down the hill is a better guess, or even 2/3.

    16. the DRS zone is too long IMO

    17. This will be the last Spa grand prix I will watch.

      Received a reply from Neil Land at the BBC. The BBC choose the 3 races they want (British, Monaco, and the final race of the season) and Sky then get to choose the next 3 (bound to include Spa). From then on each chooses races alternatively that they want to broadcast.

      Goodbye Spa.

      1. Are you sure? The BBC will broadcast half the races next yer and Spa is likely to be in the mix. The BBC will be keen to broadcast a race after such a long break, they recognise it’s a special and much loved circuit and it suits the kind of time slot they’re aiming for.

    18. In practice/qualifying, are you allowed to activate DRS on the run from La Source to Eau Rouge? Will you then need to deactivate it manually when you’re at the foot of the hill? I don’t get it. At what point are you allowed by the FIA to actually open up your rear wing on the exit?

    19. I have a slightly weird question that is somewhat out of place. With HP (who I believe is still a partner/sponsor of Lotus Renault GP – the Heidfeld/Petrov operation) acquiring Autonomy (who is a partner/sponsor of Mercedes GP) what will happen there? Does anyone know?

    20. A couple of observations from the 2011 Driver Form table:
      1. STR is not a good qualifying car, and
      2. Karun is the most consistent driver.

      Well, I didn’t say they were good observations.

    21. Although we’ve just had a 4 week break, in reality its only 2 weeks of any development, so development will still be around the same level it has between most races. As a result I can’t see the dynamic changing much, RBR pole and a serious battle up front with JB a likely candidate to take victory if we have typical Spa conditions.

    22. I’m expecting the RB strangle hold on P1 to come to an end this weekend and it will be one of the Mclaren’s to achieve it. In fact, a Macca one two is on the cards in both quali and race.

    Comments are closed.