Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014

Starts and soft tyre life key to Spa race

2015 Belgian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014Two significant variables could play a major role in determining the outcome of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The first has been known for some time. The new restrictions on how teams can help drivers perfect their starts – explained in detail here – has been the subject of much debate over the past weeks.

It’s been welcomed by some, rejected by others, but even those who are sceptical about its purpose suspect it could shake things up, if only in the short term. “I think we have done plenty of starts before, all of us,” said Sebastian Vettel after qualifying today. “In the end it is not a massive change. I think what people were trying to do is not going to happen.”

“Maybe tomorrow there’s a bit of chaos but after some races it will be back to it was.”

Drivers’ position change on lap one

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Spa’s unique opening sequence has a tendency to produce drama. There are almost two starts at Spa – the hectic dash into the La Source hairpin, scene of the notorious 2012 crash – and then the long drag to Les Combes via Eau Rouge, which rewards those who get a good slipstream.

It will be intriguing to discover whether, now the drivers have to make the final pre-start tweaks without their engineers’ help, we see some drivers who used to start well getting away poorly, and vice-versa (see data above). Mercedes occupy the front row as usual but starts have been a headache for them recently anyway, so Valtteri Bottas (third on the grid) and Sergio Perez (fourth) must like their chances of getting into the lead.

After that comes the second big question of the weekend – just how well will the soft tyres last? The disruption to Friday practice prevented teams from covering significant mileage on the rubber, and there is the added doubt over the cause of Nico Rosberg’s spectacular tyre failure.

The soft tyre is likely to be preferred by times due to the considerable performance disadvantage offered by the medium. The short life of the soft tyre could make a two or even three-stop strategy the way to go. However the reasonably high chance of a Safety Car interruption at Spa may make the latter too much of a gamble.

Lewis Hamilton has his tenth pole position of the year but he hasn’t been in the lead at the end of lap one in any of the last three races. He was very strong in the middle part of the lap today, but the speed trap figures raise the possibility that Rosberg may have a little less wing angle on his car, potentially making him more of a threat on the straights in the race.

Behind them the grid has an unusual form with the Ferraris languishing in the middle of the pack and the likes of Perez near the sharp end. Don’t discount the Lotus drivers either, both of which reached Q3 with Romain Grosjean a very strong fourth before his penalty. As in Hungary, we could see some unfamiliar names taking big points away tomorrow.

However one variable we can most likely eliminate at this stage is the threat of rain. Although some is still forecast tomorrow, it is not likely to arrive until long after the race finishes.

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’48.9081’48.024 (-0.884)1’47.197 (-0.827)
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’48.9231’47.955 (-0.968)1’47.655 (-0.300)
3Valtteri BottasWilliams1’49.0261’49.044 (+0.018)1’48.537 (-0.507)
4Romain GrosjeanLotus1’49.3531’48.981 (-0.372)1’48.561 (-0.420)
5Sergio PerezForce India1’49.0061’48.792 (-0.214)1’48.599 (-0.193)
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’49.6641’49.042 (-0.622)1’48.639 (-0.403)
7Felipe MassaWilliams1’49.6881’48.806 (-0.882)1’48.685 (-0.121)
8Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’49.5681’48.956 (-0.612)1’48.754 (-0.202)
9Sebastian VettelFerrari1’49.2641’48.761 (-0.503)1’48.825 (+0.064)
10Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’49.1091’49.065 (-0.044)1’49.771 (+0.706)
11Nico HulkenbergForce India1’49.4991’49.121 (-0.378)
12Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’49.4691’49.228 (-0.241)
13Marcus EricssonSauber1’49.5231’49.586 (+0.063)
14Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’49.288
15Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’49.831
16Felipe NasrSauber1’49.952
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’50.978
18Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’51.420
19Will StevensManor1’52.948
20Roberto MerhiManor1’53.099

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton30.593 (3)47.786 (1)28.818 (1)
Nico Rosberg30.509 (1)48.239 (2)28.851 (2)
Valtteri Bottas30.918 (10)48.385 (4)29.022 (3)
Romain Grosjean30.842 (8)48.518 (5)29.177 (11)
Sergio Perez30.579 (2)48.865 (10)29.088 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo31.128 (12)48.317 (3)29.194 (12)
Felipe Massa30.774 (5)48.722 (8)29.045 (4)
Pastor Maldonado30.882 (9)48.536 (6)29.215 (13)
Sebastian Vettel30.726 (4)48.871 (11)29.062 (5)
Carlos Sainz Jnr31.023 (11)48.844 (9)29.159 (10)
Nico Hulkenberg30.836 (7)49.014 (12)29.129 (9)
Daniil Kvyat31.298 (15)48.574 (7)29.334 (15)
Marcus Ericsson31.198 (13)49.028 (13)29.290 (14)
Kimi Raikkonen30.781 (6)49.256 (15)29.106 (8)
Max Verstappen31.243 (14)49.367 (16)29.076 (6)
Felipe Nasr31.402 (16)49.184 (14)29.366 (16)
Jenson Button31.751 (17)49.393 (17)29.834 (17)
Fernando Alonso31.761 (18)49.759 (18)29.900 (18)
Will Stevens32.154 (19)50.606 (20)30.188 (19)
Roberto Merhi32.349 (20)50.402 (19)30.348 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes317.2 (197.1)
2Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes317.1 (197.0)-0.1
3Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes316.3 (196.5)-0.9
4Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes315.8 (196.2)-1.4
5Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes314.8 (195.6)-2.4
6Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes314.4 (195.4)-2.8
7Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari314.4 (195.4)-2.8
8Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes314.1 (195.2)-3.1
9Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes313.0 (194.5)-4.2
10Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari312.0 (193.9)-5.2
11Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault310.5 (192.9)-6.7
12Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari309.1 (192.1)-8.1
13Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault309.1 (192.1)-8.1
14Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault308.6 (191.8)-8.6
15Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault306.2 (190.3)-11.0
16Felipe NasrSauberFerrari306.2 (190.3)-11.0
17Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda304.6 (189.3)-12.6
18Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda303.2 (188.4)-14.0
19Will StevensManorFerrari299.5 (186.1)-17.7
20Roberto MerhiManorFerrari299.5 (186.1)-17.7

Over to you

Will Hamilton and Rosberg avoid tangling this year? What can Perez do from fourth on the grid? And what can the Ferrari drivers salvage from their poor grid positions?

Share your views on the Belgian Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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7 comments on “Starts and soft tyre life key to Spa race”

  1. Watching Ant’s side-by-side on the skypad of Lewis and Nico’s Q3 laps I see Lewis lost a bit through Eau Rouge, like he did last year. I still think that’s his worst corner on the tour, and it makes me nervous!

    1. @lockup: Don’t worry, Rosberg will most likely be passed by Bottas into La Source whilst Hamilton drives Spa one-handed up ahead as he is unchallenged.

      1. But having seen the 24h weather radar from wetteronline (.de), it might be raining during the race.

  2. Hoping for: Both Mercs to bungle the start so bad Bottas and Pérez fight for the lead through the first stint while pit problems continue to ruin Mercedes’ race.

    More Likely: Pérez gets past Bottas and Rosberg passes Hamilton on Kemmel, Hamilton undercuts Rosberg and then fades into the distance, while the drama of the day is the other Germans as they work their way up the field. Expecting the final stint to be a frustrating one for this Pérez fan as Vettel snagging third in the latter stages from Pérez seems very realistic. Here’s hoping at least that Maldonado has to retire on lap one without impeding anyone else’s race.

    At this moment I am expecting a HAM-ROS-VET-PER-BOT-MAS-HUL-RAI-RIC-GRO points order.

  3. My optimistic side hopes for a good start again from Ferrari and a very good run on the softs, hopefully it is enough for a recovery to third. We may eve have some rain to help things out!

    My pessimistic side (with a dash of realism seeing the performance of Merc-powered teams) expects a difficult race, in which Ferrari PU deficit will be even more evident.

  4. I really hope we get some excitement at the start with people changing positions far more. With some luck we will get a unpredictable race like Hungary, and get a unexpected winner. However, I expect that it’ll be Mercedes 1,2 with Bottas 3rd and Vettel 4th, with a close race behind for the remaining places.

  5. I’m not wishing misfortune on anyone I hope for a collision free race with skill and a little luck assisting the power deficient, I’m hoping DanR gets a good clean start and can get a tow from the FI and FWRs until he can use his sector 2 speed to get into a podium position, any thing more than that will depend on error or misfortune for the MBs.

Comments are closed.