Eau Rouge, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015

2016 Belgian Grand Prix track preview

2016 Belgian Grand Prix

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Track data: Spa-Francorchamps

Lap length7.004km (4.352 miles)
Grand prix distance308.052km (191.415 miles)
Lap record (race)1’47.263 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap (any session)1’44.503 (Jarno Trulli, 2009, qualifying two)
Tyre compoundsSee drivers’ choices
2015 Rate the Race6.39 out of 10
2015 Driver of the WeekendRomain Grosjean

Spa-Francorchamps track data in full

If Formula One is supposed to pit the greatest drivers and cars in the world against the greatest circuits in the world then Spa-Francorchamps is as important to the sport as Ferrari.

The seven-kilometre track is the longest in the sport today. Its long straights feed into a sequence of demanding high-speed corners which makes it a favourite of the drivers.

The twisting plunge and climb through Eau Rouge and Raidillon has long been considered among its best features. “Eau Rouge is one of those fabled corners that drivers and fans always talk about, but it really is that special” says Jenson Button. “The feeling of the sweep uphill through the corners is just awesome, every time.”

A well-judged renovation of the track in the early eighties transformed it from a monstrously fast relic of a layout into a use-able modern racing circuit. Since then it has largely resisted the ‘modernisation’ which has ruined other venues. However large asphalt run-offs have been installed at several points and could prove the scene of further wrangles of track limits this weekend.

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A lap of Spa-Francorchamps

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015
The middle part of the lap was built in the eighties
From the start/finish area drivers quickly arrive upon the sharp La Source hairpin. The sudden arrival of such a slow corner can cause problems on the first lap – such as the multi-car pile-up triggered by Romain Grosjean in 2012.

A good exit from the hairpin as vital as what follows can be the longest flat-out section in Formula One when Eau Rouge can be tackled without lifting. “The first lap you go through flat out, you feel sick,” admitted Grosjean, “like you’re on a rollercoaster because it goes up and down.”

“You’re thinking, will I make that for the race? But, once you’ve done it once, it’s all OK and you just enjoy the G-forces.”

As well as being taxing for the drivers and a fearsome place to have a crash, those forces put extreme demands on the cars as well. The compression can affect the lubricant and fuel systems and vibrations from the kerbs can weaken components.

“You have to take a lot of kerb and try to make a precise line going flat out in order to be able to scrub the least speed possible,” explains Esteban Gutierrez. Next the drivers hammer along the Kemmel straight towards Les Combes – a prime overtaking spot, though the fairly quick entry means drivers have to be committed to capture a position.

The approach to the right-handed Rivage hairpin is downhill and tricky with a bump at turn-in. Drivers have to be patient with the throttle at the long corner exit, and quickly switch to the other side of the track to prepare for the downhill left-hander which follows.

Another blast leads them to Pouhon, a fast downhill double-left which ranks alongside Eau Rouge in terms of the challenge to the drivers. Fagnes comes next, a quick right-left, followed by the important right-hander at Stavelot.

“The key is to get a good exit,” says Sainz, “It’s then all flat out from turn 15 until the last chicane, where you can also try and overtake”. Blanchimont may be taken flat-out but it deserves a mention as another of Spa’s dramatic and perilously quick corners.

The chicane, built in 2007, is less a pair of corners than a bad join between two lines and two surfaces. “The track goes upward and there are a few strange angles on the apex of the corners which makes the car move a little,” says Gutierrez, “but it’s important as you can gain a lot of time”.

2016 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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    13 comments on “2016 Belgian Grand Prix track preview”

    1. Will be there and looking forward to it. Never could imagine I would put on a Red Bull shirt a few years ago (long time Ferrari fan)….. thank you Max :/ ;)

      1. being a ferrari fan must had been frustrating right?

    2. LovelyLovelyLuffield
      24th August 2016, 14:42

      “If Formula One is supposed to pit the greatest drivers and cars in the world against the greatest circuits in the world then Spa-Francorchamps is as important to the sport as Ferrari.”

      Oh, these days? Spa-Francorchamps is more import–

      Ah, crap, I can’t make this take work. And I don’t want to do that now lest I risk a beating.

      1. LovelyLovelyLuffield
        25th August 2016, 5:01

        Right, because no one seems to notice anyway:

        Oh, these days? Spa-Francorchamps is more important to the sport than Ferrari.

    3. Fast becoming one of my favourite tracks of all time (yay for racing games)

    4. It truly is one of the most magical places to watch a race. walking from the elephant campsite in Ster through the countryside thats taken straight from a Stella Artois advert, arriving at the main gate and seeing Eau Rouge in the background, surrounded by the beautiful ardennes forest. the great viewing from literally anywhere round the track, and watching the cars go full tilt through radillion and pouhon is literally the pinnacle for a fan. Dont get me wrong, the becketts complex at silverstone is mega, but for me, it doesn’t hold a candle to the setting that is Spa Francorchamps. Coming from the UK it is the ultimate euro road trip!

      1. I always smile when I’m standing near Les Combes, Liege or Bruxelles and somehow can still see the pits in the distance. Been to Spa over a dozen times and whether it’s sunny or rainy, it always makes me happy knowing what a beauty is in my backyard.

    5. Jonathan Parkin
      24th August 2016, 20:22

      I miss The Bus Stop (in it’s original form before 2002)

    6. “If Formula One is supposed to pit the greatest drivers and cars in the world against the greatest circuits in the world then Spa-Francorchamps is as important to the sport as Ferrari.”

      Entirely true- but as we all know, Spa, Suzuka, Monaco, and maybe Silverstone and Interlagos are really the only circuits F1 uses at the moment that belong in the category of “world’s greatest circuits”. There are some good- not great circuits on the calendar as well but F1 circuits throughout time have gradually declined in outright driving challenge.

      1. But how many circuits belong in the “world’s greatest” club? I’d say F1 actually has most of them. Spa, Suzuka, Monaco, I’d add Monza and Silverstone, but what is F1 missing? La Sarthe and Nordshleife sure, but they’re probably both unrealistic as F1 circuits, Bathurst maybe, but what else really is there that F1 doesn’t have? Maybe Road America, formerly Imola but not so much anymore, in my opinion. Perhaps I’m a little F1-centric when it comes to circuits, but leaving aside ovals the F1 calendar really does feature a lot of the best.

        I’d agree that most circuits on the calendar are “Good” rather than “Great” or legendary like the ones above, but in terms of the select few “world’s greatest” circuits, F1 still does pretty well.

        1. I would say of the 1,000+ current racing circuits in existence and the greater amount that have existed over the last 115 years, I would say 50 of those circuits belong in that category, including 25 that are in current use. A lot of great circuits that were once being used for major races are either neutered or no longer in use. I would also include in that category of great circuits these circuits (in terms of outright challenge, not just driver challenge):

          Buenos Aires (No. 15)
          Interlagos (old 5 mi circuit)
          Kyalami (pre-1987 circuit)
          Long Beach (1976-1981)
          Laguna Seca (current circuit)
          Sonoma (maybe)
          Indianapolis (oval)
          Road America
          Watkins Glen
          Mosport Park
          Zandvoort (old circuit)
          Hockenheim (old circuit)
          Monza (pre-1993 layout)
          Targa Florio
          Charade (5 mile layout)
          Isle of Man TT
          Brands Hatch
          Le Mans
          Brno (pre-1987 public road circuit)

          I might have left a few out but those are definitely some of the greatest racing circuits ever- without question. Some of them don’t exist anymore, and most of the ones that currently do exist, F1 can’t race on because they either lack safety or are too short and fast for F1 cars.

    7. Spa is so yaawn inducing for myself.

    8. The free kick tarmac run off gives drivers means that this tracks greatest corners are shadows of what they were. Drivers can get Eau Rouge wrong by metres and pay no penalty. That lack of edge levels the playing field.

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