Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

Only one team is quicker at Spa than they were last year

Lap time watch: 2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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Despite a year of development every F1 team has failed to lap quicker at Spa-Francorchamps than they did in 2018 – with a single exception.

McLaren is the only team to have set a quicker lap time over the race weekend so far than they managed last year. And it hasn’t been an especially competitive weekend for them by their recent standards either – neither of the MCL34s made it into Q3.

In a year where F1 cars have been quicker at most venues they’ve visited, lap times have been slower on the whole at Spa. This is despite the fact part of qualifying was held in wet conditions last year, when the 2018 cars might have gone even quicker.

Ferrari may have swept the front row of the grid, but Charles Leclerc’s pole position time is over a second slower than they managed last year. And most teams have lost even more time than that.

Williams have posted the worst year-on-year performance again, as they have at every race besides Hungary, lapping two-and-a-half seconds slower.

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There have only been two other tracks this year where the existing track record has not fallen:

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However this year’s car’s are quicker than any other F1 cars were prior to 2018 around Spa’s current configuration.

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2019 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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11 comments on “Only one team is quicker at Spa than they were last year”

  1. Weird indeed given that last season’s equivalent qualifying session was partly rain-affected, meaning that we never got to see how fast the 2018 cars could’ve lapped this circuit. The third time this season that no one has managed to better the outright track record in qualifying-trim along with Shanghai and Hockenheim.

    1. Isola said the tyres were 2 steps softer last year than they had been the previous year. This year the tyre is harder so it goes some way to explain. Is the drs the same?
      I also noticed that Russel was very slow on the straights about 310.

      1. @peartree Yes. The only difference with the DRS is that the activation zone of the Kemmel straight starts 20 meters later than twelve months ago, but that has zero impact on the overall lap time, especially on a circuit this long.

        1. DRS this year is more powerful though. The flap that opens is wider and higher, meaning the overall reduction in drag is also higher. I think it’s a matter of tires and track conditions overall, as 2019 cars also are less draggy than the 2018 ones

  2. Isn’t it possible that it had some small change? Like some kerb little bit raised or a section repaved… It’s not normal, given the trend in other circuits

    1. @esmiz
      Most of it has to do with the tyres. Pirelli brought harder tyres to Spa this year than they did in 2018.
      Other factors could be wind direction (head wind on a straight or tail wind into a specific corner) and high track temperatures.

      Still, it’s strange to see them lapping a full second slower than last year.

      1. @srga91 – thanks for that explanation, I think you’re right that the tyres are the big differentiator, combined with temperatures.

        I was a bit disappointed that the article didn’t go into any detail or offer any explanation why all the teams were slower this year.

  3. I blame Pirelli. Last minute tire pressure changes never end well.

  4. I think the high temperatures have a lot to do with it. It means teams have to run higher cooling with bigger openings etc, something that hurts a lot on fast tracks like Spa. And the hot weather also makes it quite a different approach to the tyres and getting them right for the whole lap.

  5. What makes williams’ troubles even more painful is that they have much better lead driver this year compared to last year. Last year their lead driver was lance stroll whereas this year it is george russell. Going back 2017 williams had a good car (and amazing engine). But more important they had okay driver in massa. Got beaten by bottas, beat stroll. When williams replaced massa with pay driver sirotkin then suddenly on the next season the williams car was slower. Was it the car or the driver?
    https://www.racefans.net/2017/12/01/2017-f1-team-mate-battles-massa-vs-stroll-at-williams/
    It was the drivers. When you factor in the pace difference between massa and stroll and then take massa out of the picture in 2018 to compare massa’s 2017 lap times against stroll’s 2018 lap times it is easy to see the tens of millions of reasons where it went wrong.

    This makes the 2019 car even more awful because williams should have a good driver in russell and while kubica isn’t doing well williams are totally off the pace. The relative difference to 2018 car is a lot bigger than the numbers in this article suggest because there is a big step up in the skill of the lead driver. If russell can get half a second more out of the car than stroll (just a simple guess) and they are still so much slower it really paints a really dark picture about how really awful that car is. It is obviously bad but it is even worse than it looks.

  6. On the plus side after the Mclaren the next best improvement was Renault by a good margin.

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