Risk of rain in sole practice session is “biggest concern” for Belgian GP

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In the round-up: Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough admits the possibility of losing the only practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix is a concern for his team.

In brief

Risk of rain a concern for Spa practice

The Belgian Grand Prix is a sprint race weekend, meaning there is only one, hour-long practice session before qualifying. If that session is wet and subsequent sessions are dry, teams will face especially difficult set-up choices on the track which has many high-speed corners.

“At Spa obviously the biggest concern for us is a wet free practice one, which often happens there over the years,” McCullough told media including RaceFans in Hungary. “We’re going a bit earlier this year, before the August break.”

Setting up the car without a representative practice session would be difficult, said McCullough, especially given the new tyres introduced two races ago at Silverstone.

“You’re going to rely a lot on your simulation tools. We’re still learning with these tyres. You’re going to go straight into a weekend when you commit to your low-fuel, high-fuel, wet set-up all with one session at a pretty unique track,” he said.

However he believes Aston Martin are “in a reasonable shape – we’ve got some more updates coming.”

The official FIA weather forecast currently indicates an 80% chance of rain on Friday. Any teams who make significant set-up changes to their cars after Friday’s qualifying session will have to start the sprint race and grand prix from the pit lane.

Ricciardo reveals Alonso chat behind F1 break

Daniel Ricciardo, who returned to F1 with AlphaTauri at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix after Nyck de Vries lost his seat, says a conversation with Fernando Alonso a few years ago made him feel more ready for what he expected to be a full year out of racing after leaving McLaren at the end of 2022.

Ricciardo says Alonso emboldened him to take time out of F1
“I certainly just kind of reset myself and I feel energised again,” he told media including RaceFans.

“Actually I remember having a conversation with Fernando maybe two years ago now, and I wasn’t thinking of taking a break, but we were just having a chat on a flight somewhere. He said the break for him was one of the best things he ever did.

“That got me thinking, maybe if I ever feel I need it, then not to be too scared of it. And then I think seeing the year he’s had, that also filled me with some confidence.

“So I’m really glad to have been put in this position and come back feeling everything normal again: The grid, the start, the emotion, adrenaline, enjoyed it all.”

Haas unsure when to prioritise 2024 car – Steiner

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner admits the team has taken a step backwards since the season began and are unsure over how best to make progress. “We had a good start to the season again, but we’ve fallen back a bit as we haven’t got as much out of our car compared to other teams,” he said.

Haas are puzzling over problems with their VF-23
“The positives are that we now have Nico [Hulkenberg] in the team, which has been a big help to get all the performance out and he’s working really hard to keep the team motivated and to push, he also fits in fantastically.”

But, Steiner conceded, “the most important thing we don’t bring home is points.” They are eighth in the standings at the halfway point in the season.

“Because of how mixed-up the teams are getting and how close it is, it’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion on whether an update works,” Steiner explained. “Our upgrade was small as we all know. What it promised to do, it did, but it just wasn’t enough.

“Upgrades for this season will also be implemented on next year’s car and that’s why we’ve decided to continue with this year’s car development to really understand our problems and where we need to put effort into making the car better for next year. Right now, we’re developing both cars in parallel, and we don’t really know yet when we switch over only to 2024.”

Red Bull juniors cool on AlphaTauri prospects

Red Bull-backed Formula 2 drivers Dennis Hauger and Ayumu Iwasa say they aren’t entertaining expectations of promotion to Formula 1 next year despite recent driver moves at AlphaTauri.

“For us, we’re focused on our season and the job with the team in F2, to do the best we can,” said Hauger. “We’re not involved in that situation, that’s not in our area at the moment.”

Iwasa said his only priority is “to do a good season in F2. Otherwise if I don’t have enough results in F2, enough performance, for sure I will not get opportunity to be in Formula 1.

“I’m just trying to do my best, and also I’m trying to be better with the team and also in the Red Bull programme. I’m trying to improve my performance as much as I can. I think that will be the most important in this season.”

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Comment of the day

After delivering Red Bull a record-breaking 12th victory in a row last weekend, Max Verstappen said: “I think people probably forget how tough it is to win 12 in a row. Even when you have the fastest car it’s easy to make mistakes or have an ‘off’ weekend.”

It’s a hard statement to disagree with, particularly when Red Bull’s run includes not only its current car but also its 2022 machine and all the work that was put into that.

True. It isn’t an easy feat at all. Luckily they have a rare driver who can pull out a victory despite safety car bad luck and strategic errors. Credit needs to be given equally to the driver and the rest of the team. Heck, they’ve won 20 out of the last 21 races. That is absolutely ridiculous.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Unitedkingdomracing, Oscar Jean Diaz Bustamante and Paolo!

On this day in motorsport

  • 25 years ago today Mika Hakkinen led a McLaren one-two at the A1-Ring after Michael Schumacher damaged his Ferrari by going off at turn eight

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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18 comments on “Risk of rain in sole practice session is “biggest concern” for Belgian GP”

  1. Yes its great that theres been a record breaking run, but to be honest I really miss the days when reliability was a huge factor in race outcomes.
    Gone are the days that teams could/would tweak their engines to breaking point just to gain a few tenths (or more) advantage and try to hang on hoping the engine wouldn’t blow during the race. The spectacular failures and huge plumes of smoke are pretty much a thing of the past because of the forced reliability that was imposed on them.

    As a result, and with most tracks now having huge runoff areas, the outcome of races is pretty much decided very early on – years ago, you’d never really be confident that the leader would win, even if it was 60 seconds ahead because there was always the chance the car wouldn’t finish, even on the last lap or two. That would sometimes make even the most pedestrian races exciting.

    1. That’s one thing I really miss in F1 is Canada ’89 moments.

    2. @dbradock I think that element is the biggest factor in the more regular periods of dominance we have had the past 20 years.

      In decades past you may get a dominant season every so often but they were rarer because even if someone came out with a car that was faster than anyone else by some margin there was still unreliability and a higher risk of mistakes been more punishing that made dominating harder.

      Plus you had more car management (To try and help reliability) that prevented them been able to use all the performance they had.

      It should come as no surprise now that there are fewer opportunities for unexpected results given how the things that used to create the opportunities for surprises are no longer that big of a factor.

      Thats the biggest downside to things like the cost savings that have led to long life engines as well as rev limits, development restrictions and stuff that has led to things no longer been stressed to breaking point. You have eliminated the biggest factor that used to keep things less predictable.

      If you have a situation where most (Or all) of the field will finish and mistakes aren’t punished too hard then is it any surprise that the smaller teams have little/no chance of getting anywhere near the front and that the dominant car will likely win all the races.

    3. Coventry Climax
      26th July 2023, 11:57

      That was a period where all things were pushed to the limit; drivers, engines and revs, turbo pressure, tyres, amount of fuel and hence weight, and loads more.
      If you got it right, you had the bravery, the glory, the recognition and the prize money.

      These days, everything is limited and requires managing; the chewing gum tyres, the braking and associated battery charge, the fuel saving, the entire engine, the budget and resources. The options to try something brave are decimated into a handful of pitstop strategy permutations.
      As for the prize money, these days it already pays off to just be there. Just look at how difficult they make it for someone else to enter and try their hand. It’s no competition if you kill anyone off before they can even enter. That’s just dictatorship. They equalised the prize money because it was unfair. But why would it need to be fair? Fairness doesn’t necessarily bring competition, but it does brings complacency.
      They try everything artificial to make the racing closer, change rules and component specs (e.g. tyres) mid season to have this team win here, that team win next. But like BoP, that doesn’t bring recognition or even competition, it’s just creating a tombola. And obviously, despite all the broohaha around it, the ever increasing controversy to get a bigger audience, the bombastic hero music, the mean looking faces at the start of each event, that all doesn’t add up to much glory either. It’s due to the teams and the engineers that there’s still some development going on, which until now makes the FIA well, sort of fail. But still, the FIA is intent on it, and they will enforce more rules to succeed and create their desired spec series.
      But let’s face it, the F1 I loved, just doesn’t fit into todays global reality anymore. So, ‘F1 is dead’. For me though, it’s not followed by ‘Hail F1’.

  2. It should be clearer for Haas than really any other team. They should have shifted focus to next year by about the 3rd race and since they presumably haven’t then right now is the next obvious time.

    1. I called it early, after HAAS’s first race in 2022 I thought they should start concentrating on their 2026 car. There was so much rhetoric from them during 2021 about not developing the 2021 car so they would be up the front in 2022 when the new regs kicked in. I think if they start on the 2026 car now they might be in with a shot :P

      Fancy Stoffel getting a run in an Aston, didn’t think I’d see him and Fred in the same car again.

      1. I think if they start on the 2026 car now they might be in with a shot :P

        A shot for what? P6 in the WCC. The team is a joke, just by the way they approach racing. I’ve never come across a team that outsources all an F1 team’s engineering, design and technical functions. They basically only handle on track operations and manager drivers… which they’re terrible at as well.

        If it wasn’t for Steiner’s cussing and hilarious interactions with Gene, there would have been zero value created by that team since they’ve entered the sport.

        1. @todfod if you’ve not come across a team outsourcing the design and production aspects of the team before, then perhaps you haven’t been looking hard enough at examples from the past.

          If you wanted to take it to the logical extreme, you just have to go into the past to find plenty of privateer teams – the Rob Walker Racing Team being the most successful and famous example – whose business model relied entirely on buying in completed cars produced by other teams.

          Lola Cars was frequently called upon by teams in Formula 1 to build cars for them – Reg Parnell in 1962, Honda in 1967 and 1968, Embassy Hill in 1974 and 1975, Team Haas in 1984 and 1985, Larrousse from 1987 to 1991 and Scuderia Italia in 1993.

          As for Dallara, they first entered the sport when Scuderia Italia commissioned them from 1988 through to 1992 to build cars for them. The short lived Hispania team did also commission them for the F110, although that partnership ended acrimoniously.

        2. Hm, well, I somehow doubt the outsourcing manufacturing is what is decisive here. It’s not as if a team that is famous for doing the whole car including engine “in house” is doing that much better @todfod

  3. Why should Haas even develop a car to 2024? They or Williams are going to be last anyway. Save the money.

    1. Perhaps they should say yes to andretti when he asks again to buy the team then, then they would save even more money, and who knows, maybe andretti would bring at least a midfield car.

      1. Yeah, my thought also. Haas doesn’t want to spend the money to be competitive, they’re just existing on the Liberty payments. Maybe it’s time to cash in that golden chip for $500,000,000 ± and call it a day. They’re not really an F1 team, having Dallarra pretty much design the car as well as build it, with as much Ferrari stuff as possible. The spend cap has really helped make them profitable so maybe Carl will bail, as I’m sure he has been tempted to many times. He sure isn’t stepping up to make things happen……

      2. Coventry Climax
        26th July 2023, 16:06

        If they sell to Andretti, who then brings (if at all) a midfield worthy car, it’s just someone else gets to be last. Will that team then have to sell next? Because the results aren’t good? Because they don’t try hard enough? The team at the back is usually there for an extended period of time, for reasons that enforce themselves, like lack of sponsors.
        You can’t compare the two, but Minardi was dead last for many years. They did eventually sell, but that was more due to changing circumstances within F1, I believe. Minardi spiced things up from time to time, and I guess that’s what Haas does too.
        The thing that’s wrong is that it’s lucrative to stay in F1, even without results. Sounds funny maybe, but -among other things- that’s what’s killing the competition, and not a team that manages to stay in front for a couple of years.

  4. Same for everyone in the end, so while rain during a sole practice session would be unideal for preparations, I’m sure all teams would get on anyway.

    Lawson is ahead in priority order anyway, so indeed not much point for Iwasa & Hauger to think about a promotion for next year.

    1. Yellow Baron
      26th July 2023, 13:43

      Best case scenario is fp1 a wash out, rain in both qualies and then dry sprint and gp

    2. @jerejj If practice is a wash out but the race is dry the biggest concern would come from Pirelli, Especially at a track that puts a lot of stress on the tires due to it’s high speed nature.

      Remember that in a world with no real testing they get most of there data that sets recommended tire life, stint lengths & minimum pressures, cambers etc.. based off practice running and without that they can’t guarantee the tires safety with the same confidence as they can when they have upto 3 hours of practice on a normal weekend.

  5. As it is now rain is over all three days but not in huge quantities except thundershowers on saterday but that is sprint stuff.

  6. Tom Leekdemblund
    26th July 2023, 9:37

    Let’s see. They nickname their provider “Meteo Chance” for a reason…

Comments are closed.