Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted August 29, 2012 19:11
Spa-Francorchamps host the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend as it also marks the end of the summer break. The three weeks with no racing has left me hankering for more racing and I can't wait to see which teams and drivers bring their 'A' game.
Spa is always exciting to go to as it is mostly the favorite track of the year for the drivers. Along with Suzuka, it has the nicest blends of medium to quick speed corners that make hanging a modern F1 car on the edge so enjoyable. It's not too hard on brakes and cooling, plus with such long straights leading onto and after the famous Eau Rouge corner, it means a low downforce track and aero efficiency is key. In other words it's very important to have good downforce, especially in the middle split of the track but not at the cost of too much straight-line speed.
Over the last two years, it's been a RedBull track, but with other teams making gains especially in high speed corners, this will not be the case this year. We have seen five different teams win so far, and it should be just as close this weekend. Ferrari will be strong as they were at Silverstone and I feel Alonso will be very much in the hunt in qualifying as well as in the race. His team mate Massa is still under huge pressure and will need a strong weekend.
The Mercedes engined cars will also be strong, with McLaren holding an edge. But what about Lotus? Raikkonen knows he needs to keep finishing on the podium but this is perhaps a circuit which will not play to its strengths, which are slow speed drivability and warm conditions. But we cannot rule him or his teammate out as they have continued to surprise us this year.
Another thing to look out for in qualifying is what sort of downforce the teams go for and what top speeds they get at the end of the straight. For the quickest lap time, it's more useful to run a shorter top gear to deal with the fast corners like Eau Rouge, but this will then compromise their top speeds and leave them vulnerable down the straight for the race. And as you are not allowed to change gears from qualifying to the race, we could see a quick team in qualifying have a poor race due to bad top speeds down the straight.
And then there is the rain. We usually have wet and dry races here and when that happens, it's always a classic with lots of overtaking and brave driving being rewarded. Makes for a very tricky race and I'm kind of hoping we have those conditions this weekend.