Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BELGIAN GP 2015 PREVIEW

The first national race of Belgium was held in 1925 at the Spa region's race course, an area of the country that had been associated with motor sport since the very early years of racing. To accommodate Grand Prix motor racing, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps race course was built in 1921 but it was only used for motorcycle racing until 1924. After the 1923 success of the new 24 hours of Le Mans in France, the Spa 24 Hours, a similar 24-hour endurance race, was run at the Spa track. Since inception, Spa-Francorchamps has been known for its unpredictable weather. At one stage in its history it had rained at the Belgian Grand Prix for twenty years in a row.

Frequently drivers confront a part of the course that is clear and bright while another stretch is rainy and slippery. The Belgian Grand Prix was designated the European Grand Prix six times between 1925 and 1973, when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one grand prix race in Europe. It is one of the most popular races on the Formula One calendar, due to the scenic and historical Spa-Francorchamps circuit being a favorite of drivers and fans.

Spa Francorchamps has many claims to fame; popularity among drivers, a superb collection of high speed corners, unpredictable weather. But the factor which will probably stand out this weekend is that it is the highest engine power factor circuit on the F1 calendar. The track is 70% full throttle and the run from La Source hairpin to the braking point for Les Combes features 23.5 seconds of constant full throttle. And in this first season of the hybrid turbo power units, that will have a significant bearing on the result.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS

Track Length : 7.004 kilometres.
Race Distance : 44 laps (308.052 kilometres).
Corners : 19 corners in total.
Average speed : 238km/h. Circuit based on public roads.
Aerodynamic Setup : Medium to Low downforce.
Top speed : 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without.
Full Throttle : 70% of the lap (high).
Time Spent Braking : 14% of lap.
Number Of Brake Zones : 9.
Brake Wear : Low.
Total Time Needed For Pit Stop : 21 seconds.
Lap record: Sebastian Vettel - 1:47.263 (Red Bull, 2009).
2014 pole: Nico Rosberg - 2:05.591 (Mercedes).

2014 Result:

1. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull); 2. Nico Rosberg, (Mercedes); 3. Valtteri Bottas (Williams); 4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari); 5. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 6. Jenson Button (McLaren); 7. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari); 8. Sergio Perez (Force India); 9. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso); 10. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India).

Last five winners at Spa:

2014: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull); 2013: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2012: Jenson Button (McLaren); 2011: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull); 2010: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren).

WEATHER FORECAST

Although it obviously makes sense to check a weather forecast ahead of any trip you take, Spa-Francorchamps can serve up some of the craziest weather of any of the F1 circuits the championship visits each year. Although the race falls during the European summer, it’s location at 420m / 1378ft above sea level and deep in the Ardennes forest means dramatic changes in the weather are never far away. The track is so large that it can also be raining heavily in one section whilst the other remains bone dry.

On Friday, showers expected in the morning, then partly cloudy in the afternoon with a high of 72F and light and variable wind. Chance of rain at 40%. Saturday is forecasted to be mainly sunny with a high of 77F and winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Sunday will be partly cloudy skies during the morning hours which could give way to occasional showers in the afternoon with a high of 72F and winds SE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

DRS

Like in previous years, there will be two DRS zones. The detection point for the first zone will be 240m before Turn 2, with the activation point 310m after Turn 4. The second detection point will be 160m before Turn 18, with the activation point 30m after Turn 19.


TYRES

Spa-Francorchamps, characterised by a long seven-kilometre lap, high speeds, sweeping changes of elevation, fast corners and variable weather. To cope with this wide-ranging set of demands, the most versatile tyres in the range are called for, which is why Pirelli has nominated the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft: the most popular tyre combination of all the grands prix held so far this year. The Cinturato intermediate and wet tyres are also very likely to feature at some point during the Spa weekend, given the region's microclimate.

The biggest difficulty with the variable weather in Spa is that many variations exist over the course of just a single lap, making it hard to identify the correct tyre when it rains. It's possible for one part of the circuit to be completely soaked, but another part to be a hundred per cent dry. Drainage is an issue, meaning that it's easy to be caught out by streams of water running across the track surface.
The medium tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures - which is often the case at Spa. The soft tyre by contrast is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures.

Last year's strategy and how the race was won: Daniel Ricciardo won his second consecutive race for Red Bull (the third victory of his career) using a two-stop strategy for the 44-lap race from fifth on the grid. He did two stints on the soft tyre and a final stint on the medium tyre, stopping on laps 11 and 26. He set the fastest lap of the race on the final tour with the medium tyre, underlining the consistency of the compound even over a long stint.

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.8 - 2.0 seconds per lap.

SAFETY CAR

The chance of a safety car at Spa is statistically high at 80% and 1.4 per race. Rain is one reason, but also accidents tend to be high speed and so there can be quite a lot of debris.

CONCLUSIONS

Qualifying rarely determines the final race result; the pole sitter has only won the race four times in the last 13 years. Overtaking is not a problem at Spa and the DRS wing makes it very straightforward anyway. Throw in a more adventurous tyre selection from Pirelli than in the last couple of years at this track and you have multiple elements that could add up to an exciting race.

It's been a whole month since we've seen any F1 action so Spa is the best place to start off again with all the right ingredients in place. And after what happened in Austria, there will surely be fireworks at the front of the field.

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1 comment:

Super Man said...

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