Belgian GP preview: F1 gets Spa treatment

Belgian GP preview: F1 gets Spa treatment

22 August 2017 – After a month-long break to recharge batteries, F1 will burst back into life with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. GPUpdate.net previews the event and provides the key statistics.

Spa-Francorchamps:

In 1920, Jules de Thier, Manager of the newspaper "La Meuse", and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, Chairman of the Sports Commission at the RACB (Royal Automobile Club Belgium), came up with a plan to create a race track out of the roads connecting the towns of Malmedy, Stavelot and Francorchamps.

A race was organised at the 'triangle' for 1921, but officials called it off, with only one car entered; eventually, motorcyclists inaugurated the track, before car racing began in 1922. Two years later, the first 24 Hours of Spa took place, and a year after that, the European Grand Prix arrived.

In an attempt to make it one of the fastest tracks in Europe, Spa was later modified, and given an artificial corner, the 'raidillon', or steep rise, before World War II interrupted life at the venue for seven years.

Spa came back in 1947 and was on the original Formula 1 schedule in 1950, its layout still above 14km. It dropped off the calendar in 1971, amid questions over its safety, and the Belgian Grand Prix switched to Nivelles and Zolder, but a modified Spa returned for the 1983 season.

A ban on tobacco advertising by the Belgian government threatened the future of the Grand Prix, which was again absent in 2003 and 2006, while further changes to popular track sections led to criticism. But Spa, backed by the Walloon government, emerged from the storm and secured its future.

"It is one of the best circuits to experience an F1 car," says Force India's Sergio Pérez.

"I love the high-speed layout, the history of the place and you get to meet some very passionate fans there. There is also the question mark over the weather. It nearly always rains at least one of the days.

"Pouhon is one of my favourite corners of the year. It's so quick and satisfying when you get it just right. The 2017 cars will feel extra special through this part of the lap, as well as through Eau Rouge."

Form guide:

Formula 1 drivers have recharged their batteries over the past month, but just before the sport broke up for the summer, Sebastian Vettel grabbed a crucial win for himself and Ferrari.

Vettel's victory in Hungary moved him 14 points clear of main rival Lewis Hamilton, who gave back P3 to team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the final corner, after failing to pass the Ferraris.

Meanwhile, Helmut Marko, who worked with Vettel at Red Bull, has tipped the four-time champion to return "even stronger" after the break and clinch the title, amid Ferrari's gains.

"I believe in Vettel, because I know his mental strength, and Ferrari has raised its game," said Marko, when asked to predict this year's champion.

"Ferrari was clearly the stronger car in the first half of the season and only due to various circumstances could they not materialise all their chances."

Ferrari's second 1-2 finish of the season brought it closer to Mercedes once more, the gap down to 39 points, putting it within mathematical reach of Mercedes in Belgium.

Red Bull is lonely in third, as it steadily improves its chassis, but waits for power unit gains from Renault, with Force India also in no man's land, again holding a solid fourth.

Williams heads a tight battle for fifth, ahead of Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault, with McLaren-Honda edging closer to the midfield, leaving Sauber on its own at the back.

Belgian GP results:

Out of the current field, Kimi Räikkönen is the most successful driver at Spa, having taken four victories, putting him joint-second on the all-time list, alongside Jim Clark.

Should he triumph this weekend, for the first time since the 2013 season, he would draw level with Ayrton Senna, and move just one behind Michael Schumacher's record of six wins.

Most successful Belgian GP drivers:

6 Michael Schumacher – 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002
5 Ayrton Senna – 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991
4 Jim Clark – 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
   Kimi Räikkönen – 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009
3 Juan Manuel Fangio – 1950, 1954, 1955
   Damon Hill – 1993, 1994, 1998
2 Alberto Ascari – 1952, 1953
   Emerson Fittipaldi – 1972, 1974
   Niki Lauda – 1975, 1976
   Alain Prost – 1983, 1987
   Lewis Hamilton – 2010, 2015
   Sebastian Vettel – 2011, 2013

Factfile:

Venue: Spa-Francorchamps
Direction: Clockwise
Turns: 19
Laps: 44
Race date: August 27, 2017
Circuit opened: 1921
First Grand Prix: 1950
Lap record: 1:47.263 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Circuit length: 7.004 km (4.352 mi)
Race distance: 308.052 km (191.414 mi)

2017 timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 25 August
Practice 1 10:00-11:30 local time
Practice 2 14:00-15:30 local time

Saturday 26 August
Practice 3 11:00-12:00 local time
Qualifying 14:00 local time

Sunday 27 August
Race 14:00 local time

Additional on-track events:
Formula 2
GP3 Series
Porsche Supercup

Driver steward: Mika Salo

DRS zones:
Zone 1 - Kemmel Straight
Zone 2 - Main Straight

Pitlane speed limit:
80 km/h (49.7 mph) for the entire event

Tyre Choice: Ultra Soft / Super Soft / Soft
Fuel usage: 2.27kg per lap
Top speed: 360 km/h (224 mph)
Full throttle: 70 per cent of lap
Gear changes: 48 per lap

Weather forecast:
Friday - Light cloud, high 21°C / low 12°C
Saturday - Sunny spells, high 22°C / low 13°C
Sunday - Sunny, high 22°C / low 13°C

Next race:
Italian Grand Prix

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