|Circuit||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps|
|Distance||308.052 km / 191,456 miles|
|7||Kimi Raikkonen||F14 T||308||Scuderia Ferrari||4.|
|14||Fernando Alonso||F14 T||307||Scuderia Ferrari||7.|
Marco Mattiacci: “At the end of a weekend in which the topic of young drivers was very much in the news, I want to start by congratulating Raffaele Marciello on his first GP2 win and Jules Bianchi for his strong showing in yesterday’s qualifying. As for the race, we are very pleased for Kimi: today, he came close to the podium and scored his best result of the season, a result which sees us maintain third place in the Constructors’ classification. Unfortunately, Fernando’s race was compromised by a problem at the start. Without that, I firmly believe the podium was within his reach. We know we have missed out on a great opportunity, but we will learn from this incident to pay obsessive attention to our procedures, as we strive to improve reliability. The next race will be complicated because top speed is a strong point of the Mercedes-powered teams. We will try and defend with every means available, because the efforts of the team in terms of improving the car are producing encouraging signs.”
Fernando Alonso: “Today my race started on the back foot as the car did not fire up and we had to use another battery. It’s a shame because we had a strong pace all weekend and, starting fourth, we could have finished on the podium. With a penalty to take and on a circuit where top speed is our weak point, we knew we didn’t stand much of a chance, but all the same we did our best. Unfortunately, towards the end there was some rather questionable driving and after my front wing was damaged in a coming together with Vettel, the important thing was to get to the chequered flag. I know the Stewards acted on what happened, but I don’t think it’s that important when you are fighting for sixth and seventh places. Now we must look ahead and prepare for Monza. Even if it’s a track that won’t suit our car, it’s our home race. We will have the support of all the fans and so it’s a race where we want to do better. Let’s hope we succeed in that.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “We had decided to tackle this race more aggressively, making an early stop to get ahead of the cars that had yet to pit and that meant I was able to stay with the leaders for much of the race. When Bottas in the Williams began to close on me, I knew I didn’t have the speed to defend on the straight and with a few laps to go, he managed to pass me. In general, I’m happy with how this weekend ended. We knew it would not be easy on this circuit, but we did our utmost and for the first time, we managed to have a clean race without any problems. The car has improved and today the pace was good. Fourth place shows we are going in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean we can settle for that. Today, we scored a good number of points, but we are here to win and we will continue to work to reach the top.”
Pat Fry: “Fourth and seventh places can’t be seen as satisfactory, especially given that circumstances today meant we could have delivered more as a team. Clearly, Fernando’s penalty, because of a problem with the charge from the external battery we use on the grid, cost him the chance of fighting for a place on the podium and from this incident we must learn to improve our procedures. From then on, his race was compromised and whatever strategy we went for would have seen him in traffic: that’s how it turned out and unfortunately, he suffered a lot behind Magnussen, who could count on better straight line speed. Despite this, Fernando pulled off several overtaking moves and drove a great race. It’s a shame about the contact with Vettel at La Source, which cost him places right at the end. Kimi ran a clean race and we are pleased his feeling with the car is improving. It was precise and he made no mistakes: we came close to a third place with him, which he maybe deserved. Now we will continue to develop the car to give both our drivers an ever more competitive package, even if we have to be realistic when it comes to the rest of the season. Monza will be a very tough race, but there too, we will try and get the maximum out of our available package.”
|ALONSO||8th (7th)||1:25:37.718||+ 61.162||44||1.53.879||29|
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 12||New Soft|
|2nd stop||Lap 25||New Medium|
|Pit-stop||1st stop||Lap 8||New Soft|
|2nd stop||Lap 21||New Medium|
|Weather: air 17/19 °C, track 24/32 °C. Sunny|
Spa-Francorchamps, 24 August – Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in the Belgian Grand Prix to secure his best result of the season so far, while team-mate Fernando Alonso salvaged a few points, in a race compromised before the start, when a problem on the F14 T meant his mechanics stayed on the grid too long and the Spaniard was given a stop-go penalty. He took the flag in eighth spot, but a post-race penalty for Magnussen moves him to seventh. With the Mercedes duo tripping each other up, the way was clear for Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull to take his third win of the season, joined on the podium by Nico Rosberg, second for Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas third in the Williams.
Fernando’s car would not start for the formation lap and the mechanics had to stay on the grid longer than allowed to sort the problem. After Vettel briefly split Hamilton and the slow starting Rosberg, it was back to a Mercedes one-two as the cars came through to end the opening lap. The internecine battle at Mercedes saw Rosberg clip the back of Hamilton’s car, giving the Englishman a puncture, which ruined his race.
From the leader to sixth-placed Kimi the gap was just 4 seconds on lap 7, with Bottas in the Williams passing Fernando on lap 8, so the two Ferraris were now running fifth and sixth. The stewards announced a stop-go penalty for Fernando for having his mechanics on the grid after the 15 second signal. Temporary leader Bottas came in on 12, along with Fernando to take on fresh rubber and to sit out his penalty. The Spaniard emerged in tenth place but soon got by Perez to go ninth. Kimi had got as high as second, benefiting from having pitted early, before making his final tyre change on lap 21. The second time, the early stop would work against him in the closing stages, as Rosberg and Bottas, on fresher rubber, both passed him to push the Ferrari man off the podium.
Fernando made his second stop on lap 25, taking on a set of Mediums and rejoining ninth. In the closing laps Fernando was caught up in a fight for fifth, behind Magnussen and ahead of Button and Vettel, the cars four abreast for a moment. The Ferrari man lost a position to Button but then got it back in the most exciting scrap of the race. Fernando then lost more places on the final lap, when the hectic scrap between world champions saw Vettel’s car remove most of Fernando’s front wing as the two men touched, which dropped him to seventh and then eighth as Button got by one more time. Magnussen’s moves on Fernando were later deemed irregular and the Dane was given a 20 second penalty, promoting the Ferrari man to seventh.
On a track where a lack of top speed for the F14 T was going to make for a difficult weekend, the actual performance level shown by Kimi and Fernando during the 44 laps was better than expected, proof that the team is making progress. It’s come at the right time with the all important home race next at Monza in a fortnight.
Spa-Francorchamps, 24 August –Kimi Raikkonen came very close to a podium finish in the Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track. Having started eighth, the Finn did an excellent job of making the most of every opportunity that came his way in an action-packed race, in which he spent much of the time in third place. Fernando Alonso on the other hand, had a decidedly difficult time of it, eventually finishing eighth.
A problem on Alonso’s F14 T before the start meant the mechanics had to stay on the grid over the time allowed. He managed to get away before the last car passed him and so was able to take up his correct fourth place on the grid. However, because of the rule infringement, the Spaniard was given a 5 seconds stop-go penalty, which he took at the first pit stop.
The opening laps were action packed, as the two Mercedes collided, so that Hamilton had to pit with a puncture and Rosberg struggled with front wing damage. That meant it was all very close at the front, with both Scuderia Ferrari drivers in the mix, as the top six were all within 3 seconds of one another.
Raikkonen was always a front runner, even getting as high as second for a while, spending much of the race in third. However, in the closing stages, Kimi had to give best to the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and settle for fourth, which is nevertheless his best result of the season so far. Alonso paid a heavy price for that 5 second penalty, finding himself locked in battle with Kevin Magnussen in the McLaren who was still in front of Fernando after the second pit stop. That cost the Spaniard a lot of time and in the closing stages he was involved in a four way fight, but had to also give best to Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Jenson Button (McLaren) thus finishing eighth. Daniel Ricciardo took the third win of his career. The next round is at Monza in a fortnight’s time.
Fernando Alonso: “I think today’s qualifying went well, even if it wasn’t easy, because every time you went out on track, you didn’t know what conditions to expect and exactly how much grip you would find from the track surface. Fourth position is a great result and now I think we can expect a very interesting race. We tried various aerodynamic configurations and, if we seemed more competitive, maybe it’s because we managed to adapt better than some other teams. The rain certainly helped, but we also had good pace on the long run in the dry yesterday. Tomorrow, whatever the conditions, we must simply try to run a perfect race and above all make the right tyre choices. We have all new sets available and, of the two compounds, I think the Soft will be the one to use at the start and in the early part of the race. The Medium is a bit slower, but similar to the Soft in terms of degradation, so it will be a case of running it for as little time as possible in the race and to make the change at the right moment.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “After lots of unforeseen incidents on Friday, this morning I was reasonably happy with the handling of my car. In the afternoon, the arrival of the rain made everything more unpredictable, the car was sliding all over the place and putting together a good lap wasn’t easy. On my last run in Q3, I tried my best, but some mistakes cost me a few places. Even if I’m a bit disappointed, now I want to just think about tomorrow’s race, which will be a long one, with the chance of very variable weather. I will try and make up as many places as possible and in order to do that, it will be very important to make the right decisions at the right time.”
Pat Fry: “We are reasonably pleased with the outcome, even if we cannot ignore Mercedes’ performance, given that we want to get back to being in the top positions. Fernando only just missed out on third place, having produced a fantastic lap. I hope he can have a good race from fourth on the grid. Kimi lost out a bit in all three sectors, but I believe he drove as hard as he could, even though he wound up eighth. Certainly, we can’t forget all the difficulties he experienced yesterday, because I’m sure that with a bit more track time, he could have been a bit higher up the order. Tomorrow’s race will be long and difficult: the forecast is for less chance of rain than today, but here at Spa, it’s impossible to be sure. The important thing is to be ready to adapt our strategy to whatever conditions we encounter.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August – The two Ferrari F14 Ts will start tomorrow’s twelfth round of the World Championship from the second and fourth rows of the grid and fourth placed Fernando Alonso admitted that the rain which, almost inevitably affected qualifying, helped him today. The Spaniard was pleased with his performance and so he should be, because his lap time was only fractionally slower than third placed Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.
However, looking at the bigger picture, the two Mercedes were once again in a class of their own and, with the very long lap here, their advantage looks even bigger than elsewhere. Pole man Nico Rosberg put in a lap over 2 seconds faster than Vettel, with second placed Lewis Hamilton just under three tenths slower than his team-mate.
On paper therefore, especially as the race should more than likely be run in the dry, one could expect the silver cars to clear off into the distance. However, this is Spa and anything can and usually does happen. Add in Fernando’s fierce determination and his reputation for breathtaking opening laps and there is a good chance the Ferrari fans in the forests will have something to cheer about, come the end of the 44 laps.
The good news on Kimi’s side of the garage is that in this morning’s dry FP3 he was happy with the car. This afternoon, but for a few little driving mistakes, possibly the lingering effect of not having a trouble-free Friday, he might have been higher up the order than eighth. The two Prancing Horse runners are separated on the grid by three different cars; the Red Bull of fifth placed Daniel Ricciardo, the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the McLaren of Kevin Magnussen.
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August –At 2pm tomorrow, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will start the Belgian Grand Prix from the second and fourth rows, after the Spaniard was fourth fastest in qualifying, 69 thousandths off third placed Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull,) with the Finn in eighth spot on the grid.
Rain affected qualifying, having fallen before the start and then intermittently during the session. Neither Ferrari man had any trouble in Q1, getting through with Kimi sixth and Alonso ninth. Q2 also went smoothly, with Fernando making the cut to Q3 in third place, with Kimi fifth. In the top-ten shoot-out, the sun reappeared and the track gradually dried out.
For the eleventh time in his career, Nico Rosberg took pole in 2.05.591, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Behind Vettel and Fernando (2.07.786,) the third row features Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams.) Row 4 sees Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) on the inside of Kimi who stopped the clocks in 2.08.780. Behind them are Felipe Massa (Williams) and Jenson Button (McLaren.)
Spa-Francorchamps, 23 August – The Scuderia Ferrari drivers finished the final hour of free practice for the Belgian Grand Prix in fourth and sixth places. The track was damp at the start after earlier rainfall and hardly anyone went out on track therefore for the first 30 minutes. With 25 minutes left, the track was dry enough for slicks and the track finally got busy. Raikkonen and Alonso did 9 laps each, first on the Medium tyres and then simulated qualifying on the Softs. Kimi’s best time was a 1.49.817, while Fernando stopped the clocks in 1.49.890.
Valtteri Bottas was fastest for Williams in 1.49.465, while Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) was second with Nico Rosberg third in the Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton split the two Ferraris in his Mercedes with the same time of Raikkonen. The fight for pole gets underway at 2pm when rain might well be on the agenda again.
Fernando Alonso: “Compared to the other race weekends, the story is a bit different here, because Spa is a high speed circuit and, after a month off, getting back to racing at a fantastic track like this is a real pleasure. It was nice to be able to run in the dry today. The weather is always changeable here and in fact, the possibility of rain is forecast for tomorrow, therefore, as usual, we will ensure we are ready for whatever comes our way. At this track and at Monza, engine performance counts for a lot. We know there is no magic solution but we will nevertheless try to optimise everything. The car behaved as we expected from our simulations and that is definitely something positive.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “A difficult day, complicated by a series of setbacks which cost us valuable track time. In the morning, I had a brake problem, but once it was sorted, we were able to get through our planned programme for the first session. The new components we brought for this race seem to be working, but only after we have cross-referenced all the data will we be able to work out what is the best package to use for the rest of the weekend. In the afternoon, an electrical problem complicated our work, preventing us from carrying out the race simulation. Tomorrow, we can expect a busy free practice session, in which we will do our best to prepare the car for qualifying and the race.”
Pat Fry: “The Spa circuit is a very enjoyable one for the drivers and at the same time it presents a great challenge for we engineers, especially this year because of the parameters linked to the new Power Unit. In order to gather as much data as possible, we chose to run different programmes with our drivers. Unfortunately, in the second session, Kimi’s work was affected by an electrical problem, which although it didn’t prevent him running, did mean he couldn’t make the most of all the systems. In the first and third sectors, top speed counts the most, while in the middle one, driveability and aerodynamic downforce come into play more and that makes finding the right set-up especially demanding, even more so when looking to the race, because while extra downforce can be an advantage in the second sector, it slows the cars on the straights, making it harder to attack and defend in the race. We are working hard on the efficiency of the car in general and on the thermal energy side of the Power Unit, but I think that at tracks like this one and Monza, which highlights these characteristics on our rivals’ cars, we will have to try and defend with all means available and attack where and when possible.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August – The Scuderia Ferrari drivers both completed 35 laps today which, to put some perspective on it, is 9 laps short of Sunday’s race distance. They say the driver can make a difference on this 7 kilometre Belgian rollercoaster and the talented Mr. Alonso would seem to have proved that, given that on a track where top speed counts for a lot, he still hauled his F14 T to third place on both of today’s time sheets, even though the Ferrari car is known to lack some high speed pace. Kimi Raikkonen is no slouch round here either, as he’s won the Belgian Grand Prix four times, but we will now have to wait until tomorrow to see what the Finn can do, as he was slowed by an electrical problem this afternoon.
Inevitably the two cars that were quicker than Fernando’s were silver, with Lewis Hamilton fastest at the end of the day, followed by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. This trio were the only drivers to break the 1minute 50 seconds barrier. Rounding off the top six were the Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, fourth and sixth, split by the McLaren of Jenson Button.
Rain is a distinct possibility for tomorrow, which could make qualifying very interesting as a wet track will diminish the importance of the horsepower factor. There were two new names on the timing sheets today: after some confusion, Alex Rossi drove only FP1 for Marussia, before handing back the car to Max Chilton and, at Caterham, three times Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer has replaced Kamui Kobayashi this weekend.
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August –Mixed fortunes for Scuderia Ferrari in the second Friday session. Fernando Alonso was again third, while Kimi Raikkonen had an electrical problem, which did not stop him running, but meant he could not push to the maximum, thus affecting his lap times, so that he ended up fifteenth fastest.
Alonso did 19 laps this afternoon, his best being a 1.49.930, one more than Raikkonen, whose fastest lap was a 1.52.234.
Both drivers continued to work on set-up and completed tyre evaluation work, this time also running the Soft Option brought here by Pirelli.
As in the first session, a Mercedes was fastest, although this time it was Lewis Hamilton who did a 1.49.189, to beat team-mate Nico Rosberg by six tenths, eight faster than Alonso. Behind the Spaniard came Felipe Massa (Williams,) Jenson Button (McLaren) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams.) Free practice 3 is tomorrow at 11am.
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August –Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen ended the first free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix in third and fifth places respectively. On a sun-kissed Spa track, the Spaniard completed 16 laps and the Finn 17.
Alonso’s best time was a 1.51.805 while Raikkonen stopped the clocks in 1.52.818. In the morning, both Scuderia Ferrari drivers worked on set-up as usual and concentrated on assessing the Pirelli Medium tyres, which are being run this weekend along with the Soft compound.
Quickest in this session was Nico Rosberg who posted a 1.51.577, ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton who was just under a tenth slower. In between Alonso and Raikkonen, we find Jenson Button in the McLaren. The second session starts at 2pm.
Spa-Francorchamps, 22 August – Being an average driver is not enough to win at Spa-Francorchamps, you need to have that little something special,” is what Scuderia Ferrari test driver, Pedro de la Rosa, had to say about the historic Belgian venue, when talking to www.ferrari.com. “This track is special and that’s why it always produces a very close fight between the drivers. At Spa, the driver can make the difference, which is why everyone reckons it’s a drivers’ track. Coming out on top here is like winning in Monaco: it is unique and you need to be a complete driver, one who can tackle the high speed corners as well as pulling off passing moves and keeping your foot down.”
Thrills and difficulties. “Personally, I still consider Suzuka is the most difficult circuit, but right behind it on this chart is Spa,” continues Pedro. “It is extremely difficult for the driver, as extreme forces are exerted on his body and it’s equally hard on the car, especially the engine. In the first section you are pushing very hard and, at least up until last year, Eau Rouge was taken flat. We will have to see if that is still the case with these new cars. One of my favourite parts is the uphill Pouhon corner, which is taken in sixth gear. You cover a lot of ground without braking and it’s very difficult, because there are two points where you have to hit the apex and it puts a serious strain on your neck.”
Strategy and tactics. At Spa, strategy plays a key role and is a real test of car and driver. “Even tactically, you have to be right on it, keeping an eye on the temperatures at all times. For example, the brakes are not used much, but when they are, you need to use them very hard, such as at the first hairpin and, especially at the Bus Stop (the final chicane before the finish line) which comes after a long flat out section.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 21 August – The Spa circuit is famous for its high speed challenge and, at his usual Thursday meeting with the media in the Belgian paddock, Kimi Raikkonen was asked if he regretted the fact the current cars are a bit slower than in the past. “In a way yes, if you think of F1, you’d think we would have everything possible in the car to make them go faster, as it was in the past,” began the Scuderia Ferrari driver. “But obviously, now the rules have changed aimed at making the cars slower, while improving the show. I think the cars looked nicer in the past and were much more challenging to drive and it was more fun in some ways. On the other side, maybe we have more overtaking now, but sometimes I think it would be nice to go back and race with the cars from the past.”
When Kimi made his F1 debut there were concerns voiced about his lack of experience, so he is ideally placed to comment on the story of the day, next year’s arrival of the currently 16 year old Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso. “I did one full year, 23 races in a car before coming to F1,” recalled the Finn. “He has probably done more. I did well; time will tell how he will do. The sport is more straightforward now than in the past, the points are given out to more finishers. So I don’t think he will have problems and I hope he does well.”
Kimi’s last win at Spa came at the wheel of a Ferrari in 2009, which at the time he described as “a miracle.” He was asked what a victory would represent on Sunday. “It would be a similar story!” he said. “That year, we were one of the few teams running KERS and that was a good help for us here. Hopefully we can have a good weekend overall and a good race, so that we start improving. But here and Monza are probably not the easiest places for us as we are missing some straightline speed, which is very important at this circuit and the next one. I think that the final part of the season can only be better for us, especially as I’ve had a much better feeling from the car at the last two races.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 21 August – The first part of Fernando Alonso’s usual Thursday press meeting was taken up discussing a 16 year old Dutch boy! The news that Max Verstappen will be 17 years old when he makes his debut with Toro Rosso next year has been making all the headlines. “We will have to see how he gets on next year,” was Fernando’s view. “For now, I welcome him and wish him the best. Probably I wasn’t ready at 17. Maybe I felt I was at the time, but now, after 14 years in Formula 1 you can see areas where you improved a lot. But today, Formula 1 cars are a lot easier to drive, not so demanding physically, so that can help the new arrivals.”
Team Principal Marco Mattiacci recently comment that the team has to adopt a more aggressive approach in how it goes racing, and the Spaniard agreed that this was the right way to move forward. “Actually, I think we have already been quite aggressive in recent years, with such examples as running pull-rod suspension on the front of the cars since 2012 and a new concept for the exhausts at the rear,” he said. “Now, we just need to keep improving the car and our facilities in the factory in order to be a stronger team, with new ideas.” The Ferrari driver then had this to say about Luca Marmorini being replaced by Mattia Binotto. “All the changes made recently are aimed at making us more competitive and stronger. So if the team decides to replace someone, it’s because it feels a new person can do better. The power unit development was frozen but from next year, we need to unlock some more of the potential from the power unit, because we are not at the performance level of some of our opponents. Hopefully, the new people can find the extra horsepower!”
As for the rest of the season, Alonso restated his aim to help the team finish as high up the Constructors’ classification as possible. “I think the fight with Williams will go right to the end,” he reckoned. “These two races in Spa and Monza should favour them more, so we must try and score good points. As for the Drivers’ championship, I would like to finish third, fighting Ricciardo, but that’s quite an ambitious target.”
Spa-Francorchamps, 21 August- For Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, energy saving was the first item on the agenda at Spa-Francorchamps, the backdrop to Sunday’s twelfth round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
Along with Shell Project Leader Mike Evans, they met students who had designed highly efficient cars to take part in the Shell Eco-Marathon, in which teams from all over the world compete to see who can cover the furthest distance using the equivalent of one kW/h of energy or one litre of fuel.
Before having a go at the wheel of six of these unusual prototypes near the famous La Source hairpin, Fernando and Kimi spent a long time talking to the young engineers, about environmental sustainability, at the event organised by Scuderia Ferrari’s technical partner Shell.
Much less powerful but greener than a Formula 1 car, the best of these innovative cars can cover one lap of the track using just 2.2 millilitres, or about a teaspoonful, whereas a Formula 1 car requires around two to three litres to cover the same distance.
Maranello, 21 August – Spa-Francorchamps is one of the tracks the drivers love most, thanks to its high speed corners, its drops and climbs and its historic points such as Eau Rouge and the Bus Stop chicane. Fernando Alonso and four times winner here, Kimi Raikkonen were keen to try the track ahead of time, racing model cars on a track made by licensee Carrera, the leader in the field of the latest generation of electric racing car tracks. The layout was built up in one of the Logistics buildings at Maranello. The two Scuderia drivers were teamed with their respective data engineers, Edoardo Brosco and Giuliano Salvi as they fought a thrilling duel and they made the most of the occasion to describe the key points of this legendary track. Enjoy!
Maranello, 19 August – Eight races in fourteen weeks; that’s the schedule now facing the F1 circus as battle is joined again and it gets back to work for the second half of the season, after the official summer break. It leaves hardly any time to pause for breath as the teams crisscross the globe from east to west.
However, before the final six “flyaways” we come to two of the most evocative and historic events on the calendar, starting with this weekend’s race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The objectives. For Scuderia Ferrari, the objectives for the hectic dash to the 2014 finish line are clear: to finish as high up the order as possible in the Constructors’ classification in which it is currently third and, given that the technical regulations are more or less unchanged for 2015, to use development of the F14 T to learn valuable lessons for next season. This weekend’s race in the Ardennes takes place on a track that often throws up surprises, because of its high speed nature, that sees cars run in low downforce configuration, so that even teams usually regarded as backmarkers can be in the mix. It means the current front-runners are not necessarily the odds-on favourites and in terms of the show, spectators usually get to witness a fiercely competitive weekend.
A track for real drivers. It is also true that the challenges posed by the 7.004 kilometre track tend to highlight the abilities of the most talented drivers, but strangely enough, in this case Fernando Alonso is the exception that proves the rule, as he has never won here, his best results being two second places in 2005 and again last year. But given the Spaniard’s incredible driving this year, nothing can be ruled out this weekend. On the other hand, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, with four wins in Belgium is the most successful of the current drivers, equal with Jim Clark, one win behind Ayrton Senna and two behind Michael Schumacher. “Spa is probably my favourite circuit because it’s an old-style track which climbs and drops through the forest and I like the fact it’s fast and flowing,” says the Finn. “Also, it usually provides good racing to watch for the spectators. I think you can make a difference as a driver at every part of the circuit, but as with every track, it’s a combination of factors. At Turn 1, the hairpin, you can actually lose or gain a lot of time and you need good speed out of it because after it comes the very long straight including Eau Rouge. That corner has been easily flat out for quite a long time now, although actually, with this year’s cars, that might not be the case. Last time I drove here in a Ferrari (in 2009) I won, and that was in a year when we had been struggling since the start. But in Spa we managed to get things going a bit more in the right direction and it would be good if the same thing could happen this year. That would hopefully mean the racing would be a bit more fun. It’s always more fun when we get the results!”
The weather factor. Of course, no Spa preview can be complete without a nod to the weather: not only is rain a frequent player, but given the fact this is the longest track on the calendar, parts of the circuit can be bone dry and others wet, all adding to the unpredictable nature of the race, which means teams have to really be on top of every situation. Another effect of the long lap is that those who do the best job of managing the Energy Recovery Systems could reap the benefit of a performance advantage. All in all, Spa is a great way to end the holidays!
Maranello, 18 August – After the summer break, Formula 1 action resumes at one of the most historic venues on the calendar, Spa-Francorchamps, home to the Belgian Grand Prix. Sunday’s race will be the 59th and Scuderia Ferrari has won 16 times, making a hit rate of 27.5%. Over the years, the race has been held at three venues: Spa (46 times,) Zolder, in the Flemish part of Belgium (10 times) and twice at Nivelles-Baulers on the outskirts of Brussels.
The Fifties. The first ever Belgian Grand Prix was held in 1950 and was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo. Ferrari then won in 1952 and 1953 with Alberto Ascari at the wheel of the legendary 500. The Italian had a special feeling for this track and reckoned that Eau Rouge, the uphill esses which are still a challenge today, as the nicest corner he had ever tackled. Ferrari also won with Peter Collins in 1956.
The Sixties. In 1961, Ferrari was totally dominant taking the top four places with the 156 F1. Phil Hill won from Wolfgang von Trips, Richie Ginther and Olivier Gendebien. The first non-Ferrari finisher was John Surtees in the Cooper. In fact it was the English ace who took Ferrari’s last win on the old Spa layout, which was 14 kilometres long. It took place in 1966 and was one of the toughest races of all time. Surtees, partly down to the sensitivity he had developed from motor cycle racing, was the only one not to have any problems when, on the opening lap, the pack ran into a proper storm at Bourneville corner. Surtees got through unscathed, while Jochen Rindt who was behind him, spun several times but without any major consequence. Nine drivers went out, including Jackie Stewart who rolled his BRM and had to be pulled out by Graham Hill just seconds before the car caught fire.
The races at Zolder. The 1966 race and those after it led to Spa being considered too dangerous for Formula 1. So the Circus set up its tent at the 3.7 km Nivelles-Bauliers track, which was definitely safer, but not very spectacular. So another solution was tried in 1973, moving the race to the 4.2 km Zolder track. It suited Niki Lauda perfectly and he won for Ferrari in 1975 and ’76. At the end of the decade in 1979, came another win, this time courtesy of a bit of Jody Schecker magic.
The tragedy. What had seemed to be a lucky circuit for Ferrari was sadly also the scene of one of the greatest tragedies that befell the team. Saturday 8 May 1982, qualifying took place for the Belgian GP and the mood between the two Ferrari drivers was not great after Didier Pironi had disobeyed team orders, passing Gilles Villeneuve on the last lap at the previous race in Imola. There were just a few seconds to go and Villeneuve asked to go back out on track, some say to try and out-qualify his team-mate. The Canadian set off but clipped the back of a March that Jochen Mass was driving back to the pits. The German had moved right to give Villeneuve the racing line, but the Canadian did the same. The Ferrari 126 C2 was launched into the air and flew through the air with Villeneuve thrown out of the car still in his seat. He was still alive when transported to hospital but died during the evening. Ferrari pulled out of the race as a sign of respect. Formula 1 went back to Zolder one more time, in 1984 when Ferrari won with Michele Alboreto.
The Schumacher era. From 1985 onwards the race was always held at the new 7 kilometre Spa, which still maintained much of its old style with the La Source hairpin immediately after the start, Eau Rouge and the Kemmel straight, which is where the track diverts from the old one, goes into a very difficult mixed section, before rejoining the old layout with a series of flat out corners which lead to the Bus Stop chicane, so named because an actual bus used to stop there. The Scuderia returned to winning ways having joined forces with Michael Schumacher, at this track where the German made his Formula 1 debut in 1991 and took his maiden F1 win in’92. He won here in 1996, his first season with Ferrari, doing it again the next year. He’d have made it a hat trick, except that in appalling visibility, he ran into the back of David Coulthard, going slowly on the racing line, the Ferrari losing a wheel. It almost came to blows in the pits! Schumacher did it again in 2001 and 2002, while in 2004, finishing second was good enough for him to take his seventh world title.
Kimi and Felipe. Ferrari won again at Spa in 2007, courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen and the following year, it was Felipe Massa who was eventually declared the winner after Lewis Hamilton was given a penalty for an incorrect passing move on Raikkonen. The last win to date for the Scuderia was also down to Raikkonen in 2009, when he had to fend off Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India for several laps.