Belgian GP BAR preview

Located deep in the Ardennes forest not far from Liege, Spa-Francorchamps is one of the world''s great road racing circuits and, in many ways, a throwback to a bygone era. Certainly, changes have been made to the track to comply with modern...

Located deep in the Ardennes forest not far from Liege, Spa-Francorchamps is one of the world''s great road racing circuits and, in many ways, a throwback to a bygone era. Certainly, changes have been made to the track to comply with modern Formula One safety requirements - it was shortened and modified some years ago - but the alterations have been carried out sympathetically, with the result that the home of the Belgian Grand Prix retains its special "magic". There are fantastic corners, wonderful scenery and adrenaline-pumping elevation changes, all of which combine to make it a place where driver bravery and skill become even more significant factors than normal. Chassis set-up for Spa once again involves the all-important compromise between reducing drag, to assist straight-line speed, and generating downforce, to help keep cornering speeds up. Braking stability is also an important consideration, particularly when slowing a car from the 300 km/h, at which it is travelling on the run from Blanchimont, down to 70 km/h, for the "Bus Stop" chicane. Spectators can look forward to plenty of action at Spa since there are a several long straights leading into slow corners - a formula that usually encourages overtaking manoeuvres. The 1999 Belgian Grand Prix was notable for British American Racing for two reasons. Firstly, the dauntingly fast Eau Rouge corner was the site of a pair of spectacular accidents that befell drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta during qualifying. Secondly, the race marked Villeneuve''s first finish of the year - a relatively lowly 15th place - while Zonta was forced to retire on lap 33 when his car suffered terminal gearbox maladies. The event turned out to be something of a McLaren "demonstration run", David Coulthard beating team mate, Mika Hakkinen, comfortably to the chequered flag. Jordan''s Heinz-Harald Frentzen took the final podium spot. Ricardo Zonta:
"I''m sure the memory many people will have of BAR and the Belgium Grand Prix concerns the big crashes Jacques and I had last year in qualifying, which is maybe not the thing you want to be remembered for! Since last year, however, there has been a big improvement in the car on fast tracks and in fast corners. We have also had a good test at Mugello this week. It is a circuit with some corners that are similar to corners at Spa, and we arrived at a good chassis balance for these. Spa is a long circuit - nearly 7 km - and an improvement in high-speed handling can make a considerable difference to the lap times. Despite the crash last year, I like the circuit and don''t have any problems there. I am looking forward to the race." Malcolm Oastler:
"Spa is one of our favourite circuits because it calls for the maximum from every area of the car - aerodynamics, engine, chassis and driver. Basically, if you run well at Spa, you''ve done a good job. Following the disappointing results of the last two races, I think we now have a better handle on extracting the best from our car and are looking forward to the challenge of Spa."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Ricardo Zonta
Teams McLaren , British American Racing , Jordan