Belgian GP: McLaren preview

Team McLaren Mercedes heads to the Ardennes region of Belgium this weekend for race 16 of the Formula One World Championship and the final European event of the 2005 season, the Belgian Grand Prix, held at the legendary Spa Francorchamps ...

Team McLaren Mercedes heads to the Ardennes region of Belgium this weekend for race 16 of the Formula One World Championship and the final European event of the 2005 season, the Belgian Grand Prix, held at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit.

Four races from the end of the season, Kimi Raikkonen is second overall with 76 points, 27 behind championship leader Fernando Alonso. Kimi has led 349 out of the season's 956 laps so far, more than any other driver. His team mate Juan Pablo Montoya is fourth overall with 50 points, five points behind Michael Schumacher in third place. In the Constructors' Championship, Team McLaren Mercedes is second with 136 points, eight points behind Renault (144).

The Belgian Grand Prix held on 18th June 1950 was the fifth race in Formula One history. The 492.8km race was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo. The Argentinean repeated this success twice - 1954 with Maserati and 1955 with Mercedes. In 1968, McLaren founder Bruce took the first Formula One World Championship victory for the marque, which had been established two years previously.

Until 1970 a 14.08km circuit in Spa was used, primarily consisting of public roads. In 1972 and 1974 the races were staged in Nivelles near Brussels, and in 1973, 1975 - 1982 and 1984 Zolder was the venue of the Belgian Grand Prix. The new 6.94 kilometre circuit in Spa featured on the Formula One calendar for the first time in 1983. With the exception of 1984 and 2003 it has been the home of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Team McLaren Mercedes driver David Coulthard won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1999. One year later, Mika Häkkinen drove to victory after overtaking Michael Schumacher and lapping Ricardo Zonta in a single, terrific manoeuvre. The most recent success for the team came at last year's race, when Kimi Raikkonen took victory having started from tenth on the grid.

With today's length of 6.976 kms the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is the longest on the calendar; 1.1 kms longer than Suzuka which is second on the list. Kimi's fastest race lap at Spa in 2004 – 1:45.108 - was the longest of all Grands Prix (followed by the Malaysia lap with a 1:34.223). However, it was also the second fastest with an average speed of 238.931 kph (behind Rubens Barrichello's record lap at Monza 2004 with a 257.320 kph).

Kimi Raikkonen:

"The Drivers' Championship is still a real challenge for me, and as the season has shown so far this year, there is no guessing what will happen and nothing is over yet. There are still four races to be won this season and forty points up for grabs, so I will fight hard with the team for maximum points every weekend."

"Spa is the best track we race at, it has every challenge, from steep slopes, flowing bends, tight corners and of course Eau Rouge. You are pushing and are on the edge for the whole lap to be quick. It is great fun and you get a massive buzz when you put in a quick lap time. Because of this you need a really good set-up and it is a very fine balancing act."

"The only downside is the weather, which can be very unpredictable and different from one side of the track to the other. This can mean we have some interesting situations with strategy, but it is the same for everyone. It was a great race for myself and the team last year, and hopefully we can repeat the result in 2005."

Juan Pablo Montoya:

"It was great for the Constructors' battle to get a strong points total at Monza. The gap to Renault is very close, there are a lot of points still to be won and the car feels fast, so we shall see. I love Spa, it is one of my favourite tracks and we always have classic racing, although hopefully my race this year will be less eventful than last year! Set-up at Spa is all about compromise, but in a more specific way than at some of the tracks."

"We need aero and mechanical set-up that makes sure we are quick on the straights and through the fast corners and also to have good mechanical traction through turns such as La Source and the Bus Stop chicane. In addition to being the most exciting and famous corner we race through, maintaining speed in Eau Rouge is also key to have the pace along Les Combes on the run down to the main overtaking opportunity."

Alex Wurz

"Set-up at Spa has to be very precise, as the circuit is extreme and needs total commitment from the drivers. One area is the elevation changes, these are quite dramatic in places and we have to run with quite high ride heights to avoid bottoming out. My programme for Friday will also include completing the tyre selection process with Michelin that began at the pre-Italy test in Monza."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:

"Mathematically Team McLaren Mercedes is still a force in the battle for both the Constructors' title and the Drivers' crown with Kimi. We are all aware the latter in particular has become more difficult following Kimi's misfortune in Monza, but the opportunity for both is very much still there and that is what we are fully focused on."

"The Belgian Grand Prix is a highlight of the Formula One season. Spa Francorchamps is a circuit that continuously challenges the drivers and engineers alike, and we will need to perform to our maximum all weekend. Spa is similar to the new Turkish venue and the MP4-20s performed well there and we are looking forward to an incident free weekend that allows Kimi and Juan Pablo to maximise the pace that is clearly there."

Norbert Haug, Vice president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"Spa has everything for an interesting and challenging race track from long and fast straights like Kemmel to long and sweeping corners like Pouhon and tight hairpins like La Source. The weather often is like crazy here at Spa, and when it rains, the long track isn't necessarily wet everywhere. Only two out of the last ten Grand Prix weekends at Spa have not been affected by the changeable weather, the last one was six years ago."

"It was very unpleasant what happened to Kimi last weekend at Monza and without doubt we have to further improve our reliability quickly to become absolutely efficient. Our balance out of the last ten races shows that we're developing in the right direction although stagnations occurred during this process."

-mclaren-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren