Formula One returns this weekend to one of its traditional homes - Spa- Francorchamps, in the heart of Belgium's Ardennes Forest. Spa was one of six European circuits to feature on the inaugural F1 world championship calendar in 1950 and has been...
Formula One returns this weekend to one of its traditional homes - Spa- Francorchamps, in the heart of Belgium's Ardennes Forest. Spa was one of six European circuits to feature on the inaugural F1 world championship calendar in 1950 and has been reinstated in 2004 after a one-season break.
It is the 50th time that the Belgian Grand Prix has counted towards the championship: the previous 49 events have been staged at Spa (37 times), Zolder (10) and Nivelles (2). Jody Scheckter (Ferrari, 1979), Carlos Reutemann (Williams, 1981), John Watson (McLaren, 1982) and Alain Prost (Renault, 1983) have all won the Belgian GP on Michelin tyres, although Prost is the only driver to have done so at Spa.
On that occasion, too, the circuit was making a return to the schedule -- albeit after a rather longer sabbatical, dating back to 1970. Michelin and its six partner teams will be going flat out to make sure history repeats itself on Sunday.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"Spa is has changed subtly since Formula One last raced here in 2002 -- but we have a good idea how the alterations will affect tyre performance. A number of Michelin teams competed successfully in the recent Spa 24 Hours."
"Michelin notched up yet another outright win, took six of the top seven places and scored three class victories. We also picked up some useful data that helped us to finalise our tyre specifications for the Belgian Grand Prix."
"Spa is extremely popular with drivers and spectators because it is one of the fastest and most spectacular tracks in the world. It is not, however, one of the most demanding in terms of tyre wear."
Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
"Everybody seems to be looking forward to racing at Spa once again. Two full seasons have passed since Formula One cars last ran here -- and that adds an extra element of interest. We can't be exactly sure how performance levels will have increased since 2002."
"Eau Rouge used to be one of the greatest barometers of driver commitment, but now there's a chance that everybody will take it flat throughout the weekend."
"As far as tyre choice is concerned, we know how Spa compares to other circuits we have raced at recently and have used that as a gauge when assessing the degree to which lap times are likely to be reduced. One major question remains, however, because about half the track has been resurfaced - and that affects virtually all the points at which cars used to be on the absolute limit of adhesion."
"Although we don't know precisely how much grip the fresh asphalt will generate, we have been given data about the type of material used and have a pretty clear idea of the direction we need to take. We'll have to wait until Friday to find out whether we've got our sums right."
David Coulthard, Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin:
"It is nice to return to Spa-Francorchamps -- I adore the track and have fond memories of my Belgian GP victory here in 1999. The circuit has been slightly reprofiled and partly resurfaced since we last raced here, but I don't think that will influence tyre wear significantly."
"Generally, it is a fast, flowing track that tends to place a fairly even load on front and rear tyres. It's a circuit that requires drivers to attack every corner on every lap if they want to be competitive."
"As with everywhere else on the calendar, grip levels improve as more rubber is laid down. Conditions at Spa tend not to evolve dramatically, however -- it is more stable than most venues, although there's always a chance that a sudden downpour will wash the surface clean and put us back to square one."
"It helps that the edges of the track don't get too dirty, because that prevents drivers in the supporting events dragging dust or debris onto the racing line."