Belgian GP: BMW Sauber preview

Munich/Hinwil, 23rd August 2009. Formula One swaps Mediterranean glamour for the rugged countryside of the Ardennes as the teams line up for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa- Francorchamps - just seven days after the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Munich/Hinwil, 23rd August 2009. Formula One swaps Mediterranean glamour for the rugged countryside of the Ardennes as the teams line up for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa- Francorchamps - just seven days after the European Grand Prix in Valencia. This "natural" circuit is one of the most challenging on the F1 calendar.

Robert Kubica:

"We are heading to the final stage of the season which offers a lot of nice tracks, beginning with Spa-Francorchamps. It is a race track with a great history. Most of the drivers like driving here. The circuit is very long with a lot of challenging high-speed corners. Finding the right balance is one crucial factor in Spa, which is quite difficult. The weather is always unpredictable and mostly changeable. It might be dry on some parts of the track and it might rain heavily on others. Driving in Spa is challenging and it is always exciting to come here."

Nick Heidfeld:

"Spa is a sensational race track. The 2008 race was one of my best ever. I was running in the points and decided shortly before the end of the race to switch onto wet-weather tyres. It turned out to be a spot-on decision and put me eventually into second. Sudden changes in the weather can have a decisive effect on this grand prix. Even if it's hot all over Europe, there might still be torrential rain at Spa. Plus, Spa is only an hour or so from Mönchengladbach by car, so this race always gives me the chance to make a quick visit back to my old home town."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:

"Spa - only three letters, but a place with so much motor racing history. Spa is an essential date on the F1 calendar. We love coming to this small, sleepy Belgian town. Spa is a fantastic natural race circuit tucked away in the beautiful, rugged Ardennes. Recent modifications have meant Eau Rouge is now taken flat out in the dry, creating the longest full-throttle section of the season. As this part of the track also rises significantly, engine output and durability are really put to the test. The second defining feature of Spa is the unpredictable weather. It changes very quickly; rain can suddenly set in, but sometimes only over one section of the track. We are aiming to record another good result in the penultimate race of the European season."

Willy Rampf, Head of Engineering:

"Spa is the longest circuit on the F1 calendar and the race is therefore run over the least number of laps. This significantly restricts the teams' room for manoeuvre in terms of race strategy, because staying out one lap more or less makes a big difference to the amount of fuel a driver has on board.

"As far as the track characteristics are concerned, Spa is the first circuit this season where we will be running medium downforce with the 2009 cars. Up to now, we have sent the cars out with high downforce for every GP. The difference is considerable and means we will use special wings at Spa. The track layout has a real excitement factor, which goes beyond the renowned Eau Rouge. The spectrum of cornering speeds is huge; the corners range from the extremely tight Bus Stop chicane to the high-speed Blanchimont.

"We can usually expect relatively low ambient temperatures at Spa, so getting heat into the tyres is sure to be an issue. Spa is traditionally the only race where you also prepare a rain set-up for every session. That makes this weekend an extremely exacting one for the engineers because, in addition to adapting the car to the particular characteristics of the circuit, you also have to factor in the weather."

History and background:

The cross-country character of the Spa circuit can be traced back to its earliest days. The idea of linking up the towns of Malmedy, Stavelot and Francorchamps for the purposes of racing dates back to 1920. The first car race in the region around the health resort of Spa was scheduled for 1921 but had to be cancelled as there was just one entrant. Instead, motorcycles gave the circuit its curtain-raising event, with cars eventually following in 1922. The inaugural 24-hour race at Spa was held in 1924, and the circuit hosted its first major formula race - the European Grand Prix - a year later.

1970 marked the final race on what was then a 14-kilometre course, as the cars had become too fast for the track. The present circuit was opened in 1979. There was no Formula One race at Spa in 2003, and the Bus Stop chicane was modified ahead of the 2004 event. After the 2005 GP, F1 again gave Spa a miss. For 2007 a new pit lane awaited and the Bus Stop section, including the pit lane approach, was modified once more.

BMW Sauber F1Team

The fast and challenging track has been the scene of plenty of accidents down the years, some with tragic consequences. The biggest pile-up in F1 history occurred in 1998 in the La Source hairpin just after the start, though fortunately none of the drivers was injured. To date, 41 Belgian Grands Prix have been held at Spa. A further ten have taken place in Zolder and two in Nivelles.

-credit: bmw sauber

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nick Heidfeld , Robert Kubica , Mario Theissen
Teams Sauber