Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro comes to Spa-Francorchamps in buoyant mood, having won the 2004 Constructors' Championship at the last round in Hungary and only Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello can now be crowned Drivers' Champion. This can...
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro comes to Spa-Francorchamps in buoyant mood, having won the 2004 Constructors' Championship at the last round in Hungary and only Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello can now be crowned Drivers' Champion.
This can only add to the enjoyment of the Belgian GP weekend, back on the calendar after a one year absence and at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which is one of the last remaining true road circuits on the F1 calendar.
Spa has hosted 37 of the 49 Belgian GPs held to date and although the track has been modified over the years, with further modifications for 2004 to the "Bus Stop" chicane and the pit-lane entry, it still provides one of the greatest high speed challenges in motor racing, as the track (at just under seven kilometres in length, the longest used in F1) dives and climbs through the Ardennes forest.
Corners like the Eau Rouge right-left switchback, the super-fast Blanchimont and the problematic hairpin situated immediately after the start line are part of the sport's history and all the drivers will be relishing the challenge they provide.
Formula 1 constantly moves forward on the technical front, so much of the teams' data for this circuit is now out of date, as Schumacher's race engineer, Chris Dyer explains. "For sure setting up the cars is more difficult," agrees the Australian. "The last race here was two years ago, which means it is two cars ago."
"So some of the detailed set-up and information about tyre performance does not exist. But I think that by the end of the first hour of practice we will be pretty much where we should be. It will not take very long to fill in the gaps."
The drivers enjoy Spa and so do the engineers. "There are a lot of corners which always makes it interesting," says Dyer. "Some tracks only have six or seven corners, whereas Spa has at least two or three times that many, so there is more work to do."
On the technical front, Spa-Francorchamps is a medium downforce circuit, with more high speed corners than usual. "In that respect it is similar to Canada or Indianapolis which means the cars are low on grip as they are low on downforce, so the rest of the set-up -- non-aerodynamic - is usually a bit more critical on the car," explains Dyer.
"The fast corners force you to go a particular way in the set-up but the work is no more difficult than anywhere else and tyre choice is no harder than at any other track."
Strategy is also fairly straightforward here, but the longer lap means the stints are shorter in terms of lap numbers. "This is a plus point as you have more time to think!" adds Dyer.
"The cars don't come by so often and in some ways, particularly in the race it can seem a little bit more relaxed. There is a certain amount of work you do every lap while the cars go round and you do have more time to think about it. Personally, I find it enjoyable to work at great places like Spa, Monza and Monaco that have a fantastic history."