Round thirteen of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. The 44-lap race is one of the oldest on the calendar, having been staged for the first time in the World...
Round thirteen of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. The 44-lap race is one of the oldest on the calendar, having been staged for the first time in the World Championship's inaugural season in 1950, and the track remains one of the fastest and most challenging in the world.
Over the years Spa-Francorchamps has been shortened from its original 14.9km (9.3-mile) length several times and the current configuration is 7.004km (4.352-mile) in length. This makes the track the longest on the F1 calendar and it retains much of its original character by following the natural undulations of the Ardennes region of Belgium. The resultant fast and sweeping corners are among the F1 drivers' favourites.
Both of the Honda Racing F1 Team drivers have finished on the podium at Spa-Francorchamps before, most recently in 2005 when Jenson Button finished third in a rain-interrupted race. It was at this track in 1994 that Rubens Barrichello scored his first pole position in Formula One.
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
The layout of Spa-Francorchamps has remained largely unchanged for many years, so the teams have a great deal of technical data for the track, however this does not make it any less of a challenge.
The lap contains every type of corner, and combined with the long straights, requires a compromised aerodynamic set-up. Cars that are quick in sector two, the twisty middle section of the lap from Turn 5 to Turn 14, usually have an advantage because they can then tune their downforce levels for the long straights that dominate sectors one and three. If a car is struggling through sector two, there is no choice but to put on more wing and that will affect straightline speed.
Bridgestone are bringing their medium and hard rubber compounds for the race and graining should not be an issue for any of the teams. Such is the high-speed nature of the track that it is one of the easiest circuits of the year on brakes as well.
Eau Rouge is one of the most famous corners in the world, but has been comfortably flat in top gear for F1 cars since the introduction of the 2.4-litre V8 engines in 2006. However, the drivers have to be careful not to scrub off too much speed through the corner otherwise they will be slow up the hill towards Les Combes.
Full throttle: 68%
Brake wear: Low
Downforce level: Medium - 5/10
Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard
Tyre usage: Medium
Average speed: 230kph (143mph)
HONDA TEAM TALK
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
Q. How do you expect the RA108's recent upgrades to perform at the Belgian Grand Prix?
"We made a significant step forward with the RA108 over the summer break, however we were not able to convert that potential into a strong qualifying and race performance in Valencia which was disappointing. Our priority for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend will be to optimise those performance steps and improve our qualifying performance to give Jenson and Rubens the best possible chance of a good race result. Following last week's test in Monza, we will have developments to our braking system which should resolve the issues which Rubens faced in Valencia, in addition to a specific aerodynamic package for the medium downforce levels required at Spa."
Q. What challenges does the Spa-Francorchamps circuit present?
"Spa is one of the great classic racing circuits and certainly one of my favourites. The lap features some of the most interesting, fast and challenging corners on the racing calendar which make it a great favourite for the drivers, and also with the engineers because when you get the car right, you can really pick up a lot of time. To stand at Eau Rouge and watch a car go through that very fast corner, right on the limit, can still make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The weather frequently plays a role at Spa and there is a great opportunity when bad weather strikes to achieve a surprise result. We have seen already this season that our car can perform rather better in the wet than the dry and I for one would certainly not object to an inclement weekend."
Q. What are your thoughts ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend?
"All the drivers love going to Spa, and for me, it is one of the most beautiful circuits that we race on with fantastically green and lush surroundings. For a driver, the circuit has one of those layouts which has everything and gives you a real buzz to drive, just like Suzuka and Silverstone. Eau Rouge is a legendary corner and the feeling when you hit the bottom of the hill, the car touches the ground and you shoot straight back up again is amazing. It's a crazy corner in the dry and even more so in the wet. The weather can play a big part in the race weekend which is great for us as the car goes well in the wet. It can be raining at one end of the lap but completely dry at the other so you have to be ready and react quickly to whatever the weather throws at you."
Q. After some technical problems in Valencia, are you confident of a more competitive showing in Belgium?
"Our test in Monza last week was positive and we expect to have resolved the braking problems which affected my weekend in Valencia. Spa is without doubt one of the best circuits on the calendar, and with the unpredictable weather and the opportunities for overtaking, you always expect an entertaining race. The lap gives you a fantastic feeling in a Formula One car as it is very fast and flowing with some great corners. It's easy on the tyres, brakes and engine as there are an unusually low number of stops from top speed down to a low gear and you have a long time between those corners to cool the brakes. The car is set-up with a medium downforce package, similar to Montreal specification, but you have to keep your options open if the weather turns when you will need to go to higher downforce. Spa is also the longest lap on the calendar so you need to be precise on your timing in practice and qualifying to make the most of your track time."
Honda in Belgium
The Honda Motor Company is enjoying a period of strong growth and innovation in Belgium. Automobile sales have increased continually since 2004 and the company continues to be the market leader in motorcycle sales, with a market share of 17%. It also has an impressive 25% share of the gasoline lawnmower market.
The roof of the Honda Belgium factory contains more than 13,000 square metres of photovoltaic cells, which is the largest application of solar energy in the country.
New to HondaRacingF1.com
On Honda Racing TV this week, Jenson and Ross preview the Belgian Grand Prix, plus a further film in our Goodwood sequence features Jenson taking part in a 'Question of Motorsport' quiz on the Honda stand.