A BAROMETER OF COMMITMENT The Formula One world championship moves on to another historic venue this weekend, as teams head north from Monza, Italy to Spa-Francorchamps, which wends its way through the Ardennes Forest in southern Belgium. It...
A BAROMETER OF COMMITMENT
The Formula One world championship moves on to another historic venue this weekend, as teams head north from Monza, Italy to Spa-Francorchamps, which wends its way through the Ardennes Forest in southern Belgium. It will be the last of the 11 European events in this year's record-breaking 19-race season.
Like Monza, Spa was one of seven tracks that featured on the sport's inaugural calendar in 1950. Although the contemporary circuit is about half the length of the original, it is a perfect spiritual successor thanks to the fast, challenging sweeps that make it almost every driver's favourite event of the year. It remains one of the sport's ultimate barometers of commitment.
This will be the 51st Belgian GP and the 39th to take place at Spa. F1 cars raced on the original circuit until 1970, but safety concerns subsequently led to its removal from the calendar. The event was subsequently staged at Nivelles (two times) and Zolder (10) before it returned to the shortened version of its traditional home in 1983, when Renault driver Alain Prost won for Michelin.
Subtly modified several times in the intervening years, Spa has been the Belgian GP's permanent host since 1985, although the race was dropped from the calendar completely in 2003 in the wake of a dispute about tobacco advertising.
Michelin has scored five Belgian GP victories. Jody Scheckter (Ferrari, Zolder 1979), Carlos Reutemann (Williams-Ford, Zolder 1981), John Watson (McLaren-Ford, Zolder 1982) and the aforementioned Prost added their names to the event's roll of honour before Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) triumphed in last season's correspo nding event.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"The Spa circuit is a case apart, with two particular corners that demand well-defined chassis set-ups and perfect judgment - not to mention undiluted commitment - on the drivers' part: the Raidillon ascent and Blanchimont. They put significant loads through the left- and right-side tyres respectively - and both are taken at about 320 km/h (almost 200mph). These unusual loads oblige us to prepare tyres specifically for the task."
"Track temperatures can vary enormously - and that's why we are obliged to choose tyres with a broad operating spectrum, to cope with whatever weather we encounter. There's always the possibility of rain, which might throw up a few surprises, but we are ready to try out our latest-specification wet-weather tyres in racing conditions. If that happens, it will be a first this season."
Pat Symonds, executive engineering director, Renault:
"The majority of the corners at Spa are very long and taken at igh speed, although they are punctuated with several heavy braking events - before the Bus Stop and at the end of the main straight up to Les Combes, for instance."
"From a tyre perspective, the loadings are high and sustained over long periods. This combination - in the lateral and longtitudinal axes, as well as vertically through Eau Rouge - makes Spa a challenging circuit for tyres. Michelin has conducted extensive research in this area, however, and we will be using a specially developed construction. We have every confidence it will perform to a very high standard."