Formula 1: Belgian Grand Prix Fact-file

By Online Editorial

Formula 1

Spa is one of the finest and most challenging tracks in F1, says Tom Cowie as he tells you everything you need to know about Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

If Jenson Button is crowned World Champion this year, he will surely reflect on his mid-season good fortune as well as his early season domination. Another lacklustle performance in Valencia added just two more points to his season’s haul, but crucially, it proved to be two points more than Red Bull managed.

A Red Bull 1-2 would have put a big dent in the Briton’s lead. As it was, his teammate took the flag, followed by a McLaren and a Ferrari. Short of being on the podium himself, the result was about as good as Button could have hoped for.

The Frome man will need to rely on more than just luck this weekend, as F1 descends on one of the few remaining truly great circuits on the calendar. Along with Monaco, Silverstone, and Monza, Spa is a bastion of the sport – helping to shape its history as well as the reputations of some of the all time greats.

The first Belgian GP was held here in 1924, the track consisting of 9.3 miles of ultra fast public highways linking the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy, and Stavelot. This original configuration was altered in 1946, and again in 1979, to the 4.3 mile, present day layout.

One of the great legacies of Spa was its inadvertent contribution towards improving the safety of the sport. Jackie Stewart learned at first hand just how poor medical services and equipment were after a huge shunt here in 1966. This proved to be the catalyst for the Scotsman’s crusade to improve racing safety around the world, saving countless lives over the years in the process.

Ironically, whilst global safety improved at unabated speed, it did so in the shadow of Spa’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for human tragedby. During a nighttime pit stop In a 24 hour race in 1972, Hans Stuck shouted to his teammate Jochen Mass to ‘watch out for body parts at the Masta Kink.’ On his first tour of the circuit, Mass’s headlights did indeed pick out body parts strewn across the track, but to his horror, they were human rather than mechanical.

Make no mistake, this circuit is the real deal, and just as challenging as it was in Fangio, Moss and Stewart’s time, especially when you factor in the notoriously unpredictable weather, which can see sunshine turn to rain in a matter of minutes.

It was exactly this changeable weather which set up a grandstand finish last year, with race leader Kimi Raikkonen crashing out on the closing laps and Lewis Hamilton slithering his way to a superb victory before being controversially relegated to Third for cutting a chicane.

The reigning World Champion should have taken his second consecutive win in Valencia, though at 5.1 for the win, the market suggests that the McLaren’s lack of grunt, hidden in Hungary and Valencia may be exposed here.

Despite finally getting back to the top step of the podium in Spain, Brawn’s odds also suggest that they may struggle, primarily with tyre temperature in the generally cool Belgian conditions. Button finds himself at 10.5 for the win, with Barrachello at 13.0.

Red Bull may have missed a trick in Valencia, but they could get a second bite at the cherry here. If Brawn’s achilles heel once again strikes, Sebastien Vettel (4.8), and Mark Webber (5.4) should be able to pounce in their less heat sensitive machines.

Ferrari have won here for the past two years, and Raikkonen will be keen to rectify last year’s drama filled conclusion when the elements robbed him of victory. With another podium finish in Spain, Ferrari are definitely on the mend, and at 11.5, the ‘Iceman’ cannot be ruled out.

The significance of victory at Spa cannot be understated. Between 1985 and 2007 only once has the Belgian GP been won by a driver who failed to become World Champion at some point in their career. Victory for Brawn or Red Bull on Sunday could prove very significant indeed come November.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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