A long lap, with Eau Rouge to Raidil­lon pro­vid­ing the white-knuckle thrill of the year

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Pat Sy­monds, Wil­liams’ chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer

Spa-Fran­cor­champs is rightly recog­nised as one of the most chal­leng­ing race tracks in the world – pri­mar­ily be­cause of its twisty, un­du­lat­ing and fast sec­tions.

The cir­cuit has seen many changes over the near cen­tury it has been in ex­is­tence, with many of these re­duc­ing the over­all length of the lap signicantly. Even so, it re­mains the long­est lap on the For­mula 1 cal­en­dar, stand­ing at 4.352 miles, over twice the length of the short­est cir­cuit of the year – Monaco at 2.07 miles.

Com­bin­ing the length (and ge­o­graph­i­cal breadth) of the track with un­pre­dictable lo­cal weather means that there can be some pe­cu­liar ses­sions, with parts of the track end­ing up soak­ing wet while oth­ers re­main bone dry. Since the fore­casts are of­ten un­cer­tain, and radar im­ages can prove mis­lead­ing, this can lead to some dif­fi­cult strat­egy calls.

At the time of writ­ing, it has not been con­firmed which tyres Pirelli will bring to Spa, but it will be im­por­tant for teams to get a good read on them. That’s be­cause the track length means that when tyres be­gin to fall off the cliff, there can be four miles to cover, with sig­nif­i­cant lap-time loss be­fore there’s a chance to pit again.

The track it­self is lit­tered with chal­leng­ing cor­ners, but the sec­tion that stands out above all oth­ers is the run through Eau Rouge and Raidil­lon. Here the driv­ers race down a slope, cross­ing the Eau Rouge stream be­fore be­ing thrust into a steep up­hill com­plex, con­tain­ing a left-right-left com­bi­na­tion of fast cor­ners, with a blind sum­mit that makes it even more dif­fi­cult.

It’s not just hard to get right – it’s down­right scary, as launch­ing over the crest the driver is un­sure quite where the car will land. Al­though the Is­tan­bul Park cir­cuit tried to cre­ate a sim­i­lar com­plex, of­ten dubbed ‘Faux Rouge’, there is no run of track quite like that at Spa. It will be ex­cit­ing to see the 2014 chal­lengers race through, since the new power units po­ten­tially al­low higher speeds than in re­cent years.

Round 12 / 22-24 Au­gust / Spa-Fran­cor­champs

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