F1’S LONGEST LAP
A long lap, with Eau Rouge to Raidillon providing the white-knuckle thrill of the year
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 signicantly. 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