After the long summer break, Formula 1 is set to resume this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, One of the few venues that almost the entire F1 Universe loves. The venue is iconic and it has quite a history behind it as well. After the successful petitions and protest, the deal has been signed that will ensure Spa-Francorchamps will remain in the calendar for few more years.
"Spa's also home to Eau Rouge, possibly the most famous corner in F1" - Heikki Kovalainen
As Heikki says, Eau Rouge is one of the most talked corners in F1. Teams and the drivers are enthusiastically looking forward to resume the season and all of them are delighted at the next couple of venues. The amount of the enthusiasm that this circuit generates is quite phenomenal and majority of the races have been deemed to be exciting as some spectacular drives has been witnessed here.
"Spa is a fantastic circuit and an excellent challenge for the drivers and car alike". - Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer, Williams
"Spa is the best track to have after a break and it’s extremely rewarding for drivers at that venue. It’s obviously remained pretty much unchanged for some time and it has a lot of character. Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives - it’s mind blowing. It’s one of the classic tracks where you feel like an F1 car belongs on the circuit" - Mark Webber
“I bet every driver likes Spa. For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is my favourite place. I’ve liked it since my first ever visit there in 2000 with Formula Renault.” - Kimi Raikkonen
Pirelli will be bringing the hard and medium compounds for this race and this is what everybody has been hoping for, With high speeds guaranteed, Load on the tyres are huge and this particular combination will help the teams to come up with interesting strategies as they don’t have to worry about Tyre wears. Although, this circuit is highly liked by teams and the drivers, the amount of the work and tests the teams will have to do on the Practice sessions are more then normal. For this circuit tests the limits of the car and to get an ideal lap, it’s important to come up with a proper set-up, else it will hurt them badly. The car and the engine will undergo the ultimate test in the next couple of races and the teams will be on their medium downforce trim very similar to Montreal.
"The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for" -Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
"With regard to set-up, it’s not an easy track, and it’s also quite demanding on the tyres, which this time will be the two hardest compounds - medium and hard. This is a logical choice, because the surface is quite abrasive, and there’s a lot of load on the tyres in the high speed sections" - Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering
"We actually use Spa as a control circuit on the dyno to test an engine’s reliability as it puts so much stress on the internal parts" - Remi Taffin, Head of Track Operations, Renault
"Rivage is slightly off-camber so the cars tend to fall off the track a bit and you can't really attack other cars into there. Sometimes you see the front rights locking up into that corner as the cars struggle for grip and there's a bump on the exit to deal with. Pouhon is another of Spa's most famous corners. Inside the cockpit Pouhon is a good test" - Heikki Kovalainen
The Weather is also quite a concern here and is almost unpredictable, Some teams early on the weekend would like to gamble on a wet-weather setup and would be hoping for rain. It will be a major test for the drivers as well to drive in the wet conditions and sometimes the track will have varying weather conditions as well and this will put the teams in a spot of bother as well as they will have to ponder over the strategy.
"I like the wet, it's a massive test of car control and skill and at somewhere like Spa that's even more true. The spray seems to hang in the air and visibility can be pretty bad when it rains, but it's the same for everyone and it gives us a chance to do something special if the guys ahead make even the smallest of mistakes" - Vitaly Petrov
It’s still quite unclear how many teams will be a midfielder here at Spa, Quite often we have seen few teams spring a surprise, so it would be really interesting to see what the pecking order really is, Although it’s not that 2009 season, so we aren’t really expecting Force India to disturb the top teams but there is a high probability that they will be somewhere battling just outside the Top 6. Although Sauber in 2012 are amazing, they might depend a lot on weather as well. For sure, Sauber of late seems to slightly struggle in full wet conditions but they are having a great run and if the conditions are entirely dry, they will be emerging as the real dark-horse.
"Currently the grid is so closely-matched - particularly in the midfield - that it’s impossible to predict" - Paul Hembery
Lotus would be eager to further test the limits of their DDRS also referred to as ‘The Device’. It would be interesting to see whether they implement it here or await for Monza. As the team sources say, It seems they will only decide on the device based on the results that they get from Friday sessions. Romain Grosjean will have a tough job of getting used to that new component, Like Sauber, Lotus will look for the dry weather conditions for them to have any chance of a podium shot. Although a win is what they would be targeting.
"Should we have the same situation at Spa, the nature of the corners and the loadings on the tyres should be sufficient to generate enough heat in the rubber, so we’re not unduly concerned. We would prefer a dry weekend, but we should be competitive whatever the weather. We’ve also been focusing on ensuring that we have the capability to run the new device in Spa should we be confident enough to do so. I rather like (the term) ‘The Device’ as it has a sort of Dr Strangelove appeal to it, but most people refer to it as DDRS" - James Allison
Among the backmarkers, Marussia would be bringing in few updates while HRT will be looking to further optimize their existing package. HRT actually were scheduled to do a promotional run in India which was postponed to a later date. Caterham meanwhile have completed their move to Leafield which boasts of bigger facilities and more importantly Caterham has signed a new sponsor and their logos and the identity of them will be revealed soon and like Marussia, They have few small updates here as well. All these teams have targeted the Singapore Grand Prix for a major update as they are looking to build up to their 2013 campaign.
"So while certainly our focus now is on 2013, we have improvements for Spa and more coming for Singapore and indeed I’m sure that won’t be the end of our developments" - Pat Symonds
"I want to thank everybody involved in helping make the move to Leafield so smooth. It was a huge task but one that was managed efficiently, quickly and with a minimum of fuss. On behalf of the whole team I also want to thank Tony and Kamarudin for investing in such a good new facility for us" - Mark Smith
Mercedes meanwhile would be celebrating Schumacher’s special milestone for he would be taking part in his 300th Grand Prix, Only the second driver to do so. But the bigger task for the team would be to score as many points as possible in the next few races which would suit the car’s characteristics. Reliability is one major concern that they would like to address and the tyre wear is another crucial aspect as well as that would be the key to this team’s results.
“For the second year in succession, Spa will be a special occasion for Michael and the team as we follow his 20th anniversary last year by celebrating his 300th Grand Prix this time around. It is a fantastic achievement which has so far only been matched by one other driver, and we look forward to celebrating with him, and hopefully a strong weekend.” - Ross Brawn
Red Bull, McLaren would be eyeing the top step of the podium. These teams have also suggested that Alonso despite emerging as the championship leader should be more worried about the second half of the season as the upcoming tracks would favour teams other then Ferrari. It would be interesting to see how Ferrari performs in the next couple of races which would be crucial for Alonso to be specific. Massa as always should be looking to match his teammate’s pace as it is important for him to help his teammate and also his team finish in a decent position and Spa and Monza are the best place for him to try and test the limits of his car and his skills. Meanwhile, Webber and Hamilton know that there is no driver who is a firm contender for the title as yet and they would be banking on consistency..
“It’s going to be an extremely tough, tactical and interesting finale to the season. There’s no team with a clear advantage - although we’re all pushing hard to catch Fernando [Alonso]’s points tally in the drivers’ championship - so there’s still everything to play for.” - Lewis Hamilton
“As usual, we’re heading into this double-header hopeful of closing the gap to the leaders in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships” - Martin Whitmarsh