Belgian Grand Prix is back on the track

2012-09-01 20:03

History of rain on Grand Prix weekends might pose a challenge to the men of speed

Today’s Belgian Grand Prix signals a return to racing following the five-week summer break.

The built-for-speed, winding Spa-Francorchamps track is notorious for rain during Grand Prix weekends, so teams have to be prepared for that possibility – but the track is so long it could be raining and wet in one part and dry in another, which makes for an exciting chess game with the unpredictable Pirelli tyres.

Pirelli is bringing their hard and medium tyres for the race, which were last used in Malaysia.

Belgium’s is also one of the fastest circuits on the calendar and is tough on engines – they need to deliver good top-end power for the long straights and the flowing corners.

The FIA introduced new regulations in 2005, limiting each car to one engine per two Grand Prix weekends, with 10-place grid penalties for those breaking the rule.

From 2008, a similar policy was applied to gearboxes, each having to last four race weekends.

The year 2009 saw the introduction of even more stringent engine rules, with drivers limited to eight engines per season.

Spa-Francorchamps is one of the few tracks in the world that features all of these characteristics: corners, elevation changes with inclines, great scenery, places to overtake, unpredictable weather and great spots for fans to see the action.

It is in the middle of the dramatic Ardennes Forest. Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and Pouhon provide the challenging and classic corners. Overtaking is always a strong possibility.

Fans have seen some exciting wheel-to-wheel action in the past here, none more so than when Mark Webber attempted his breathtaking overtaking move through the Eau Rouge last year, a manoeuvre that won him an accolade for overtake of the year.

The Red Bull driver kept his throttle wide open throughout, forcing Fernando Alonso, who’d just come out of the pits, to lift and file back into position.

The cars were inches from each other at the fastest point of the corner.

The Eau Rouge corner is one of the best-known corners in Formula One.

It requires a massive amount of skill from drivers to negotiate well and the long straight ahead often produces good overtaking chances for the best drivers.

The drivers cannot see the exit and, as they come over the crest, they don’t know where the car will land.

It is a crucial corner for a timed lap, and also in the race, because there is a long uphill straight afterwards where a driver can lose a lot of time if he makes a mistake.

On top of these measures, a freeze on engine development imposed at the end of the 2006 season means teams are unable to alter the fundamentals of their engines’ designs.

They will have to do with the same stressed engines they used in Hungary, unaltered during the month-long break.

Sebastien Vettel took the honours last year.

Lewis Hamilton’s win in Hungary was a fantastic way to go into the summer break for McLaren after a few bad races. It also had the added bonus of giving McLaren hope and the assurance that they can come back to challenge championship leader Alonso over the final nine races.

Alonso has been phenomenal this year, repeatedly beating far superior cars with his F2012.

The Spaniard went on his summer break safe in the knowledge he is leading the championship by 40 points.

He’s taken brilliant advantage of every opportunity.

The three months ahead are crammed with F1 races, including four pairs of back-to-back Grand Prix events.

The nine rounds that will decide the title are packed into just 13 weeks.

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