Spa’s long straights offer hope to Red Bull’s rivals (Belgian Grand Prix preview)

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

After a four-week break, F1 bursts back into life at the stunning Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

The seven kilometre track in the Ardennes is a fabulous place to watch F1 cars at the peak of their performance. Which is why dozens of F1 Fanatic readers are making their way to Belgium this weekend.

Force India impressed here last year but this weekend all eyes will be on Red Bull who are expected to be strong on the fast track.

Spa-Francorchamps has several high-speed corners – so this should be a Red Bull walkover, right?

It’s true that the RB6 has been fearsomely quick through F1’s fastest corners so far this year. So it should eat bends like Pouhon, Fagnes and Stavelot for breakfast.

But its greatest weakness is its poor straight line speed. That’s partly a consequence of all that downforce, which brings with it a lot of drag, but also due to its Renault engine not being quite as powerful as the Mercedes or Ferrari.

Red Bull’s deficit in this area has always been most clearly exposed at tracks with long flat-out sections. Like Montreal, where the RB6s were 11.6kph slower than the fastest cars through the speed trap in qualifying.

Spa-Francorchamps, 2010 Belgian Grand Prix
Spa-Francorchamps, 2010 Belgian Grand Prix

Spa has two of the longest flat-out blasts on the calendar. In the first sector, the stretch from the La Source hairpin through Eau Rouge and up the hill to Les Combes takes 24 seconds. Then in sector three, the cars accelerate out of Stavelot around Blanchimont and on to the chicane without lifting for 20 seconds.

So the key question in practice will be whether Red Bull’s advantage through the twisty stuff will be great enough to cancel out that deficit. And what new parts they might have on the car to help them with that task.

Red Bull’s weakness on the straights is a McLaren strength. The MP4-25 also likes smoother circuits and so should be more at home at Spa than the Hungaroring. But expect Ferrari’s revitalised F10 to be the biggest threat to the Red Bulls.

However there is an X-factor this weekend: the new static load test being imposed by the FIA in response to the flexing observed on Red Bull’s front wing in recent races.

Technical director Adrian Newey has denied the Red Bull’s front wing will have to be changed as a result of the test. But that doesn’t mean that other parts on the car which may be contributing to the flexing – such as its splitter – won’t be affected.

Keep a close eye on the RB6’s front wing at the end of those long straights to see if it’s still moving as much as it was at the Hungaroring.

Spa is a great track for drivers and Sebastian Vettel was quick here last year, though he could only finish third in the race after losing ground at the start. Despite losing another likely win at the Hungaroring, he must be favourite ahead of this weekend’s race.

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Michael Schumacher – Schumacher has a lot of history at Spa: he made his F1 debut, won his first race and final world championship at this track. But he arrives under a cloud, facing a ten-place grid penalty which could see him start from last place if he fails to qualify in the top 13. Encouragingly for him, the W01 went well at Catalunya and Silverstone.

Vitaly Petrov – Had his best performance of the year so far at the Hungaroring. How close will he be to his team mate at this drivers’ circuit?

Adrian Sutil – The Force Indias flew at Spa last year, though Sutil could not quite match the performance of team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. The VJM03 may not be quite as well-suited to Spa as its predecessor, but it is quick in a straight line. A good weekend could put Sutil ahead of Schumacher in the drivers’ championship.

Pedro de la Rosa – Has had more DNFs than anyone so far this year, largely down to car failures. But he finally brought the car home in the points at the Hungaroring. He’s usually out-qualified his attention-grabbing team mate too. The C29 is another car which has been at its best on quick tracks, so more points could be on offer this weekend.

The Belgian Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

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Before the race weekend starts look out for our unofficial race programme with quick links to all the important information.

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2010 Belgian Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Belgian Grand Prix articles

Image (C) Force India F1 Team

90 comments on “Spa’s long straights offer hope to Red Bull’s rivals (Belgian Grand Prix preview)”

  1. People are plugging for either Red Bull or McLaren. But if there is a jack-of-all-trades car out theres it’s the Ferrari, and as much as it pains me to say it, I’d put Alonso down to win.

  2. I’m going to Spa on Thursday morning. Spa will be my first ever Grand Prix, although I’ve been a F1 fan for more than 10 years!

    I’ve been at the Spa track twice: I visited the track when there was a sports car owners day (somewhere in 2002 or 2003) and I went to the 2004 pit walk.

    I have a ticket for the Silver 1 grandstand at block G, close to the Gold 2 grandstand. Really looking forward to be there!

    1. Fantastic, nothing like your first GP, hope you have good race.

      Back in the 70’s I was able to attend a couple of races at Long Beach…a fairly good track for taking photographs, as people would let you come into their apartment for, a couple of bucks, and shoot (or just watch) out the windows.

      I was young, just out of the military, and trying to break into the sports photo business (which didn’t work out). I can stll remember hanging out, as far as possible, from a couple of stories up…it was a spectacular angle, all most straight down. Somewhere I still have some old BW prints of Lauda and Schecter, which I was able to get autographed the following year.

      Hope you create some great memories, and hope you post them here.

      1. Thanks theRoswellite!

        I can imagine it must have been a great time for you at Long Beach, unbelievable you just could get into these apartments for a few bucks!

        My plan is to upload some of my Spa pics to Flickr and of course share my experiences here :)

  3. Given their likely speed advantage on the straights, I expect McLaren to run YellowG1 early on, as in Turkey, to put RBR under fuel pressure on this high consumption track. If RBR have to burn extra fuel to keep ahead on the straights, this could really hurt them. I can even see Button, by team strategy or his own habit, saving his fuel while Hamilton attempts to wear down the quarry. Ferrari is also a thirsty car, so I expect them also to see trouble if the race plays out this way. But overall its not clear if McLaren have found enough down force to permit them to exercise the top speed potential.

  4. The RB6 is the most flexible car on the grid with Ferrari a close second. The only hope for a McLaren podium is a bit of luck and balls out fight by Hamilton in setor one.
    The MP-25 may have potential but, potential has never won a race. I think it has turned into a put together piece of junk.

  5. Well it’s tough to predict but I’m sure Red Bull will be strong. I just don’t know whether McLaren has improved their car to catch Red Bull and Ferrari or not. Renault is going to bring their F-duct in Spa and it will be a step forward for them as they already caught Mercedes. Williams, Sauber and Force India along with Renault were doing better than Mercedes in the last 2 races. I really doubt Mercedes will do anything special with Schumacher’s penalty and the fact that they don’t have a good car and Rosberg is going to fight Renaults and Willimas in both qualifying and the race(As a Mercedes fan I feel so disappointed). But all in all, I hope for an exciting race that we all enjoy.

  6. I think it’s obvious who is going to win… Kimi will casually turn up on race day in his Citroen WRC car, mumble a few words, take his 5th Spa win, do a couple of doughnuts then get drunk on the podium :p

  7. Alonso should win this race. The F10 should have enough new things on the Spa package to partially cancel out the deficit to the RBR in the fast corners and then take advantage of the straights. I would not be surprised if Mercedes does well here too. But a lot depends on the weather.

  8. The F-duct will not be nearly sufficient for McLaren to make up the near 2 second deficit from Hungary.

    Ferrari have to be in with a shout but you can’t look further than the Red Bulls

  9. Instead of looking out for the flexing of the Red Bull and Ferrari wings, I would say look closely at the Mclaren and Mercedez front wings this race. I am sure that a professional team like Mclaren is working on their own version of the flexi-wing and not banking on the FIA to ban the Red Bull and Ferrari flexi-wings.

    In all probability, the flexi-wings are not going to get banned, it is foolish to assume that Red Bull and Ferrari wouldn’t have thought of a solution for this. Besides, the new test isn’t stricter, it doubles the load applied on the front wing and checks if the wing doesn’t flex by double the allowable length. It is a test for linearity, not for stiffness of the wing.

    Curious choices for the ‘Drivers to watch’ though.=: No Red Bull, Mclaren or Ferrari drivers!! I think it is the first time this year.

  10. In a very tight season, it would be a bit of a twist if the RB’s are brought back to the field a touch by the new front wing requirements.

    I think we all deserve a race for the ages…or at least of the season.

    How about a final lap with LH, FA, and at least one of the RB’s all nose-to-tail..and throw in some showers…some where out on the circuit.

    Yea, let’s have a No Guts – No Glory finish! We deserve it.

  11. @ happy: I hadn’t picked up on this, as an established fact.

    Is this your opinion?

    If this is the case I would think they would be risking a huge penalty under….spirit of the rules? I certainly hope that I’m wrong, besides, “flexible engineering” is one of the reasons to love F1.

  12. Heading there tomorrow morning. Actually, kidnapping my brother from a Swedish crayfish party in 11 hours. The irony of it is that he’ll probably go for it because of his envy of me going. I’m the best brother ever.

  13. As I said in my previous post: here’s my update on day 1 at Spa!

    First of all it was a bit difficult to find the right parking spot, because the directions are quite confusing… but we eventually found a nice parking spot at a campsite close to the track.

    After we waited almost an hour at the gates at La Source, the pit walk kicked off at 16:30.

    According to the speaker, the drivers of every team would sign autographs at a given time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. For my idea, every driver came out the pit box to give some autographs when he wanted to give them.

    I started at Virgin Racing and got both drivers’ autographs. I moved on to Force India where both drivers where also outside for the fans. While Sutil was very patient and signed load of autographs, Liuzzi signed just a few autographs and got back in his car to try some adjustments.

    At Renault, both drivers where also present, but there were so much people there (lots of Russians!) that I missed out on one of their autographs.

    At Williams I managed to get Nico’s autograph, while Rubens was gone very quick after some autographs.

    I walked back to Lotus where it was less crowded and got Heikki’s autograph. I did’t see Jarno though…

    After that I tried to walk to Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren, but it was just way too crowded there. Because there was no way out at the start of the pit lane, everyone sort of ended there at the top teams, where it was already very busy. It was definitely too crowded there, so no autograph for me from one of the big drivers!

    At 18:00 the session was over, and we headed to our accommodation for some nice spaghetti and tiramisu!

    It was a nice first day, and I’m looking forward to see the action tomorrow!

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