Spa could be Raikkonen’s chance for comeback win

2012 Belgian Grand Prix preview

Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011It may have been a longer summer break than usual but we now have incredibly busy end to the world championship in front of us.

The three months ahead are crammed with F1 races including four pairs of back-to-back Grands Prix. The nine rounds that will decide the title are packed into just 13 weeks.

It kicks off with two tracks that remind us why we love Formula 1. Spa-Francorchamps and Monza are the two fastest tracks in F1 and both date back to the inception of the world championship.

“Spa is the daddy of them all, one of the all-time great Grand Prix tracks,” Jenson Button enthused, “and Monza is one of the most historic and evocative circuits on the calendar”.

The home of the Belgian Grand Prix has recently been confirmed on the F1 calendar for three more years, and that’s definitely something to celebrate. Spa is a thrilling circuit and dozens of F1 Fanatic readers are heading there for this weekend’s race.

Last year the Red Bull drivers romped to a one-two victory. Mark Webber made the Pass of the Year as he bravely dived past Fernando Alonso on the entry to Eau Rouge.

Spa-Francorchamps
circuit information

Lap length 7.004km (4.352 miles)
Distance 44 laps (308.1km/191.4 miles)
Lap record* 1’47.263 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap 1’44.503 (Jarno Trulli, 2009)
Tyres Hard and Medium

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Spa-Francorchamps track data in full

But Alonso took the place back on the very next lap with a straightforward pass in the DRS zone. It was one of several ‘motorway-style’ passes seen during the race which has led the FIA to shorten the zone by 50 metres this year.

The ban on using DRS through Eau Rouge – effective throughout the weekend – remains unchanged. The limited run-off at the corner prompted the move last year.

The FIA’s concern is that some drivers may be tempted to try using DRS in the corner. But the high speed and limited space in the corner would leave them with no room to correct a mistake. That could lead to a major crash such as that suffered by Fabio Leimer in GP2 last year.

What has changed for this year is the tyre allocation. Pirelli are bringing their hardest tyre mix – medium and hard – instead of the soft/medium combination used in 2011.

Both Red Bull drivers made their first pit stops within the first five laps last year due to tyre damage caused by running camber angles beyond the upper limits recommended by Pirelli. Those limits have since been made mandatory which, along with the harder compounds, should prevent a repeat.

2012 Belgian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Last year Red Bull surprised everyone by winning comfortably at a track which, on paper, was expect not to suit their car well.

The RB8 has exhibited much the same characteristics of its predecessors: all that downforce comes with a loss of straightline speed. They’ve been among the slowest through the traps this year. But that may not matter if they can plant their cars on the front row.

McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2012McLaren went into the summer break as the team to beat and aim to pick up where they left off.

“My win in Hungary was a fantastic way to go into the summer break,” said Lewis Hamilton. “It had the added bonus of sending the whole team away for their holidays with a positive feeling in their hearts.

“It?s also given me the hope and assurance that we can come back for the final nine races with a real chance to go for both world championships.”

But they may be concerned by the early forecast suggestions of rain. The team have not had as much success getting the MP4-27 to work on intermediate and wet weather tyres.

Ferrari

The prospect of rain will certainly put a smile on Fernando Alonso’s face. The F2012 may be much-improved but it’s not quite a match for the quickest cars on pure pace in normal conditions yet.

But as we saw in Malaysia (in the race), Britain and Germany (in qualifying), Alonso can be relied upon to deliver when the conditions are less than perfect.

Mercedes

Michael Schumacher reaches a landmark 300th participation in a race weekend at Spa. It is a special circuit for him, scene of his first Grand Prix, first win, and final championship triumph.

He can usually be relied upon to produce something special here. Last year he charged from last on the grid to finish fifth.

Having begun 2012 on a high with victory in China, Mercedes have slipped back into the midfield. But the strength of their engine allied to their innovative Double DRS may prove their saving grace at high-speed Spa.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Barcelona, 2012There are several reasons to keep an eye on Lotus’s progress this weekend – not least Kimi Raikkonen’s superb record at Spa, with four wins in his last five appearances here.

The team are expected to finally race their version of the Double DRS, which has appeared on their cars in practice at the last two Grands Prix.

Their E20 has shown superb race pace. Both Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean put Hamilton under pressure for victory in Hungary and although neither was able to pass, that is likely to be less of a problem in Belgium.

With their excellent race pace and improving qualifying performances, Lotus are surely overdue a win. But the conservative choice of tyre compounds for this race may not play to their strengths.

Force India

Team principal Vijay Mallya has set his team the target of taking back the sixth in the championship they finished last year. That will mean consistently out-scoring Sauber and Williams in the second half of the year.

That looks like a tall order but Paul di Resta is confident in the car’s potential.

Sauber

Sergio Perez has high hopes for this weekend: “I believe the fast circuit in the Ardennes will suit our car.

“We should get everything right there and make sure we start into a productive second part of the season. Last year I qualified ninth there, but retired in the race. In what will be my second Formula One Grand Prix in Spa I want to at least score points.”

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso are dropping off the tail of the midfield and are in a state of flux as technical director Giorgio Ascanelli has left the team and his replacement – expected to be ex-Sauber man James Key – is yet to be confirmed.

That’s not going to help their situation as they increasingly come under threat from Caterham.

Williams

The contest between the Williams drivers is entering an interesting phase. Bruno Senna showed a noticeable improvement at Hungary, and from this point on he is racing on tracks he competed at with Renault last year.

Pastor Maldonado has decisively held the upper hand on pace so far this year but needs to stop crashing into people. Worryingly, he couldn’t even make it through the summer break without hitting something.

Caterham

Vitaly Petrov, Caterham, Hungaroring, 2012Caterham’s summer break was occupied with their move to a new base at Leafield, formerly home to Super Aguri. Despite the upheaval and the mandatory two-week factory closure all the teams have observed, the team will have some tweaks for the CT01 this weekend.

Technical director Mark Smith said: “Obviously we could not work on the car during the August break, but before and after the holiday we have been working on a slightly revised exhaust layout and a number of small aero updates to areas like the brake ducts.”

The team aim to bring more steps forward after Monza: “For Singapore we have some new parts that will be run for the first time when we head back to the Far East.

“We will then be bringing updates to every race until the end of the season and while the refurbishment program at Leafield may create a few technical and logistical challenges in our update schedule, we already have plans in place to work around any issues that may crop up, and are determined to fight until the last lap of the last race of the season.”

HRT

HRT will revert to the medium-downforce package used in Canada, though hopefully without a repeat of the braking problems that forced them to retire both cars in that race.

Marussia

Charles Pic has had a good start to his first F1 season and hopes to build on it: “I ended the first part of the season on a strong note, partly due to the team?s improved performance, and satisfied with my progress so far in my debut season.

“The break has given me time to reflect on those eleven races, which seemed to pass by so quickly, and my plan is to consolidate everything I have learned from the team and the car and wrap it all together to have what I hope will be an even stronger second part of the year.”

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 4.55 4.5 1 11 10/11 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.73 5.09 1 11 11/11 Form guide
Jenson Button 7.27 9.27 1 18 11/11 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 5.27 5.9 1 19 10/11 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.09 3.73 1 9 11/11 Form guide
Felipe Massa 11 10.9 4 16 10/11 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 8.09 7.4 3 10 5/11 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7.64 7.91 1 15 11/11 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 8.36 5.45 2 14 11/11 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 6.73 6 2 18 7/11 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.73 9.7 6 14 10/11 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 11.45 10.3 5 15 10/11 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 11.55 9.5 4 18 8/11 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13.73 8.33 2 14 9/11 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 13.64 13.2 9 17 10/11 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.82 13.2 8 16 10/11 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 11.18 12.22 1 19 9/11 Form guide
Bruno Senna 13.82 12.1 6 22 10/11 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.18 17.2 13 23 10/11 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.73 16.75 13 19 8/11 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.5 20.13 17 22 8/10 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.2 20.29 15 23 7/10 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.9 18 14 22 9/10 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.36 18.63 15 20 8/11 Form guide

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2012 Belgian Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Caterham/LAT

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74 comments on Spa could be Raikkonen’s chance for comeback win

  1. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 29th August 2012, 10:34

    Usually I welcome the prospect of rain for a race weekend (bar Friday), but Fernando Alonso taking another victory is the last thing this driver’s championship needs.

    In the recent “who will win the championshp” polls, many were hoping, or even expecting Fernando to hit trouble some time in the remainder of the season. While I don’t buy into the line of thinking that makes a retirement more likely every time he doesn’t retire (i.e., sooner or later his car will have to fail…), a few spots of rain might also increase the chances of Alonso running into trouble (after all, he was somewhat lucky to make it into Q3 in Silverstone before brilliantly putting it on pole).

    • Uncle Ben (@uncleben) said on 29th August 2012, 12:57

      I wouldn’t worry about any rain for quali or race day.
      Most forecasts give a small chance of rain on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday should remain dry, albeit with low temperatures (15°C on Saturday, 18°C on Sunday). This could hurt McLaren, as they tend to struggle to get heat into their tires as quickly as Red Bull and Ferrari. And Pirelli’s decision to bring the harder rubber won’t help them either.

    • suka (@suka) said on 29th August 2012, 13:00

      I think he retired here in the rain back in 2010.

      • Eggry (@eggry) said on 29th August 2012, 13:54

        Yeah, that was a silly mistake. He was survived from massive back crash from Barichello but fortunate to have just minor damage. It was the breaking point of his title campaign, I guess.

    • HeX (@) said on 29th August 2012, 17:26

      Hopefully it would be a nice and dry weekend for spa (and future races), from there we would be able to see better the teams’ relative pace.

      Like how Red Bull’s pace has been affected from all the car investigations, the benefit from Lotus’ new ‘device’ and whether Ferrari would be able to develop their car to be competitive enough for Alonso to sustain his lead etc etc.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th August 2012, 6:39

      Fernando Alonso taking another victory is the last thing this driver’s championship needs.

      I think that comment is a bit unfair.

      Last year, the championship fight was non-existant because Vettel dominated. I get the resistance to that. But the situation is not the same where. In 2011, Vettel had a car that was light years ahead of the competition. This year, Alonso has a car that is currently better than it was in Melbourne, but is still about fourth on the road in terms of overall pace. If he gets another win, it will be a testament to his ability as a driver, and not “the last thing the sport needs”.

      I suspect that 2012 is going to play out in three phases. The first phase came at the start of the year, with the mad scramble to understand the tyres and steal points away from everyone else. That lasted until Valencia, when all the teams simultaneously came to terms with the tyres. This phase is still ongoing, with Alonso out the front, and will streamline into the third phase of the championship: the last few races that will be fought out between Alonso and one other driver. Right now, the championship race is to be in a position where a driver can take the fight to Alonso in the last few races – I’m guessing Japan or Korea will be the turning point where two contenders emerge; Alonso and Hamilton will be my bet. If the championship plays out like that, I don’t see how it will be a bad thing.

      Right now, Alonso is doing what Jenson Button did in 2009: surviving in an under-developed car while his rivals and nipping at his heels, trying to take chunks out of his lead.

  2. Tyler (@tdog) said on 29th August 2012, 10:50

    Is it really accurate to describe the tyres for Spa as harder this year, given that the 2012 compounds are softer than 2011? Aren’t the tyres therefore the same as, or close to, last year’s tyres?

  3. vjanik said on 29th August 2012, 10:57

    can someone please explain the lap records?

    keith shows:

    Lap record* 1’47.263 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
    Fastest lap 1’44.503 (Jarno Trulli, 2009)

    whereas the official F1 website shows:
    Lap Record: 1:45.108 – K Raikkonen (2004)

    I gather that the time set by Vettel is during a race. But why dont they show Trulli’s 1:44 as the lap record? When was Kimi’s time set?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th August 2012, 11:12

      A “lap record” has to be set during a race, as the note to the part you’ve quoted explains (see the asterisk).

      That time of Raikkonen’s appears to have been set on a previous configuration of the track, not the current one.

      • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 29th August 2012, 13:08

        Indeed it was, the 2004 layout had the old Bus Stop chicane, the left-right, followed by the fast right left if you remember. The layout was changed for the 2007 season, which I think was the reason why there was no 2006 race there.

    • Racer (@racer) said on 29th August 2012, 11:13

      @vjanik The F1 website just shows the fastest race lap. Raikkonen’s lap was set in the race, but back when the circuit had a slightly different configuration (the bus stop was different), so not comparable to current times. So the F1 website should show Vettel’s lap, but they’ve obviously made a mistake.

  4. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 29th August 2012, 11:33

    If there’s anything to hinder Alonso massively or at least dim him, then it’s his track record in Spa: historically he hasn’t had particularly great results, probably with the exception of his two podiums in 2005 & 2007 & his qualifying around Spa in recent seasons have been below par to say the least although they were due to mixed weather conditions.

    The point is – although there is the strong possibility of rain which would obviously work in Ferrari’s favour, the element of surprise in Spa could hurt Alonso once more.

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th August 2012, 11:45

    I’m pessimistic about Lotus’ chances. They’ve been tipped for victory since April, and have consistently failed to make good on the opportunities as they present themselves. They might have a fast car, but in terms of what they are doing with it, they’re only about fourth behind McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull.

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 29th August 2012, 13:13

      You seem to forget the miracles Kimi appears to perform at Spa though. Won there in 2004 and 2009 in cars that really were not up to the job at all, once they have that first win they’ll be difficult to stop with their driver line up.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 29th August 2012, 20:59

        @craig-o, in 2009 the car probably was quite good for Spa (it wasn’t a bad car at that point if you knew how to handle it as he clearly did), and he had KERS to get past the faster FI (was it also the year he went outside T1 at the start as now isn’t allowed anymore?), I don’t think that was his finest win there, even if it was a good moment for Ferrari after Hungary, and with the 2nd Ferrari far back in the results from then on.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th August 2012, 22:22

        I think Raikkonen’s successes at the circuit have been down to his car, rather than a serendipity between driver and circuit – which I don’t think will be enough to overcome Lotus’ poor race management. In fact, I think Raikkonen’s “miracles” are a myth. Just look at 2009, where he basically cheated at the start to leapfrog the others. A “miracle”, indeed.

        • Todfod (@todfod) said on 30th August 2012, 8:14

          He’s won 4 out of the 5 times hes competed at Spa. He was unfortunate not to make that 5 out of 5 if you remember Spa 2008.

          It definitely is a track where he performs well. ‘Miracle’ is just a metaphor for strong performances.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th August 2012, 9:03

            He’s won 4 out of the 5 times hes competed at Spa.

            And in two of those cases, he’s had the strongest car. Given that he should not have won in 2009 – why race control never gave him a drive-through for what he did at the start is a mystery that may never be solved – his 2004 race is the only one that stands out as being phenomenal.

            ‘Miracle’ is just a metaphor for strong performances.

            Then use “strong performances”. To me, a “miracle” win is one that comes against all odds – like a driver who is coming back from a prolonged absence due to injury, qualifies last due to sheer bad luck, gets caught up in a first-lap incident and is forced to limp back to the pits for an extended stop to repair the damage, and then claws his way through the field to take the lead right at the end, and withstanding phenomenal pressure to win by half a second. That would be a miracle victory.

            Personally, I think calling Raikkonen’s better races “miracle victories” is symptomatic of over-hype. Raikkonen has had a very good season this year – but if you believe some of the hype surrounding him (like “miracle victories”), then you’d have to say that his season has been a disaster.

    • Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 30th August 2012, 15:25

      They seem to be evolving has team and drivers get to know each other better and better. Undoubtly they have a good car, good drivers, a good development rate, what they lack is strategy, good calls from the pits, and of course qualifying higher would help…
      They’re getting there…

  6. Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 29th August 2012, 11:50

    Lotus arrives to this venue as one of the main favourites, especially the one driven by that guy with the no. 9 on his helmet. On my opinion tyres are not the main threat for keep them way for victory, the weather is, because their car is not the best in this conditions and I don´t remember Kimi winning a wet race. In these conditions Alonso and Vettel are favourites.

  7. matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th August 2012, 12:07

    Given Hamilton’s notoriety to allow his personal life affect his driving, this might not be a good fortnight for him.

    • icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 29th August 2012, 13:05

      @matt90 It never affected him this year though, correct ? Although, he is tweeting about his sick aunt in the past two weeks… he is training really hard and determined to succeed this year. In one way or the other, the results this year will determine his future

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 29th August 2012, 14:41

        Yeah that’s what I mean. His aunt being ill seems to be a recent thing, and if amount of tweets are a sign, he may be a little preoccupied unless he knows she’s definitely recovering.

        • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 29th August 2012, 16:02

          If anything that should give Lewis something extra, that something being the determination to excel, Lewis is a professional athlete & one that has learnt from his experiences last year regarding his personal life, I’m sure he’ll channel his time with his auntie into something positive, besides not just other drivers but other athletes have had situations where something unfortunate has happened behind doors & have rose above it.

          Take Schumi for example, I know he’s not Lewis but remember Imola 2003 I believe, his mother passed away during that weekend & he went on to win, was really subdued & didn’t celebrate of course, which just makes the victory more humane given the performance he gave on race day (something that should really inspiring to others).

    • timi (@timi) said on 29th August 2012, 21:38

      @matt90 @icemangrins @younger-hamii lewis’ aunt died this afternoon.

  8. f12007v (@f1fan-2000) said on 29th August 2012, 12:51

    The weather still varies btwn. dry and wet. If it is dry during qualifying and race, it will be Mclaren who will dominate. The shortend DRS zone would slow the lotuses top spd. down by a bit, and the track temperature and the tyres used in the race should allow Hamilton to set pole and win. Spa is a high-spd circuit, so it suits Mclaren and Loutus the best. Unless there is rain, Alonso would really loose out to the other drivers.

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 29th August 2012, 14:03

      as far as I concern, Lotus’s DDRS is not affected by DRS zone because it’s designed for non-DRS active situation. It’s passively activated when it’s over 150MPH which means might be powerful in the race different from Mercedes one.

  9. icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 29th August 2012, 12:59

    I would love to see a ICEMAN victory this weekend at spa. But, when it rains.. and if it rains, we have more than one favourite who will benefit from the conditions. Quite honestly, I’m glad F1 is back

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all the 6 world champions within the breathing distance of each other in the last 20 laps fighting for the top three positions?

    meh… not going to happen !

  10. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 29th August 2012, 13:09

    I still wouldn’t count Schumacher out here, especially if it rains… Would love to see Kimi winning though with Lewis second and Ferrari well off the pace for the benefit of the championship though… Can’t see it happening though!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th August 2012, 13:39

      Lets throw in Webber, Vettel and Rosberg (and even Button) for a good result as well then to bring the whole group together again!

    • Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 29th August 2012, 13:53

      Mercedes fall back quite seriously performance wise, even with rain only an hecatomb would put them on top.
      Ferrari though is expected to bring a promissing update to this race so even with dry weather I wouldn´t put them aside.

  11. John H (@john-h) said on 29th August 2012, 13:40

    But Alonso took the place back on the very next lap with a straightforward pass in the DRS zone. It was one of several ‘motorway-style’ passes seen during the race which has led the FIA to shorten the zone by 50 metres this year.

    50m reduction is an absolute joke. Sometimes I wonder if the FIA actually watch the races back from last year at all. It would only take someone with a brain the size of a newt to figure out the DRS zone needs to be either removed completely or at least halved in size.

    That aside, it’s great to have F1 back. A lot of talk about Kimi, Hamilton and Alonso, but I think Vettel will win the race this weekend.

    • sorin (@) said on 29th August 2012, 14:53

      Vettel’s win are very predictible. In qualification we will see if he will win on Sunday or not. If he will quali in 1’st or 2’nd he will win, but if he will quali 3’rd or less he won’t. In 4 complete years of F1 he only won, starting from 1’st or 2’nd with one exeception in 2010 in Malaysia when he started 3’rd. And I don’t think this exception will ever come again. Really, is too predictible…

      • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 29th August 2012, 17:55

        Yep, whenever Vettel doesn’t qualify on the front row I’m not worried the least that he’ll win, and he’s qualified poorly many times this season. :)

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 29th August 2012, 18:15

          I assume you’re not worried about Hamilton winning from lower than 4th either.

          • sorin (@) said on 29th August 2012, 18:38

            The problem with Hamilton this year is that, if he takes the pole, chances of winning are very low…

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 30th August 2012, 3:58

            That’s the thing about Vettel – when he has a car that even has a smidgen of a chance of winning – he’ll stick it on pole most of the time. If he doesn’t make the front row, you’ll know the car isn’t quick enough for the win, generally

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th August 2012, 13:43

    FINALLY, a race preview! It’s been far too long. I’m getting quite excited now.

    There’s so much to look forward to. I’ve had high hopes for Mercedes ever since China for another circuit where they could really use their superb straight-line speed but I do have nagging doubts that they’ve slipped too far back to really capitalise on it. The E20 is mega-fast and seems to suit both the twisty circuits (Hungaroring showed us this last time out) and now hopefully the circuits with long straights.

    I want to see what ideas Red Bull have come up with and just how everyone reacts to their latest technical scandal. I want to see if McLaren can keep up the pace. I want to see if Ferrari are still in contention with Alonso and I want to see if Massa can continue a run of relatively good form.

    Oh and Monza the weekend after? Cancel Christmas, this is better.

  13. Eggry (@eggry) said on 29th August 2012, 13:55

    It would be interesting to see how Lotus cope with such low temperature which is their Achilles gun. If they didn’t sort it out, even with DDRS, I don’t think Kimi can win here. Also some updates from top team might be crucial.

  14. caci99 (@caci99) said on 29th August 2012, 14:38

    The forecast of low temperatures during the weekend does not sound good for Lotus. I would expect RB, McLaren and Ferrari do benefit from the weather conditions. It is going to be between them.

  15. caci99 (@caci99) said on 29th August 2012, 14:58

    @keithcollantine It looks like the link for a bigger picture of the track of Spa on the tracks info, is not working.

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