2017 Belgian Grand Prix track preview

2017 Belgian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Spa-Francorchamps is described by many drivers as their favourite circuit. And Formula One’s faster generation of cars should make it even more spectacular this year.

Track data: Spa-Francorchamps

Lap length 7.004km (4.352 miles)
Grand prix distance 308.052km (191.415 miles)
Lap record (race) 1’47.263 (Sebastian Vettel, 2009)
Fastest lap (any session) 1’44.503 (Jarno Trulli, 2009, qualifying two)
Tyre compounds See drivers’ choices
2016 Rate the Race 7.25 out of 10
2016 Driver of the Weekend Fernando Alonso

Spa-Francorchamps track data in full

The track began life as an incredibly fast course formed from public roads south-east of Spa. By 1970 speeds on the huge, 14-kilometre track had risen to dangerous heights, and F1 temporarily moved elsewhere.

It returned in 1983 to a track which was arguably better than the one it replaced. A new purpose-built section brought the length down by half but added several superb corners. Among them was Pouhon, now regarded by many of the drivers as a superior challenge to the track’s famed Eau Rouge/Raidillon sequence.

Renovations gradually transformed the entire facility into a dedicated race track. The increased use of asphalt run-offs has eased the challenge of some of its most dramatic corners, but much of the track configuration remains as it has been since the early eighties, save for the addition of a very slow chicane before the start/finish area.

As one of the fastest tracks on the calendar with several ultra-fast corners, Spa has normally required harder tyre compounds. But this year Pirelli has opted to bring its softest selection, including the ultra-soft rubber.

The threat of tyre failures was a serious concern during the 2011 race. Two years ago Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel both suffered high-speed blow-outs. Pirelli will be anxious to see there are no repeats this weekend.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

A lap of Spa-Francorchamps

Nico Hulkenberg is among those who names Spa as “one of my favourite tracks – certainly up there with the best in the world.” It begins with a slow right-hand hairpin at La Source but this is followed by one of the longest flat-out blasts on the calendar.

As the new generation of cars will be able to take Eau Rouge at full throttle, drivers will keep the accelerator down for 25 seconds as they plunge down from La Source, climb over Raidillon and power along Kemmel to Les Combes. This section provides a superb overtaking opportunity.

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2016
Flat-out Eau Rouge remains Spa’s signature corner
The right-left-right at Les Combes is relatively fast and leads drivers downhill into turn eight, a long constant-radius right hander. A bump lurks on the entry waiting to catch drivers out. They continue to descend through a brief right-hander on the way to Pouhon, turns 10 and 11.

Sergio Perez calls Pouhon “one of my favourite corners of the year”. “It’s so quick and satisfying when you get it just right,” he says. “The 2017 cars will feel extra special through this part of the lap.”

A brief straight leads to Fagnes, a quick right-left. This leads quickly into Stavelot, another turn where drivers can carry a lot of speed. The exit here is crucial as it leads to another long, flat-out run.

From here the drivers accelerate around Paul Frere curve (turn 15) and continue to build speed as they head towards Blanchimont. This is another of Spa’s most famous corners, taken at very high speed. At the exit the drivers negotiate a slight kink before arriving at the chicane.

The very slow corner does provide and overtaking opportunity and gives drivers the chance to charge the MGU-K, ready for deployment on the long straights which follow.

For the drivers, Spa is the kind of challenge Formula One cars are made for. “It features a lot of elevation and of course, it has Eau Rouge,” said Hulkenberg. “When you see these bends in real life it’s special but when you drive them, especially in a Formula One car, it’s super special.”

“Eau Rouge is going to be flat which is exciting and Pouhon too will be good and extremely fast.”

2017 Belgian Grand Prix

Browse all 2017 Belgian Grand Prix articles

17 comments on “2017 Belgian Grand Prix track preview”

  1. I remember being slightly depressed when Ralph Schumacher shrugged, sometime in the late 90s and said Eau Rouge is flat now. It had always previously been a corner that sorted the boys from the men and the crazy.

    Now apparently, flat out is exciting. Not so, just off flat out is exciting as drivers taking the old Masta Kink would agree, and add, terrifying.

    Its easily the best circuit to visit though, it is a natural amphitheater which means roaming tickets ares just fine and Eau Rouge in the flesh is still awe inspiring. It looks like a cliff.

    1. Tony Mansell, even that is somewhat questionable, since I recall that some of the drivers in the top teams were claiming that Eau Rouge and Raidillon was a flat out corner in the early 1990’s, let alone the late 1990’s.

      Even GT3 and GT4 cars can take that corner flat out now, showing that Eau Rouge and Raidillon really aren’t that challenging these days – as Perez notes, Pouhon has long been considered the most challenging corner on the circuit (I think that, even right back when they first began using the current layout in the 1980’s, whilst Eau Rouge and Raidillon got the headlines, it was really Pouhon which was considered to be more of a test of car and driver).

    2. “If in doubt, flat out”
      -Collin McRae

  2. Tarmac everywhere. Simply trading on its prior reputation.

  3. Suzuka has certainly replaced Spa as the best track on the calendar for me, but it is still one of my favourite venues. Pouhon should be spectacular with the new cars (is it flat in qualifying?), and the fiddly bits like Les Combes are actually pretty fun and flowing.

    I just wish they’d do something to the last chicane. It is just a very awkward corner; even the old bus stop had more charisma.

    1. I can’t quite believe I’m saying it, but I miss the bus stop too!

    2. @kaiie @ferrox-glideh I was thinking the same about the last corner, it is an awkward and clumsy corner, not helped by that terrible pit entrance, its bad negative camber, and huge radii and kerbs.

      So, I did my own redesign which basically is a more basic (and overtaking friendly), slightly faster right-left chicane just before the existing one. It then has a small kink onto the start/finish straight where the current chicane is, like it used to. The pit lane splits from the track before the chicane braking zone and has its own seperate chicane to slow the cars down, so that they aren’t on the racing line at different speeds. The only problem is Spa would probably lose the 4 metres that makes it longer than 7km.

  4. Circuits like Spa are what’s great about Formula One. That’s why we need more Street races in places like Miami and Las Vegas.

    1. @Gary We definitely don’t need more street circuits than what we already have.

    2. Exactly right Gary. I hope that Liberty takes a good long look at Spa and then a good long look at Road America. With a little imagination (and a lot of money), a second American race at the right venue just might work.

    3. I’m with you I feel they should only make races in city’s. The cars have to work way to much at places like spa. Also with street races you have the challenge of 90deg corners and you and me both know that’s what separates the boys from the men!

  5. Even with the awkward “new bus stop” chicane, Spa is the quintessential grand prix circuit. It is by far and away the best circuit on the calendar and it is always the race I most look forward to watching.

  6. It’s amazing how you can still distinguish the old track from the Google Earth picture! Even Masta is still there, wonder how many people just passing through even imagine that 50 years ago some metal tubes with wheels and a big engine were screaming past that place, closing in to 300km/h. An error was a death sentence. No wonder the track was shortened, but fortunately there wasn’t any Tilke in the 70s to ruin it.

  7. The very slow corner does provide and overtaking opportunity and gives drivers the chance to charge the MGU-K, ready for deployment on the long straights which follow.

    Well done finding something nice to say about that abomination, Keith!

    1. @george It’s taken me ten years. Wretched sodding thing.

  8. Yeah it is all wrong. I like 2004 layout best. Now first corner is a parking lot, bus stop is all changed in a bad way.

    And all the run offs.

    That being said it is my favourite track by hand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.