Kovalainen: Spa is great, but not the chicane

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Looking ahead to the next round of the world championship at Spa-Francorchamps, Heikki Kovalainen enthused about the track but reserved some criticism for the slow chicane added to the circuit in 2007:

I think Spa is one of the circuits where it’s still possible to have a big accident. It’s little more risky than some of the modern, newer circuits. They’ve tried to work on the worst places here to make sure that if we have a brake failure or a puncture or something in the high-speed we’ve got a bit more room, or we will have a bit less speed.

I think this is their aim and also trying to improve overtaking opportunities on the circuit. You can out-brake someone by getting the drag all the way up from the bottom of the hill towards the last corner and then overtake them under braking. I think this is also one of the reasons why they’ve made a very slow chicane.

Personally, I think it’s the wrong direction – we should have more quicker corners and keep the pace up. But I’m not designing the circuits, I’m not so much involved with the numbers and the safety of the circuit so it’s better to leave that to the professionals.
Heikki Kovalainen

Kovalainen was given a penalty for hitting Mark Webber at the chicane during the 2008 race.

Although improvements in the cars mean the once-mighty Eau Rouge is now taken flat-out, Kovalainen says the track still commands respect:

Spa is a big circuit, a challenging circuit and I think that’s one of the reasons why all of the drivers really like it. There’s some big corners that are not easy to nail.

There are a few famous corners like Eau Rouge. That’s relatively easy now, we’re just going flat out almost in any kind of conditions. It’s not the biggest challenge but there’s some high speed corners, some change of direction in the high speed and you really have to have good balance and high confidence.

The walls are very close, if you fall off there you’re always going to have a big accident. It’s not so easy to nail it, you’ve got to be a little bit brave and wind it up towards qualifying to get everything out.
Heikki Kovalainen

Watch the video above to hear more of Kovalainen’s thoughts on the track.

2010 Belgian Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Belgian Grand Prix articles

39 comments on “Kovalainen: Spa is great, but not the chicane”

  1. Spa is by far one of the best circuit on the calender & probably every driver love to race here. I don’t remember that this track ever failed to provide us with entertainment since 2003. I was disappointed when they made the changes but I hope they did for safety.

    Even I heard that they will shorten the circuit to have more laps was it true or a rumor?

    1. There was a very iffy story in a local newspaper which some F1 sites reproduced a year or two ago along those lines.

    2. 2007 race was pretty bland IMO

    3. I prefer Suzuka

  2. UneedAFinn2Win
    6th August 2010, 12:52

    YES !!

    Lotus to switch to Renault next year !


    hang in there, heikki…

    1. Lotus say it’s just a rumour and they aren’t commenting.

      1. UneedAFinn2Win
        6th August 2010, 13:43

        spoilsports… :)

        1. Robert McKay
          6th August 2010, 13:45

          It’s hardly as if the performance of Lotus is 100% defined by Cosworth anyway.

          1. And the Cosworth is not that bad an engine and there is still potential for improvement in it.

            Williams seems satisfied with it and from what we have seen on high speed tracks the engine does not seem to lack much in power.

          2. UneedAFinn2Win
            6th August 2010, 15:06

            Let’s see, would i prefer the manufacturer that has won two driver WDCs with previous versions of said engine and has two top perfomers in the field, and has experience from all the years of f1 being V8 or the one forced on new entries by default… hmmm…

          3. Lotus seems to have the right people with them so I think a switch to Renault won’t be a bad idea.

          4. jsw11984 (@jarred-walmsley)
            6th August 2010, 20:55

            True, but having a better engine can only be a benefit surely

          5. It all depends on whether the extra funds taken up by the more expensive engine can be taken from other parts of the car without hindering it too much

    2. The Cosworth has been very reliable. Something that RBR can’t say about their engines. The transmissions used by the new teams—is it X-Trac?—however are horrible and need to be replaced.

      1. I don’t think the Renault engine is that bad, the works team have not had much in the way of engine trouble.

        More likely it’s a combination of Newey pushing cooling to the limit so he can have the most aero features on the car (this is reportedly why they chose the Renault engine, it requires the least cooling), and the EBD that RBR have been using to achieve their sublime qualifying performances (but that surely can’t be healthy for the engine).

        1. why does the ebd make any difference to the engine, the exhaust gases have to come out, what difference does it make to the engine if they come out into the diffuser?

          1. He’s referring to the timing delay afterburner feature which no doubt barbeques the exhaust valves and increases heat in places the engine designers did not intend.

        2. Not sure Red Bull “chose” the Renault engine. They’d love to have the Mercedes and a bit more power…

      2. When did the Renault engine fail?

  3. There was nothing wrong with the old bus stop, and even the slight revision they made for 2004 was ok. The new one is ridiculous and spoils the flow a bit, even if it is good for overtaking.

    1. If nothing else I preferred the bus stop cause it left a lot of green around the track. That whole area now is just a mass of tarmac. Spa is a forest circuit not a carpark.

    2. I was really disappointed when i first saw the new corners here. It lost us a lot of the exitement of that part of the track.

    3. I was thinking they would be better having no bus stop at all and just making it a flat out blast all the way to La Source.

      1. That would be great Ads but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. It would be slightly like them deciding to remove the first chicane at Monza. Brilliant idea but goes against safety

    4. i liked the old bus stop as well

  4. I’m sure that the reason they changed the old bus stop chicane was for the benefit of the new pit facilities.

    1. Yes, it was very dangerous as cars would pit at full speed whilst people were braking for the bus stop. There were several accidents I believe.

      I have no real problem with the new chicane to be honest. If they were going to change one piece of the track then that would have been my choice… at least they’ve left it alone in the most part over the years.

      1. I seem to remember at least one driver (Fisi?) clouting the end of the pit lane wall in the infamous 1998 race?

        For me the Bus-Stop should be a left-right flick not a right-left drag…

  5. I have to say I agree with Dan Thorn.

    The old chicane was very rare in the fact that it was a chicane which produced excitement, and was loved by the fans, with its high bumpy curbs and the wall close on the outside.

    However the new one is an atrocicous. It does indeed spoil the flow of the circuit and goes in the wrong direction.

    Plus the ridiculous amount of tarmac around the two corners not only detracts from Spa’s wonderful scenic character, but practically encourages drivers to run of the road, rather than if there was a gravel trap or grass there. This subsequently causes incidents such as the afforementioned between Heikki and Mark, and of course ‘Chicane-gate’. These are particularly frustrating when considering the fact that the amount of runoff around the turns is totally unnecessary, and could easily be grassed over, with almost no compromise to safety.

    aaah, rant over. :D

  6. It’s not so much a chicane as back to back hairpins. Pretty awful corner, but at least cars can overtake there

  7. Great track, great atmos, had the time of my life in 2007 when i met up with a group of lads who lived near me in Sheps Bush.

    Track has an awesome soundtrack and you can stand above the footbridge at eau rouge and touch the cars as they steeple up over the crest, Flat out or not, and thats really just a telly watchers stat, in real life its a view of an F1 car without equal.

    Blanchemont is a more natural ampitheatre to watch and is probably the most technical corner now, but its a track to see before you die plus the beers great and theres more woods than a bear knows what to do in.

  8. The chicane is fine. But I miss the bus stop because it was, in fact, a bus stop, and who doesnt’ fancy slashing through a busstop lane in an F1 car. Also, the old chicane gave a driver being hounded 3-4 ways to screw up his momentum down to La Source and become vulnerable to a pass.

    As far as danger, its not Stavelot-Blanchimont that scares me, but the left hand sweeper at Pouhon. It’s blind on entry, decreasing radius, downhill, and requires you to exit up on the curb at 180mph. Touching that curb at that speed in any kind of damp conditions has got to put your heart in your mouth. That corner has ripped up some cars in the past. It’s even scary on playstation.

    1. This is one of the most awesome corners ever. Obviously very difficult to nail it, very exciting, very everything :-P
      This is the kind of corners that makes the fascination of F1 and motorsports in general. Of course we wouldn’t have anything like it in modern tracks anymore ….

      1. Agreed. This is a great corner, and champions are made around Spa and it’s corners like Bus Stop.

  9. However ugly the chicane might be, it’s neccessary. Blanchimont is one of the fastest parts of one of the fastest circuits, and La Source is one of the tightest turns on the calendar. That’s like mixing water with electricity. And then there’s the fact that without the chicane, the entrance to pit lane would be on the raceing line with cars going 300km/h. That’s inviting trouble.

    1. Yes, I know it is neccessary but does it have to be so ugly? :P

      1. Can you think of a way to put it in without making it ugly? I actually think that this one is an improvement over the old version.

  10. itis one of the most amazing corners ever.

    1. Um, Kovalainen’s not talking about Eau Rogue. He’s talking about the other chicane, the one just before the main straight and La Source. You know, the place where Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen had a minor altercation back in 2008.

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'.