Belgium Grand Prix Preview – AT&T Williams

When: Friday 26 to Sunday 28 August, 2011
Where: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Round: 12 of 19
One of the world’s classic racetracks. Eau Rouge, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont are corners synonymous with speed and they’re all found here, at Spa-Francorchamps.
The 7.004km track is the longest on the F1 calendar and its mix of long straights and high-g corners makes it one of the toughest of the year for drivers and cars. Only six drivers have won at the track more than once and they’re all world champions.
The weather often has an influence on the outcome of races. The Ardennes region of Belgium seems to have a microclimate of its own, and such is the circuit’s length that it can be raining on one section and dry on another.
“There’s no doubt that Spa is one of the great tracks,” says Williams F1 technical director Sam Michael. “To do well there, you often need to be looking up as well as down to see what the clouds are doing.”
Sam Michael, Technical Director: Spa is one of the greatest circuits in the Formula One Championship. Large variations in terrain provide a challenge to the engineers to cover all of the different corner types, from slow speed curb riding to the flat out Eau Rouge. Race day can be really interesting when the weather changes as it can rain on one side of the circuit and be dry on the other! We will bring new rear wings which feature a different drag level and some diffuser modifications to evaluate during practice.
Rubens Barrichello: I love Spa-Francorchamps; the track is very special. It is the place where I claimed my first Formula One pole position back in 1994. It was in very tricky conditions as the track was drying out, but that is something that happens quite a lot at Spa. We are going to have a new aero package for this race that I hope will give us a better chance to fight for points. It is a real drivers’ circuit with no time to breathe during a lap.
Pastor Maldonado: I know Spa well having raced there in Italian Formula Renault (2003), Formula Renault V6 Eurocup (2004), World Series by Renault (2006) and GP2 (2008 – 2010). It is one of my favourite tracks and a place where I have achieved important results in my career, including victory in my Championship-winning GP2 season. I will enjoy the whole weekend in Belgium as it is a fabulous circuit, but Eau Rouge has to be my favourite corner. I’ll do my best to improve on our previous results and I can’t wait to get there.
From Cosworth’s perspective: The Belgian Grand Prix sees the Formula One season enter ‘engine territory’ as Spa-Francorchamps, the longest track of the season, puts the focus on outright engine power. Together with the next race at Monza, the race at Spa is the most demanding event of the year for engines. The composition of medium-high speed corners and long straights, coupled with notable elevation changes, makes Spa-Francorchamps a true power circuit with engine performance making a significant contribution to lap time. The Belgian Grand Prix is unquestionably one of the greatest and most anticipated challenges in Formula One for engine manufacturers, and a race which Cosworth is looking forward to.
From Pirelli’s perspective: Belgium is one of the most challenging but enjoyable events of the year due to the fast and flowing nature of the track, as well as the uncertain weather conditions that add another element of unpredictability. We are bringing the medium and the soft compounds to Spa, just as we did in Valencia and at the Nürburgring. The versatility of this combination should provide plenty of scope for strategy as well as some close racing at a circuit that all of the drivers love.