FORMULA 1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

 

Foreword

After a very busy start to the year it was good to take some time to sit back and look at our journey since December 2015. In just over eight months we have revitalised two sites, started an aggressive recruitment campaign to build the workforce, initialised a re-build plan for Enstone, scored our first points and laid down some strong foundations for the future.

 

Naturally we still have a long way to do until we reach our objectives, but we are on track with the plan to get there.

 

Realistically in 2016 we will only be taking small steps as our main focus is now shifting to 2017 and beyond. Just before the shutdown we were on the tail of the midfield and able to fight for position; we still have a number of minor planned developments coming on stream in the later races so keeping this level of performance has got to be our objective for Spa and beyond.

 

We’re motivated and believe we have the structure and tools to do it. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but Formula 1 never is!

 

Additionally, Esteban joining Manor Racing for the last nine races of the season demonstrates the excellent relationship the two teams, Renault Sport Formula One Team and Mercedes AMG Petronas, have maintained for several years.

 

It is an outstanding opportunity for Esteban to gather mileage and race experience in a young, stable and very professional team. Esteban will be up against a highly rated and quick teammate, which will enable us to evaluate him in a representative environment. I hope this experience will be of great benefit for him and for Renault in the near future.”

 

 

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

 

 


 

The devil is in the detail

 

Team Principal Fred Vasseur evaluates the good and the bad of Hockenheim and looks forward to the second part of the year, which starts in Spa-Francorchamps.

 

Did you take anything positive away from the German Grand Prix?

The team is now in a period where we are moving forward. In the German race we fought with Haas and Toro Rosso, which shows our overall level has improved. However, we made an error in strategy, which cost one or two places. We made two stops, which was not an issue, but we did the two stops at the wrong time. Nevertheless there were some strong positives – we got to Q2 with Jo and punched above our weight in the race. We now need to keep fighting with the same competition and adapt our strategy moving forward.

 

What would you like to see from the team in the second part of the season?

If you look at the last two or three events, we are improving but we need to be focussed on the smaller details. We need to look at set-up and strategy and make sure we are doing a better job compared to the last events. We also need to understand tyre management a bit better. Over the last two or three races we have looked at it a lot and we have a much better understanding now, so we need to keep on with this trajectory. We are improving on the grid but if you look at race pace we are always better off than in qualifying. This means we need to get more from the Saturday situation. We are going in the right direction but we need to find two or three tenths and it is in the smaller details we need to improve and find it.

 

When can we expect a decision on the 2017 line-up?

This is a question we will get asked until we announce the drivers, and maybe even afterwards! At the moment our focus is to keep getting the best from the car. We have two drivers that are motivated so the second part of the year is to keep track of expectations and see where we are. In reality we won’t take any decision before September for sure – we have no time! But it is up to us and we will take a decision when we are ready.

 

 


 

Fully recharged

 

Kevin Magnussen kicked back over the summer but soon got hungry for some more racing action at one of his favourite tracks…

 

Welcome back! How did you spend your summer break?

I went back to Denmark for some time off and ignored training for a bit! But soon enough I missed racing and got back to the gym. The second part of the year gives you a good reason to train – there’s a lot travelling and you need to be on form.

 

We’ve now go for the second part of the season. What lessons have you learnt from the first half of the year?

I think we have learned that it’s a challenging year and our focus should be on just that: learning. We now know our level of performance and where we are in the field. While we need to try and get the most out of this year, we will now focus on putting everything we have learned into next year and maximising opportunities in 2017.

 

What are your thoughts on the challenge that is Spa-Francorchamps?

I love it. I remember the first lap I did there in 2009 in a Formula Renault 2.0 car. That car is way too slow for the track! You need an F1 car as it is just so big. I feel very lucky to have done it now as you can appreciate the flow and speed of the corners. I love Eau Rouge – even though it’s flat now it’s still so enjoyable to go through. On top of Eau Rouge you can run the kerb and straightline a lot so it’s a bit of a shame it’s not gravel or wall on the outside as would make it even more of a challenge. In the wet it is still a massive corner and you can guarantee it will be wet at some point over the weekend! It’s one of my favourite corners.

 

How do you deal with that famous changeable weather at Spa?

The track is so long that it can be wet in one part of the track and dry in the other. In these cases your normal cut off points for intermediate, wet and dry tyres go out of the window as you have to judge how much you will gain on slicks in some corners versus the risk of wet in other. It’s one of the main difficulties of Spa.

 

Which of your Spa races stand out for you?

I have won in everything I have raced, except F1, but I have had some fun races. I held back Alonso for the whole race…he was very annoyed with me and I actually ended up getting a penalty for defending too hard, but I definitely enjoyed that one!

 

You seemed to take a step forward in Germany, do you think this form can continue in Spa?

The car felt good and we were competitive in the first two stints on the supersoft tyre but ran too long on them. The two stop strategy didn’t really work but at least we showed at the start that we were competitive. With the right strategy we could have fought with Toro Rosso at the end of the race. I hope we can be at this level in Spa again.

 


 

Back in the zone

 

Jolyon Palmer discusses his summer holidays and looks forward to the high-speed challenges of Spa-Francorchamps. Like any typical Brit, he also chats weather…

 

Good to see you Jo, what did you get up to over the summer?

I had a week of holiday in Corfu with some friends. It was fun to have a week off to do what I wanted. Then I had two weeks to get back in the zone!

 

What were your thoughts on Spa when you first encountered its flowing corners and long straights?

When I first drove it thought, I remember I thought it was incredible. The first thing that hits you is Eau Rouge. It’s just awesome. You see it on TV, or on the onboards or on the Xbox, but it is even better the first time you drive it. Nothing prepares you for heading flat out down the hill and then coming up the other side and down that straight. In the dry we are now easily flat, maybe just slightly under with high fuel in the race, but it’s a real corner.

 

Any other corners that grab your attention?

The whole circuit feels very flowing and you can appreciate the size of it. Pouhon is a very quick double apex left and it is probably the biggest challenge now. It also goes downhill so you pick up so much speed – even with the run off, if you get it wrong you’ll be off. Blanchimont is now easy flat but leads into the Bus Stop chicane, which is a great overtaking place when you scream round at the end of a fast lap. It’s very easy to get wrong, but hard to get right.

 

How have you fared in your races in Spa?

I actually won my first race at Spa, which was in Formula Palmer Audi. I remember it was wet – as always for Spa! I’ve had podiums in GP2 since but have always missed a win somewhere. I also started on the front row last time I went there. I’ve had some good memories but I’m eager to make some more!

 

What do you need to do well in Spa?

Qualifying is important, but in the race overtaking is easier than at other races. The biggest thing is to keep one eye on the weather as you always need to be on the right tyres at the right time. If you get caught out it’s such a long lap that it can take you two minutes to get back to the pits and change tyres, by which time you would have lost so many positions.

 

Would you have liked to drive the old circuit at Spa?

I would absolutely love to look round some of the old tracks like Spa and the Nordschleife and have a drive. I have seen old videos of the races there – each circuit is unique and incredibly high speed; I don’t think people liked going slowly back then!

 


 

A balancing act

 

Chief technical officer Bob Bell looks at juggling 2017 objectives and the team’s long-term goals with an improving 2016 performance.

 

We’re just over the halfway point of the season and you’ve had a little over six months to have a good look at the team. How would you review everything so far?

It’s been a genuine challenge. Clearly we are not as competitive as we would have liked, but in some respects we are not surprised at this form. All teams are finding it hard to unlock real performance gains, partly due to the current stability in regulations that makes it tricky to find the final parts of the puzzle. It’s also partly due to a concerted effort on 2017, which will see big regulation changes. It’s not just hard for us, but for everyone on the grid. That said, we have been very good at finding our strong points and exploiting them, and since Hungary we have seen some genuine progress.

 

What would you rate as the team’s strong points?

Firstly, there is the very obvious point that we are a works’ team and can shape the destiny of our engine and chassis. This is only shared by Mercedes and Ferrari, so it’s a real advantage. We can fully integrate the two different areas and make the sum of the whole more than the sum of its parts. It is an important facet of our performance and we need to be able to exploit it better than others.

Secondly there is the heritage of the team and the hunger for championship success. I can see a real determination to return to the same levels of success. Even though we need to build up to winning, you can see there is a drive, will and experience to recapture what we achieved in the past.

Since Renault returned we have also had increased investment flowing into the team. Some tired facilities have, or will be, refreshed, the sites are being developed and we are building up the headcount. This is all part of a long-term plan as some areas, particularly recruitment, take time to come on stream.

 

You mentioned that 2017 is a big challenge. With half of 2016 already run, how do you split resources in the second part of the year?

It’s a difficult call to decide on the resource split and it really depends on your aspirations for 2016 versus your aspirations for 2017 to decide when to switch. As per most teams we are now winding up 2016 and putting all our effort into 2017.

 

Spa is a fearsome challenge on the calendar. How do you think the team will fare in Belgium?

Spa is the longest track of the year at 7km and very fast with a good mix of high and medium speed corners, sweeping sections and some low speed corners in the mix. There’s also elevation changes and you always have unpredictable weather too! It will be difficult for us, but the work we have done in the last races should stand us in good stead. We’ve got a better handle on car balance and I think we should be able to keep our current level of performance. We’ve not got a major upgrade, but we should see the progress made in the last two races transfer forward to Spa. We fought with Haas and Toro Rosso and I think we are capable of getting on their tails again. There will be some developments coming through that were scheduled to come on stream in the second part of the year so even though our focus will primarily be on 2017 after the shutdown, we should still be able to improve upon our current level of form.

 


 

Circuit notes

 

T1 – The lap begins with the slowest corner on the 4.352 mile lap – La Source.

 

T3 – The run down to Eau Rouge and into Raidillion creates extreme suspension compression as the relief changes from downhill to uphill. Good engine power is required for the uphill drag.

 

T7 – Using the gradient in the braking area to Les Combes, overtaking is easily possible here.

 

T10 – A series of more technical corners at Bruxelles and Rivage, where mechanical grip is important.

 

T12 – Pouhon is a fast flowing, double-apex left hand turn, which is exited flat out before the flow of Campus.

 

T15 – The two right hand corners at Stavelot and Paul Frere are crucial to optimize momentum up through the blind Blanchimont corner which is flat-out. Precision in placing the car is paramount here.

 

T19 – The final chicane, formerly known as Bus Stop, is a tight right and left, which is an overtaking possibility on entry.

 

 

Power Unit notes

  • Spa is the hardest circuit of the year for the Power Units. Over 65% of the 7km track is spent flat out, which translates as around 73secs per lap, the longest accumulative wide open throttle time of the year. The first period of sustained throttle is the climb from the La Source hairpin to the chicane at Les Combes. It takes around 25secs with the driver flat on the throttle throughout. The distance is only slighter shorter than a runway at Charles de Gaulle airport.
  • The track drops over 40m from La Source before climbing over 80m back to Les Combes, equivalent to a gradient of 1 in 4, or one of the steepest mountain climbs in the Tour de France. The descent compresses the internals but going over the crest of the hill, the vertical force is suddenly lifted and the parts unloaded, with the vertical forces switching to -3g. It can be equated to the feeling on a rollercoaster drop when your body feels compressed and pushed down into the seat but weightless when you go over a bump.
  • The turbo will be rotating at close to its maximum to keep pace with the high rotational speeds of the ICE. The altitude will further increase rpm. At its most extreme the turbo will be spinning at more than 95,000rpm or over 1,500 revs per second!
  • Spa is one of the most demanding tracks on the MGU-K. Each of the braking points comes after a long burst of power so the energy dissipated through the brakes is enormous. The best opportunity for the MGU-K to recover energy is the Bus Stop chicane, which the driver approaches at over 300kph and brakes down to just 75kph.
  • High-speed flowing corners such as Pouhon and Fagnes are the best opportunities for the MGU-H to recover energy. It will feed this energy to the MGU-K and ICE on the next period of throttle through Blanchimont.

 

Tyre choice

 

Medium: Milk chocolate: a good all-rounder that satisfies most needs.

 

Soft: White chocolate: initially hits the sweet spots but prone to melting quickly.

 

Supersoft: A soft praline with a very gooey centre.

 

Memory Lane

Formula 1 returned to a shortened version of the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the 1983 Belgian Grand Prix after a 13 year absence. It remained a massive challenge, with the hills and long straights making it an instant power track. The turbocharged cars had a slight advantage, which Alain Prost used to great effect. The Frenchman steered his Renault to pole over Alfa Romeo’s Andrea de Cesaris, but he lost the lead off the start. Prost re-took the lead when Alfa Romeo fumbled their pit stop, but the challenge disappeared when de Cesaris’ engine blew. Prost held on to take an easy victory, 23 seconds over Patrick Tambay’s Ferrari.

 

Quirky facts

If you are playing the ‘Famous Belgians’ game, spare a thought for Walter Arfeuille, who set a Guinness World Record in 1990 for lifting 281.5kg a distance of 17cm off the ground with his teeth. Then on 9 June 1996 he pulled eight railway passenger coaches with a combined weight of 223.8 tonnes a distance of 3.2m along a track with his teeth. It was only broken in 2003. Unfortunately, Walter was sent to prison for two years in October 2002 for dealing in drugs.

 

The highest point in Belgium is lower than the world’s tallest building – the Signal de Botrange on the High Fens plateau in far-east Belgium is the highest point at 694m, shorter than the world’s tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa at 828m.

 

Belgium’s highway can be seen from the moon – the almost 100 percent-lit highway network is one of the few man-made structures seen that far at night.

 

Belgium has been producing chocolate for almost 400 years. The first evidence of chocolate production in Belgium dates back to 1635. Today Belgium produces over 173,000 tons of the stuff a year and has an estimated 2,000 chocolate shops.

 

Belgian national dish ‘les frites’ was wrongly given the name ‘French Fries’ by American servicemen when they arrived in Belgium at the end of the First World War. They named the fries after the French language spoken in Wallonia, creating confusion with the invention’s nationality. A good frite has to be 1 cm square, rectangular, and fried twice.

 

Renault Sport Academy Roundup

 

The season so far…

 

Oliver Rowland

Oliver’s remarkable speed has earned him three podiums in the 2016 GP2 Series so far this year. The Brit stood on the podium for the first time in Monaco and followed it up with a double podium at his home race in Silverstone. Outstanding consistency has also claimed 12 points’ scoring finishes from 14 races, which handed him the lead of the championship at the halfway point of the season in Silverstone. A disappointing race in Budapest saw him slip back the rankings, but Oliver came back on form in Germany with two fifth places. He will head into the second part of the year P5 in the standings, but only 14 points covers the top five…

 

A positive weekend in Germany in terms of qualifying. We started P4 but had the potential to be on pole by 0.2 seconds. It’s the closest we have ever been in qualifying to pole. This was a big step forward compared to previous qualifying sessions.

 

In both races we put ourselves in the fight for victory but struggled with tyre degradation in the latter part of the races, which meant we had two fifth place finishes. Again, this is good points and we find ourselves close in the Championship.

 

Now it’s the summer break and I look forward to improving myself and being super ready for the last four rounds. Fourteen points off P1 means we go into the last rounds being a contender. I’m happy about this and really hope we can make the next step to become GP2 Champion!

 

Thanks to Renault Sport Academy for their continued support in my development and my team MP Motorsport who have been putting in a great amount of effort.

 

Kevin Joerg

Kevin started the 2016 GP3 Series strongly, with two points’ scoring finishes at the first round in Barcelona. Difficult races at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone gave little in the way of points, but he returned to the top ten with a strong drive in Budapest. In Hockenheim a disappointing qualifying saw him start down the field but he fought back to P14 in the feature race and a top ten finish in the sprint race.

 

It’s been quite a disappointing weekend. At the last round we made a good step, understood the issues we’d been facing, and translated those learnings into practice here. But in qualifying the pace wasn’t quite there, which put us on the back foot. The races were pretty good as I gained lots of places early on, but the tyres lost a lot of grip towards the end of each race and that left it difficult to maintain pace and positions. We’re pretty sure we know how to cure that issue though so the next races should be good.

 

Louis Delétraz

Swiss driver Louis has been one of the strongest title contenders in the championship so far. He won the first round in Aragon and followed it up with fifth in the second race. A further podium and fourth place in Budapest and win in Belgium saw him fighting for the championship lead with Tom Dillmann. A second win in Paul Ricard aided the challenge, and he is currently third in the standings, just five points off second position.

 

Silverstone was not the best weekend for me. Some technical issues restrained us over the weekend. We scored points in both races but I wanted much more. Next race at Red Bull Ring should suit us more and I am more motivated than ever to get back on top.

 

Jack Aitken

A podium in the second race in Hockenheim was the lift that Jack’s season needed. Until that point, his undoubted speed had largely not been rewarded in on-track results due to technical issues or untimely red flags, and he was unable to convert top-of-practice-standings to results. Seven top ten finishes demonstrate his potential but the hard-fought second position in Hockenheim will set him up nicely for the second part of the year. He is currently P10 in the drivers’ standings.

 

Overall a much better weekend for us in Hockenheim. P1 in practice showed we had pace and it was unfortunate to be blocked in the Qualifying Session. We got solid points in both races and we showed really strong pace on Sunday to get our first podium finish. I look forward to building on this in the second part of the season.

 

Renault Sport Formula One Team Third, Reserve and Test Driver Action

 

Esteban, Sergey and Nicholas all had busy Hockenheim weekends, and Esteban even sneaked in a DTM race in Russia over the summer break!

 

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon took over Jolyon Palmer’s seat in free practice in Hockenheim before jumping across to the DTM for a race in Moscow the week before the Belgian Grand Prix.

 

Esteban’s impressive form in free practice for Renault Sport coupled with his undoubted potential have caught many eyes this year. When an opportunity with Manor Racing presented itself, Renault and Mercedes were able to agree terms for Esteban to make his race debut in the Belgian Grand Prix. We wish him the best of luck!

 

Sergey Sirotkin

Sergey consolidated his run of form with a double podium in Hockenheim. The Russian qualified on pole position, which he converted into a strong win in race one. Starting P8 on the reverse grid for race two he then raced back to second position. He now stands in the lead of the drivers’ championship, equal on points with Pierre Gasly.

 

It was a bit of a strange weekend. It did not start super well. It was a new track for me and we did not have many too expectations during free practice so I can’t say we were immediately on winning form. I felt better and better every lap on the track, just as the car did, so by qualifying at the last moment we were able to push and to do a magic lap and get pole position.

 

The first race was a very strange one. The start was good, we were leading on the first few laps but as I did not want to push too much to kill the tyres, I could be overtaken and I just stayed in second place. Then unfortunately I did not see the VSC panels so I pitted which, to be honest, was quite a good decision. I was able to attack with the fresh tyres so I did very quick lap times and then when we pitted again for the mandatory pit stop with fresh option tyres, I was really, really quick. I was just flying, overtaking so many cars and we won the race by a reasonable margin. I don’t think it was a mistake to box in the beginning of the race, it looks like it was the best strategy.

 

Then I was able to be on the podium in second race. We did a big step in the championship that weekend and I’m really happy with that!

 

Nicholas Latifi

Nicholas qualified in the top ten in Hockenheim but was unable to convert it to points in either races. Suffering from tyre degradation he finished the feature race in fourteenth and the sprint race in seventeeth.

 

I have mixed feelings from the last weekend. On the one hand, qualifying seventh and running in the top five was a very good of a sign of the work we’ve put in recently to get ourselves back to where we feel we ought to be. But in the races I suffered quite badly from tyre degradation. I made my pitstop quite early in the feature race and that meant it was tough to get the tyres to last the distance. But we’ve once again learned plenty this weekend and we can take that forwards into the final four rounds of the season.

 

Infiniti Hybrid Fact

Do you know how much #hybrid energy was recovered by the @renaultsportf1 / #InfinitiF1 ERS system at the #GermanGP?

Answer: Enough to power 22,222 Christmas trees with 1,625,540 bulbs! Dazzling. (We did the maths so you don’t have to!) #INFINITI #GermanGP