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Formula 1: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – Belgian Grand Prix Preview

Spa-Francorchamps facts & stats

After a four-week break in the Formula 1 calendar, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes returns to action at one of the world’s most historic racetracks. Spa-Francorchamps has been synonymous with F1 for more than 60 years, and it’s where McLaren has enjoyed much success. The team scored its first world championship victory at the circuit in 1968 and it has won at the venue consistently ever since – including last year’s pole-to-flag victory for Jenson.


The 4.352-mile/7.004km circuit is the longest of the season, and it’s also one of the fastest, with an average speed of 145mph/234km/h. Its most challenging corners – of which Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are three – are revered by the drivers as their combination of high g-forces and huge speeds makes this race very tough on man and machine.


Spa-Francorchamps featured in the inaugural championship calendar in 1950, but its current design bears only a passing resemblance to the original 14km layout that last hosted a grand prix in 1970. That final race on the super-fast old track was won at an incredible average speed of 150mph, making it the sixth fastest race of all time!


The modern circuit was opened in 1979 and, despite alterations to Eau Rouge and the Bus Stop chicane, it has retained much of its fast and flowing nature. A committed driver and an aerodynamically efficient car are pre-requisites to success, but racing at Spa-Francorchamps is rarely straightforward due to the fickle microclimate of the surrounding Ardennes hills. Rain invariably features at some point during the race weekend.


Should this year’s 44-lap race remain dry, the teams will use Pirelli’s Medium and Hard tyre compounds, as they did in Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain and Great Britain earlier in the year.


Race distance       44 laps (308.052km/191.424 miles)

Start time               14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)

Circuit length        7.004km/4.352 miles

2012 winner           Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-27) 44 laps in 1hr29m08.530s (207.344km/h)

2012 pole               Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-27) 1m47.573s (234.393km/h)

Lap record             Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-19) 1m45.108s (238.931km/h)


McLaren at the Belgian Grand Prix

Wins                       14 (1968, 1974, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012)

Poles                      11 (1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2012)

Fastest laps           8 (1974, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1999, 2004, 2010)


Car 5: Jenson Button

Age         33 (January 19 1980)

GPs         238

Wins       15

Poles      8

FLs         8


“Spa has always been on my shortlist of favourite circuits in Formula 1. I still remember my first grand prix there, back in 2000, when I out-qualified Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari – that felt pretty special.


“Then I think back to my victory there last year: I had pretty much the perfect weekend – my car was fantastic, I got pole position and just led the whole race. It was one of the most satisfying wins of my career just because I felt strong and confident for the entire weekend.


“The thing about Spa is that it just feels awesome to nail a quick lap around there – you need a car that’s perfectly synced to the driver, because it’s such a long lap, and there are so many big corners, that you need to find that perfect balance. And getting the set-up right – and running flat-out for nearly two minutes – feels incredible.


“We don’t go to Spa with the package to win, but I’ll still be making the most of every single lap around this place – it’ll still feel incredible.”


Car 6: Sergio Perez

Age         23 (January 26 1990)

GPs         47

Wins       0

Poles      0

FLs         2


“We had a positive race in Hungary, which was a nice way to end the first half of the season. Hopefully, it gave everybody within the team the motivation to return to work after the summer break with renewed focus. I’m certainly feeling incredibly strong and refreshed and am really looking forward to getting back into the cockpit and back to work.


“There’s no better place to kick off the season’s second half than with races at Spa and then Monza. They’re two of Formula 1’s most iconic and evocative tracks, and two of the greatest challenges for any driver. I love Spa, but I didn’t get too much of an opportunity last year: after qualifying fourth, I was one of the victims of the first-corner accident, so I didn’t get to see what our car could do.


“So I’m going to Spa this year with added motivation to do well. It’s such a great place – I love fast corners, and the feeling of taking to the car to the limit around such a big and long circuit is incredible. The racing at Spa – particularly with KERS Hybrid and DRS – is usually pretty intense, so I’ll be looking forward to another exciting weekend.”


Martin Whitmarsh

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“There’s absolutely no denying that Spa-Francorchamps is one of the greatest racetracks in the world. It occupies that exalted position alongside circuits such as Monaco, Silverstone, Monza and Suzuka; venues with a storied past and a demanding nature that make them some of the standouts on a packed calendar.


“For everyone in Formula 1, a weekend in Spa can be tough and demanding. The unpredictable weather means that there’s rarely a straightforward path for our drivers and engineers to clearly pursue through the weekend. The cold and the rain make life difficult for the spectators, too, but they are rewarded with some of the best views in the world of racing cars at the limit.


“Spa has been the scene of many victories for McLaren through the years – not least, our very first grand prix win, achieved by Bruce McLaren himself back in 1968. While we’re not contenders for outright victory this time round, the whole team is looking forward to another opportunity to build on our ability to understand and operate MP4-28.”


A McLaren 50 moment

Belgian Grand Prix, August 27 2000

McLaren has enjoyed many successes at Spa-Francorchamps and none more significant than Bruce McLaren’s maiden win for his eponymous team in 1968. But we’re going to reflect here on a more recent victory for the team in which Mika Hakkinen claimed his only success in Belgium.


Mika takes a convincing pole position in his McLaren MP4-15, but he’s made to work hard for victory in the 44-lap race – and he’s not helped by the weather. At 7am on race day, the gorgeous sunshine of qualifying is replaced by heavy and persistent rain – and the race is started behind the Safety Car.


Mika converts pole position and opens up a good lead during the early laps. But the rain abates and when a dry line appears Mika is caught out at Stavelot, where he spins. That lets Michael Schumacher into the lead and Mika spends the remainder of the race hunting down the Ferrari driver.


With four laps to go Mika is in Schumacher’s slipstream. He tries to pass the German on the approach to Les Combes, but his efforts are firmly rebuffed. Schumacher is then forced wide by a backmarker at the same place on the following lap and Mika seizes his chance. He sensationally dives down the inside of Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta to take the lead. He crosses the line 1.1s ahead of Schumacher to claim his fourth win of 2000.

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Posted by on August 16, 2013. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry