Belgian Grand Prix: Pub Knowledge
After a four-week break F1 has returned, and where better to restart the action than the infamous Spa circuit. Here’s your weekend pub knowledge, from F1 Racing magazine’s James Roberts, specifically designed to impress friends later this weekend…
Formula 1 heads to the majestic Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, a road course in the Hautes-Fagnes region of Belgium, that has hosted races since the 1920s. This is a circuit that rewards the fearless. The high-speed track carved around the Ardennes forest is not for the faint-hearted. The risks are greater here – as is the satisfaction of triumph.
The original Spa circuit was 14km in length and was mainly long straights and flat-out corners. The old course (which still exists as public roads) was last used for F1 racing in 1970 and the average lap time was around the 153mph mark. Just imagine racing at those speeds with little run-off in a tiny metal-framed chassis with a fuel tank positioned either side of your legs…
Come rain or shine
The new shortened 7km track came back onto the Formula 1 calendar in 1983, but two years later there was embarrassment for the organisers. The grand prix was cancelled after the asphalt broke up in the searing heat. The new Tarmac was supposed to deal with the notorious wet weather that afflicts this part of the world. High in the hills, Spa has its own micro-climate and at a moment’s notice bright sunshine can be torrential rain within minutes. Plus one side of the 7km circuit can be bone dry while the other awash with rain. The fickle nature of the Ardennes weather can mean tyre choice is critical and race order can suddenly be flipped.
Smash and grab
One of the most memorable races ever held at Spa was in 1998. In torrential conditions, a massive multi-car ‘carambolage’ accident after the first hairpin turned involved 13 of the 22 competitors as spray blinded the on-coming traffic from the wreck happening in front of them. The race was eventually won by Damon Hill who gave the Jordan Grand Prix team their first ever victory in F1, sending team order Eddie Jordan into delirious delight.
Drivers are on full throttle for 80 per cent of the lap at Spa-Francorchamps, the longest time being from the tight La Source hairpin through the daunting Eau Rouge up to Les Combes. That section, drivers are on full throttle for 23.5 seconds. And look out for Pouhon, a long left-hander where drivers pull over 3G at the apex at over 170mph
Going into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix only two drivers have out-qualified their team-mate at every race this year. The feat belongs to two of the German racers. Sebastian Vettel has beaten his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber 10-0 and Nico Hülkenberg has the same score over his Sauber team-mate Esteban Gutierrez.
James Roberts is associate editor of F1 Racing and is writing regular blogs around the Formula 1 season – before and after each Grand Prix
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