Saturday noticebook – Belgian Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit de Spa-Francorchampsbe

Ferrari secured its second front row lock-out during today’s qualifying session with Charles Leclerc occupying the pole position and Sebastian Vettel the second starting spot. However, the day ended with the horrific accident during the Formula 2 feature race which overshadowed the happenings.

The FIA Formula 2 feature race was the last programme on the Belgian Grand Prix Saturday schedule. At the very beginning of the race, a horrific accident happened at the Eau Rouge-Raidillon corner when Anthoine Hubert lost control over his BWT Arden F2 car and crashed into the barriers. The Frenchman’s car came to a halt in the middle of the track at the exit of the high-speed section of Raidillon. As drivers arrive almost blind to the top of the hill, the next driver on the road, Juan Manuel Correar was unable to take evasive action and slammed into the wrecked Arden car.

The scene was immediately attended by emergency and medical crews, and all drivers were taken to the medical centre. However, Anthoine Hubert succumbed to his injuries and passed away at 18:15. Juan-Manuel Correa is in a stable condition and is being treated at the CHU Liege hospital.

The freshest one – While Ferrari’s customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas introduced Ferrari’s third-specification power unit for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, the works team stick to its old, spec-2 engine. The Maranello-based team’s Sporting Director Laurent Mekies said that the Italian outfit wanted to have the freshest engine possible for its home race in Monza. “It is the highest power effect of the year... what that means you gain 10hp on your engines and that is two tenths in your pocket. A lot of people, including ourselves, use it [Monza] to bring their third and last power unit, although you may have seen a lot of our competitors have anticipated in doing that here. But there is a reason – the engine’s performance may drop with mileage, so you want the freshest engine with the higher power effect of the year,” said the Frenchman.

Improving Honda Japanese engine manufacturer introduced its latest engine upgrade in Daniil Kvyat’s and Alexander Albon’s car at Spa. Honda’s F1 boss Toyoharu Tanabe acknowledged on Friday that his company is still lagging behind the top engine manufacturers – Ferrari and Mercedes – and that urges his group to focus on performance gains with every modification. “We bring performance improvement with the spec-4 PU. The purpose of the spec-4 is a performance gain. Because as always, as I’ve mentioned, we’re still catching up pace to make the gap between the top runners and then our teams. Honda should improve PU performance,” he said.

Straight-line speed – Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Ferrari’s straight-line speed advantage during the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix was “ridiculous”. Saturday’s most important session left Lewis Hamilton only third fastest with over seven tenths of a second off Charles Leclerc’s pole position time. “We knew that it was going to be difficult and probably third and fourth was what we expected as the optimum result. I think it could have been second, but if we have a deficit anyway with our package, that is enormous and the power is just ridiculous on Ferrari on these kinds of tracks,” Wolff told Sky Sports.

Second front row lock-out – In today’s qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari secured their 63rd front row lock-out – just one behind Mercedes’ record. This is the first time a Ferrari-powered car has been on pole in Spa since 2007 – when Kimi Raikkonen took his sole Belgian pole position. Leclerc’s pole also marks the first time a Mercedes hasn’t qualified on pole here since 2013, while Mercedes also powered Jenson Button’s McLaren to the 2012 pole position at Spa.

2021 rule changes – Formula One forsees significant modification to its Sporting and Technical Regulation for the 2021 season. Although the power unit regulation will likely remain stable for the next era, several aerodynamic areas of the racing car are set to undergo significant revamp. End of October was picked as the final deadline for finalizing the rules, but there are seemingly many details to define in the coming weeks. Asked about the process and recent talks about the rule changes, Racing Point’s CEO Otmar Szafnauer said that “we’ve got from now until the end of October to review, understand and come to a final decision. There are a lot of opinions in the room as to what should happen for the future. I believe we all want closer racing, that’s for sure. We all want F1 to keep its DNA of development and differentiation, that’s for sure. And most of us want a bit of cost-savings as well.”