Technical news from Belgian Grand Prix

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

While the sport returned to action for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, there were many interesting things to talk about at Spa regarding the technical side of the sport.

Late changes – During the first part of the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari mechanics formed a wall in front of Charles Leclerc’s car while an FIA member was also present. Ferrari has experienced three critical reliability issues on its cars during qualifying sessions in Austria and Germany, this time it was a late modification to the front wing according to the team’s communication manager Silvia Hoffer. As cars are under parc fermé regulation from the first moment they exit the pit lane, FIA also had to supervise the process to enable the changes.

Still with the old version – While Honda introduced its third engine upgrade of the Formula 1 season at the Belgian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has been still using an older unit for strategic reasons. The Dutchman used a very old unit on Friday, but he received a fresher one for Saturday. However, the older power unit specification “cost us a couple of tenths, which is of course not what you want around Spa”. Verstappen’s new teammate Alexander Albon will start today’s race from the back of the field as he was given the spec-4 Honda engine. “The whole weekend, we couldn’t use our normal power modes so all the time I wanted to go up on power, like we normally do every weekend, and the engine went into an error,” the Dutchman said.

Fresh gearboxes – Several drivers entered the Spa race weekend with a fresh gearbox. Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hülkenberg, Kimi Räikkönen and Robert Kubica all used their previous unit for six consecutive races which enables a penalty-free gearbox change. A new gearbox was installed into Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Russian finished the last race in Budapest and the change was done before the six consecutive events expired what saw Kvayt receive a five-place grid drop penalty. However, as he was required to start the race from the back of the grid due to multiple power unit component changes, his last penalty did not change his starting position.

Tyre development – At the Belgian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s head of car racing Mario Isola confirmed that the Milan-based company has been working on the new 18-inch tyres which will be introduced for the 2021 season. The Italian manufacturer will kickstart its 18-inch tyre test programme for 2021 when it runs a mule car at Paul Ricard on September 12-13. Renault is the first team to work with Pirelli while McLaren will be in action in October, followed by Mercedes in December. In 2020, Pirelli will complete 25 further days of in-season 18-inch tyre running and there will be a final validation test after the season finale in Abu Dhabi where teams will be only permitted to take part if they design a mule car for testing purposes.

With older engines – Despite introducing its latest engine upgrade with the Spec-C power unit at Spa, Renault has decided to make a strategic decision on Saturday morning. Ahead of the third and final free practice session, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, as well as McLaren's Carlos Sainz, have returned to the manufacturer's older-spec unit for the remainder of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. While some believed that Renault had to revert to the older power unit due to reliability concerns, the French manufacturer denied the speculations. "The plan is to take penalties at a track where there is a possibility to overtake, while entering a needed extra ICE into our pool for the rest of the year," said Renault.