Following the traditional summer break, Formual One has returned with Round 14 of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix that kicks off the last leg of the season. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó picks out the vital facts ahead of the race that takes place at the upgraded Spa-Franchorchamps track.
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the true classic tracks, where drivers can still really make a difference. Weather is always a hot talking point at Spa with changeable conditions often spicing up the action over the weekend. This year has been no exception to that with Friday's sessions having taken place in difficult conditions, testing not only the drivers’ skills, but also the teams’ adaptability to the constantly changing conditions.
However, the things have changed for yesterday's qualifying session that saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the fastest lap. Despite the dominant showing from the reigning world champion, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start from pole position as Verstappen is one of many drivers taking a grid penalty after taking fresh power unit components.
The longest track – The original Spa circuit was some 15km long which has been shortened to just 7.004km, but it is still easily the longest track on the current Grand Prix calendar. Drivers will need to complete 44 laps in today’s race to cover the total race distance of 308.052km.
Tight section – The pit lane is a quite tight section at Spa. Drivers have to adhere to a maximum of 80km/h when driving in the pit lane.
The dominant Mercedes – Valtteri Bottas holds the record for the fastest race lap with the Finn driver having set a lap time of 1’46.286 during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix.
DRS zones – Overtaking is very much possible around the Spa circuit with the Kemmel straight offering great opportunities. However, there will be two DRS zones at Spa-Francorchamps to further help drivers complete their overtaking manoeuvres. The detection point of the first is located 240m before Turn 2, with the activation point 230m after Turn 4. The second zone has a detection point 160m before Turn 18 and an activation point 30m after Turn 19.
Track changes – The track has gone through few modifications for this year with new asphalt laid between Turns 2 and 4, and Turns 8 and 9, with the bumps removed and increased grip. Furthermore, gravel traps have been added close to the track at Turns 1, 6, 7, and 9. The gravel features sharp stones, and there are also some sharp edges close to the concrete kerbing.
Middle of the range – The forces put through the tyres at the Belgian Grand Prix are high, especially at the famous Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex, where the tyres are subjected to a fierce compression and heavy g forces over one of the fastest parts of the track. Despite the challenging layout and high-speed corners, Pirelli brought the compounds in the middle of its range.
In Belgium, the C2 is the P Zero White hard, the C3 is the P Zero Yellow medium, and the C4 is the P Zero Red soft. This is the same nomination as last year.
The emblematic corner – It is rare that a corner is more famous than the circuit it is located at. Over the years, the infamous Eau Rouge corner became synonymous with the 7.004km Spa-Francorchamps track. Eau Rouge is a 15-kilometre river in the Belgian province of Liege. Earning its name thanks to red oxide deposits found in the river, it was also prominent outside of motorsport history too, acting as a state border between Prussia and the Netherlands in the 1800s.
Moreover, most of the corners are named after local landmarks. Stavelot or Malmedy are for example small towns that form a triangle with the town of Spa. The bus stop chicane also has its own history as it used to be a real bus stop, although it's undergone several changes.
No success for home heroes - Incredibly, no Belgian driver has ever won the Belgian Grand Prix. The country’s most successful Formula 1 driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Formula 1 races but never in his home country, although he did finish second at Spa for Ferrari in 1968. More recently, Stoffel Vandoorne raced for McLaren in 2017 and 2018, but for now the Belgian flag is absent from the Formula 1 grid.
Belgian parentage – Although there are no drivers from Belgium on the current grid, three drivers are with Belgian parentage. Max Verstappen races under Dutch flag, but he was born in Belgium to a Belgian mother while Britain’s Lando Norris and Canadian Lance Stroll also have mothers who come from the country.
Long history – Spa-Francorchamps is one of the original seven circuits that formed the inaugural World Championship of Drivers in 1950 . Today’s race will be the 67th Belgian Grand Prix with the event only missing the schedule on six occasions: 1957, 1959, 1969, 1971, 2003 and 2006.
Three tracks – Of the 66 races held in Belgium, 54 took place at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. The other races were staged at Zolder and Nivelles.
The most successful - Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at the Belgian Grand Prix with six victories. The great German clinched his maiden F1 victory at Spa, just a year after debuting at the same track in the sport. Ayrton Senna is the second most successful driver with 5 victories, followed by Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and Jim Clark with four wins apiece. In the current field, Sebastian Vettel is the only other repeat winner at Spa-Francorchamps with three triumphs.
Debut victory – For Michael Schumacher, Spa-Francorchamps is a milestone in his illustrious career. The German made his F1 debut at Spa in 1991 with Jordan and took his first victory on the same location just a year later. After securing his first two championship titles with Benetton, the seven-time world champion made the switch to Ferrari for 1996. He won his first race in red in Spain, and took his second triumph for Ferrari just a few weeks later at Spa.
For Charles Leclerc, Spa has also became an important track in his F1 career. The 24-year-old Monegasque secured his maiden F1 victory at Spa in 2019 when he defeated Lewis Hamilton in a fierce fight.
Ferrari is the most successful at Spa - The fabled Italian team is the leading constructor in Belgium with 18 victories, four ahead of McLaren on 14. Lotus occupies the third spot on this list with eight wins. Alfa Romeo is also a winning constructor around Spa with securing the victories at the first and second Belgian Grands Prix.
Important starting position – While overtaking is a less difficult affair at Spa, starting positions have proved vital in recent years. The race has only produced two winners from behind the front row since the circuit was reconfigured for the 2007 grand prix – Kimi Räikkönen won from P6 in 2009 and Daniel Ricciardo from P5 in 2014. In total, Spa has produced 21 victories from pole position.
The Frenchman - AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly is set to start his 100th grand prix this weekend. The French driver made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix before moving to Red Bull Racing. The Rouen-born driver returned to the Faenza-based squad just a few races later at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix where he has stayed since then.
The least enjoyable - Last year’s washout was the shortest race in F1 history. The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was effectively a wash-out because of torrential rain. Just three laps were completed behind the Safety Car, with half points awarded. The order at the front was Max Verstappen for Red Bull Racing, George Russell for Williams and Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes.