Williams F1 heads to Spa

The penultimate European round of the season takes Formula One to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday 7 September. The Belgian Grand Prix is one of the oldest on the calendar, having debuted as a World Championship venue in 1950 and hosted 52 Grands Prix at its three race tracks, Spa, Nivelles and Zolder.

Winding through the Ardennes forest, Spa is renowned for its long, sweeping straights and technically challenging, yet fast turns, which have provided the stage for some of the sport’s most epic battles over the years. Corners such as Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and La Source are some of the most evocative in motor racing and combine to make one of the most favoured tracks amongst drivers, teams and fans alike. With just six races outstanding, Spa will provide the perfect stage for another compelling Grand Prix.

Nico RosbergWe had a great race at Spa last year. I finished sixth, which was one of my best results of the season. The important thing for the team at the moment is that we’ve identified where improvements can be made with the FW30 and are making the necessary adjustments to take us into the final few races. The work everyone at the factory is putting in should help us out in Spa. We’re not going to make a huge jump, but we’ll definitely be heading in the right direction. I’m really looking forward to the Belgian Grand Prix because Spa is an amazing race track. It will be difficult to score points there, but you can never predict what will happen somewhere like Spa, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Kazuki NakajimaIt’s going to be the first time I’ve driven a Formula One car around Spa, so my first priority will be to learn the circuit and to find out how the car behaves on this track. I have, of course, driven Spa while racing in GP2 so know what a great racing track it is. In fact, it’s probably one of the greatest tracks on the calendar so I’m really looking forward to taking my FW30 out and doing that first lap!

Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1Spa is one of the greatest tracks we visit. The circuit is steeped in history, with one of its most prolific characteristics being its fantastic corners, created by some significant undulations over the course of the lap. It’s a real challenge for the drivers to put in a perfect lap, on what is the longest on the calendar at seven kilometres.

Spa is a fairly fluid track, with the corners flowing smoothly from one to another. As they are either medium or high speed, good car stability is a pre-requisite, and mistakes made in the early part of the lap are difficult to recover from. A car that can withstand some kerb-riding is also important to get through the Bus Stop chicane quickly.

Weather is at its most unpredictable in Spa. The mountains in the area create their own micro-climate and small bursts of rain can appear on one part of the circuit and not on the others, which makes tyre choice an additional challenge! Strategists usually adopt a one or two stop approach for Belgium and Bridgestone will take the medium and hard tyre compounds.Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Located between Liege and Brussels in the Ardennes forest, at seven kilometers Spa-Francorchamps is the longest circuit on the calendar. Despite some significant modifications over the years from its original 14.9km layout, the current circuit is still predominantly run on narrow, public roads while following the natural landscape. The track boasts an exhilarating sequence of 19 sweeping medium and high speed corners connected by even faster straights. Of the nine left and nine right turns, the most technically challenging for any driver is undoubtedly Eau Rouge. Approached at over 300km/h after a plunging exit out of turn two, the drivers experience up to -3.5 of vertical G (the only circuit at which drivers experience negative G forces).

A medium downforce track, with medium tyre and brake wear, it’s the engines that experience the greatest demands at Spa with the average lap speed circulating the 237kph mark and top speeds reaching 320kph. As such, 66% of the lap is driven at full throttle with the longest period lasting a full 23 seconds from the exit of La Source through to the culmination of Eau Rouge.Stretching across such a broad area, it’s little surprise that different parts of the circuit can experience different weather conditions at one time. With rain not uncommon to the region, it’s often the case that one part of the track will be wet while another completely dry. It might make for some great action for the fans, but such unpredictable weather conditions can wreak havoc with car set-up which must be carefully considered at this race track.