The Belgian Grand Prix, held at Spa-Francorchamps circuit, is a firm favourite amongst Formula One drivers, teams and fans, and for good reason. The prestigious race holds a rich history of over 60 years of Formula One racing, with a long list of Formula One legends having won the Belgian GP. Williams has won three times at Spa with Nigel Mansell claiming the 1986 race, followed by Damon Hill in 1993 and 1994.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit lies within a triangle formed by the Belgian towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. Despite being part of the circuit’s name, the town of Spa is actually located slightly to the northwest. The track’s location in the Ardennes forest is picturesque, but it has its own mind when it comes to the weather.
With the possibility of rain showers occurring almost out of nowhere, it can be raining in one section of the track but dry in another – a common feature of long circuits.
The circuit has an old-style design, which offers great challenges for the drivers, including “Eau Rouge”, the famous corner that so many drivers relish driving at full speed. The original layout of the Spa track was over 14 kilometres long, but during a redesign in the late seventies the lap was shortened by half the length. The new design now features a 7.004 kilometres long lap, the longest on this year’s 20-race calendar.
Williams technical boss Paddy Lowe:
“Spa is one of the greatest tracks on earth, in my opinion. It is one of the longest standing venues on the Formula One calendar and has been the setting of many dramatic races in the past. It has a fast characteristic, with a lot of changes in elevation, rewarding power and downforce. The most famous Eau Rouge corner is now generally flat, so actually not really a limiting corner. Eau Rouge leads onto a long uphill straight. The combination makes overtaking relatively frequent, with cars able to trade corner exit speed, slipstream effects and, with the current hybrid power units, the remaining energy in the battery.”
“The weather in the Ardennes is notoriously tricky and can change from sun to rain and back again in a matter of minutes. The very long lap makes the timing of tyre changes from wet to dry, or back again, either look particularly heroic or disastrous. For Williams, this track should play to the strengths of the FW40 car. Felipe Massa is very experienced at Spa and Lance Stroll has also won the race here in F3, so we look forward to getting the very best from this weekend.
“Spa is one of the best tracks in Formula One. I think it will be incredible to drive there with this new car, with more downforce. Eau Rouge will feel like a straight but so many other corners will also be amazing to drive. I am also going to be wearing a special ‘Joy of Racing’ helmet designed by a great Spanish artist called Kenor. It will look great, and a lucky fan will also get the chance to win it thanks to Martini. I’m really looking forward to a great race at Spa.”
“In Spa, I am heading to my second home race of the year. I am half Belgian, as this is where my mother was born, so I do have an affinity with the country. However, I have to admit that, unlike most Formula One drivers, Spa is not my absolute favourite. Having said that, I did win there last year in Formula 3, so I can’t complain about it too much. It is a very interesting track with some amazing sections and also there is always that air of uncertainty regarding the weather. You can have it raining in sector three and dry in sector one.”
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) August 15, 2017