Sunshine, showers, and the Sprint: Spa-Francorchamps offered up every challenge possible – and the fans braved it all. As for us, Fernando and Lance overcame a Saturday to forget to score on a Sunday to remember.
Need to know: Belgium
"We didn’t have the easiest weekend in Budapest and ninth was the maximum from Sunday with three points in total collected for the team.
"Belgium is up next and we’ve had a few days to analyse everything from Hungary. It's a very different challenge here with the high-speed nature of this circuit and I've always enjoyed racing at Spa. It's a challenge we are looking forward to tackling though, and hopefully we can bounce back this weekend with a strong result.
"It's another Sprint weekend here, so we only have one practice session before Qualifying to get everything optimised, which is a test for all teams, especially with a mixed looking forecast. I'm looking forward to getting back in the cockpit of the AMR23 so soon after Budapest!"
"Spa-Francorchamps is a very different circuit to the Hungaroring, with lots of long straights and high-speed corners. We're learning that those characteristics aren't particularly suited to the AMR23, which favours the lower and medium-speed corners, so I think we’ll be managing our expectations going into this weekend. That being said, the goal still remains the same: to deliver the best possible result for the team."
Insight and Speed
Safety Cars are to be expected at Spa. All but two races have seen a Safety Car deployment since 2014 but there have only been two Virtual Safety Car deployments since 2015, when the system was introduced.
Overtaking difficulty is average at Spa. The long DRS run to Turn Five is the favoured passing opportunity but the Bus Stop chicane provides another strong opportunity. Last year's Belgian Grand Prix saw 60 passes, excluding starts and restarts.
Like last year, the C2, C3 and C4 compounds have been supplied by Pirelli. However, Sprint rules come into play: SQ1 and SQ2 must be run on the Medium (C3) tyres. Last year's Belgian Grand Prix saw high tyre degradation and a two-stop race.
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How do F1 teams manage unpredictable weather?
Weather is often a factor at Spa-Francorchamps: its microclimate frequently throws up variable weather conditions. It can be dry on one part of the 7.004-kilometre circuit and soaked on another. Significant temperature fluctuations are not uncommon either, with teams often contending with high and low temperatures in the same weekend.
Conditions can change swiftly here, keeping teams on their toes and eyes on both the weather radar and the skies. Race engineers need to communicate with strategists and drivers to relay all of the information needed, while mechanics need to be ready for a pitstop at any time to switch to Intermediate or Wet tyres.
Teams also need to understand the severity of any incoming weather fronts, gauge how quickly conditions will improve and take into account driver feedback on track conditions. While all teams use weather radars, sometimes simply holding a hand out of the pitwall can be effective. Teams often send spotters a few kilometres away from the circuit to keep an eye on the weather in the local area.
Unlocking the Lap
It's a short run to La Source, the low-speed right-hand hairpin, to open the lap, and then flat-out up the hill through the famous Eau Rouge-Raidillon corners. What follows is the lengthy Kemmel Straight and then the medium-speed right-left-right complex that is Les Combes and Malmédy, where the low kerbs are asking to be attacked.
Rivage is next, a downhill right-hand hairpin where understeer threatens to pull you away from the inside of the turn. It's crucial to use all of the track in the following corners: the rapid Turn 11 and flat-out Pouhon. Fagnes is another right-left chicane where the run-off area can creep up on you, and the right-hander Stavelot comes quickly afterwards.
From there it's almost flat-out from Turn 16 through Blanchimont (Turn 17) and then braking hard into the Bus Stop chicane. It's tempting to get greedy with the throttle but important not to lose time to wheelspin as the start-finish straight follows.
We look at the weather for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix together with Global Partner NetApp, a global hybrid cloud storage partner with solutions that perform across a diverse environment, allowing us to gain insights on weather-related data as well as telemetry data.
Spa is no stranger to rain and there's a moderate chance of precipitation on Friday – 60 per cent at this stage – for Free Practice One and Qualifying. Gusts are also set to reach above 25 km/h, which could make for tricky conditions in what is the only practice session of the weekend.
The chance of rain reduces slightly for the Sprint Shootout and Sprint on Saturday – Fernando's birthday – and wind speeds might also reduce.
For race day, conditions are set to improve as the risk of rain reduces to around 15 per cent. Winds can still catch drivers out on the way down the Kemmel Straight. Furthermore, low temperatures, with a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius, will make tyre warm-up a challenge.
In Formula One, you’re constantly learning. Every lap, every mile, every second, is an opportunity to further your understanding and, ultimately, discover ways to unlock performance. In partnership with XP Inc., here are some of the key points for the Belgian Grand Prix and Sprint.
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