Racing on Valencia’s uninteresting point-and-squirt street circuit one weekend, and the majestic sweeps and crests of Spa-Francorchamps the next, is swapping the ridiculous for the sublime.
Many driver name Spa as their favourite because it allows them to explore the limits of their machines and themselves. With the possibility of rain thrown into the mix, and we have an excellent weekend’s racing ahead of us.
After a miserable, point-less race at Valencia, Red Bull have to produce the goods at Spa to keep themselves in the hunt for the championships.
On paper, the RB5 should be very strong around the 7km lap. The car has proved most efficient at circuits with high-speed corners, which the Belgian venue has in abundance.
Added to that, temperature for the weekend are expected to be cool, and there is a chance of rain – again, both sets of conditions have suited Red Bull nicely this year.
The biggest problem for Red Bull – as discussed here yesterday – is the likelihood that Sebastian Vettel is going to get an engine change penalty sometime soon.
Brawn re-discovered their previous levels of performance at Valencia and it wasn’t confined to Rubens Barrichello’s car. Jenson Button set a quicker fastest lap than his team mate, but the combination of poor qualifying and a bad start ruined his race.
Barrichello’s Valencia win has brought him right back into the drivers’ title battle. It was the culmination of a run of four races where he’s looked more than match for than his team mate, even if it hasn’t always been reflected in the results:
|Germany||Q2/R6||Q3/R5||Barrichello ahead until pit stop problem|
|Hungary||Q12/R10||Q8/R7||Barrichello has car failure in qualifying|
The softer tyre compounds being used at Spa this year could play into Brawn’s hands. this year the teams will have the medium and soft Bridgestones, instead of the hard and medium tyres brought last year.
If Brawn can get a decent result at Spa, which in theory should not suit them as well as Red Bull, then they should be able to approach the final fly-away races with much more confidence. But will it be Button or Barrichello leading the way?
Some teams have wondered allowed how significant McLaren and Ferrari‘s KERS power boosts will be at Spa. It has by far the longest flat-out section of any F1 circuit – 1.8km – and which should make the KERS cars incredibly difficult to live with on the opening lap as they sprint from La Source, through Eau Rouge, and on to Les Combes.
Finally, no preview of the Belgian Grand Prix would be complete without mentioning the disgraceful conclusion of last year’s race. It was one of those heart-sinking moments when the powers-that-be took what had been a thrilling race at a classic circuit, and ruined it with poor governance and incompetent stewarding. Let’s hope they get it right this year.
Drivers to watch
Luca Badoer – This race will decide whether Luca Badoer gets to stay in the Ferrari until Felipe Massa returns. A huge step forward over his Valencia performance will be expected.
Sebastian Vettel – After two consecutive no-scores, Vettel’s position in the championship battle is looking increasingly vulnerable. But we’ve seen what he’s capable of in wet weather – if it rains at Spa he must be favourite for the win.
Robert Kubica – A minor improvement from BMW saw Kubica return to the points at Valencia. On the market for a 2010 seat, and usually strong in the rain.
Kimi Raikkonen – Last year he came within a couple of laps of winning four consecutive Belgian Grands Prix. Has been on the podium in the last two races. Surely this is his and Ferrari’s best chance of a win this year?