Posted on August 27, 2013

The Strategy Report

The Belgian Grand Prix was not one of the most exciting races of the 2013 season but the weekend featured some fascinating strategic decision making, which had a significant bearing on the outcome of the race. In a slight departure from the normal scope of this report, in addition to looking at the race strategies, we will also look at the strategic decisions taken at the end of qualifying on Saturday, which affected both qualifying and the race. Decisive moments in Qualifying In many ways the qualifying session in Spa was more entertaining than the race and it certainly featured More…

Posted on August 26, 2013

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took a big step towards a fourth world title with a dominant victory in a Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps which saw plenty of overtaking. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso got his title challenge back on track with an impressive drive to second while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took his fifth podium of the season. McLaren’s Jenson Button came close to a podium before taking sixth while Daniel Ricciardo climbed through the field to grab a point for Toro Rosso – but who was your Driver of the Day? Sebastian Vettel Passed Hamilton at the start and More…

Posted on August 24, 2013

For the second race in succession, Lewis Hamilton edged out Sebastian Vettel for pole position in the closing seconds of qualifying. Hamilton’s career has been peppered with moments of inspiration and today saw another as he snatched pole for the Belgian GP from under Vettel’s nose in the closing stages of qualifying, as the rain fell. It was the 31st pole position of Hamilton’s career and his fourth in a row this season -the first time he has done that in his F1 career. Vettel starts second tomorrow, with Mark Webber third, Nico Rosberg fourth ahead of Paul di Resta More…

Posted on August 23, 2013

Red Bull Racing have entered the second half of the 2013 Formula One season with their tails firmly up, as they completed a dominant one-two on the first day of practice at the Belgian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel set a fastest time, 6/100ths of a second faster than team mate Mark Webber. Although the team were quick to point out that Friday times mean little, with varying fuel loads making a big difference to lap times, the Red Bull cars looked well balanced and fast in both single lap and long run pace. With the Ardennes forest offering up its More…

Posted on August 21, 2013

McLaren’s managing director Jonathan Neale believes it will be “a real challenge” for the team to contend for race victories in the second half of the season. Britain’s Jenson Button and Mexican Sergio Perez have not managed to finish on the podium this season with Button’s fifth place in China McLaren’s best result. That’s quite a drop in performance for a team which has won at least one race in each of the last 10 years, apart from 2006. Before the summer break, Button said he hoped the team would be able to challenge for wins in the second half More…

Posted on September 1, 2012

Jenson Button claimed his first McLaren pole position in dominant fashion today with a spectacular performance in Spa to head an unexpected top three ahead of Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado. But hours after the session ended, stewards took Maldonado’s fastest time away for an impeding incident in Q1 on Hulkenberg. It moves Kimi Raikkonen, who was also quizzed by stewards for leaving the circuit boundary with all four wheels, up to third, with Perez fourth. In Button’s 50th Grand Prix for McLaren he set two laps fast enough for pole and finished the session 3/10ths faster than anybody. The More…

Posted on August 15, 2012

We have been running our best ever competition on JA on F1 for the last few weeks. And now it’s time to announce the winners. Along with Shell, the title sponsor of the Belgian Grand Prix, we are organising the Ultimate F1 Road Trip, which will see four lucky winners plus guests drive down from London to Spa Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. It’s all part of our ongoing commitment at JA on F1 to help bring the fans closer to the sport. The prize includes grandstand seats, hospitality at the foot of Eau Rouge, F1′s most iconic More…

Posted on August 12, 2012

Today is the last day of the 2012 London Olympics…but it’s also the last day of the JA on F1 Ultimate F1 Road Trip competition, which we have organised with Shell, the sponsor of the Belgian Grand Prix. The event will see 8 lucky fans win the trip of a lifetime to the best F1 circuit in the world at Spa Francorchamps with Grandstand seats; hospitality at the legendary Eau Rouge corner; seat time in an F1 simulator (the Shell Professional Simulator Experience, developed in collaboration with Ferrari) and, of course, a fun road trip down there in the company More…

Posted on August 1, 2012

We are running the most exciting competition we’ve ever had on JA on F1 and after a week in which we’ve seen a staggering 900+ messages left on the post announcing the competition – featuring both entries and votes – we can reveal the Top 10 Leaderboard. Fans have to describe in 150 words max their best every road trip in the comments section of the competition post and then use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and any other means to get friends to vote for them as a “reply” under their entry. Entry closes on Monday 13th at 9am UK time. More…

Posted on July 26, 2012

We’ve had some pretty exciting competitions on JA on F1 over the years and have sent many first time fans to Grands Prix, who would not have had the chance to go otherwise. But I’m delighted to say that we now have our most exciting competition ever! Thanks to Shell, the title sponsor of the event, I have four pairs of VIP Grandstand tickets to the Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday 2nd September, at the world famous Spa Francorchamps circuit. But that’s not all… We want your journey to the race to be just as memorable, which is why Shell is More…

Posted on August 23, 2011

Track characteristics and key strategy indicators Spa Francorchamps – 7.004 kilometres. Race distance – 44 laps = 308.052 kilometres. 19 corners in total. Average speed 238km/h. Circuit based on public roads. Aerodynamic setup – Med-low downforce. Top speed 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without. Full throttle – 80% of the lap (high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 150 kilos (high). Fuel consumption – 3.35kg per lap (high) Time spent braking: 14% of lap. Number of brake zones – 6. Brake wear- Low. Loss time for a Pit stop = 18 seconds (average) More…

Posted on August 30, 2010

Formula 1 started up again at Spa Francorchamps after the summer break, which incorporated a compulsory two week factory shutdown.

Despite the lack of development time during this period, there were nevertheless some fascinating technical stories, including two significant upgrades on front running cars, which had been scheduled for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

And there was also a more stringent test to ensure that front wings do not flex beyond what the amount allowed in the rules. Would this force Red Bull and Ferrari into changes and slow them down?

And we’ll also look at the difference between the wet set up and dry set up of the two Ferraris.

Flexi wing tests
After the heated debate in Germany and Hungary about the Red Bull front wing flexing to increase front downforce, a new more stringent test was introduced by the FIA. Red Bull passed the test.

The Red Bull wing at Spa featured fewer elements than the Hungary wing and observers say that it did not flex out on track as much as in Budapest. The team says that they have changed nothing in the wing apart from things they would normally do when moving from an ultra high downforce circuit like Hungary to a faster circuit like Spa. However senior composites technicians from the team’s Milton Keynes base, who do not normally attend Grands Prix, were noticed in the paddock, which means that something out of the ordinary was taking place. The theory is that the wing flexes outwards due to a sophisticated layering process of the carbon composite material.

The new test involved double the load being placed on the wing, so now it was now 100kg. As the severity of the new test is arbitrary, there has been a considerable amount of lobbying of the FIA technical people by Red Bull and Ferrari on the one hand and McLaren and Mercedes on the other.

The outcome from Spa was that McLaren and Mercedes were both privately unsatisfied that the test was stringent enough, while observing that the Red Bull wing flexed less than it had in Budapest, when out on track. The car was much closer to the performance of its rivals than it had been in Budapest, but there are several possible explanations for that, including the weather and the fact that the wing has significantly fewer flaps and thus is creating less downforce anyway.

Rivals suspect that the flexibility of the floor stay may be a larger contributing factor to Red Bull’s speed and have successfully lobbied the FIA to introduce a more stringent test for Monza.

As Monza is a low downforce, power circuit and Red Bull’s deficiency is in engine power, they are likely to be at a disadvantage there anyway and it will be tricky to draw many conclusions on what effect these new tests have had. We should see any differences more clearly in Singapore and particularly Suzuka.

New Ferrari diffuser
Ferrari had a significant upgrade to its diffuser in Spa. The team introduced an exhaust- blown diffuser for the first time in Valencia, copying the idea which Red Bull had revived this year. The concept uses the gas pressure of the exhaust passing through the diffuser to gain more downforce.

The blown diffuser is a complex piece to get right and Ferrari’s strategy was to introduce a basic model and get it working quickly, learn from it and then introduce a more sophisticated one at Spa. This strategy seems to have worked quite well, the team did not lose time in getting it working as McLaren did, for example.

The new diffuser is similar in concept to solutions on the Renault and McLaren. There is a very large hole, made legal by two longitudinal fences which run the length of it. The lower channel of the central section of the diffuser, has a slightly different top profile, whose outer edges now are rounded downwards.

There were also small changes to the bottom tips of the rear wing, which echo Red Bull.

Alonso's rear wing on the grid at Spa

For qualifying and the race, held in changeable weather conditions, Ferrari ran two different specifications of rear wing. Fernando Alonso ran a slightly higher downforce wing, which was therefore more of a wet set up, while Felipe Massa ran the lower downforce example. Massa’s was the newer design and it featured different end plates with curved gills similar to Red Bull, no slot between elements and a smaller main wing element.

Performance wise the differences were subtle but still noticeable. On the fastest laps in qualifying, Massa’s car was 2 km/h faster through the speed trap than Alonso’s and was a tenth of a second slower through the middle sector of the lap, which is a good indictor of downforce.

Massa's rear wing on the Spa grid

Both wings incorporate the drag reducing F Duct device, which showed its greatest advantage of the season so far around Spa. With the need for high downforce in the middle sector and good straight line speed on the two long straights in sectors one and two, cars equipped with F ducts could have it both ways and the device was worth half a second per lap here, a huge amount by F1 standards for a single component.

Next time out on the high speed Monza circuit it is likely that the teams will not use the F Duct. As the elements of the rear wing will be so small, it’s hard to incorporate the device and the performance gain is small in any case.

Renault F Duct
With so much to gain from running an F Duct at Spa, it was the perfect time for Renault to introduce their version. This being round 13 of 19 races, it comes quite late, by the standards of a top team. McLaren pioneered the idea at the start of the season, Sauber had one soon after and Ferrari and Force India soon followed. It’s another complex piece of engineering, involving fluidic switches, which channel and switch on air flows.

Renault has been rebuilding its aerodynamic capacity after the difficulties of 2009 and has focussed on perfecting other areas of the car, like front wings and blown diffusers before trying out its F Duct. The strategy has worked and the car has been steadily improving, as shown by Vitaly Petrov’s season best results in Budapest. So the half second gain from the F Duct at Spa put Robert Kubica right in the hunt at the front of the field. He both qualified and finished in third place.

In common with most systems where the F Duct concept is an add-on, rather than designed into the monocoque like McLaren, the drivers activate the system using their left hand.

Posted on August 29, 2010

Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps, in a lights to flag victory, having started second on the grid. It was Hamilton’s third win of the season and the 14th of his F1 career. He retook the championship lead. Mark Webber was second and Robert Kubica third. Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil both had strong days in difficult conditions finishing fourth and fifth. Hamilton survived a major scare on lap 35, when his team insisted he stay out on slicks as the rain began to fall more heavily. It was reminiscent of China in 2007 when he More…

Posted on August 28, 2010

Red Bull got their 12th pole position in 13 races today, but behind that headline is an interesting story which gives McLaren some encouragement for the Grand Prix, particularly if it is wet, as it has been every day this weekend. I spoke with Mark Webber after the qualifying session and he seemed to be more impressed with Lewis Hamilton’s improvement of four tenths of a second at the end of the session when the track was wet, than he was with his own pole position. Asking engineers from other teams they share that sense of wonder at Hamilton’s final More…

Posted on August 28, 2010

Mark Webber took pole position for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica on a day when changeable conditions and sudden rain showers made it very hard to predict when the track would be at its fastest. It was Webber’s fifth pole position of the season and the 12th from 13 races for Red Bull. “We knew the first lap would be important. The weather has been so on and off. I was happy with the lap and it was enough for pole,” said Webber. “It was tense times when the track is like that. It More…

Posted on August 27, 2010

Fernando Alonso set the fastest time today in practice for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix. Most of the day the weather was atrocious with heavy rain causing the GP2 and Formula BMW practice sessions stopped due to dangerous levels of water on the track. The morning session was particularly wet. In the afternoon drivers were able to fit intermediate tyres, which seemed to be very fast on the first lap but then suffered quite significant graining and drop off in performance. They ended the session on slick tyres. The second session was red flagged towards the end, under very unusual circumstances More…

Posted on August 26, 2010

It seems a very long time since the last race, after a summer break incorporating a two week compulsory shut down of all F1 team factories. This is probably because the championship had such momentum going. In addition to a thrilling title battle, there were two huge moments in the last two races before the break, with the Ferrari team orders episode and then the Schumacher/Barrichello battle in Budapest. At Spa this weekend the energy will no doubt return. Red Bull start the weekend as clear favourites, after their crushing performance in Budapest. Spa is a very different kind of More…

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