Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our predictions and preview to the Belgian Grand Prix

The summer break is done and dusted and all teams will be getting packed and ready for this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It is now a sprint to the finish with the last nine race being held in the span of the next 3 months with no less than three sets of back to back race weekends.

Spa holds a special place in every drivers heart and they love the challenge of the high speed corners with a low downforce setup around the twisting hilly route within the Ardennes forest. 

Pirelli are bringing their two hardest compounds for this weekends race, the Medium and Hard, due the heavy vertical and lateral loads that go into the tyres. They are doing their best to make sure nothing else can go wrong with their tyres after the Silverstone fiasco. The track surface is highly abrasive and provides good mechanical grip which allows drivers to be brave with their setup. 

The setup here is usually a compromise where the drivers have to choose between straight line speed for sectors 1 and 3, or more cornering grip with a slightly higher downforce setup for sector 2.

The Medium and Hard compounds used last year allowed the first two drivers to complete the race with just one pitstop, while the driver finishing third had to make two stops. This year's revised Hungary spec tyres use the original 2013 compounds that are softer than last year but with the 2012 construction.

The difference in lap times between the two compounds should be over a second a lap, but the number of stops will depend on multiple factors. Even though there is a forecast for a sunny weekend, Spa has its own micro climate that can change from one part of the circuit to another. This ensures that the inters and wets are always next to their tyre blankets. Further a high possibility of a safety car will also affect tyre strategies and could allow teams to get away with one stop like last year.

With plenty of overtaking opportunities a second or third row start is not too much of a handicap, but keeping in mind Romain Grosjean in 2012, drivers will prefer to try and get away as cleanly as they can out of the La Source hairpin.

Mercedes should be very quick in the first and last sections of the lap, while high down force Red Bulls will rule in the second sector. 

Lotus could be debuting their DDRS (Double Drag Reduction System) in a race at Spa along with a revised longer wheelbase chassis which has just undergone fresh mandatory FIA crash tests. A longer wheelbase car will suit the characteristics of Spa with its fast sweeping corners and long straights, and will also help reduce the wear on the front tyres. With the Lotus already easy on its tyres this could really allow them to push Vettel till the end for the championship.

Ferrari, as most other teams, would have spent two weeks during this summer break to try and iron out issues with their car and the recurring problems with their wind tunnel to try and get Fernando Alonso's title bid back on track.

Force India have always done well on low downforce circuits like Spa, Monza and Canada, but they seem to have lost their way with the new revised spec tyres that debuted at Hungary.

Our predictions for 2013 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix Qualifying* -
1. Ham 2. Ros 3. Vet

Our predictions for the 2013 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix Race* -
1. Ham 2. Ros 3. Rai 4. Vet 5. Alo 6. Gro 7. Web 8. Mas 9. But 10. Per

Our prediction for the driver with the fastest lap of the race -

Our prediction for the driver with most positions gained at the end of the race -

* - Predictions are based on current form and will be revised based on practice results, before we go into qualifying.

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