2016 Belgian Grand Prix Practice Review

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race

Lewis Hamilton wins the German Grand Prix ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Ferrari, Williams and Force India all managed to gain some much needed points from the race.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the classic Formula One tracks, but it is sometimes called “The greatest modern motor racing circuit in the world”. It is thoroughly enjoyed both by F1 drivers and spectators.

There are many reasons that drivers love Spa but mostly because it is fast, hilly, twisty, challenging and difficult to master. The circuit probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other track in the world. The Belgian Grand Prix is a challenge both in terms of car set-up and in predicting the weather.

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times. The track was originally 15 kilometers in length, today it is 7 kilometers with 19 sweeping medium and high-speed corners, 9 right turns and 10 left turns. It still retains much of its previous character and charm. Spa has the longest full throttle section in Formula One.

From the hairpin at La Source to the chicane of Les Combes at the top of the hill; the cars spend more than 20 seconds at full throttle. This period at full throttle includes the passage through the legendary Eau Rouge.

There are many reasons that drivers love Spa but mostly because it is fast, hilly, twisty, challenging and difficult to master. The circuit probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other track in the world. The Belgian Grand Prix is a challenge both in terms of car set-up and in predicting the weather.

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times. The track was originally 15 kilometers in length, today it is 7 kilometers with 19 sweeping medium and high-speed corners, 9 right turns and 10 left turns. It still retains much of its previous character and charm. Spa has the longest full throttle section in Formula One.

From the hairpin at La Source to the chicane of Les Combes at the top of the hill; the cars spend more than 20 seconds at full throttle. This period at full throttle includes the passage through the legendary Eau Rouge.

As the longest track on the Formula 1 calendar, Spa-Francorchamps has its unique problem. The place is famous for its unpredictable weather and it often rains at one end of the track while the surface is dry at the other which has given us some great races over the past few years.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Ferrari look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.48.348 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.730 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.799 seconds behind, Sergio Perez in fourth with a gap of 0.926 seconds behind and Sebastian Vettel in fifth with a gap of 1.420 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.434 seconds behind, Max Verstappen is seventh with a gap of 1.517 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg is eighth with a gap of 1.740 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas is ninth with a gap of 2.046 seconds behind and Esteban Gutierrez is tenth with a gap of 2.235 seconds behind Rosberg.

With twenty-five minutes left in FP1, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer advised his team via the radio that there was a problem with the car and that the car “didn’t feel right” after exiting the Les Combes corner. Palmer managed to slowly but more importantly safely back to the garage in order for the team to fix the problem, despite him losing drive.

Max Verstappen tops the timesheets in FP2.

Max Verstappen tops the timesheets in FP2.

Practice 2 saw Verstappen tops the timesheet with a time of 1.48.085 followed closely by Ricciardo with a gap of 0.256 seconds behind, Hulkenberg  was in third with a gap of 0.572 seconds behind, Vettel in fourth with a gap of 0.938 seconds behind and Perez in fifth with a gap of 1.015 seconds behind Verstappen.

Rosberg is sixth with a gap of 1.076 seconds behind, Raikkonen is seventh with a gap of 1.159 seconds behind, Grosjean is eighth with a gap of 1.334 seconds behind, Button is ninth with a gap of 1.334 seconds behind and Gutierrez is tenth with a gap of 1.563 seconds behind Verstappen.

An hour and ten minutes into the FP2 session, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was going slowly around the track with suspected vibrations on the car. Palmer during the break between the sessions was given a brand new gearbox and is not having the best of weekends at the moment.

This then brought out the Virtual Safety Car as Palmer was assisted by the marshals safely off the circuit and to get the car back to the pits.

Kimi Raikkonen tops the timesheets in FP3.

Kimi Raikkonen tops the timesheets in FP3.

Practice 3 saw Raikkonen tops the timesheet with a time of 1.47.974 followed closely by Ricciardo with a gap of 0.215 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.323 seconds behind, Bottas in fourth with a gap of 0.530 seconds behind and Hamilton in fifth with a gap of 0.661 seconds behind Raikkonen.

Hulkenberg is sixth with a gap of 0.765 seconds behind, Rosberg is seventh with a gap of 0.768 seconds behind, Massa is eighth with a gap of 0.809 seconds behind, Perez is ninth with a gap of 0.941 seconds behind and Grosjean is tenth with a gap of 1.298 seconds behind Raikkonen.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Perez, or Hulkenberg also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso, McLaren and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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