The McLaren story for the Spa-Francorchamps after summer break!

By | August 18, 2014

2014 Belgian Grand Prix – A preview from the McLaren team:

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Formula 1 returns to action this weekend at one of the world’s most challenging circuits. Spa-Francorchamps, situated deep in Belgium’s Ardennes forest, is the ultimate high-speed test of man and machine; it’s one of the highlights of the season.

Spa-Francorchamps facts & stats

Spa-Francorchamps has been synonymous with Formula 1 for more than 60 years. The track featured in the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, but its current design bears little resemblance to the original 14km layout. The modern track is much shorter (7.004km) and safer, but it’s still breathtakingly quick: the average speed is 230km/h.

The track is the longest on the calendar – more than twice the length of F1’s shortest circuit in Monte-Carlo – and it’s littered with challenging corners and undulations. The pre-requisites to success are threefold: commitment by the driver, an aerodynamically efficient car, and a powerful engine – more than 70 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle.

Races at Spa are rarely straightforward owing to the fickle climate in the Ardennes. Heavy rain prior to the start of the 1997 race resulted in F1’s first ever Safety Car start and it can often be raining on one part of the track and dry on another.

Should this year’s race be dry, the teams will use Pirelli’s Soft and Medium slick tyre compounds, as they did in Hungary last time out. The Medium (Prime) rubber is likely to be the most effective over a race stint because its composition and construction are made for the high cornering loads experienced at Spa, while the Soft (Option) compound will be better-suited to one-lap performance during qualifying.

McLaren has an enviable record at the Belgian Grand Prix. In 1968, the team won its first world championship grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps, and it now has a total of 14 wins and 11 poles on Belgian soil. Jenson Button is a previous winner at Spa and his rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen is hoping for a repeat of his previous successes at the track in Formula 3 and Renault World Series 3.5.

Spa-Francorchamps – the stats you need

Race distance                       44 laps (308.052km/191.415 miles)

Start time                               14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)

Circuit length                        7.004km/4.352 miles

2013 winner                           Sebastian Vettel

2013 pole                               Lewis Hamilton

Lap record                             Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-19) 1m45.108s (238.931km/h)

First championship race     1950

What makes it special          The fast and flowing nature of the track, plus the numerous overtaking opportunities around the lap

Wins from pole position      15

Track abrasiveness              Low/medium

Pirelli tyre choice                  Soft (Option)/Medium (Prime)

2013 winning strategy         Two stops

Fuel consumption                High – 72% of the lap is spent at full throttle

Brakewear                              Low. There are eight braking events around the lap, of which only two are heavy braking areas

Weather                                  Unpredictable. It can be raining on one section of the circuit and sunny on another

DRS zones                             Two – one on the start-finish straight, the other on the approach to Turn Five, at the end of the Kemmel Straight

Turbo effect                          Low, due to few hard accelerations from low-speed

Safety Car likelihood            Historically high. There’s an 80 per cent chance of a Safety Car

Grid advantage                     If you start on the racing line, you have an advantage, but it’s a very short run to the first corner

Pitlane time                           It takes 21s to complete a stop, which is close to average for the season

McLaren at the Belgian Grand Prix

Wins                                       14 (1968, 1974, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012)

Poles                                      11 (1968, 1974, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012)

Fastest laps                           8 (1974, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1999, 2004, 2010)

2014 drivers’ championship

1 Nico Rosberg                     202

2 Lewis Hamilton                   191

3 Daniel Ricciardo                131

4 Fernando Alonso               115

5 Valtteri Bottas                      95

6 Sebastian Vettel                  88

7 Nico Hulkenberg                69

8 Jenson Button                   60

9 Felipe Massa                      40

10 Kevin Magnussen            37

11 Sergio Perez                     29

12 Kimi Raikkonen                27

13 Jean-Eric Vergne             11

14 Romain Grosjean             8

15 Daniil Kvyat                       6

16 Jules Bianchi                    2

 

2014 constructors’ championship

1 Mercedes                            393

2 Red Bull Racing                 219

3 Ferrari                                  142

4 Williams                              135

5 Force India                         98

6 McLaren-Mercedes            97

7 Toro Rosso                        17

8 Lotus                                    8

9 Marussia                              2

Jenson Button

Age                                         34 (January 19 1980)

GPs                                         258

Wins                                       15

Poles                                      8

FLs                                         8

“I go into the second half of the season feeling incredibly refreshed and positive.

“There’s no better place to resume the season than at Spa-Francorchamps. It’s one of the best circuits in the world, and it’s a place where driving a Formula 1 car always feels incredible. As ever, I’m really looking forward to driving out of the pits for the first time on Friday morning, and just throwing the car into some of the greatest corners in motorsport.

“I had one of my best weekends of the year at Spa last year, qualifying and finishing sixth after running closely with a bunch of cars through the whole race. It wasn’t my best finish of the year, but it was positive because I got the maximum out of the package we had, and was able to fight closely with a number of other drivers, which felt satisfying.

“Hopefully, there will be positives to take out of this weekend as well.”

Kevin Magnussen

Age                                         21 (October 5 1992)

GPs                                         11

Wins                                       0

Poles                                      0

FLs                                         0

“It’s felt like an incredibly long four weeks, and I really can’t wait to get back into the cockpit, particularly as we’re headed to Spa, one of the best drivers’ tracks in the world.

“I love Spa: I won there in British Formula 3 in 2011, and in Formula Renault 3.5 in both 2012 and ’13, and I just love the fast, flowing nature of the circuit. Hooking up a quick lap there during qualifying is just fantastic, because the track just flows from one corner to the next, and the car is so fast and assured that it almost feels effortless. It’s fantastic.

“I think the second half of this season will be incredibly important for us. We need to use these next eight races to assert ourselves, pushing our development strategy to the fore in order to first consolidate and then improve our positions in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

“As a team, I know we are up for the challenge.”

Eric Boullier

Racing director, McLaren Mercedes

“We had a disappointing race in Hungary to send us into the summer break, but we’ve analysed the issues we encountered, and we believe we now understand what went wrong. More important, we all head to Belgium feeling positive and refreshed, and incredibly keen to get back to work.

“The first half of the season has shown signs of both promise and disappointment, but, through it all, Jenson and Kevin have each driven some particularly inspired races, made very few mistakes and always extracted the maximum from the package. Equally, the team has worked hard at both the factory and the racetrack to improve performance – and we’re now starting to see those returns.

“Spa and Monza are tracks where every team runs a unique downforce package, so it won’t be until Singapore – where we resume with a more conventional set-up – that we’ll get a clearer read on our progress, but I think we have reasons to be optimistic. The operational changes we’ve implemented over the course of the season have taken time to bed-in, but I think we’ll certainly see a more pronounced upswing in performance over these final eight races of the year.”

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