McLaren-Mercedes F1 - 2008 Belgian Grand Prix preview

McLaren-Mercedes F1 - 2008 Belgian Grand Prix preview

29.08.2008: McLaren-Mercedes F1 - 2008 Belgian Grand Prix preview

One of Formula 1’s most revered racetracks, the Spa Francorchamps road course has been a mainstay of the world championship calendar since it began in 1950. Renowned for its thrilling, high-speed corners and the capricious local micro-climate which can throw up blazing sunshine and heavy showers in equal measure, the mighty seven-kilometre circuit is still considered one of modern Formula 1’s greatest challenges.

Situated in the heart of the deeply-forested Belgian Ardennes, the original Spa was dropped from the calendar in 1970 amid growing fears that Formula 1 machinery had finally outgrown its original 14km configuration. However, a heavily-revised track was commissioned in 1979, omitting the most dangerous village-to-village elements of the original circuit yet retaining the demanding up- and downhill swoops that had made the place so distinctive.

The new Spa Francorchamps once again hosted the Belgian Grand Prix in 1983 after a 13-year stint at Nivelles and Zolder. The revised iteration has been kind to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: team founder Bruce McLaren won the squad’s first-ever grand prix here at the wheel of an M7A on June 9 1968 and the team enjoyed a five-year run of victories from 1987-1991. More recently, David Coulthard, Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen have all tasted victory for the McLaren-Mercedes partnership.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the McLaren team’s first-ever Formula 1 victory, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be hosting a multimedia quiz at the Brand Centre throughout the weekend. Prizes include a boxset of 40 prints showcasing the team’s winning heritage and a selection of vintage-styled McLaren T-shirts.

All permanently accredited media are eligible to take part - please visit the Brand Centre or see the team’s media personnel for an entry form.

Lewis Hamilton

What do you think of the Spa Francorchamps circuit?

"It’s one of my all-time favourites. Even before I first came here, which was back in 2002 for a Formula Renault race, I played it on my computer - it was always one of the best tracks. It has probably the most exciting corner in Formula 1, Eau Rouge, and it’s one of the few circuits where you really feel like you’re actually going somewhere; you blast off into the forest and get to the top of the hill and can feel the whole circuit beneath you. It’s one of the best challenges in Formula 1."

Do you regret the disappearance of many of the older so-called ‘driver tracks’?

"I don’t regret it, but it’s a shame. I prefer the more historic circuits like Monza, Silverstone and Monaco. You really feel the history of those places whenever you race there; they have real character. Each time they are refurbished, they lose a little more of their individuality - but they are made safer, so we can continue to race on them - so that’s a good compromise."

Heikki Kovalainen

What are the key areas of the track from a driver’s perspective?

"When you talk about Spa, everybody thinks about Eau Rouge - but the bigger challenge is Pouhon; it’s a sweeping, downhill left-hander and is very fast indeed. It’s almost flat, but not quite, so it’s quite tricky to find a balance that allows you to attack without going off. Drivers love corners like this - high-speed turns that are not quite flat: that’s where the real excitement lies because it’s up to the driver to make the difference."

What makes Spa different from other circuits?

"Spa is a big, fast circuit and still feels a little bit dangerous. For a driver, that always gives you an added element of excitement - it’s fast and narrow, almost like a street circuit between the trees. And it’s long, so it’s very difficult to string a good lap together. The most important thing you need here is bravery: you really need to attack the corners faster than your brain is telling you to. You’ve got to keep the throttle flat even if it doesn’t look possible, you have to trust your instincts and just put the danger out of your mind. It’s a real driver’s circuit."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Spa and Monza are Formula 1’s most severe ‘power circuits’ - does that change the way you approach these back-to-back races?

"The reality is that we have tremendous faith in our colleagues at Mercedes-Benz and feel comfortable with both our engine’s performance and reliability. The recent engine failures suffered by Ferrari in Hungary and Valencia clearly demonstrate that even a homologated engine can break, so we take nothing for granted. There’s always an element of risk whenever you come to two fast and demanding circuits but we have the additional security of knowing both our drivers can each still suffer an engine failure without receiving a 10-place grid penalty."

What developments are on the car for Belgium?

"We’ve got a number of smaller aero developments in the pipeline - there’s nothing on the car that will be visually very startling, but there’s plenty of detail-work. We’re also focusing on further mistake-proofing our systems: the championship is going to be a hard-fought slog until the end of the year and we need to leave no stone unturned in our quest for additional performance and improved reliability. From a human and physical perspective, these two races are also pivotal to our title challenge - it’s vital that every member of the team pulls together to make sure these races pass without undue incident and set us up nicely for the final flyaway races."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

After three wins in a row for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, the team took positions two and four in Valencia. Did you expect more?

"Yes indeed, we wanted to win. Nevertheless, our result in Valencia is no reason for us to feel disappointed. We scored 13 points which continues the trend of the previous three races. Since Silverstone, we have scored 55 out of 72 possible points in those four races and reduced the gap to the top of the constructors’ ranking from 33 to eight points."

Spa marks the beginning of this season’s final third. What can we expect until the final race in Sao Paulo?

"The top-four in the Drivers’ World Championship are covered by 15 points which is an exciting basis for the season’s finale. Five different drivers from three teams won the 12 races so far. Apart from the speed necessary for winning, obviously the reliability of the technical package will play the most important role. We have to be top-class when it comes to scoring points and everybody in the team is working hard to achieve this."

What are the challenges of the Spa Francorchamps circuit?

"The track of Spa-Francorchamps is the longest on the Formula 1 calendar at over seven kilometres, and, after Monza, where we will race one week later, the one with the second highest average speed of all Grand Prix circuits: in qualifying last year, this was 238 km/h.

At both of those circuits, the engines are put under the highest strain of the season. The longest full-throttle part starts at Eau Rouge and leads all the way up to Les Combes; it is 1,900 metres long and takes almost 24 seconds. In addition, there is another, 1,600-metre-long full-throttle section between corners 14 and 18 which lasts 21 seconds.

"Apart from long straights where the cars reach speeds of up to about 320 km/h, Spa has every element to make a circuit interesting and challenging, from long and demanding corners like Pouhon and Stavelot to the tight hairpin La Source which can be taken at a speed of 70km/h.

Drivers and engineers have to consider these completely different sections when they work on the set-up. The weather often plays tricks here on the teams and when it rains then not necessarily everywhere around the track. If there were to be a poll among the drivers as to which is the most demanding track, Spa would certainly be the circuit with the most votes."


Lewis Heikki Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Races 29 29 642

Race wins 8 1 161

Pole positions 10 1 138

Points 179 73 3272.5

Podiums 19 3 427

Fastest laps 2 2 135


Circuit length 7.004km/4.352 miles

Race distance 308.052km/191.410 miles

Laps 44

Number of corners 19

Inaugural Belgian GP 1950

2008 Drivers’ World Championship

Lewis Hamilton 70

Felipe Massa 64

Kimi Raikkonen 57

Robert Kubica 55

Heikki Kovalainen 43

Nick Heidfeld 41

Jarno Trulli 26

Fernando Alonso 18

Mark Webber 18

Timo Glock 15

Nelson Piquet 13

Rubens Barrichello 11

Nico Rosberg 9

Sebastian Vettel 9

Kazuki Nakajima 8

David Coulthard 6

Jenson Button 3

Sebastien Bourdais 2

2008 Constructors’ World Championship

Ferrari 121

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 113

BMW Sauber 96

Toyota 41

Renault 31

Red Bull Racing 24

WilliamsF1 17

Honda 14

Toro Rosso 11 


- Steve Cooper, Wolfgang Schattling-  photo McLaren & Bridgestone


29.08.2008 / MaP

More News

AT&T Williams F1 - Spa Francorchamps preview
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2008 The penultimate European round of the season takes Formula One to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday 7 September. The Belgian Grand Prix is one of the oldest on the calendar, having debuted as a World Championship venue in 1950 and hosted 52 Grands Prix at its three race tracks, Spa, Nivelles and Zolder. Winding throug more >>
La F1 à Francorchamps
Entre la Formule 1 et Francorchamps, c’est une longue histoire d’amour parfois tourmentée. Le Grand Prix eut lieu presque toutes les années entre 1950 et 1970 . Il revint à Spa en 1983 après que la longueur de la piste fut ramenée de 14 à 7 km. Mises à part quelques infidélités, notamment en 2003 et en 2006, le grand prix s’ more >>
Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes F1 : Spa Francorchamps race review
Sunday 16th September 2007 Fernando Alonso MP4-22 06 Lewis Hamilton MP4-22 01 T-car MP4-22 03 2007 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton finished the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in third and fourth positions respectively. After 44 laps, 308.176 km and a total race time of more >>
AT&T Williams F1 - Belgian Grand Prix review
Nico Rosberg finished in sixth place in today's Belgian Grand Prix, contributing three valuable points for the second weekend in succession to the tightly contested mid-field in the Constructor's Championship. This has extended the team's lead over Red Bull and closing the gap to third-placed Renault. Alex Wurz by contrast suffered a difficult race with a fuel pressure p more >>
Pansonic Toyota Racing F1 - European Exodus
Panasonic Toyota Racing left Spa-Francorchamps disappointed today after Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli finished 10th and 11th respectively in the Belgian Grand Prix, the final European race of the season. Both drivers started in the top 10, with Jarno in 8th, two places in front of Ralf, but the order changed on the run to the first corner.  Jarno lost places in th more >>
Two more points for Mark Webber
DAVID COULTHARD, (Finish Position DNF, Start Position: 11th) "I had to stop due to a hydraulic related issue, I lost throttle control and power steering. On Friday the car failed in Eau Rouge, which is never good, but fortunately this time it happened on a straight, so I had more room to manoeuvre my car out of the way of the others. There's no way you can get it b more >>
Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 - 2007 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
CHOCOLATE STEERING Sebastian's steering system appears to have been made of chocolate today, so have a nice Belgian chocolate with our compliments   Tonio Liuzzi (STR2-03) Pos. 12th "I feel I drove a good race, with some nice passing moves. This weekend started on Friday with several problems, but qualifying went more >>
Etihad Aldar Spyker F1 - Belgian GP review
2007 Belgian Grand Prix Race Adrian Sutil (car 20, F8-VII/03): 14th 1:21:15.180 (+1 lap) Fastest lap: 1:50.902 Sakon Yamamoto (car 21, F8-VII/04): 17th : 1:21:58.817 (+1 lap) Fastest lap: 1:51.648 The Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team has secured its most competitive finish yet in today's 44 lap Belgian Gran more >>
ING Belgian Grand Prix results
2007 FORMULA 1™   1 6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari Winner 2 5 Felipe Massa Ferrari +4.6 secs 3 1 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes +14.3 secs 4 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +23.6 secs 5 9 Nick Heidfeld BMW +51.8 secs 6 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota +76.8 secs 7 15 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault +80.6 more >>
Spa Friday Practice Results
2007 FORMULA 1™ ING Belgian Grand Prix 1 1 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 1:46.654 29 2 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:46.765 0.111 29 3 5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:46.953 0.299 27 4 6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.166 0.512 26 5 12 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:47.491 0.837 33 6 11 Ralf Schumacher Toyota 1:47.946 1.292 34 more >>
Spa Friday morning free practice results
2007 FORMULA 1™ ING Belgian Grand   1 6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.339 16 2 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.881 0.542 19 3 1 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.994 0.655 17 4 9 Nick Heidfeld BMW 1:48.052 0.713 20 5 16 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:48.372 1.033 18 6 10 Robert Kubica BMW 1:48.605 1 more >>
Etihad Aldar Spyker F1 - Belgian Grand Prix Preview
14 - 16 September 2007 Just one week after the Italian Grand Prix the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team will be back on track for the last European race of the season, the Belgian Grand Prix. After one year's absence from the calendar, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit makes a popular return to the 2007 championship. The track is a favourite with drivers for more >>
Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes: Belgian Grand Prix preview
The next stop for the 2007 Formula 1 World Championship sees the sport return to the much celebrated and dramatic Spa Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. Following a sabbatical year due to construction and improvement works, the longest track of the season returns for the final race in Europe, prior to the remaining three fly-aways of Japan, China and Brazil. Vodaf more >>
Red Bull Racing F1 - Belgian Grand-Prix prixview
We are all supposed to be very excited about being back in Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix for the first time since 2005. Why however remains a mystery. After all, the fact that the circuit is fantastique is only relevant for the 22 guys who actually get to drive around it. For the rest of the team members, the best thing about having a race in the Ar more >>
AT&T Williams F1 - Spa preview
The Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday not only completes the Monza – Spa back to back, but also marks the end of the European season for 2007. Europe's finale will be hosted by the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which is making a welcome return to the calendar following a season's absence. Nestled in the Ardennes forest, Spa evokes a sense of romanticism for many having provided t more >>
Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 - Spa-Francorchamps preview
After a disappointing Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to another historic venue for the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend. Spa-Francorchamps is back on the Formula 1 calendar after a one-year absence while improvements were carried out to the track and the infrastructure. Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli had the chance to sample the resurfaced track and t more >>
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 - Test Spa-Francorchamps, day three
Date: Thursday 12th July 2007 Driver: Fernando Alonso Location: Spa Francorchamps, Belgium Track Length: 7.004km Weather: Changeable all day: Track temperature, 33.9°C / Ambient temperature, 18.1°C Laps Run: 75 Kilometres Covered: 525km approx. Best Lap Time: 1m47.645 at 16:31 Programme: Despite the continued mixed weather more >>
AT&T Williams F1 - Spa-Francorchamps Test, day3
DAY 3 OF 3 Spa-Francorchamps 6.976km Weather: Damp in the morning, drier in the afternoon. Air temperature: 23°C   1 K Raikkonen Ferrari 1:47.042 69 2 R Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:47.265 78 3 F Alonso McLaren Mercedes 1:47.645 75 4 M Webber Red Bull 1:47.699 44 5 G Fisichella Renault F1 1:47.724 76 more >>
Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Spa-Francorchamps Test, Day 3
Sebastien Bourdais 1:48.585 91 laps chassis STR2-02 Circuit length: 7.004 km   An almost dry day is about as good as it gets in the Ardennes forest and that was what faced the teams on this final day of the Spa test. The track was damp at first, but by the end of the morning, Sebastien was able to fit dry weather tyres and from then on there wa more >>
Red Bull Racing F1 - Spa-Francorchamps Test, Day 3
Mark Webber 1:47.699 44 laps (fastest lap K. Raikkonen, 1.47.042) Circuit length: 7.004 km  Mark Webber's return to Spa was not a straightforward one as a close encounter with a white line on dry weather tyres on a damp track saw the Australian spin, doing some damage to front and rear wings on the RB3. Once repaired, he was back out again on a more >>
Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 - Spa Test day3
Spa-Francorchamps Test Day 3 Thursday July 12, 2007 Location: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium Driver: Jarno Trulli Track Length: 7.004km   STANDARD DAMP Panasonic Toyota Racing today completed its week's testing with a solid day of running at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps. Following yesterday's ra more >>
Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes F1 - Spa-Francorchamps test day2
Date: Wednesday 11th July 2007 Driver: Fernando Alonso Location: Spa Francorchamps, Belgium Track Length: 7.004km Weather: Wet to start, drying out during the morning. Rain during the afternoon: Track temperature, 26.1°C / Ambient temperature, 14.3°C Laps Run: 68 Kilometres Covered: 476km approx. Best Lap Time: 1m47.012 at 11:47 P more >>
AT&T Williams F1 SPA TEST - Day2
Dickie Stanford, Test Team Manager, Williams F1: "The whole session was severely hampered by rain today. We spent most of the day carrying out our usual set-up preparations just waiting for dry spells and the opportunity to send the car out. As a result, we lost a lot of track time. Alex will take over from Nico tomorrow so we will spend the evening converting the more >>

more >>


2001-2022 full copyright