Belgian Grand Prix 2014 Preview: Start Time, TV Times, Weather, Schedule, Odds
Formula One returns from its four-week break on Sunday with the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix. The venue will be the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, close to the towns of Stavelot and Francorchamps.
Spa itself is a little way down the road.
This will be the 58th Belgian Grand Prix of the world championship era, the 47th to be held at this circuit and the 12th round of the 2014 season.
Michael Schumacher won here six times, and Ayrton Senna five. Of the current crop of drivers, Kimi Raikkonen has the most victories in Belgium, with four.
Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have also taken the chequered flag at Spa, while Felipe Massa inherited it back in 2008.
It's likely one of the two Mercedes' will come out on top this weekend, but will it be Hamilton or team-mate Nico Rosberg celebrating on Sunday night?
Read on for a full preview of the Belgian Grand Prix, including current standings, a circuit map and guide, tyre and DRS information, weather forecast, odds, session times and TV times.
Nico Rosberg holds a narrow 11-point advantage over team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo is 71 points off the championship lead, with Fernando Alonso in fourth.
Valtteri Bottas is a single score away from cracking 100 career points.
The current top 10 (data from Formula1.com) are:
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||131|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||88|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||69|
In the constructors' championship, Mercedes' quest to have twice as many points as anyone else suffered a setback when they were out-scored by Red Bull in Hungary.
Williams and Ferrari are locked in a tight battle for third.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
The magnificent Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the few truly great circuits left in F1. Fast, flowing and featuring some of the best corners in the world, it's arguably the one circuit which fans and drivers alike would miss the most were it to be dropped from the calendar.
Let's hope that never happens.
It was designed in 1920 and held its first proper car race two years later. Back then, Spa was a fearsome 15-kilometre course around public roads linking the towns of Stavelot, Malmedy and Francorchamps.
Those roads are still there today, but they long ago outlived their usefulness for racing. The last grand prix on the old layout was held in 1970.
The new Spa circuit was born in 1981, and F1 returned two years later. Now a full-time racing venue, it features sections of the old course married to a purpose-built infield.
But a Hermann Tilke re-design this was not. With old classics like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont joined by new beauties like Pouhon, it remains one of the most characterful, charming venues in the world.
A lap begins on the pit straight with a short run down to the very tight hairpin right of Turn 1 (La Source). The wall on the inside means cutting the corner is a big no-no, but there's plenty of tarmac on the exit should a driver wish to run wide.
The nature of the corner means contact on the opening lap is not uncommon.
Turns 2, 3 and 4
From the hairpin, the cars head downhill along a short straight toward perhaps the most beautiful corner sequence in the world—the Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex.
With a small assist from gravity, the drivers are travelling between the walls at speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour when they hit the foot of the valley and the left-hand kink of Turn 2.
The throttle stays planted to the floor as the track climbs steeply through the longer, uphill Turn 3 before flicking left again at the crest through Turn 4.
Strictly speaking, Eau Rouge is Turn 2, where the stream after which it is named passes under the circuit. Zoom in on an aerial shot (map here) and you can see the red-tinted waters.
Turn 3 is Raidillon and Turn 4 doesn't have a name—but you'll usually hear all three collectively referred to as simply "Eau Rouge."
In recent years the challenge of the corners has been diminished slightly because the cars have so much downforce—it has been "easy" to get through it flat out.
However, Adrian Sutil believes it may be tougher this year due to the decreased downforce and extra power of the 2014 cars.
Let's hope so.
Providing they negotiated the sequence safely, the drivers set off along the long Kemmel Straight.
Turns 5, 6 and 7
At the end of the straight the cars will be doing somewhere in the region of 320 kilometres an hour before braking hard for the slow- to medium-speed chicane of Les Combes. The first part, Turn 5, is a right-hander; this corner, and the preceding straight, should be the scene of many overtaking manoeuvres during the race.
The second part of the sequence (Turn 6) is a slightly quicker left. It's not unusual to see cars go a touch wide here and lose time.
They then switch across the track for the third and final part of this sequence, the quicker right of Malmedy (Turn 7).
Turns 8 and 9
The drivers head out of Malmedy onto a short straight, then comes the tricky 180-degree right-hander of Rivage (Turn 8).
The quite steep downhill entry means they have to brake a touch earlier than usual, and the slope continues all the way through the corner. A lot of time can be lost here from even a small mistake, so it will prove a key corner during qualifying.
Turn 9 is a rarity at Spa—a fairly nondescript medium-speed left-hander, but with the track still heading downhill at this point it remains a challenge.
Turns 10 and 11
Another quite short straight follows, but it's long enough for the cars to reach close to 290 kilometres an hour before they arrive at a corner which doesn't always receive the credit it deserves—Pouhon (Turns 10 and 11).
A touch of the brakes is required at the entry before turning in to hit the first apex. It's back on the throttle as the track straightens out a little, then hard left again through the flat-out second half.
From entry to exit, Pouhon takes around seven seconds.
Turns 12, 13, 14 and 15
The cars exit Pouhon at 270 kilometres an hour and head onto a short straight before braking for the first part of the Fagnes complex.
Turn 12 is a medium-speed right-hander, and it leads into a similar medium-speed left (Turn 13). A slight elevation change in the middle of the two corners adds a touch of extra excitement.
The track heads downhill again, through the tricky medium-speed right of Turn 14. Running too wide here is a very bad idea because there's gravel on the outside, but the kerbs always see a lot of use.
Immediately afterwards comes a slightly quicker right-hander, Turn 15 (Paul Frere). A good exit here is crucial, because it leads out onto a long full-throttle section.
Turns 16 and 17
The track follows a meandering route along a straight-which-isn't-straight, and the cars arrive at Turn 17.
This one is an easy and unspectacular but nonetheless very fast left-hander, perhaps in place to prepare the drivers for what comes next—Blanchimont.
A left-hander taken flat-out at speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour, Blanchimont (Turn 18) is not an especially difficult corner.
But it's still very special to watch, and—one imagines—even more special to drive.
Turns 18 and 19
After Blanchimont comes a short straight, before heavy braking for the Bus Stop chicane (Turns 18 and 19). This corner got its name because it used to look like this—sadly, even Spa has suffered in the name of safety.
The chicane is now a very tight, very slow right-left with a fairly steep uphill gradient.
Once this is negotiated, the cars are back on the pit straight, and the start-finish line is only a few metres up the road.
The pit lane entry is at the outside of the second half of the final chicane. The exit is on the inside after Turn 1.
Tyres and DRS
Spa's numerous high-speed corners put immense loads through the tyres. Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are the worst offenders, but busy sections like Fagnes also contribute by keeping the tyres under load for a prolonged period.
The surface is very abrasive which increases wear, and a number of heavy braking and traction events also contribute to torturing the rubber.
But we learned from the British Grand Prix that the 2014 tyres can handle circuits of this nature.
Armed with this knowledge, Pirelli are bringing the yellow-marked soft and white-marked medium compound tyres. The tyre company's motorsport director, Paul Hembery, expects a large time gap between the two choices.
This could make the first part of qualifying very interesting, as the quicker teams may attempt to sneak through without using the softer compound.
But the durable medium, at home in cool conditions, should be the tyre of choice on Sunday.
There will be two DRS zones at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The first will have its detection point midway between La Source and Eau Rouge (Turns 1 and 2). The activation line will be at the point where the Kemmel Straight becomes fully straight after Turn 4, and the zone will end with braking for Les Combes (Turn 5).
The second will be much shorter. Its detection point will be just before the final chicane (Turns 18 and 19), and the zone will run the length of the pit straight.
Spa's location in the hilly Ardennes Forest keeps its temperature a little cooler and its rainfall a little higher than the rest of the country. August, one of the wettest months, usually sees highs of 20 degrees Celsius.
The forecast for the weekend is for temperatures significantly lower than average, with 15 degrees the highest we can expect. A weak weather front may bring the odd shower on Saturday, but the other days should stay dry.
But predicting the weather at Spa is notoriously tough and rain can spring up out of nowhere.
BBC Weather will have the latest—and they even have a dedicated forecast for the circuit itself.
Lewis Hamilton occupies his usual spot as favourite, with Nico Rosberg second.
Daniel Ricciardo is quite heavily favoured over team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while Valtteri Bottas' odds reflect the expectation Williams will go better here than in Hungary.
The top 10 favourites are:
The fight for the third spot on the podium—assuming both Mercedes' finish—is expected to be close. Valtteri Bottas is the favourite at 15-8, with Daniel Ricciardo 5-2 and Sebastian Vettel 11-4.
A safety car appearance (1-2) is considered likely. No laps for the SLS AMG is 6-4.
Sauber have shown an improvement in recent races, but the bookies don't expect either driver to score the team's first points of the year at Spa. Adrian Sutil is 10-1, with Esteban Gutierrez 16-1.
All odds sourced from Oddschecker.com, and correct at the time of publication.
TV Times and Session Times
As always, the Belgian Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows:
|Practice One||Friday||10 a.m.|
|Practice Two||Friday||2 p.m.|
|Practice Three||Saturday||11 a.m.|
All are given in Belgian local time (CEST). Formula1.com has a handy one-click tool to convert them to your own timezone.
|Session||Day||Session Starts||Sky Start||BBC Start|
|Practice One||Friday||9 a.m.||8:45 a.m.||8:55 a.m. (Two)|
|Practice Two||Friday||1 p.m.||12:45 p.m.||12:55 p.m. (Two)|
|Practice Three||Saturday||10 a.m.||9:45 a.m.||9:55 a.m. (Two)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||1 p.m.||12 p.m.||12:10 p.m. (One)|
|Race||Sunday||1 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||12:10 p.m. (One)|
In the United States, live coverage of selected sessions will be provided by the NBC network. Coverage of second practice is live at 8 a.m. on Friday (NBCSN), with live qualifying starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday (CNBC).
Live race coverage is at 8 a.m. on Sunday (NBCSN).
Enjoy the weekend!
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