Rampf on the technicalities of Spa 08 Sep 2005
Saubers technical director Willy Rampf explains why getting everything right at Belgiums Spa-Francorchamps circuit is so difficult - and hence why it is so supremely satisfying when you do.
"Spa-Francorchamps is a supreme challenge, both for the drivers and for the engineers. Its wide variety of high- medium- and slow-speed corners makes it a favourite that requires some careful set-up work if a car is to produce its optimum performance. As an indication of its extremes, you have the La Source hairpin which begins the lap. The drivers go through this at little less than 70 km/h. But then you have a fast downhill section that leads to the famed Eau Rouge corkscrew climb, which is one of the world's most demanding corners.
If everything is working perfectly it might just be possible for a driver to negotiate this challenge flat-out in top gear, but in doing so he must cope not only with lateral forces as he has to change direction at very high speed, but also compression forces as the car bottoms out under full load in the middle of the corner as it begins its climb up to Raidillon.
Eau Rouge demands total commitment from the driver, and a finely balanced chassis. If Eau Rouge is flat out, then the engine experiences a full throttle period of over 20 seconds from the exit of the hairpin until braking for Turn 5 - along with Indianapolis the longest of the season. Then there are other corners, such as Blanchimont on the run to the end of the lap, which is taken at more than 300 km/h. It will be interesting to see what effect the 2005 regulations have had on aerodynamic performance here.
"The track is quite easy on the brakes, but the tyres are submitted to very high loads due to the high speed nature of some corners and tyre degradation is important. Spa is also known for its changing weather conditions, therefore the outcome of the race is less predictable than anywhere else."
Sauber will be hoping to repeat their excellent 2004 Belgian Grand Prix showing, when Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella finished fourth and fifth respectively.