F1 2014 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for Spa pole position
- Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire was fastest in Friday’s practice sessions at the famous track in the Ardennes region.
And the 2008 F1 world champion will be looking to claim pole in qualifying today (Saturday), having started from the front of the Spa grid last year.
Hamilton loves the Spa circuit – Eau Rouge is, of course, its signature corner -– and he took the chequered flag in Belgium in 2010. He was third for Mercedes last summer ahead of Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton said: “Spa is an amazing circuit. You really feel like you’re going somewhere here – up into the woods, around the back and then all way back down again.
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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 at 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.
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Spa is a very different type of circuit to any other on the current calendar. It is very much a power-dominated track, with the high-speed nature of the layout very much playing to the strengths of the 2014 Power Unit.
There are a number of long straights with a real mix of different corners throughout. Similar to Barcelona in many respects, albeit to a more exaggerated extent, each of the three sectors holds different demands.
The first features a lot of full-throttle content, the second a high quantity of technical corners with mid-level entry speeds and the third a mixture of fast curves capped off with a heavy braking zone to end the lap.
Year in, year out, debate centres around whether the biggest advantage lies in reducing drag to increase overtaking opportunities down the straights, or in running slightly higher levels of downforce to increase performance through the corners.
Qualifying also throws a different factor into the equation, as the use of DRS reduces the effect of a lower drag configuration – although, of course, in this case higher speeds can be reached before the DRS is activated.
On nailing the perfect hot lap, Hamilton said: “Heading down into Turn One, it’s really important not to lock up and run wide as traction is usually pretty weak on the exit of the corner and you need good drive down onto the following straight.
“It’s flat out down there and then on through the spectacular Eau Rouge – the corner everyone knows at Spa! Carrying good speed through the whole of this section is crucial, as a lot of time can be gained or lost.
“The long straight down to Turn Five is the best overtaking opportunity around the circuit. With a low downforce configuration on the car, braking from such high speed into this corner can be really tricky.
“You’re then straight into the second part of the chicane at Turn Six and accelerating through Turn Seven. This is another corner where good traction is required on exit before heading downhill into Turn Eight – a beautiful, long, sweeping right-handed corner.
“You then have to position the car quickly on the right to ensure you carry good speed through Turn Nine and can get on the power nice and early.”
Continuing through sector two, Hamilton added: “You need a decent lift on entry to Turn Ten, then it’s straight back on the power again through Turn 11 and down a short straight into the Turn 12 / 13 chicane, where it’s important to really hug the apex through the first part as you can quite often get understeer through the second.
“It’s back on the brakes into Turn 14, but from there it’s flat out through the kinks of Turns 15, 16 and 17. Through this section you have to keep the steering as smooth and straight as possible to avoid scrubbing off too much speed.
“The final chicane of Turn 18 / 19 is tricky, as by this stage both your tyres and brakes have dropped a lot of temperature.
“It’s so easy to lock up on entry and there’s very little grip through this tight right / left combination, but it’s important to get it right as a small mistake can put you on the back foot heading into the next lap – particularly if another car is close on your tail.”
Qualifying for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa starts at 1pm.