F1 2015 Belgian Grand Prix Spa qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position

Lewis Hamilton at Spa for the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton at Spa for the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]


Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps today (Saturday).

The 30-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire was second fastest in Friday’s practice sessions at the famous track in the Ardennes region.

And the reigning F1 world champion will be looking to claim pole position in qualifying this afternoon.

Hamilton loves the Spa circuit, with Eau Rouge the track’s signature corner.

World championship leader Hamilton said: “Spa is a great track to kick off the second part of the season.

Belgium facts & stats: The car

* Fuel consumption 3.35kg per lap, which is high

* Full throttle: 70%

* Brake wear: Low. There are only nine braking events around the lap

* Gear changes: 48 per lap/2112 per race

“It’s one of the really great, old-school circuits with so much history.

“It’s mostly medium to high-speed corners, so you’re pretty much pedal to the metal the whole way round, which is a lot of fun.

“It’s always special to come out on top at a classic race like this, so I remember winning here well.

“I love this track and I’ll be gunning for that top spot again.”

Belgium facts & stats: The race

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

* Race distance: 44 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance/33 laps)

* 2014 winner: Daniel Ricciardo

* 2014 pole position: Nico Rosberg 2m05.591s 200.766km/h (wet)

* 2014 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg 1m50.511s 228.162km/h

* Safety Car likelihood: Chances of a Safety Car High. There’s an 80 per cent chance that the Safety Car will appear in Sunday’s race - that’s largely due to accidents at Spa occurring at high-speed

* Don’t put the kettle on: The start, when new FIA rules mean there will be more input from the drivers; and laps 13 and 28. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy and, changeable weather aside, the same looks likely in 2015

* Weather forecast: Changeable. Spa-Francorchamps is located in the Ardennes Mountains, which have a notoriously fickle microclimate.

Few circuits are more revered than the mighty Spa-Francorchamps.

The track has been synonymous with Formula 1 for more than 60 years, and, with an average speed of 230km/h (143mph), it’s breathtakingly fast.

At more than 7km, the undulating circuit is the longest on the 2015 calendar.

However, the existing layout is only half the length of the original design, which featured in the inaugural world championship of 1950.

The current track – opened in 1983 – retains much of the original high-speed challenge, as well as many of the iconic corners like La Source, Eau Rouge and Blanchimont.

More than 70 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle, which places an emphasis on the power unit and on the car’s aerodynamic efficiency.

There is also the unique situation of the machinery having to cope with a 1.7g compression at the bottom of Eau Rouge, which can prove a test of reliability over the 44-lap race distance.

The weather forecast is notoriously unreliable in the Ardennes region of Belgium.

Belgium facts & stats: The track

* First race: 1950

* Circuit length: 7.004km/4.352 miles

* Run to Turn One: 265 metres

* Longest straight: 2.015km, from La Source to Turn 5, Les Combes

* Top speed: 322km/h on the approach to Turn 5

* DRS zones: Two – on the approach to Turn 1 and, again, on the approach to Turn 5

* Key corner: Turn 10, a 180-degree double-apex left-hander. The entry is fast (294km/h) and blind, and the drivers need to be totally committed in order to be fast

* Pitlane length: 390 metres, which is quite long. The time loss isn’t that great because the cars staying on-track have to negotiate the La Source Hairpin

* Major changes for 2015: None.

Temperatures of around 20 degrees are expected, but it’s harder to predict the chance and the location of the rain.

If wet weather comes it can affect only one section of the track – often several miles from the pitlane – which creates considerable strategic challenges.

In the event of dry conditions, the drivers have Pirelli’s Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) tyres at their disposal.

These are the same compounds that were used at last year’s race, when two pitstops were the norm for most cars.

Did you know?

Heavy rain prior to the start of the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix resulted in F1’s first ever Safety Car start.

Should a Safety Car appear early in the race, a one-stop strategy is also possible.

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 10, 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 2015 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa starts at 1pm.

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