Belgian GP 2021 – How the driver’s line up at Spa

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Max Verstappen came out on top after a tricky yet typical day at Spa. Mr. Saturday, George Russell put another brilliant qualification, this time qualifying in second place, his best ever qualification and best in a long time for Williams. 

It was a difficult day at Spa for the drivers due to heavy rains forcing all teams to make their runs on either the intermediates of the wet compounds. Q1 was delayed by almost 30 minutes due to excessive water on the track. 

And the rain continued to bother the drivers as the track got drier from Q1 to Q2. But in a moment’s time, it was back to slippery fields in Q3. McLaren’s Lando Norris was enjoying a superb qualifying session going fastest in Q1 and Q2. 

He seemed destined to take pole position but he pushed the car a little bit too far. On the famous ‘Eau Rouge’ corner, he lost control and went straight into the barriers. Fortunately, he walked away unharmed but the damage to the car was complete. 

Can Mercedes steal the show

Mercedes were quite consistent with their lap times and they seemed conservative. Not looking to put their car over the limit and risk any damage to their weekend. Spa is one of the most punishing tracks in the dry, and in the wet, the margin for error is very low.

Valtteri Bottas has a 5-place grid penalty from the incident in Hungary and will start the race in 13th place. Lewis Hamilton will start in 3rd place. He was close to taking pole himself but was losing most of his lap time in the middle sector. 

Sectors 1 and 3 are more suited to the Mercedes car while the middle sector favors the Red Bull. And the gains Red Bull are making in that middle sector could just be the difference in the race.

Williams’ George Russell was the star of the day. He drove with confidence, composure and yet was aggressive enough to lap as fast the leaders. If there were doubts about him anywhere, this performance clears it up. 

While there was trouble for McLaren with the crash of Lando Norris, teammate Daniel Ricciardo managed to save the day. He qualified in 4th place, his best of the season so far. He has been steadily improving with the car and could just bag a podium here this weekend.

The big disappointment of the day was Ferrari, with both drivers eliminated in Q2. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc not being able to get into Q3 makes the mid-table battle interesting. With Norris starting in 15th behind the Ferrari’s, the opportunities for points are less.

Legends are made in Spa

Spa is one of the fastest, oldest, and most legendary tracks in Motorsport racing. It means a lot to drivers to race here. The circuit is the longest (7 km) and the fastest track and definitely has some of the best corners to put a driver and his car through all the tests.

But it is very tough to judge the true pace of a car in the rain. It does not really depend on how fast or how well the car corners. But it is more on the driver’s capability and skill to navigate the track and deal with the various corners and water puddles. All along trying to understand how they can maximize their output and speed in the lap. 

The tyre compounds available to the drivers this week are the C2 (hard), C3 (medium) and C4 (soft). The strategy suggests starting with the medium compound and then switch to a hard compound between laps 11-15. An alternative strategy would be to start with the soft and subsequently swap to hard compounds. However, the rain changes all strategies and forces drivers to think for themselves. 

Teams ideally go for a medium downforce option in order to maximize the speed on the streets and be able to tackle the corners of the middle sector. The rain reduces the need for higher downforce levels.

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