Pirelli gets ready for the ultimate driver’s track
What’s the story?
Spa-Francorchamps, in the heart of the Ardennes, is a favourite of all the drivers because of the unique challenges that it provides. At 7.004 kilometres, it is by some margin the longest track on the Formula One calendar, underlining its status as an epic circuit from a bygone era. Corners such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont have entered into grand prix legend, requiring the sort of commitment that pushes not just the driver, but also the tyres to the limit. As well as the immense speeds and G-forces, one of the greatest challenges of Spa-Francorchamps is the variable weather that characterises the region. Due to the widespread layout of the circuit, similar in style to the old Nurburgring Nordschleife, different microclimates mean that it can be raining on one part of the track but completely dry at another. Pirelli’s P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft are the two nominated compounds for the race – as was the case for the Grand Prix of Europe and the German Grand Prix earlier this year – but it is historically likely for the wet and intermediate tyres to see action in Belgium as well. With the P Zero Blue intermediate tyre in particular having played a lead role at some of the most recent races, its ability to cope with mixed conditions could be pushed to the utmost in Spa. Spa-Francorchamps is one of the many circuits where Pirelli has not yet tested, but it is one of the places that puts the highest vertical and lateral loadings on the tyres all year. The length of the lap also accentuates the time difference between the two compounds, which is likely to be more than one second per lap, enhancing the importance of a good strategy. Nonetheless, tyre wear is generally quite low, owing to the cool conditions and flowing nature of the track, with fewer sharp corners than at most other circuits.
Pirelli’s motorsport director says
Paul Hembery: “Spa-Francorchamps is one of those legendary names in motorsport, which has become a real icon of the Formula One season. It is a track that tests ultimate commitment, so once again we have to supply tyres that are capable of not only absorbing the colossal forces that they are subjected to on a regular basis, but also of delivering maximum performance in complete safety. In many ways Spa is one of the most unpredictable tracks of the season, and since we have never tested here, we have very little data to go on. From what we have seen in the past though, in Valencia and at the Nurburgring especially, we are confident that this combination of the medium and the soft tyre strikes the correct balance between performance and durability, equipping the drivers to display every aspect of their talents. It’s a race that rewards brave overtaking manoeuvres, which is exactly in keeping with our own tyre philosophy as well. The weather in Belgium as always will be a question mark, but with so many wet races behind us already this year, this is one area where we are definitely gaining in experience more rapidly than we anticipated!”
The men behind the steering wheel say
Jerome d’Ambrosio (Virgin Racing): “Spa Francorchamps is one of the most special tracks on the calendar for me. It’s just amazing to drive – it’s difficult to put words to the feeling you get there. My favourite part is clearly Eau Rouge, it’s such a crucial and unique corner and it’s a real challenge to take it flat out. Spa is one of the most demanding race tracks due to its fast, twisty and hilly nature and I’m sure that we will see another exciting race, with the Pirelli P Zero tyres being the centre of action again. One of the biggest challenges during the weekend will be to be on the correct tyre because the weather is always changeable and it sometimes rains at one part of the circuit while it’s dry at another. During the race we will also have to look after the Pirelli tyres to get the best performance out of them during the 44 laps.”
* Finding the right level of downforce at Spa is complicated: teams do not want to compromise their straight line speed, but with only six of the 19 corners taken at less than 130kph a good level of aerodynamic grip is important. Most teams run a medium-downforce set-up.
* The significant compressions at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, such as the one at the bottom of Eau Rouge, put heavy demands on the tyres and means that maintaining the correct tyre pressure is very important. When the tyres are given to the teams the pressure is in the region of 18-20 psi, but it can rise rapidly as the tyre heats up and reduce grip. This makes it even more important for the drivers not to work the tyres too hard.
* Around half of the suspension movement of a Formula One car comes from the tyres deflecting, and at Spa the cars are set-up for the widest suspension travel possible, with soft settings. This also necessitates higher ground clearance than at most circuits.
The tyre choices so far:
|PZero Red||PZero Yellow||PZero White||PZero Silver|
Pirelli In Belgium
* Pirelli Tyres Belux is based in Brussels. The local importer is active through a number of schemes designed to engage consumers, such as ‘tyrelife’ – where every tyre sold is guaranteed for two years or 30,000 kilometres.
* Pirelli’s most recent international victory in Belgium was at Lommel, the 11th round of the International Motocross Championship. The Scorpion bike tyre swept to a series of class wins, with KTM’s Antonio Cairoli winning overall.
* Pirelli has won the Belgian Grand Prix five times in total, taking every win on the event from 1950 to 1954 inclusive. Two of the wins were with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and two were with Alberto Ascari, the other victory being claimed by Nino Farina.
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