The Infiniti Red Bull Racing team arrive at Spa-Francorchamps circuit knowing they will arrive already on the back foot, with the Renault power unit in their car not being as strong as the Mercedes power unit that powers four other teams. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel will need to race to their full potential just to be in with a shout of points this weekend in normal racing conditions.
Ricciardo will arrive in Belgium having claimed his second win of the season and of his career last time out in Hungary. He feels that F1 has changed in recent years, and believes that Pouhon is now the stand-out section of the track, taking over from Eau Rouge and Blanchimont.
“Above all, Spa is a racing circuit – one that really encourages exciting wheel-to-wheel action,” said Ricciardo. “That said, F1 has changed over the years and whereas Eau Rouge and Blanchimont were once the stand-out sections, now it’s probably the Pouhon downhill left-hander at Turns 10 and 11. That’s seriously, seriously fast – and probably a good place to watch the race from for anyone prepared for a bit of a hike through the Ardennes.
“Of course, given the Belgium Grand Prix draws in all the petrolheads, everyone’s perfectly happy to slog through the woods to find the best view. You bump into people who’ve been going to the race for five decades. And if you ever go into a pub or restaurant in one of the villages around the circuit, chances are you’ll see pictures on the wall of great drivers from back in the day, standing where you are and doing what you’re doing. It’s great stuff.”
Reigning champion Vettel has yet to win a race in 2014, but started his amazing run of nine consecutive race wins at Spa-Francorchamps last year. He enjoys the challenge of the circuit, and knows it could be an unpredictable weekend, and he will be looking to maximise his potential.
“The race in Spa started our series of nine victories last year, which I always like to remember,” said Vettel. “The Belgian circuit offers all possible turns and manoeuvres: ultra-fast, medium-speed, heavy braking and fast straights. The height difference is so great that you always have the feeling of riding a roller coaster – especially in Eau Rouge.
“The weather can also be very unpredictable and a challenge for drivers and teams, it should never be underestimated: within minutes it can change from heavy rain to sunshine. As well as that, the safety car often comes out at Spa. The track is one of my favourites of the year because it feels like it has grown out of the nature that is all around it – it blends with the natural setting perfectly.”
Team Principal Christian Horner knows Red Bull are going to be firmly on the back foot at Spa, as well as the following round in Monza. The Renault power unit is not on par with the Mercedes power unit, and they expect all four Mercedes-powered teams to be ahead of them.
“You never know, it might be wet in Spa and for Monza they might put a load of corners in – but Singapore has to be the next golden opportunity for us in reality,” said Horner. “It will be damage limitation in the next two races, because Force India will suddenly reappear, Williams will be quick, McLaren will be quick and obviously Mercedes will be quick.
“We have to take what we can out of the next two races, and then for the flyaways really try to turn things up.”