Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc has said that the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend will be tougher for the team that it has been in the past as they are lacking pace compared to previous years.
Although he enjoys the circuit, it being where he took his first win in Formula 1, he notes it is also tinged with sadness, as it was the place where his friend Anthonie Hubert lost his life in an accident in the Formula 2 feature race last year.
He said: “The Spa-Francorchamps circuit has a special place in my heart. While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year. It will be difficult to return to this track and he will be in our thoughts all weekend.”
Despite not having the same form as they did last year, Leclerc is confident they will be able to bring home a result, potentially being aided by the unpredictable weather they have seen at the circuit in the past.
“In terms of expectations, it will be tougher for us in terms of performance this time around as we do not have the same level of competitivness as we did in 2019. However, we have seen that anything can happen at this track, especially with the unpredictable weather.”
He added that it order to secure a good result on Sunday, that process begins at the start of the weekend during Friday practice, recognising that they must collect as much data to help them make their strategy calls for the rest of the weekend.
“As a team, we will have to work very hard to do all we can to get the most out of the car right from Friday. In Free Practice, we must gather all the information needed to pick the best strategy for qualifying and especially for the race.”
“You need to be able to tackle all the variables” – Vettel
Leclerc’s team-mate, the German Sebastian Vettel, said he also enjoys the circuit and the challenge of pulling together a competitive lap, adding that it is a stand-out circuit as no other track they race has a similar layout.
“The Spa circuit is truly unique. No other track we visit has so many variations in height. It continually climbs and drops, a feature you can’t really appreciate seeing it on television. The track has some of the most difficult and enjoyable corners on the calendar, such as Eau Rouge, Pouhon and the esses before Stavelot, which in French, they call a ‘piff paff’.”
He added that on occasion, bringing everything together to come out with a strong lap time can be a challenge, due to numerous things which can change at short notice, including the weather.
“It’s medium to low in terms of downforce requirement, but all sorts of factors can affect how you do in the race, starting with the weather, which is usually changeable. So you need to be able to tackle all the variables in the best way possible.”
“The track is pretty demanding” – Gualtieri
The team’s head of power unit, Enrico Gualtieri, said that Spa puts a lot of demands on both the drivers and the engineers, and tricky to ensure the car is well-balanced for the duration of the lap.
“The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and demanding on the calendar, for the drivers and also for we engineers. It’s particularly difficult to find the perfect car balance for its entire seven kilometres,” he said.
“In terms of Power Unit management, the track is pretty demanding with over a minute spent at full throttle. It’s important therefore to have enough power – you can never have too much – but you also want good driveability, especially when it comes to the first and last corners.
“Apart from its power output, energy recovery through the MGU-H is also key, so that the overall efficiency of the Power Unit is what counts.”