THERE WERE SO MANY OVERTAKES! As it does every year, the Belgian Grand Prix did not fail to impress. The race was full of overtaking and action, and there were even overtakes on the last lap! A massive crash in the early stages of the race saw the Safety Car coming out as well, which played a major role in this race. The 2020 Belgian Grand Prix was certainly not one to forget, and here at F1ntasitc.com, we’re going to review it.
Mercedes and Hamilton Still Pushing For Records – 2020 Belgian Grand Prix Facts and Stats
We’re back with the Facts and Stats as we have done in every Race Review since the F1ntastic 2020 British Grand Prix Race Review. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are definitely not backing off and any time soon as they continue to smash through the record books with a stellar 2020 season. Renault has had a good race, which will be visible as they feature with mostly positive stats in this Race Review. Let’s get straight into the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix Facts and Stats.
- The 2020 Belgian Grand Prix was the 65th Belgian Grand Prix in F1 history. The Belgian Grand Prix was not held in 1957, 1959, 1969, 1971, 2003 and 2006 due to various reasons.
- Before the start of the race, every one of the 6 Ferrari engines was in the bottom 8 of the grid.
- Hamilton, yet again, broke an all-time F1 record set by Michael Schumacher. The 6-time World Champion broke the record of kilometres in the lead of F1 Grands Prix, with 24,244 km being the record set by Schumacher. However, Schumacher still holds the record for the most laps led in F1.
- Lewis Hamilton scored his 93rd pole position and his 89th race win at the Belgian Grand Prix. The Briton is now only 3 wins away from breaking Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.
- Spa was not a good track for Hamilton, with 4 retirements but only 3 Belgian GP wins to his name, the only track at which Hamilton had more wins than retirements. After the 2020 race, he now has 4 wins and 4 retirements, eliminating that personal record.
- For the 4th consecutive race, Hamilton finished in the points positions.
- Mercedes have led at least one lap in a race for the 30th consecutive race. They are only one race away from equalling Williams’ record of 31 set in 1995-1997.
- Valterri Bottas finished in 2nd place, his best Spa finish. His previous best was 3rd, which he achieved in 2014 & 2019.
- We have now arrived at Mercedes’ last appearance in this race’s Facts and Stats. For the 3rd time, Mercedes have achieved a 1-2 finish in Belgium. Juan Manuel Fangio finished ahead of Stirling Moss in 1955, and Hamilton won ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg in 2015.
- Max Verstappen was looking to a 6th consecutive podium this race and that’s exactly what he achieved. He also tied his career-best run of consecutive podiums. Let me know in the comments below, how long do you think this run of podiums will last for Verstappen?
- Verstappen’s former Red Bull teammate finished in P4 for the 2nd time in the last 4 races. Although he couldn’t achieve a podium, Ricciardo was really close. I’m sure he will be looking to end Renault’s streak of races without podiums in Monza. The last time Renault scored a podium was at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix.
- Ricciardo showed how much he was pushing and how fast he was going by setting the fastest lap of the Grand Prix, managing a time of 1:47.483 on the final lap. Robert Kubica’s fastest lap at the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix was the last time Renault scored the fastest lap in a race.
- Ricciardo scored 13 points after finishing in 4th place and getting an extra point for the fastest lap. Ricciardo’s teammate Esteban Ocon finished in P5 and scored 10 points. In total Renault scored 23 points in the Belgian Grand Prix, the most they have ever scored in a single race as a constructor.
- Ocon also tied his best-ever result this race, as he finished in 5th place in Spain & Mexico in 2017.
- Lando Norris finished the Belgian GP in 7th place with McLaren on the day that Bruce McLaren would’ve turned 83 years old. The founder of the McLaren team, he died in 1970 at a young age of 32.
- The AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly finished the race in P8, meaning that he has always finished in 9th place or above in Belgium. He has raced at Belgium 3 times in F1. He finished in P9 in 2018 and 2019 and grabbed 8th in 2020.
- Racing Point has been strong at Spa in previous years. In 2019 they finished in 6th and 10th, and in 2018 they finished in 5th and 6th. This year they only managed 9th and 10th, despite the team in good form in the previous races of 2020.
- Kimi Raikkonen brought his Alfa Romeo home to finish the race in 12th place. The Alfa Romeo was the highest finisher powered by a Ferrari engine, which makes it even more of a race to forget for Ferrari. However, the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix was the 1000th F1 World Championship Even for Ferrari engines. This means that Ferrari can’t forget this race, no matter how much they want to.
- Speaking of the 1000th race, Ferrari as a team completed their 998th race in F1 at Belgium and will celebrate their 1000th race at the Tuscan GP in Mugello.
- Raikkonen’s teammate Antonio Giovinazzi has suffered massive crashes in the middle sector of Spa at every Belgian GP he has participated in. He crashed at Pouhon, or La Double Gauche, in 2019, and this year he crashed at the exit of Fagnes. And we have now arrived at the end of the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix Facts and Stats. Let’s move on to the events of the race.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – One Of The Most Iconic Circuits in F1
What is a Belgian Grand Prix Race Review if you don’t talk about the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. It has hosted 53 Belgian Grands Prix out of the 65 Formula 1 Belgian Grands Prix that have happened since 1950. Spa is full of high speeds and is a real test of engine power, as most of the corners are taken with less braking and more throttle. Spa hosts the longest stretch on full throttle in the F1 calendar. From the exit of Turn 1, all the way to the entry of Les Combes, the drivers would usually not need to lift off the throttle at all. Of course, this only applies in the dry. The F1 world knows this circuit for its wonderfully satisfying flow and the satisfaction that it provides for both drivers and fans. Average high speeds have always been high, but that does turn against the track.
Out of the 12 races that were at tracks other than Spa, 2 were at Nivelles-Baulers and 10 were at Circuit Zolder. Nivelles only hosted the Belgian GP twice due to unpopularity amongst the fans. Back to Spa, the only reason some races didn’t happen there was because of Safety.
Spa is an incredibly high-speed circuit, and speeds were even higher in the 1960s due to the old layout having barely any corners. The average lap speeds were higher than 240km/h, and there were minimal safety features. That’s exactly why the 1969 Belgian GP was cancelled; the drivers said it was too dangerous. There were too many fatalities at Spa. There was an extra chicane before Malmedy for 1970, and the track owners added more barriers. But the average lap speeds stayed the same, and the safety features weren’t enough. The track owners did not improve safety in time in 1971, so F1 cancelled the 1971 race too. However, F1 later relocated the race to Zolder. Spa was back in F1 in 1983, with a completely new layout, and after one final race at Zolder in 1984, Spa was officially the circuit for the Belgian GP, and it still is.
Now that we’ve learned a little bit about the history of Spa and the Belgian GP, and the characteristics of Spa let’s get into more details about the corner names. It isn’t completely essential to talk about Spa in a Race Review, because many already know about it. But since the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix Race Review is the first Belgian GP Race Review on F1ntastic.com, we’re going to go into a bit more detail about this historic circuit. Let’s now get into the confusing corner names.
The Corner Names and Corner Numbers of Spa That Never Stop Confusing Fans
Corner names are something that has disappeared from F1. Modern F1 tracks have no corner names; the corners are just referred to by their corner numbers. However, circuits like Spa, Monza and Silverstone are classic circuits. These circuits have been around since the start of F1, so that’s they have corner names. In old times, corners had names. These names, over the many years that they have been used, have become incredibly memorable. Fans, commentators, and everyone in the F1 world except for people like engineers use these corner names frequently. The fans just need something to give these corners an identity, and we all remember them for a long time to come.
Before we get into corner names, let’s get into the name of the track. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is located in an area in North-East Belgium, Spa. The track is actually in the town Francorchamps, but since Spa is a bigger area and people know it more, the circuit’s name is Spa-Francorchamps.
Now coming to the corners of Spa, all the corners have names. Turn 1’s name is La Source. This is the slowest corner on the track, and literally means ‘The Source’. This corner gets this name because there are multiple water sources in the Spa area and the region in which the track is. La Source is the only corner at Spa where there is never any confusion as to the corner number or corner name. However, La Source was not always Spa’s Turn 1. Turn 1 used to be Eau Rouge, which is what we’re going to talk about now.
If you look at the image above, you would notice that Turn 3 is the only corner on the track not to have a name. This is because Turns 2 & 3 are considered as the Eau Rouge section, even though Eau Rouge is the actual name of Turn 2. This is something that many F1 fans don’t know. Some call all of Turns 2, 3 and 4 the Eau Rouge section, while others don’t know which corners are Eau Rouge and Radillion. The image above shows all the correct corner names that were given when this layout was used in F1 from 1983, meaning Eau Rouge is Turn 2, which is the right-hander at the bottom of the hill, and Radillion is the left-hander at the top of the hill. This clarification is much-needed, although most F1 fans do know these details by now.
Moving further down the track is the incredibly long Kemmel Straight. Now there is another confusion with this. After Radillion is a small kink going to the right that starts of the Kemmel Straight. That kink is actually the Kemmel corner, and the straight historically does not have a name. However, Formula 1 does not consider Kemmel corner as a turn. This is one of the reasons that there are confusions with corner numbers because some think that Kemmel corner is actually Turn 5. And F1 commentators and the F1 world call the back straight the Kemmel straight, which is exactly why I’ve labelled it in the track map.
Now coming to the end of the long straight is the first braking point on the track since the braking point for La Source (Turn 1). The drivers sweep to the right and straight to the left, going through the corners that make up Les Combes. Les Combes, another confusion. Many don’t know whether Turns 5 & 6 are Les Combes or Turn 6 & 7 make up this chicane. As you can see in the track map, Les Combes is Turns 5 & 6, and Turn 7 is Malmedy. Malmedy is a corner that has been at Spa since the track was first built in 1921. This is because part of the track is in the municipality of Malmedy, so the corner after Les Combes, which is where the border of Malmedy is, was named Malmedy.
There’s a short run down to the downhill and long right-hander of Bruxelles. Bruxelles, another corner with confusion. Until recently, the F1 world knew Turn 8 at Spa as Rivage. We now know that the left-hander of Turn 9 is Rivage, and Turn 8 was named after the capital of Belgium. Bruxelles is Brussels in French. Now coming downhill again, we arrive at the double-apex left-hander of Pouhon. Pouhon means a place where water springs come from, and that’s something Spa is known very well for. Now here’s the confusing bit, Pouhon is a group of 2 left-handers, and there are two corners there not one. This changes the corner numbers and confuses most people. Then coming to the corner name, the actual name of Pouhon is La Double-Gauche. This is French for the double-left because that section is two corners to the left that make one large curve.
The locals call it La Double-Gauche, and that’s the original name, so that’s the name I’ve used in the track map. Now we come out of La Double-Gauche and come to Pif-Paf. Pif-Paf is the actual name for Turn 12, although many call it Fagnes. Fagnes is actually the name of Turn 13. The Fagnes, or the High Fens in English, is a highland in Eastern Belgium, and the circuit is part of these highlands. Coming straight out of the chicane of Pif-Paf and Fagnes comes Campus. Many think that Turn 14 is Stavelot, but it is actually Campus because of Campus Automobile, a technical training centre located right next to the corner named after it (literally!). The next corner on the track is Stavelot. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is split between to municipalities in terms of location; Malmedy and Stavelot.
The area between the exit of Radillion and the exit of Malmedy is in Malmedy. The rest of the track is in Stavelot, which is exactly why at least one corner had to be called Stavelot. Not that it was compulsory, but it makes sense to name a corner after the place where the track is like they had done with Malmedy. Now is a long long stretch with two sweeping left-handers, which drivers take at full throttle. The first is the Paul Frère corner, named after a Belgian racing driver and journalist. He finished in 2nd at his home race in 1956, which was his last race in F1. The official CDS-F website says “Paul Frère was the greatest racing driver and journalist of all time.” This shows how important this driver is to the F1 fans in Belgium, which is why there is a corner with his name.
We’ve come to the last corner at Spa before the final chicane, Blanchimont. This corner takes its name from the village Blanchimont and is one of the most fearsome corners on the track. We have finally arrived at the end of this lap, the Bus Stop Chicane. The Bus Stop Chicane is the name of the final chicane because it was like a bus stop from 1981 – 2006. The version in the image on the left was the version from 2002 – 2003. The actual name of this chicane is just Chicane. The only reason Chicane became Bus Stop Chicane was because of its shape. The Chicane is now in its current shape to increase the size of the main straight and the pitlane. We have now come to the end of the talk about Spa, let’s move onto Ferrari’s woes.
Ferrari’s Painfully Lousy Performance
Ferrari had one of their worst races in a long time. You may think that the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix was worse, but that was an issue between the drivers. Here at the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, the car was genuinely slow and was far behind midfield teams, so forget the front runners. Ferrari was unbelievably slow in practice, with Charles Leclerc finishing in P17, and Sebastian Vettel finishing the session in an embarrassing last place. Qualifying was not much better for the Prancing Horses. They made it to Q2, but that was it. Leclerc qualified in 13th while Vettel managed 14th. The race was even more embarrassing for Ferrari. Leclerc was actually doing pretty well at the start. In the first lap, the Monegasque made it up to P9, and after a couple more laps, he was up into P8. But then, things started getting worse.
In the span of 3-4 laps, Leclerc lost positions and dropped down to P12. He was back to where he started; all the drivers below P7 gained a position because Carlos Sainz didn’t start the race. So things were already pretty bad because Leclerc had displayed a serious loss of pace. The AlphaTauris and the Racing Points flew past Leclerc on the Kemmel straight, which is incredibly surprising. The F1 world knew the Ferrari engine for having unbeatable straight-line speed, yet the Honda engine humiliated Ferrari at Spa. However, Ferrari has another problem. One of their customer teams Alfa Romeo, also easily breezed past. Leclerc fell further and was passed by his teammate, and then Raikkonen passed them both. First Leclerc, then Vettel on Lap 16 after the Safety Car restart. Raikkonen just flew past Vettel with no difficulty. Alfa Romeo uses Ferrari engines, yet they were still faster.
“On a track that requires aerodynamic efficiency and power, we were severely lacking in both. We are disappointed and angry, as indeed are our fans and with good reason. It’s a difficult moment in a season that we knew from the start would be a tough one, but it’s at times like this that we need to stand firm and look ahead in order to get over this difficult period. It’s the only way we will get out of this situation.” said Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto after the Belgian GP.
Ferrari is having major problems with both aerodynamics and power. Ferrari knows they have a serious lack of power, and so to compensate that, they reduce downforce. This is a huge compromise on the aero. The aero is so bad that the tires are wearing out and losing grip faster. Due to the tire issues car has very low stability, and the drivers can’t be too confident. They have to be careful when they are braking and accelerating, making it an absolute losing situation. Ferrari’s problems are bigger than they would’ve anticipated. Let’s compare Ferrari to other teams. This year, Ferrari is slower at Spa compared to last year. This is a huge issue because every other team has improved. In fact, 6 of them, including Williams, improved by 2 seconds! Ferrari has gone down by almost 0.5 seconds.
And on top of that, there is another reason Leclerc fell behind his teammate. Leclerc was on a two-stop strategy. On the first pitstop, the Ferrari was stationary for 10.4 seconds in the pit box, because the Ferrari mechanics weren’t ready with Leclerc’s new tires. 10.4 seconds is around 5 times the amount of time a normal pitstop takes place in F1. The second pitstop for Leclerc was as bad because Ferrari needed to increase the pneumatic pressure in Leclerc’s tires. Ferrari did tell Leclerc about this in advance, so everyone expected the slow pitstop
“Extremely frustrating. It’s been a very difficult weekend for us and the race was not any easier. We had issues on the few pit stops I’ve made, which made me lose quite a lot of lap time and positions. Then I tried to catch back but then it’s very difficult for us to overtake, even with the DRS, so we need to work and find something, because like this it’s very difficult.” Leclerc was obviously unhappy about the race, as you can see above. Leclerc’s teammate Vettel also spoke about the issues Ferrari faced at Spa.
“I hope (our issues) will be a bit Spa-specific. Spa is obviously one of the most power-sensitive tracks and we struggle this year when it comes to power, so naturally, you would expect to fall a bit behind. But… I think we were even behind the people we were quite a bit faster than, especially on race day, in the last few races, so speaking of Sauber (Alfa Romeo) and Haas, so there’s probably something that is not exactly clear. I tried a lot of stuff in the race driving-wise to try and drive around the car and its problems, but the underlying factor is we’re just not quick enough and you cannot pull out miracles. You can work on a couple of tenths, but I think it was difficult to have a decent pace this race.”
Ferrari knows that they have some serious issues to deal with. They also know that things aren’t going to get better any time soon, as the next race is the Italian Grand Prix. As every F1 fan knows, the Italian Grand Prix takes place at the iconic Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. The F1 world knows Monza as the ‘Temple of Speed’ because it is and always has been a test of pure power. And pure engine power is something that Ferrari severely lacks. Monza is full of long straights and stretches of full throttle. There are only 11 corners, of which only the first 2 corners are low-speed. Ferrari’s troubles will continue at Monza; in fact, they will be worse. This is the end of the post; I really hope you enjoyed it. Keep lookoing out for new posts!