Spa offers a number of challenges for drivers, with the long Kemmel straight and the flat-out section around Blanchimont making straight line speed important but corners like Les Combes, Pouhon, and Eau Rouge make balance and agility vital factors as well. The temptation with Spa is to trim wing to gain time in sector one and three, but you can lose time in sector two by doing that as the circuit tightens up and the twisty nature can make a low-downforce setup a real challenge.
The most important thing is to make sure you can take Eau Rouge flat and have just a small lift in Pouhon. Those are the corners you must tune your car for. Let's take a look at our favourite setup. Remember, driving style is important here. This setup may need some adjustments if you are hard on your tyres or particularly aggressive with the throttle out of the corners, and some cars may react differently as well due to their own individual characteristics.
This setup is perfect for teams that already have a strong aero package such as Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes, though it is best used in online and time trials unless you have already upgraded your aerodynamics in Career Mode.
If you are subtle enough with your steering, you can slide your way through Eau Rouge with these wing angles and absolutely fly down the Kemmel straight. It is not for the feint of heart, though, as too much steering will send you flying off into the barriers for a nasty crash.
If you struggle in making minor steering adjustments, especially difficult when using a controller, adding some wing angle will allow you more leeway through Eau Rouge, but ultimately cost you top speed when you get up to Les Combes and into the final chicane.
This part of the setup is all about how power get transferred to the rear wheels and is vital to cornering. Locking your differential will give you more outright traction as it forces both wheels to turn at the same rate. A fully locked differential will cause excess wear on the tyre on the outside of the corner the most and cause more understeer. An open, unlocked, differential has the opposite affect and creates oversteer.
The differential is one of the most driver-specific parts of an F1 setup, and so while an 87 percent On Throttle and 77 percent Off Throttle setup suits us, you may require a degree or more difference if you find you are consistently over- or under-steering.
You should favour a more locked setup at Spa as traction out of La Source and Stavelot is vital to achieving maximum speed at the big braking points of Les Combes and the Bus Stop.
This is all about how the wheels are aligned to the body of the car. All Formula One cars start with negative camber on their tyres, with the top of the tyre closer to the body than the bottom. This is to create more grip when cornering, and the more negative camber you create the more grip you produce. This comes at the cost of more tyre wear and straight line speed as you are removing contract surface when the car is driving in a straight line.
For Spa you shouldn't play with the camber too much since it has both long straights and a lot of mid-speed corners where grip is vital. When you add negative camber to the front, as a general rule, add half as much to the rear.
Toe describes the way the tyres angle away from one another. Front tyres are in what's called a toe-out position, with the front of the tyre further away from its opposite than the rear of the tyre is. This helps with cornering responsiveness, but adding more toe-out decreases straight line stability. This is countered by mounting the rear wheels in a toe-in position, but adding more tyre angle simply serves to increase tyre wear.
Again, Spa requires very little play with the camber and toe due to its makeup as an all-rounder circuit. You will want extra camber and toe during sector two as you try to fly through Bruxelles, turn 11, and Pouhon, but as you accelerate down from La Source and through Blanchimont, you will bemoan it. It's best to just make minor adjustments here.
One of the most complicated aspects of setting your car up, the suspension affects the roll and weight transfer of the car, and ultimately its responsiveness. The stiffer your suspension setup, the more responsive the car is as the weight cannot shift so freely. This makes the car more agile in the corners, but increases tyre wear and can also make for a rather bumpy ride if you take too much kerb.
The 6-6 default setup for suspension is good for most tracks, but by creating a difference in your front and rear suspension you can create over- or understeer. For this setup we have stiffened the suspension to help us in sector two, and since the kerbs in Spa are friendly, it doesn't hurt us too much. By making the rear stiffer we create a little understeer, just like we do with the transmission, to help us get the power down earlier.
So far this setup is harsh on the tyres, and the anti-roll bars are where we get some of that back. by softening the roll bars just a touch we allow more lateral weight transfer, unloading the inside tyre in cornering. It makes the car a little less responsive, but it saves life in the tyres for the heavy breaking zones. With just one high-speed change of direction at Campus we can get away with softer anti-roll bars, but at places like Suzuka and Circuit of The Americas you will want stiffer ones for the Esses sections.
The final part of this section is ride height, which is exactly what is sounds like. With stiff suspension to stop weight transfer under acceleration and braking and less wing angle creating less downforce we can lower the car. The 3-3 setup is on the extreme end and is something you'd use around Monza as well, but it works well here. If the car is under-steering too much for your liking, you can raise the rear ride height to create rake and generate some oversteer. This is a simple fix, but again reduced straight line speed a touch.
Brake pressure has to do with how much stopping power you have. While it would seem that pumping it all the way up to 100 percent would be the best thing to do, adding brake pressure increases the risk of lockups, and if the track is wet or the surface is particularly bumpy, then it can be a real problem.
Spa has a smooth surface and two massive braking points at the top of the Kemmel straight and into the final chicane. Having some serious stopping power there is vital, but as your tyres wear out, you'll want to apply the brakes evenly and slowly unless you are attempting a pass, defending your position, or setting a hot lap.
Brake bias can have a huge impact on performance. The default setting (60 percent, 10 percent to the front) is pretty good, and a shift of 1 or 2 percent forward can increase understeer and stability under braking, while moving it toward the rear has the opposite affect. Brake bias is one of the things you can change during the race from your HUD, so setting it right before the race isn't necessary. We rarely move it more than two percent off 60, and a slight rearward shift during a race once fuel has burnt away can help create a more responsive car on turn in.
Lowering tyre pressure increases the contact patch the rubber has with the track, and increasing has the opposite affect. What that means in practice is that lower tyre pressures increase traction, since you have a larger area in contact with the ground as you accelerate, but it also means you have more friction at high speeds, slightly reducing top speed. Lower tyre pressures also result in lower tyre temperatures as you are distributing the energy across more of the tyre surface. Lower pressures do create a less responsive car however, so once again we have a trade off in cornering and straight lines.
You want your tyres to wear evenly, so the pressure difference shouldn't be too extreme between front and rear. If you add pressure to the front, add pressure to the rear too. Setting your tyre pressures is really all about driving style. Because we have low drag aerodynamics and a locked differential, we can sacrifice contact surface and increase the tyre pressures to give us a more responsive car.
Moving ballast forward increases understeer and reduces traction. Moving it back has the opposite affect and increases oversteers and increases traction. There is rarely a need to move the ballast outside of a 5-7 range. Any time you do it usually means your suspension and suspension geometry are tuned incorrectly. Here we have left the weight distribution alone.
That is our setup for the Belgian Grand Prix. This is a good starting point you can then fine tune for your own particular style. See you on the time sheets!
Belgian Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 6
Rear Wing: 11
On Throttle: 65%
Off Throttle: 100%
Front Camber: -3.10
Rear Camber: -1.60
Front Toe: 0.11
Rear Toe: 0.41
Front Suspension: 5
Rear Suspension: 3
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 9
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 7
Front Ride Height: 4
Rear Ride Height: 4
Brake Pressure: 88%
Front Brake Bias: 56%
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.4 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi