Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most iconic and enjoyable tracks in Formula 1. The Belgian Grand Prix has moved around to a few different tracks since it was first held in 1925, but the vast majority of the races have been at Spa. The track has changed dramatically over the years, but a lot of the aspects are still the same. It blends long straights with elevation changes and tight, technical areas. It started as a 9-mile charge through the forest, but corners like La Source (turn 1) and Blanchimont (turn 17) have been ever-present.
The current track layout features 19 corners and has been in use since 2007 when they remodeled the final sector to remove the Bus Stop chicane and clean up the pit entry. It is a remarkable track that tests every aspect of a driver, from their nerve in fast corners to precise car control at mid-speed turns and their daring on the brakes into the tight corners. Spa is a track where weather and tyre wear need to be monitored very carefully, but it also offers several overtaking points around the lap that allow you the chance to slice through the field, and there is also the chance for a lot of wheel-to-wheel action. Let’s take a look at where the best overtaking chances are.
You don’t touch the brake pedal from the exit of turn 1 all the way up to turn 5. This means you are hitting 200+ mph by the time you slam the brakes on to get through the Les Combes chicane, making it the best overtaking point of the whole lap. The slipstream effect is incredibly strong on F1 2018, and with DRS available up the hill to turn 5 you can get a pass complete before the braking zone even begins. If you do have to get it done on the brakes then the inside line is preferable, but thanks to the quick flick back to the left it is possible, albeit more dangerous, to attempt a pass around the outside.
While the original Bus Stop Chicane is no more, there is still a tight chicane to close out a lap of Spa, and this creates another good overtaking opportunity. It is a flatout blast from the exit of turn 14 all the way to 18 in good weather, giving you plenty of opportunity to slipstream an opponent and get alongside for the sharp stop into turn 18. The inside line is preferable, but you have to get a little aggressive with a squeeze on exit or they can find a way back through at 19.
In between turns 5 & 18 is a long, winding, stretch that demands a lot of precision and careful car control. However, it is possible to get some good wheel-to-wheel action here are force your way through if you are on fresher tyres or in a faster car. You can make a dive up the inside at turn 12 if they are slow out of turn 10/11, and if someone goes ultra defensive into turn 5 it is possible, if very tricky, to get them through turn 8. Spa is a challenging circuit though, with corners just waiting to catch you out and cost you time. What are the toughest corners on the track?
The Eau Rouge/Raidillon corner is perhaps the most iconic section in Formula 1. A little left-hand dip before a right curve and left kink up the hill and onto the Kemmel straight. In previous years this has been a simple section to jink your way though, but not so this year. F1 2018’s kerb physics and handling mechanic have made this corner an almighty test, especially if you are using a normal controller. The back end gets extremely light through the right-hander thanks to the speed and elevation change, and no setup adjustments can really solve this without ruining the rest of your lap. The only answer is to use as little steering angle as possible throughout and to try to keep the car as central in the road as you can up the hill. Take as much kerb as you can at turn 2, ease it through turn 3, and position yourself for the blind entry to 4 as you crest the hill. It is very easy to take a track extension warning through here, but getting it wrong always leads to a race-ending crash.
We said earlier that an overtake was possible at turn 8, though rare. This is true if your opponent gets a poor exit from the Les Combes section, but if they don’t then it is very inadvisable to make any kind of overtaking effort here. This is a long, slow, right-hander that is very easy to get wrong. To really maximise your pace through this corner you need turn in early and avoid drifting too far on exit, as that will compromise your entry to turn 9.
This double-apex left-hander is simply known as “Pouhon”. It is a remarkably hard corner to get right. In time trial when your tyres are always perfect, it can be basically flatout with the right setup, but in a race it requires a brief lift before turn-in otherwise you’ll just go sailing out into the runoff area. getting the car into the first apex is vital, otherwise your approach to the second is going to be completely off and you’ll either take way too much inside kerb and risk spinning out or run wide and leave yourself vulnerable into turn 12. You want to kiss the kerb on the inside for the first apex, then drift out and do the same for the second.
Spa requires excellent straight line speed, so trimming front wing is important, however the middle sector also asks for a lot of stability and precise handling. As a result having well-tuned suspension and good rear downforce is also important. This is such a long lap that taking care of your tyres is vital, lock ups will ruin your tyres and mechanical grip is at a premium so keeping your tyres in good condition is a priority. You can see our setup for the Belgian Grand Prix here, but remember that your own driving style, control type, and level of assists used may result in a few tweaks being necessary.
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