The Red Bull Racing ace walks us through the best bits of the Belgian GP layout.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU
The best thing about F1’s summer break? Its conclusion – and that the season returns with a race at one of the world’s truly great tracks this weekend. While every Grand Prix is, mathematically at least, worth the same as any other, there’s something about the spectacular Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes that makes the Belgian Grand Prix one that every driver worth their salt wants to win.
Daniel Ricciardo knows that feeling; the Red Bull Racing star took the most recent of his three career wins at Spa two years ago, and savours every lap he gets to take of the longest (7.004km) layout on the F1 calendar. “Even thinking about a lap there puts a smile on your face,” he grins, and in 2014, that smile was wider than usual when he was the beneficiary of a controversial clash between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on lap two and careered to a coolly-taken victory.
La Source, Eau Rouge, Pouhon, Stavelot, Blanchimont – they’re some of the most evocative corner names in F1, and turns that have stood the test of time. So let’s hear from Ricciardo himself as he takes us for a fast ride on this rural rollercoaster.
“Last year in the race, that wasn’t an easy-full (throttle) corner at all, I was having some serious tank-slappers there early on when the car was heavy with fuel,” he says.
“It’s a place that can seriously bite you. Because it’s blind for a big part of it, if you turn in that little bit too early, then the car can get light at the crest and you get a decent bobble. That’ll get your attention!”
“Every driver loves Pouhon,” Ricciardo enthuses of the big-balls double left-hander down the hill at Turns 10-11.
“On the TV maybe it doesn’t look as good as it feels because of the bitumen run-off. Maybe it doesn’t look as fast. But it’s a massive corner. We arrive – downhill remember – in seventh gear, and it’s a small lift in seventh when we get through there at 250km/h. Pretty serious! You need to hold it tight and then only let the car run out after the apex.”
“There’s a lot of run-off there now, but it’s still pretty cool,” Ricciardo says of the blisteringly fast left-hander towards the end of the lap at Turn 17.
“It’s easier than Eau Rouge in the dry, but in the wet, that’s the scariest corner on the track. It’s such a quick and short corner that you’ll always have snaps, always have oversteer, in that corner in the wet. And you know that it’ll rain at some stage over the weekend, because it always does there.”
“You never feel like you get Bus Stop completely right,” Ricciardo says of the final complex of corners that bring the cars back onto the start-finish straight.
“It’s weird – it’s good for the fact that it’s an overtaking opportunity, but it’s a pretty ugly corner, off-camber, over a crest, the car always feels bad through there. It’s just a bit clumsy. But it’s a challenge every lap.”