F1 Power Rankings: Belgian Grand Prix

After four weeks off, Formula One is back. As is tradition, the first race back from summer vacation is the Belgian Grand Prix from the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. It’s not exactly a leisurely summer drive. While a lap is 70% full-throttle and is a kilometre longer than any other track on the calendar, it has some of the toughest and most iconic corners in F1. Who will conquer the last great F1 circuit? The F1 power rankings tries to answer the question.

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2016#1 Lewis Hamilton
Lewis’s PR quotage is so bad that I’m dropping it this week. He really should be talking about his small championship lead of 19 points. That’s not so bad until you remember he’ll be racking up power unit penalties for the rest of the season as a result of early season unreliability. He’s also struggled to claw his way back from those problems. Sure, he’s done reasonably well but minimizing damage still means losing points.

f1-daniel-ricciardo-helmet-2016#2 Daniel Ricciardo
It’s very easy to see why people love Danny Boy: “I think it’s funny how spread out the circuit at Spa is, on one side you can have sun while it rains on the other. You always get a lot of regular fans there, you see them year after year so it’s nice to see real F1 fans out there. Food wise fries and waffles seem to be the local cuisine, it’s not really race diet but it tastes pretty good.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2016#3 Nico Rosberg
Keke’s kid sounds like he used the break for a mental reset but he’s got to stay calm to succeed. That’s far easier said than done with Nico: “For me, it’s like a clean slate at this stage. What’s happened so far this season is in the past. I can’t wait to get in that car, put my foot down and get everything I can from these next races.”

#4 Max Verstappen
Is this a home race for Max? It might just be: “Going into Spa it should be a great weekend, there will be a lot of Belgian and also Dutch fans. They are all coming to one of the most famous tracks on the calendar and from the driver’s point of view one of the favourites also. I had a really good weekend there last year so hopefully we can have an even better result this year.”

f1-sebastian-vettel-helmet-2016#5 Sebastian Vettel
Old four-time knows that things aren’t great at the Scuderia right now: “We know that the last couple of races have been harsh and tough for us but they’ve been useful and we have understood a lot about our car strengths and weaknesses so we know what to focus on… It’s a harsh way to find out and we’re not as competitive as we want but we know to what to do. It’s not something to change overnight but there is a plan and the second half should be stronger in that regard.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2016#6 Kimi Raikkonen
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery is expecting a lot of different strategies to be used at Spa: “For the tyres, it’s a demanding track with the sort of high-energy loads that make it absolutely thrilling to drive. It’s not easy to find the right set-up but with such a long lap and plenty of overtaking opportunities, there are a number of different strategy permutations possible.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2016#7 Nico Hulkenberg
The Hulk talks about Spa away from the track: “For all the excitement on track, Belgium is one of the quietest weekends off it. There’s not much around the circuit and most of the evenings you just stay in the hotel and have a quiet dinner with your physio or a few friends. It’s the opposite of some of the ‘lifestyle’ events like Barcelona, Budapest or Montreal – but it’s a nice change to have some more relaxed events.”

f1-valtteri-bottas-helmet-2016#8 Valtteri Bottas
#BO77AS kinda dances around the matter of Williams probably not having the downforce to survive a wet race at Spa: ” It’s normally quite a good track for us, the only thing with Belgium is that the weather can be quite unpredictable across the weekend. It’s definitely one of the best circuits in the world so I’m really looking forward to going back.”

#9 Carlos Sainz
The Toro Rosso boys like to do track maps for their race preview quotes. Chili has two favourite corners at this track: ” Turn 2 is the famous Eau Rouge, which is flat out, even though you always doubt if to do so during your first lap in FP1… It’s probably the best corner in the world, it’s amazing! … Another of my favourite corners, Turn 10, which I’d say is as nice as Eau Rouge.

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2016#10 Sergio Perez
Checo tells you how to setup your car in F1 2016 (review coming eventually): “The key to being fast around Spa is having a good rhythm and enough downforce to be quick in the corners without losing too much on the straights. You want to be able to attack and defend in sector one, but not have too little wing to be struggling in the twisty parts of sector two. It’s a fine balance you need to strike and it can make or break your weekend.”

f1-fernando-alonso-helmet-2016#11 Fernando Alonso
Nando’s optimistic about his McHonda’s chances at Spa. Granted, the Honda engine is far better than I expected but I also expected them to barely finish in the points: “You have to have a strong package there, in terms of performance and reliability. More than 70 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle, which will be a challenge in itself, but we’ve shown over the past few races that, even on the circuits that statistically should be difficult for us, we’ve worked hard and surprised ourselves with our level of performance relative to our competitors.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2016#12 Jenson Button
Old JB has some unintentional comedy if you think he’s talking about NBC’s Olympic coverage: “The summer break has been great – a chance to rest, recharge and spend time with friends and family. I spent most of it in the United States, but still managed to keep up with Team GB’s efforts in the Olympics – incredible!”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2016#13 Romain Grosjean
Romain talks about different approaches to setups at Spa: “You always see different approaches at Spa. Either you’re fast in sector one and sector three, which are the high-speed sectors, or you’re fast in sector two, which has more of the corners. Both work pretty well, so it’s a matter of how you want to approach the race.”

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2016#14 Felipe Massa
I’m convinced that Williams must have their marketing intern just write generic PR quotage because no one can be this unintentionally dull: “Belgium is one of the best tracks in Formula One. Most of the drivers love the old style, including me… It’s a place that can be wet and dry pretty much at the same time, so I hope it will be a good weekend for us and that we have a fantastic race. It’s always a pleasure to race there and feel the car perform at one of the best tracks in the world.”

f1-daniil-kvyat-helmet-2016#15 Daniil Kvyat
Most drivers love Eau Rouge. Daniil Boy loves the twisty section of the track: “This is a very special track which I really enjoy; it’s high-speed, full of elevation changes and with many fast-flowing corners which make it very exciting for the driver. The second sector in particular is the part I enjoy the most, as it includes a lot of cool corners.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2016#16 Esteban Gutierrez
Steve talks about why drivers like Spa rather than if he will ever score a point this year. Appropriately, I replaced Steve at Haas in F1 2016. It only made sense for Steve to sub for Steve: “It’s a track that has a lot of corners, as well as being a very long track where you can gain a lot of time if you do everything properly and if you’re consistent throughout the lap. This also depends on how much downforce you have on the car as the circuit has a lot of high-speed and fluid corners, which are important factors.”

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2016#17 Kevin Magnussen
K-Mag wants Eau Rouge to be harder and punish people trying to cut it too much. I like K-Mag: “I love Eau Rouge – even though it’s flat now it’s still so enjoyable to go through. On top of Eau Rouge you can run the kerb and straightline a lot so it’s a bit of a shame it’s not gravel or wall on the outside as would make it even more of a challenge. In the wet it is still a massive corner and you can guarantee it will be wet at some point over the weekend! It’s one of my favourite corners.”

f1-jolyon-palmer-helmet-2016#18 Jolyon Palmer
And Jo gives his take on going from F1 video games to the real deal: “The first thing that hits you is Eau Rouge. It’s just awesome. You see it on TV, or on the onboards or on the Xbox, but it is even better the first time you drive it. Nothing prepares you for heading flat out down the hill and then coming up the other side and down that straight. In the dry we are now easily flat, maybe just slightly under with high fuel in the race, but it’s a real corner.”

#19 Pascal Wehrlein

f1-felipe-nasr-helmet-2016#20 Felipe Nasr
Young Phil talks about the challenges in the cockpit and in the garage: “As a driver you get a nice flow going – up and down – through these corner combinations. From the technical side, the combination of low downforce and traction is essential to be competitive.”

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2016#21 Marcus Ericsson
Funny little fact about the Sauber PR quotage: They’ve combined both Spa and Monza quotes into the same press release. I know that Sauber isn’t exactly rolling in money but could they not afford another hour of press agent time to prepare two press releases for each of the upcoming races.

#22 Esteban Ocon
There’s a second Steve on the grid now that Ocon is taking over the second seat at Manor: “I’m a bit sad that I cannot complete the DTM adventure.. But it’s not possible to compete simultaneously in both championships. Consequently, I had to decide, and the decision went in favour of Formula 1…  I never thought that I would be offered this opportunity quite so soon. At the same time, I’m very happy about it and I’m looking forward immensely to my first race weekend in Belgium.”

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