While the Hollywood elite are overwhelmed by the topic de jour, Tom Cruise driving the Red Bull Formula One car earlier this month, Formula One’s thoughts are turned to this weekend’s Grand Prix in Spa, Belgium.
Formula One will race on one of the most naturally beautiful and incredibly challenging racing tracks on planet Earth: Spa-Francorchamps.
This is truly one of those tracks every driver wants to win on. The corner Eau Rouge is simply breathtaking. Taken flat out, if you’re really set-up, it’s uphill and blind all the while going over 180 MPH.
More than a few incidents have taken place there, but safety improvements after the brilliant Stefan Bellof lost his life have made it safer but no less intimidating. Jacques Villeneuve said recently about his crash there, “It was the best crash I ever had”. You have to love it.
Eight Grand Prix’s, including Spa are left on the 2011 calendar and Sebastian Vettel has an 89-point lead in the points. The break is over, everything they weren’t supposed to do during the last few weeks of vacation is done. It’s time to look at what might happen during the remainder of the calendar.
Red Bull racing has placed itself at the very top of the Formula One heap after being re-born more times than Marjoe Gortner. That is, after all, what Formula One is about, evolution of technology and the chance for another McLaren to emerge. Red Bull has to defend those points and, as is in any competitive endeavor, the ‘best defense is a good offense’. Don’t expect that Red Bull doesn’t have a cadre’ of updates that it will use. Vettel has to essentially beat himself.
It could happen, though not likely, that Vettel does have a pressure chink in his armor and if he does, it will look like an African Savanna during a Lion kill, McLaren and Ferrari being those Lions.
In the case of McLaren, they will push harder, probably harder than Red Bull, to get to Vettel and the only way to do it is aggressively pursue the updates. Of course, no mission survives the first shot and McLaren can’t afford any mistakes while Red Bull has to make every mistake, meaning Vettel suffers several DNF’s. McLaren, like Ferrari, is hard at work on next year’s car with the pressure of still trying to get to Red Bull. It may be too much for McLaren and could affect its 2012 efforts.
Ferrari is openly stating that the barbeque pit is running all night preparing next years car while racing for wins in order to translate the information over to next season. The cars wii really be an extension of the 2011 season without the Blown Diffusers. Ferrari has a car that hasn’t shown the balance of the Red Bull, but has attacked as hard as it can. Translated that means Fernando Alonso can drive the hell out of a car.
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s team principle, has stated they are pursuing the 2012 car with intent to come out of their corner swinging.
The long term for Ferrari looks good. They have a stable driver line-up, they have what is arguably the best driver in the World at the moment who has easily assimilated into the Ferrari culture. Moreover, he’s simply taken his place as the leader and that’s a long-term strategy that has legs.
McLaren has the resources and the forethought to be a contender for wins this year, but there’s a shut-off point for improving heavily on this year’s car and bearing down hard on the 2012 car. They will close the gap, but aren’t likely to catch the Bulls, at least not unless Red Bull has an apocalyptic second half of the season.