The conflicting demands of Spa – the long straights of sectors one and three but the downforce-rewarding middle sector – are made even more awkward by the downhill contours of Rivage and the shortly-following Liege (erroneously sometimes called ‘no name’) as the track makes its way down into the valley.
This is where those cars that have struggled down the straights begin to claw back time, none more dramatically than Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, which brakes outrageously late for Rivage, then dismisses the bump halfway across the track’s width in the braking zone, so smothered in downforce is the RB15. There’s the briefest millisecond where Max is neither braking nor accelerating and it’s then that he gets the final bit of angle change into the turn. From there, he is hard on the gas to the exit. Some cars have trouble getting to the other side of the track for the perfect approach to Liege; not this one.
Verstappen aggressively steers hard right and it follows, then just as hard left into Liege. Viewed from head-on, the car’s yaw builds as he enters not fully on the throttle and then just as it’s at the ideal angle – well before the apex – he’s back hard on it. It looks so simple compared to every other car, even the Mercedes in which both Hamilton and Bottas are rounding off the edges on turn in, not building up the forces so abruptly. It’s never less than well balanced, but doesn’t have the alacrity of the Red Bull.
There are a few ‘Class B’ cars that are performing quite nicely – Renault has plenty of front end, Haas looks flowing and balanced. The Ferrari doesn’t have as good a balance as either of those lesser cars, its understeer always visible. But it’s all happening at a higher speed.
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