Teams will be supplied with hardest compound rubber as their primary tyre choice for this weekend's Grand Prix of Belgium, with the options consisting of sets of the medium compound P Zero tyres. That's the first time the combination has been used since Malaysia, the second race of 2012.
"From a tyre perspective, it's certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year, because of the high speeds and extreme forces involved, which are often acting on the tyres in more than one dimension," said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. "The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for."
The 7.004-kilometre lap is by far the longest of the entire F1 2012 season and features the famous Eau Rouge corner, which batters the tyres with its fearsome 1000kg compression that many compare to being on the ultimate roller coaster ride.
No wonder then that it's a favourite of so many of the drivers, including Pirelli's test driver Jaime Alguersuari: "I think Spa is a fantastic race because of its rich sporting history. It is also home to some of the most famous corners on the F1 circuit, including Eau Rouge and Blanchimont," he said. "You will struggle to find any driver that does not enjoy this race."
Alguersuari continued: "There are a lot of high-speed corners, but also some straights making it a very fast circuit. Spa will challenge both the drivers and the teams as it is a circuit that requires a medium downforce set-up and good mechanical grip.
"From a tyre point of view, Spa is relatively smooth, so it is not tough on the tyres but it does pose its own unique challenges," he offered. "There are a lot of high-speed areas where considerable lateral force is put on the construction of the sidewall. It is similar to Japan's Suzuka race circuit, and requires the same set-up and handling."
Hembery agreed that it was one of the best circuits on the F1 calendar. "The Spa circuit is a personal favourite of mine," he said. "I recently visited the 24-hour race there: the configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing."
The weather could well be a major factor on proceedings this week, as it has been so often in the past at Spa. Set within the Ardennes hills, Spa's geography also gives it its own microclimate that can result on one part of the circuit getting drenched while another staying dry - and the rain radar frequently getting outfoxed.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we end up trying the entire range of tyres that will be on offer in Belgium," suggested Toro Rosso
driver Jean-Eric Vergne who has raced at Spa before in the Renault
2-litre class, Formula 3 and World Series, and another driver to rate Spa as his favourite track. "From the medium and hard slicks, to the intermediates and extremes, as rain is never far away in Spa. But that's part of the fun, part of what makes Spa Spa."