Will the new floor rules upset the F1 pecking order at Spa?

A look at the major talking points as F1 returns after its summer break for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11,
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 leads Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull…

What impact will the technical directive have?

F1’s long-awaited technical directive to combat flexible floors will finally be introduced for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The directive was put forward after Lewis Hamilton struggled to get out of his Mercedes cockpit following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as a result of the severe porpoising he endured.

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During the FIA’s investigation, they found that some teams were exploiting the regulations to some degree and thus have decided to tighten up the rules for Spa.

It was originally for the French Grand Prix in July but was pushed back to give teams enough time to make the necessary changes.

George Russell (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Charles Leclerc (FRA), Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13,
George Russell (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 and Charles Leclerc (FRA), Scuderia…

From Spa, the FIA will now have a metric in place following its investigation into vertical oscillation data with all 10 teams now required to meet updated parameters relating to plank wear and skid stiffness.

But what impact will it have on F1’s pecking order?

It is understood that Red Bull and Ferrari were exploiting the flexi-floor loophole the most, explaining part of their significant advantage over the rest of the field.

However, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has remained adamant it will have little impact on his team’s performance, however, he expressed more concerns for the changes in 2023.

One team that will be happy about the changes for Spa and next year are Mercedes.

A first win of the year still has alluded the German manufacturer but in recent races, they’ve found performance, evidenced by George Russell’s maiden pole position at the Hungaroring and Hamilton’s run of podiums.

It would be great for F1 to have six drivers firmly in the fight during the final nine races of the season.

Red Bull’s likely advantage 

If the technical directive has limited impact on F1’s pecking order at Spa, then surely Red Bull will be very hard to beat.

Not only has Verstappen been in near-perfect form this year, Red Bull’s strength has been in a straight-line relative to Ferrari.

Spa is a low downforce circuit with the first and final sector made up of long straights.

The podium (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, second; Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing, race winner; George
The podium (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, second; Max…

Remember in 2019, Leclerc dominated qualifying by 0.7s in that rocket ship Ferrari with its performance all coming in a straight-line against Mercedes.

It’s hard to look past Verstappen for this weekend.

Goodbye Spa?

Spa’s place on the 2023 calendar is under severe threat with F1 looking to host new events in Las Vegas, South Africa and Qatar.

If the latest reports are to be believed, Spa is likely to remain on the calendar for next year as Kyalami is unable to be ready in time and meet the FIA’s Grade 1 circuit standards.

However, the long-term prospects of a Belgian GP look bleak despite being arguably F1’s most famous circuit.

Spa’s track changes

The F1 circuit has undergone significant changes since the last race one year ago.

The biggest changes come at the infamous Eau Rouge corner, with the run-off on the left-hand side of the track opened up significantly, while a new grandstand has been added.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing
Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing

These changes have been added on safety grounds but the corner itself remains unchanged.

A number of gravel traps have also returned to the circuit, notably at Turn 1.

Rain to cause havoc again?

The iconic F1 circuit is renowned for its turbulent weather with heavy rain a frequent occurrence at Spa.

Last year was no different with qualifying and the race severely affected by wet weather.

The rain was so treacherous on race day in 2021 that the race was cancelled after just two laps following a lengthy red flag delay.

Rain is expected to feature during Friday practice, with a 50 to 60 percent chance of showers in the afternoon.

Qualifying and race day are predicted to be unaffected by any wet weather but this is Spa - things can change very quickly in the Ardennes. 

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