Are Lotus really going to win this weekend?
© Lotus F1 Team, LAT Photographic
|1 September 2012 by Daniel Chalmers||Tweet
A lot of the talk coming into the Belgium GP has been about Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen and their double DRS.
They have been big favourites going into this event. Raikkonen’s record in Spa is exceptional with four victories in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
The E20 has great aerodynamics therefore the circuit’s fast corners should suit it really well.
The E20 has proven its ease on the tyres in recent races, and Spa is one of those circuits that is notoriously hard on tyres, as we saw last year with all the tyre blistering that we witnessed.
With their version of double DRS they were also going to get a big advantage on Spa’s long straights, in both qualifying and critically the race too.
The news that the debut of their double DRS is unlikely because they haven’t been able to test it in Friday practise, is certainly a blow.
Despite that there are many who still deem Kimi favourite (for a combination of the reasons already mentioned) to win the event. I am not completely convinced though.
The E20 is a great car and the iceman seems to find something extra every time he visits Belgium. However I think the weather is the biggest problem for the team, rather than the fact they won’t be debuting their new device.
We are set for a chilly weekend in Spa with temperatures barely reaching mid-teens for qualifying. Lotus’ main weakness in 2012 has been that they have been too reliant on hot temperatures in order to perform to their full potential.
Raikkonen’s recent two second place finishes came in races where we saw boiling track temperatures (Valencia and Hungary).
On race day back in Barcelona, Lotus were the hot favourites to come through and win (from 3rd/4th on the grid). However a drop in track temperature compared to the day before took the edge away from their challenge. It’s been a recurring theme all season long.
If they are to win the Belgium GP they need to have dramatically improved in cool weather conditions. Getting the tyres switched on this weekend is going to be a key factor for all the teams.
Combine the weather with Pirelli bringing the two hardest tyres in the range, could make switching the tyres on trickier still.
McLaren are another team who on paper Spa’s layout should suit down to the ground.
However they are another team who have struggled with switching the tyres on in cooler conditions. They had a poor weekend not so long again in the wet and cold weekend F1 endured in Silverstone (a track that also should have been great for them).
They will need to hope that the upgrades they bolted on before a summer make a difference in cooler weather.
Red Bull is another team who admit they prefer it when the weather is hot. Although their performance back at Silverstone was strong so bodes well for a cool weekend here. That's despite the layout here not being the best for them with the long straights.
One team who have been strong in practically every condition is Ferrari. Since Barcelona they have shined whether it is been hot, cold, or wet. If it were to snow during a race chances are they would probably get on ok in those conditions too.
Mercedes and Sauber have also shown up well in cooler weather in 2012 too. They will be ones to look out for, particularly Mercedes with their double DRS in qualifying.
Throughout the build-up to this race I have been torn between Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton as the race winner.
However a combination of low temperatures and Lotus unlikely to use double DRS, I have been starting to think this may end up being another event that goes in Alonso’s favour.
Out of the remaining races the only event you can guarantee hot weather is Abu Dhabi. So ultimately I think those teams who can get their cars working in cool weather are going to be in a great position for the rest of the championship.
It’s going to be fascinating this weekend to see who can get their tyres switched on and who can’t. On previous knowledge my money is on Ferrari and Alonso.
Have McLaren and Lotus done enough to make their cars work in these conditions to compete for victory?
It’s potentially going to be critical if Alonso’s rivals are going to have any hope of closing his lead down in the championship.
We are going to find out a lot about the state of play this weekend.