Savouring Spa: The 2011 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix
Shell has brought together legendary Scuderia Ferrari Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and John Surtees to compare notes on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the venue for this weekend’s Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix.
As race fever builds up ahead of the main event on Sunday, the two champions swapped tales about Spa and said it was a “very special” circuit that instils an extra will-to-win in all drivers. They also had the chance to inspect Formula One cars from their respective eras – namely Surtees’ Ferrari 156 F1-63 and the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix-winning Ferrari F60.
Shell brand ambassador Surtees, the only man to win world championships on two and four wheels, was Formula One World Champion in 1964 driving for Scuderia Ferrari, and steered his Ferrari 312 F1-66 to the chequered flag at Belgium’s iconic circuit in the pouring rain in 1966. Current Scuderia Ferrari driver Alonso, the youngest-ever double World Champion in Formula One, has 27 career victories to his name and is looking for his maiden win at Spa, famed for exhilarating corners such as Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and the La Source hairpin.
Spa remains a true test of skill and courage, with Alonso commenting: “It has low-speed corners, it has high-speed corners, up, down – nowadays I think Spa is the most complete circuit.” Surtees added: “Spa has always been very special.”
Alongside the mixture of sweeping curves, long straights and sharp hairpin bends, Spa’s undulating topography presents its own unique challenge as the weather can be extremely variable across the circuit. “I think it is one of the things that makes Spa different. The rain on the different parts of the circuit, with different levels of water on the track, and even sometimes a dry part and a wet part,” Alonso explained.
“You go off-line and you’re not quite sure what’s going to be where. I think it is the character of Spa, it is part of our heritage and it is the heart of our sport,” said Surtees.
But while there may be generations between them, one thing clearly unites both Alonso and Surtees – that special feeling of driving at Spa, the longest track on the current Formula One circuit at 7.004km per lap. Alonso explained: “Places like Spa or Monaco, we know that winning there means something extra. We all want to win every race but in those places you put in something more because you feel that it is a special weekend.”
And Surtees concurred. “With the sort of corners which they develop at Spa, you get through and get that satisfaction. To come across the line, it is a bonus – you feel special,” he said.
Scuderia Ferrari as a manufacturer has won at Spa 12 times in partnership with Shell since its first victory in 1952. But one thing has remained constant throughout – Shell’s dedication to ensuring Ferrari Formula One cars from all eras are at the pinnacle of the sport. Alonso said: “It is great to hear that these two cars share technology – the lubricant and the fuel retains the same characteristic, which is to make the car finish all races with no problems, but also to have something more than your competitors.”
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