Few tracks in the world present the technical and handling difficulties of the all-encompassing Spa-Francorchamps. The 7004-metre Belgian circuit is fittingly nicknamed "the Driving Academy" and, as Mauro Barbieri, Performance and Simulations Coordinator of Ferrari Competizioni GT explains, requires a high level of compromise if one wants to be competitive.
“Spa is an iconic, legendary circuit, one of the most famous in Europe and in the world”, explains Barbieri. “The reason is surely in the design of the track itself, where there are medium, slow and fast curves, one after the other, plus a high degree of variations of slopes, rather like riding a roller coaster. "
In such an environment, many variables need to be factored into the car set-up, as each sector comes with a different set of technical characteristics and demands. "The set-up must be a compromise between the high-speed curves," continues Barbieri, "where the car should be rigid for greater stability and the low-speed curves where the car needs softer suspension settings to increase grip and be able to absorb all the unevenness of the terrain and the changes in elevation."
Even the somewhat unpredictable weather in the Ardennes forests, can affect how engineers define the ideal set-up. "A car with a "soft" set-up is more competitive in the wet,” explains the engineer, "and Spa is famous for its unpredictable weather. Two years ago there was sun, rain, hail and snow, all in the same race. Finally, the amount of downforce is important; for the high-speed corners and for the rain, drivers want the maximum possible load, but in the long, high-speed straights, it would be preferable to have a configuration offering very low levels of resistance. It is a challenge. It is a tough compromise to find. However, we are ready to take that challenge and give it our best shot.”