3 Upgrades that Appeared at Spa – Did they Work?

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

When the Formula One circus headed to one of the best circuits on the calendar in Spa-Francorchamps following a lengthy summer break, teams up and down the grid had been scratching their heads and getting to work on various upgrades. Here are three upgrades that appeared at the Belgian Grand Prix.


3. Sauber got a radical nose job

After the confirmation of financial security at Sauber, the team can started to put upgrades on the C35 to try and scramble up the order and save their season. After a rear-wing update in Germany, the team were running a completely new front end for the following race.

Rear wing update
Rear wing update

The amended front-wing would naturally change how the airflow reacts beneath the car further downstream of its chassis. The hope was to improve the performance of the sidepods and floor to give more downforce, or a more accurate means of determining downforce based on track requirements through wing adjustments.

Did it work? Not really, Sauber were never able to climb the order properly. A retirement from Ericsson didn’t help.


2. McLaren-Honda engine update

If there’s a pair of circuits out there in which power is paramount, then it’s surely Spa and Monza. McLaren had used their engine tokens sparingly up to this point. The updates on turbo in Canada and air intake at Silverstone only used up two tokens each. This upgrade was much more significant, Honda spending 7 tokens on upgrading the turbocharger and internal combustion system to eke out more efficiency.

MCHOALO

The term “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” comes to mind. Honda would have dreaded seeing one of the McLaren’s rolling off during the Friday Practice sessions in which the upgrades were scheduled to run. It was the biggest engine update for Honda.

Did it work? If they hadn’t put in the upgrade, there’s no telling how many points they’d have missed out on.


1. Toro Rosso bring more updates to their spec-B

Toro Rosso were having to exploit as much aero updating as possible to make up for the deficit of having a 2015-spec Ferrari engine. Framed in this way, their season could already have been considered a success given that they’d scored points in eight races by this point.

After a massive upgrade in Germany that was so drastic that the STR11 changed its name to the STR11 spec-B, front-wing upgrades were going to be running at Spa. The team would be running a wing configuration with the top flap peeled back so that the affect of load change on balance could be observed.

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 Ferrari 060/5 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – JULY 31: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 Ferrari 060/5 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Given that sector one and three of Spa are made up of fast speed corners and sudden direction change, observing the affect of load change on balance allowed the team to set up a car that ran well in these sectors. Given the power deficit, it seemed like a wise move for Toro Rosso to look for alternative exploitation in these sectors.

Did it work? At this point in the season, Toro Rosso had been hoping they could recapture the form that seemed to end abruptly after Hungary. They never regained the gaps to the teams around them, mainly because others could upgrade their engines.