Brawn GP will be hoping to draw inspiration from Rubens Barrichello’s victory last weekend as the team heads into the Belgian Grand Prix, where principal rival Red Bull is expected to emerge as favourite after turning in its worst result of the Formula One season.
Barrichello’s first victory in five years at the European GP moved the 37-year-old Brazilian driver into second place in the drivers’ standings - 18 points behind teammate Jenson Button, who opened up a 20.5-point lead over Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
“We’ve picked up some momentum again now after the result in Valencia and know that we have to make the most of the next few races,” Barrichello said.
But the cool conditions and hilly 7.004-kilometre Spa track - the longest on the calendar - features high-speed corners and long straights that have favoured the Red Bulls this season.
Brawn GP’s performance has suffered in the cool conditions.
“Although we believe that we now have a better understanding of our recent tire issues, the lower track temperatures at Spa will be the proving ground for this,” team principal Ross Brawn said.
Webber finished ninth on the Valencia street circuit, where teammate Sebastian Vettel retired with his sixth engine failure of the season. The young German driver has only two more engines remaining for the final six races with 25 points to make up on Button.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen will be going for a third straight top-three finish as the Italian team hopes to take third in the constructors’ series to offset an otherwise disappointing season.
“This is our goal as a team, although it will be very difficult to reach, considering we stopped developing this car, concentrating on the one for the upcoming season,” the Finn said.
Raikkonen was on course for victory at Spa last season before a tussle with Lewis Hamilton led to a poor finish.
“Last year everything went up in smoke due to the rain at the end of the race and I ran into a wall,” Raikkonen said. “I had set my all on victory and I didn’t have anything to lose.”
Luca Badoer replaces Felipe Massa - who is recovering from life-threatening injuries sustained in a crash - at Spa, although the 38-year-old Italian will have to improve on his form in Valencia if he hopes to hang on the second seat for the rest of the campaign.
Last year’s race was affected by rain, with Hamilton winning before receiving a time penalty for illegally overtaking Raikkonen. Massa took victory as a result.
Hamilton, who is coming off a victory at Hungary and second-place at Valencia, is again competing with Ferrari this season, but only for positions in the constructors’ standings. Hamilton also expects McLaren to fall back behind the Brawns and Red Bulls.
“We’re definitely strong again, but we’re not fastest,” Hamilton said. “With KERS, we are there or thereabouts, but we still lack two or three tenths (of a second) to the Brawns.”
Renault’s Romain Grosjean used the short break between races to return to a part-time banking job in Geneva ahead of his second race for the French team.
“I went back to work at the bank to keep in touch with reality,” the 23-year-old Frenchman said after finishing 15th in his debut at Valencia. “I think it’s important to continue like that as I enjoy working there and this routine has always worked well for me in the past.”
Renault hasn’t challenged this season and may equip Grosjean and Fernando Alonso with the KERS overtaking system by the next race at Monza.