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  Monday, 26 August, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Ralf dismisses Spa challenge
Michael Schumacher takes on Eau Rouge in the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix
Eau Rouge is famous as the toughest corner in F1
Ralf Schumacher has dismissed as easy the corner renowned as the most demanding and challenging in world motorsport.

The Williams driver described the Spa-Francorchamps circuit's Eau Rouge, which generations of drivers have held as the ultimate test, as "without any concern".

Eau Rouge, a 180mph left-right-left sweep containing a dip and a crest, is the primary feature of Spa, which is regarded as the finest circuit left in the world of motorsport.

But Schumacher said: "The once popular Eau Rouge corner has lost a bit of its glamour.


Eau Rouge is one of the most awesome corners of any circuit
Jacques Villeneuve

"Today you can drive it without any concern, as the cars remain stable. There are certainly other corners in F1 that raise my heartbeat higher."

He added that safety at Spa needed to be revised to bring it up to date with other modern-day circuits.

"I am looking forward to the many fast sections of the track that suit our car very well, but on the other hand I believe this circuit is not up-to-date particularly in the run-off areas," the German said.

Renault driver Jenson Button backed up his former team-mate.

"I think the challenge is more in the heads of the media than the drivers. Sure it is exciting and different, but it is just one corner."

But they are in the minority among the Grand Prix drivers.

Most see being able to go through Eau Rouge without lifting off the throttle as the ultimate challenge in F1.

Jacques Villeneuve has had two massive shunts at Eau Rouge in the last four Belgian Grands Prix
Villeneuve was lucky to be unhurt by this 1999 crash

Schumacher's team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya said: "Of course Eau Rouge is a true test! I did take it flat three or four times last year."

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has had two huge accidents at Eau Rouge in the last four races at Spa because he sees taking it flat as a test of his bravery.

Villeneuve said: ¿Eau Rouge is one of the most awesome corners of any circuit.

"It¿s fast - very fast. You¿re going downhill, it turns just a little bit left, and as soon as you want to change direction the track starts going up.

"It¿s completely blind, you see a wall in front of you, and you turn again.

"It¿s too tight for the speed you¿re going actually and you shouldn¿t be able to go that fast through it. It¿s just fantastic.¿

Difficult to control

Eau Rouge would not be as much of a challenge in isolation because a driver could change his car's settings to allow him to take it flat out.

The difficulty comes in taking it flat in a car that is optimised for the entire 4.3-mile lap of Spa.

That is not easy, because the car bottoms out and becomes difficult to control in a compression at the bottom of a hill just as the driver is trying to flick the car right.

Then, a split-second later, the driver has to turn left into a corner called Raidillon just as the car goes light over a crest.

Highlight

McLaren star David Coulthard said: "Spa is a true drivers' circuit. It provides a real challenge and demands total focus the entire time, which makes it all the more satisfying when you put in a flying lap.

"The highlight of the track has to be the flat out blast through the legendary Eau Rouge, which is exhilarating when you get it spot on."

Renault's Jarno Trulli, who qualified second at Spa in a Jordan in 2000, added: "Eau Rouge is just different from any other corner during the whole season."

Button admitted that he had not taken the corner flat out in 2001 and that he would probably use only 60% throttle this season.

In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

On-track action

News

Jonathan Legard

Race statistics

F1 2002
See also:

03 Sep 01 | Formula One
02 Sep 01 | Formula One
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