Belgium preview quotes - Williams, Red Bull, Caterham & more 29 Aug 2012
With the August summer break complete, the Formula One paddock returns to race action next weekend at one of the sports most iconic venues, Spa-Francorchamps, beloved of teams, drivers and fans alike. Those involved in the 2012 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix discuss their prospects
Pastor Maldonado, Williams
2011 Qualifying - 16th, 2011 Race - 10th
Spa is a very special circuit for me because Ive had a lot of success there in the past and I really enjoy the layout. The circuit also has a lot of history so its a race that you want to do well at. It will also be interesting to see the performance of the other teams and find out who has made gains since we last raced. Im looking forward to getting going again after the summer break and hopefully we can build on the good progress weve shown so far this season and have a strong run of results in the second half of the year.
Bruno Senna, Williams
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Weve had a good streak of races recently and I had a solid result in Hungary so Im looking forward to keeping the momentum going. Spa is one of my favourite tracks and I raced there last year with the Pirelli tyres so that knowledge will help with our performance this time around. Qualifying will be important and Im looking to get into Q3 like I did in the last race and from there hopefully score some good points for the team.
Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer
Its great to be back racing again after the August break and the whole team has been preparing eagerly for the remaining nine races, eight of which are back to back. Spa is a fantastic circuit and an excellent challenge for the drivers and car alike. Were expecting rain at the beginning of the weekend but are hopeful for a dry qualifying and race. Setting the correct wing level with DRS is crucial around this track and one tends to see a number of different aerodynamic solutions. Pirelli are bringing their hard and medium tyres which were last used way back in Malaysia.
Remi Taffin, head of Renault Sport F1 track operations
The driver will encounter every sort of corner possible so we have to get the RS27 to perform over all levels of torque and revs. The engine needs to deliver good top end power for the long straights, yet a smooth power curve through the flowing corners like Blanchimont. Response is also key out of the slower hairpins and chicanes. We actually use Spa as a control circuit on the dyno to test an engines reliability as it puts so much stress on the internal parts. With such huge demands exerted, well be introducing fresh engines for this race.
Mark Webber, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 3rd, 2011 Race - 2nd
Spa is the best track to have after a break and its extremely rewarding for drivers at that venue. Its obviously remained pretty much unchanged for some time and it has a lot of character. Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives - its mind blowing. Its one of the classic tracks where you feel like an F1 car belongs on the circuit. Were looking forward to going there and challenging for the victory.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2011 Qualifying - 1st, 2011 Race - 1st
The Spa circuit is defined by the surrounding nature and its one of my favourite tracks. I was very happy to have won there last year. Spa offers every type of racing corner; ultra-fast, medium-fast and slow chicanes, that alternate with fast straights. The difference in altitude and the unpredictable weather really make the track a big challenge - and its one that every racing driver loves to compete on. Its good to be back after the summer break.
Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 17th, 2011 Race - 15th
"Spa is a legendary circuit, one of the greats and a race that every driver looks forward to. The track has changed over the years but it still retains a lot of the characteristics that make it so special. It's quick, the weather almost always makes it a real challenge and the fans are hardcore F1 supporters so the atmosphere is always good. Spa's also home to Eau Rouge, possibly the most famous corner in F1. It's still feels good as you head down the hill and start feeling the compression as you head back out onto the straight, but in all honesty it's not the challenge it used to be. You can go through there flat without any major issues and compared to what it must have been like when the cars had less downforce it's relatively tame. Despite that, you still have to get the line right and if you do and you're close enough to the car ahead you have a good chance to overtake on the run down to Les Combes.
"Before Eau Rouge you're on the throttle for about 20 seconds out of the hairpin and down the hill. You need to make sure you have a good exit out of the hairpin to have maximum speed through Eau Rouge and onto the first long straight or you can lose time and track position in the first sector. We then head down into turns five, six and seven which are taken in third gear and through which you can be pretty aggressive, using the kerbs to save lap time and pushing on into Rivage which is taken in first or, at best, second gear. Rivage is slightly off-camber so the cars tend to fall off the track a bit and you can't really attack other cars into there. Sometimes you see the front rights locking up into that corner as the cars struggle for grip and there's a bump on the exit to deal with. The key is to carry as much speed as you can out of Rivage and down the hill through turn nine and into Pouhon which is another of Spa's most famous corners.
"Inside the cockpit Pouhon is a good test. You head into it on full power, lift off a tiny bit and then you're straight back on the throttle. It's quite tight on the entry but then it opens up on the exit so you can carry a fair amount of speed through it and out onto turns 12, 13 and 14 which are pretty similar to five, six and seven. After that you're into turn 15, pretty much at the bottom of the valley and on your way back up to the start / finish straight. Turn 17 is Blanchimont, the third of the famous Spa corners and another one that these days we take flat. Like Eau Rouge it's not quite what it was a few years ago, but you still need to have the car set up right to go in and out of there flat and carry the speed through to the final chicane at turns 18 / 19. Braking into there is crucial - you need to make sure you don't lose time through the final two turns and back out onto the run down to turn one. That's a lap of Spa. It's rightfully one of the great races and even though it usually rains for at least half the race weekend it's still one everyone looks forward to. After a good break and the move to our new home in Leafield the whole team is up for it and we can't wait to get back on track."
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
2011 Qualifying - 10th, 2011 Race - 9th
"It's been a good break but I can't wait to get back to racing. Spa's the perfect place for the season to start again as it is one of the great tracks we race on. It's always a real pleasure to go back to Belgium and for the drivers the circuit itself gives us one of the best challenges of the season. Driving an F1 car around there flat out is a very special feeling as it has everything you want; really quick corners like Blanchimont where you can feel the downforce pushing the car into the track; elevation changes, Eau Rouge for example, where you need to have the right setup to make sure you can really push in, through and out of each corner; and massive history. There are so many stories about previous races and what the place was like back in the old days when it was much longer, you can't help but feel how special it is. The atmosphere is pretty incredible all weekend. There are thousands of fans on track from Thursday right through to Sunday, like Canada, Japan and the UK and it's another one of those races that they absolutely love. For the fans it must be pretty cool seeing the cars come down the hill and into Eau Rouge - it's one of the few places in the whole calendar they can really see the cars working at maximum capability and that helps make it such a good weekend for everyone.
"One of the big topics of conversation all weekend is the weather. It's the same every year and we all know what we're going to face there, but there is almost a unique micro-climate around the track. It can be dry on the start line and pouring with rain down at turn 14, so you can't let your concentration slip for one second and the engineers and mechanics have to be right on it all weekend to take advantage of the weather changes, which can happen very quickly. I like the wet, it's a massive test of car control and skill and at somewhere like Spa that's even more true. The spray seems to hang in the air and visibility can be pretty bad when it rains, but it's the same for everyone and it gives us a chance to do something special if the guys ahead make even the smallest of mistakes.The whole team is heading to Spa in a very good mood. The factory move was done without any problems during the break and that puts us in a great position to keep fighting for the second half of the season. We may not have achieved what we set out to so far this season, but we're getting there and with Leafield now up and running, we have everything in place to bridge the gap to the cars ahead."
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
"Before looking ahead to Spa it I want to thank everybody involved in helping make the move to Leafield so smooth. It was a huge task but one that was managed efficiently, quickly and with a minimum of fuss. On behalf of the whole team I also want to thank Tony and Kamarudin for investing in such a good new facility for us. The move to Leafield puts us firmly in the middle of the UK's motorsport valley and gives us a site we can expand into for many years to come, giving us the platform we need to grow into an operation that can challenge for long-term honours. Now that the move is complete our immediate focus turns to Spa, Monza and the rest of the season. Obviously we could not work on the car during the August break, but before and after the holiday we have been working on a slightly revised exhaust layout and a number of small aero updates to areas like the brake ducts. As most of the teams will, at Spa we will be running with medium levels of downforce, similar to what was run in Canada, and then for Monza we will be running low downforce settings. We do not have any major updates at either race, but for Singapore we have some new parts that will be run for the first time when we head back to the Far East.
"We will then be bringing updates to every race until the end of the season and while the refurbishment program at Leafield may create a few technical and logistical challenges in our update schedule, we already have plans in place to work around any issues that may crop up, and are determined to fight until the last lap of the last race of the season."
Tony Fernandes, Caterham team principal
"I am delighted we are back and racing. It has only been a few weeks since the team packed up in Hungary and headed to Leafield for the first time to unpack the trucks, but as we are starting the second half of the 2012 season at our new permanent home in Oxfordshire it does feel a little like we are starting fresh all over again. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard to help make the move as seamless as possible and I want to thank them for their efforts over the August break, and to give a very warm welcome to them and everyone who comes to Leafield in the future. I cannot stress highly enough how important the move to the new factory has been. On one level it is fantastic to see just how motivated everybody in the team is to be starting work in our new home and on another level Leafield sends out the clearest possible message about our long-term aspirations. We have invested a considerable sum in purchasing the site and refurbishing it to bring it up to the standards needed to compete for honours in F1, GP2 and all the motorsport categories we take part in now and in the future. That investment puts in place the final piece of the jigsaw needed to take the next step and join the midfield - now we have no excuses.
"In addition to the Leafield move we also have more good news coming at Spa on the commercial front. We have another major new sponsor joining the team from the Belgian Grand Prix and their logos will be proudly displayed across the cars and the whole team. We will be unveiling that new partnership on the Thursday of the race weekend and that will send out another very powerful message about how serious we are about taking the fight to the teams ahead. We have not scored our first point yet, and we have much more work to do to chip away at that gap to the pack ahead, which is now less than one second, but it is fair to say we are disappointed with where we are, as I am sure many people who follow us are. However, the belief that we can achieve what we have set out to is what drives us on and we have to remember that just 35 months ago we did not even exist. Since the first day of this team we have had to fight extremely hard and, off track, we have had to deal with two major court cases. Both cases we have had to face, with Group Lotus and Force India, have been painful processes, for the team and personally for everybody involved, but we have not let them distract us.
"Whilst those fights were being won in court we have continued to make significant progress on track, particularly compared to the other two teams who joined the sport at the same time as us. We are absolutely determined to keep building on that progress and use the passion we have to join the midfield to keep pushing us forwards, and we will get there. We have everything in place to accomplish our goals and with the fierce determination we have to succeed we can kick on from there and keep climbing up the grid."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
The Spa circuit is a personal favourite of mine. I recently visited the 24-hour race there: the configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing. From a tyre perspective, its certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year, because of the high speeds and extreme forces involved, which are often acting on the tyres in more than one dimension. The nomination of the hard and the medium tyres will allow drivers to push hard from start to finish, which is what Spa was designed for. The first half of the season began with the most close and competitive start to a year ever seen in Formula Ones history, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2012 pans out, and which teams have made which steps forward over the summer break. Currently the grid is so closely-matched - particularly in the midfield - that its impossible to predict.
Jaime Alguersuari, Pirelli test driver
I think Spa is a fantastic race because of its rich sporting history. It is also home to some of the most famous corners on the Formula One circuit, including Eau Rouge and Blanchimont. There are a lot of high-speed corners, but also some straights making it a very fast circuit. Spa will challenge both the drivers and the teams as it is a circuit that requires a medium-downforce set-up and good mechanical grip. For me, next week will be very interesting as I set my fastest qualifying in Spa last year. My most recent test with Pirelli was also in Belgium and you will struggle to find any driver that does not enjoy this race. From a tyre point of view, Spa is relatively smooth, so it is not tough on the tyres but it does pose its own unique challenges. There are a lot of high-speed areas where considerable lateral force is put on the construction of the sidewall. It is similar to Japans Suzuka race circuit, and requires the same set-up and handling.
Timo Glock, Marussia
2011 Qualifying - 20th, 2011 Race - 18th
After such a long summer break, everyone in the team seems revitalised and ready to embark on the next important phase of the season. I myself had a nice mix of relaxation and training and now Im looking forward to getting back to racing. Over the next nine races we will be working hard to optimise our current package, at the same time as doing some important work towards next year. Those races will take place over just 14 weeks though, so with the long haul phase it will be non-stop action. To come back racing in Spa is a perfect way to pick up the rest of the season. Its one of my favourite races, with a historic circuit that has a fascinating layout. The track is very fast and long with some very tricky corners, so any small mistake ruins the lap. The weather is often a factor, especially due to its changeability. Rain can come very quickly, but this is part of the thrill of racing here. Im really excited and looking forward to the weekend ahead.
Charles Pic, Marussia
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
I ended the first part of the season on a strong note, partly due to the teams improved performance, and satisfied with my progress so far in my debut season. The break has given me time to reflect on those 11 races, which seemed to pass by so quickly, and my plan is to consolidate everything I have learned from the team and the car and wrap it all together to have what I hope will be an even stronger second part of the year. The summer holiday has been good for all of at the Marussia F1 Team and everyone seems refreshed and buzzing with enthusiasm for the next nine races, most of which are overseas, so it will be a busy time. Spa is a fantastic circuit so I cant wait to be back racing there next weekend. The whole experience is very challenging for a driver; the circuit has such a special atmosphere because of its heritage. Im looking forward to racing there in a Formula 1 car for the first time and picking up where we left off in Hungary.
John Booth, Marussia team principal
Across the whole team theres a real sense that we cant wait to get back to racing. The break has been good for us and were ready to get on the road again. Timo and Charles seem invigorated, so we look forward to positive things from the second half of the season. Spa is a great place to get things started. Not only do we all love this circuit, but this year we mark the occasion of our 50th Grand Prix there, which is an important milestone within the team. A lot has happened in the short space of two and half seasons of racing but were a stronger team as a result and equipped now to go on to bigger and better things. It has been quite nice to note how many of the team have been with us since the very beginning - Timo included of course. In young teams a lot can change - especially its people - so its very encouraging that we keep building on our original strong core. As for the race itself, we hope to get the remaining Grands Prix off to a strong start in Spa and keep closing the gap to the front of the field.
Jenson Button, McLaren
2011 Qualifying - 13th, 2011 Race - 3rd
The past few weeks have been a perfect combination of a bit of downtime to relax and some great training, all of which has had me raring to get back in the car. Ive been out in the Philippines; and Hawaii, training, and having a bit of a holiday and then back in the UK for a bit more of the same and while Ive had a great break, Im really looking forward to getting back to work.
In fact, you couldnt really ask for a more spectacular double-header for F1s return: Spa is the daddy of them all, one of the all-time great grand prix tracks, and Monza is one of the most historic and evocative circuits on the calendar.
Theyre each places with their own unique atmosphere. Ive got some really great memories of both circuits, but Ive won neither. Given our pace in the last few races, I go forward feeling positive about rectifying that over the coming weekends.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2011 Qualifying - 2nd, 2011 Race - DNF
My win in Hungary was a fantastic way to go into the summer break: it had the added bonus of sending the whole team away for their holidays with a positive feeling in their hearts. Its also given me the hope and assurance that we can come back for the final nine races with a real chance to go for both world championships.
I really couldnt be happier that the season gets back down to business again in Belgium. Spa is one of the best circuits in the world - its always a buzz to nail a fast lap around there, and, after five weeks out of the cockpit, that first lap on Friday morning is going to feel absolutely sensational.
Given the unpredictability of the sport, I think its still difficult to predict accurately wholl win the next grand prix, but I reckon the coming few weeks ought to give us a much clearer idea of the destination of the world title.
Its going to be an extremely tough, tactical and interesting finale to the season. Theres no team with a clear advantage - although were all pushing hard to catch Fernando [Alonso]s points tally in the drivers championship - so theres still everything to play for.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
The summer break has given everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the chance to rest and recharge our batteries ahead of the nine remaining Grands Prix - all of which are set to be thrilling and fascinating in equal measure.
It feels appropriate to be returning to the fray at Spa-Francorchamps. Formula Ones historic venues provide us with a richly storied backdrop that few sports can match, and Spa is truly one of the greats. Everybody is looking forward to hearing the engines fire up in anger once more, and there are few better places on earth to watch a Formula One car at speed than around Spa.
Following the mandatory factory shutdown, were fortunate to have had two full weeks available to prepare ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. As usual, were heading into this double-header hopeful of closing the gap to the leaders in both the drivers and constructors championships. Lewiss victory in Hungary certainly provided further proof to us that we can take on the fight for both - and that remains our aim: to win both world championships.
Paul di Resta, Force India
2011 Qualifying - 18th, 2011 Race - 11th
Spa is a great place to begin the second part of the season. Its one of the best tracks in the world and it always feels special to go back there. I never had the chance to race there a lot in my junior career so its nice to be able to go there and experience such an impressive range of corners in a Formula One car.
I think the summer break was good for everybody. I spent the time at home, seeing friends, watching the Olympics and keeping up with my training. Were only half way through the season and the next few months are probably the busiest of the year with lots of fly-away races so it was important to relax and come back fresh.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Spa is a great track. Theres just such a great flow to the circuit with some mighty corners that are incredible. Its definitely one of the best places to drive a Formula One car to feel the performance through the high-speed corners. It is one of my favourite tracks.
It was nice to have a break and cool down a little, but to be honest it has been long enough now and Im looking forward to getting back to the racing. I spent a lot of time in Germany and at home, visiting family and friends who I don't get to see very often, which was really nice. I also went to Majorca for a week - we Germans love it there!
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
2011 Qualifying - 12th, 2011 Race - 12th
Spa-Francorchamps is one of my favourite circuits. I like its high-speed corners, and I also like how this track is integrated into the landscape with a lot of greenery. This gives it a very special atmosphere. However, the weather is very unpredictable and can influence qualifying or the race significantly. Due to the length of this track, it can sometimes be that one part of it is completely dry while, at the same time, another part can be completely wet. But Im confident we can be very competitive under all kinds of conditions in Spa because the characteristics of this track with its fast corners should suit our car. Im really looking forward to this race.
Sergio Perez, Sauber
2011 Qualifying - 9th, 2011 Race - DNF
Spa-Francorchamps is quite a daunting track with a great history. It has its own character and circuits like that are difficult to find nowadays. I am very much looking forward to racing there again. I believe it is one of the favourites of any racing driver. It is also challenging, and it is good to start the second part of the season with it. I believe the fast circuit in the Ardennes will suit our car. We should get everything right there and make sure we start into a productive second part of the season. Last year I qualified ninth there, but retired in the race. In what will be my second Formula One Grand Prix in Spa I want to at least score points.
Giampaolo DallAra, Sauber head of track engineering
For drivers as well as for engineers Spa-Francorchamps is quite a challenging track. The downforce level is lower than on most other tracks, which is due to the long full throttle sections as well as the layout of the corners, which are mainly high speed with only a few low speed ones. With regard to set-up, its not an easy track, and its also quite demanding on the tyres, which this time will be the two hardest compounds - medium and hard. This is a logical choice, because the surface is quite abrasive, and theres a lot of load on the tyres in the high speed sections. But then you have this unpredictable weather. In the morning the track is often damp, and the conditions can change very quickly, which you have to consider when preparing for the weekend as well as during the race, when you might have to adapt the strategy. We will obviously use the medium downforce wings, and there will be some minor modifications to the car in view of the configuration we are running. Overall, I think we can expect a strong weekend for our team.
Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
Usually Ive achieved good results at the Belgian Grand Prix, but whats happened before doesnt help me right now. Saying that though, it doesnt do any harm either. Obviously it would be great to win at Spa for a fifth time. I havent won during the first part of the season and the extra points are always good. For me there have only been good memories from Spa and its great to go racing there. You cant get the same kind of a feeling anywhere else. Its great to race with a modern racing car at a proper circuit that has such a great tradition.
Spa offers very challenging high-speed corners and you need to get the right set-up for the car. As weve seen so many times this year, a good grid position is extremely important and it could be decisive at Spa too. Everybody knows it. Its crucial to have a strong car aerodynamically to tackle those fast corners. Its a long lap and to get a fast time you really need to maintain good rhythm. So much can depend on the qualifying result, so we need to find a decent set-up on Friday and Saturday and have a solid qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
I bet every driver likes Spa. For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is my favourite place. Ive liked it since my first ever visit there in 2000 with Formula Renault.
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
What a track - its fantastic! Its a superb rollercoaster of a circuit, then theres the added bonus that they speak French meaning its another home race for me after Monaco and Canada. Its going to be good. I hope the upgrades to the car are going to make the difference. If wed had the pace we displayed at Budapest on a more normal track with better places to overtake we could have taken the win. Spa is a more regular circuit with good passing opportunities, so lets see what happens. It should fit the E20 pretty well. The second half of the season looks good in terms of how the tracks should suit the car. Hopefully well have everything we need to win races. Im looking forward to it as its a special track; its Spa and also I won the GP2 Series title there last year. Itll be good to be back there again.
James Allison, Lotus technical director
If its a dry weekend Spa fits the category of circuit at which we are most confident, so all of us are excited to be going there. If its a wet weekend its a much more open question; for all teams, not just for us. It frequently rains at Spa, so we have to be prepared for that possibility. Weve had various wet experiences so far this season, with the inclement weather coming mainly in qualifying. At Silverstone we were okay in wet conditions, but in Germany we struggled to get the wet tyre into its temperature operating window. Should we have the same situation at Spa, the nature of the corners and the loadings on the tyres should be sufficient to generate enough heat in the rubber, so were not unduly concerned. We would prefer a dry weekend, but we should be competitive whatever the weather.
(We have) quite a lot of different bits (for the car). Weve also been focusing on ensuring that we have the capability to run the new device in Spa should we be confident enough to do so. I rather like (the term) The Device as it has a sort of Dr Strangelove appeal to it, but most people refer to it as DDRS (Double Drag Reduction System).
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
"Spa is one of the drivers favourite tracks; its spectacular and difficult, not only because of the type of corners but also because of the weather, since one part of the track can be dry whilst another is wet, so you have to be able to adapt quickly. Were going to use the same medium downforce that worked so well in Canada so we hope to perform well despite the large amount of high speed corners. Weve all returned full of energy from the holidays and I personally arrive in my best physical condition of the season and really looking forward to taking on the second half of the championship.
Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
2011 Qualifying - n/a, 2011 Race - n/a
"Spa is a drivers track. I won here in my Formula Three days so I have some nice memories and the atmosphere is always great. Even though a lot of run-off has been added over the years, it still has some of the most challenging corners on the calendar. And then theres the classic Spa weather which nearly always plays a part in the final result. Well be using the same medium rear wing which worked well in Canada so we hope it goes well in Spa and aim to maintain our progress throughout the second part of the championship. Were back after a much deserved break after an especially intense start to the season for us and were really looking forward to it.
Dani Clos, HRT test driver
"Once again I have a chance to step into the car and work for the team and that fills me with satisfaction. Especially after having run in the events leading up to the summer break, for me it is really important to stay active and be able to continue growing alongside my team mates Pedro and Narain. Spa is a circuit where I have great memories. I won my first international one-seater race there, thats something you never forget and it makes me have special feelings for this circuit. Ive been able to rest these days, at least by not travelling, but I havent stopped training and Ive stepped up the rhythm since last week to make it to Belgium in prime conditions to be able to give it my all.
Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal
"After the summer we head into the Belgian Grand Prix with a lot of hunger and desire. Were starting the second part of the championship and we will try to continue in the same manner as the first part and improve. Spa is a circuit that the drivers really like because it is the longest in the championship and is made up of a combination of fast and slow corners, besides being located in a beautiful area. It is a medium-downforce circuit and the temperatures arent extreme so we shouldnt have any reliability issues. The weather is always unpredictable in Spa so we have to be ready to take on any situation.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying - 24th, 2011 Race - 5th
Spa is like my living room; for me, it's clearly the number one race track in the world. It's uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there - my debut, my first win, a world championship victory and many great races. The fact that I will also take part in my 300th Grand Prix at Spa was somehow almost inevitable and we will have to celebrate it in the right way. I'm proud to be just the second driver in the history of the sport to reach this milestone and there's no question that we are looking to have a particularly nice weekend. We delivered a good performance in Spa last year; I'll be doing everything possible to drive a strong race.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2011 Qualifying - 5th, 2011 Race - 6th
I always look forward to racing at Spa; it's one of the highlights of the season and definitely one of my favourite tracks. The circuit itself is outstanding, with of course the most exciting corner of the calendar in Eau Rouge. It's been nice to have a break over the last month and for everyone at the team to have some time to relax with their families, but we're all looking forward to the action starting again in the second half of the season. There's a lot of hard work ahead to make sure we are competing where we want to be and challenging towards the front of the field.
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
The summer break has given everyone at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth some time to relax and recharge the batteries before the intense second half of the season begins. Although there have only been a few working days to make improvements around the shutdown period, we have been working hard towards our aim of an improved performance in the second half of the season. Spa is one of the real classic circuits which is much loved by drivers, engineers and the fans. It's a great circuit to watch the cars, and you're almost guaranteed an exciting weekend with varied weather thrown into the mix. For the second year in succession, Spa will be a special occasion for Michael and the team as we follow his 20th anniversary last year by celebrating his 300th Grand Prix this time around. It is a fantastic achievement which has so far only been matched by one other driver, and we look forward to celebrating with him, and hopefully a strong weekend.
Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
Spa is a traditional circuit that sets the drivers and teams big challenges, and demands a complete range of performance from both the chassis and the engine. On a qualifying lap, the engines spend 23 seconds and nearly two kilometres at full throttle between La Source hairpin and turn five at Les Combes - the highest value of the season. On the other hand, the second sector contains ten of the circuit's 19 corners, so good levels of medium and high-speed downforce are required.
Experience shows that the typical Ardennes weather almost inevitably plays a role during the weekend and, when it does, the circuit usually ranges from damp to very wet. Around the two-week summer shutdown that every team observed, our team has been hard at work since the last race in Hungary in order to prepare as well as possible for Spa. Spa 2012 is also a special race for our team because Michael will take part in his 300th Grand Prix weekend. In 1991, Michael started his first race in Spa; in 1992, he won the first of 91 victories so far in Spa; and last year, on the 20th anniversary of his first start, he finished in fifth position after starting last on the grid. Everybody in our team will be working in a focused way to help Nico and Michael score the best possible results next weekend.
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