“I’ve raced here before in F3 and GP3, so that will help for sure. I couldn’t have wished for a better place to start my F1 racing career. Spa is a magical circuit, with so much history and such a technical challenge for a driver. Plus it’s pretty close to being a home race for me. All of that makes this weekend pretty special.
“It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of for so long. I can’t wait to get started. The last two weeks have seemed like an eternity, but I’ve had a good break with plenty of time to think about how I’m going to approach things, so I’m ready to go!
“I want to do a good job of getting to know the car, my crew, the whole team and get a really good weekend as something to build on. That’s my goal.
“I have some family here this weekend to cheer me on. We’re all very close, so this is a big weekend for them after all the support I’ve had getting to this point. I want to do well for them.”
“I missed the racing! It was nice to spend time with family and friends though and think about the first 12 races. I’m glad the guys in the team had a good rest and I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off in Germany. There’s a lot to play for in the next nine races and we have a good base to build from.
“Every driver loves Spa. Lots of long straights and fast corners, and a real challenge. I’m excited about my first F1 race here.”
Dave Ryan, racing director
“It’s great to see the team looking refreshed and ready for action again. It was a pretty intense first half of the season and the next nice races will bring their own pressures, so it’s really good that everyone got to kick back and spend time with family doing normal everyday things that they don’t often get the chance to do. My hobby, when I get the chance, is restoring a couple of sports cars, so the break was a bit was a bit of a busman’s holiday for me!
“Pretty much. We saw Esteban just before the break, when he came to the factory, met the team, had his first seat fit and we ran through how we work things. He came back to Banbury for a couple of days earlier this week and seems to have slotted in really well. There’s a lot for him to learn and get to grips with, but he seems very calm and measured, and he’s soaking it all up.
“We need to keep pushing hard to achieve our objective of finishing in at least 10th place in the championship. We have some updates yet to come and two hungry drivers focused on the team goal. It’s a busy few months ahead with nine rounds in 14 weekends, but I hope we can see good progress on track in that time and enjoy the rest of the season.”
"This is definitely one of my favourite tracks, mainly because of the high speed corners. It’s extremely enjoyable to drive. It’s normally quite a good track for us, the only thing with Belgium is that the weather can be quite unpredictable across the weekend. It’s definitely one of the best circuits in the world so I’m really looking forward to going back. We were on the podium there in 2014, so that’s a good memory. I’ve also had quite a bit of success in Belgium with Formula Renault, Formula 3 and GP3 so it’s always one of the best tracks to go to for me."
"Belgium is one of the best tracks in Formula One. Most of the drivers love the old style, including me. I’m really looking forward to having a great race at Spa. It’s a place that can be wet and dry pretty much at the same time, so I hope it will be a good weekend for us and that we have a fantastic race. It’s always a pleasure to race there and feel the car perform at one of the best tracks in the world. I’ve got great memories from Belgium – I’ve been on the podium and I won there in 2008. It’s definitely a place I always enjoy visiting and a great pleasure to race around."
"The first thing to say is that we expect dry and warm weather all weekend which is not typical of the conditions that we tend to see in Spa. The circuit itself is quite interesting with high power and drag sensitivity favouring low drag and powerful power units. Top speed is particularly important, so most cars are set-up with low drag, compromising speed in sector two to give them better opportunities to overtake into turns five and 18. Teams also tend to run cars quite stiff as you need good change of direction and whilst Eau Rouge is no longer a difficult corner, you still need to be cautious with ride heights to ensure the car doesn’t bottom-out there. Spa places high demands on tyres. In typical cool temperatures we would expect to see front graining at the start of the weekend with more even front and rear wear by race day. We are back to medium, soft and supersoft compounds which we have plenty of experience with this year, which combined with the 7km lap, means we expect to see most cars on two-stop strategies. Spa is a circuit which should favour us and our target will be to challenge from the start to get some good points."
“Looking back to last year’s Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, my memories are not too bad. I was able to score points by finishing both races in the top ten - in tenth and ninth. I remember we had a decent pace in both races last year, and I hope we can achieve similar results this time as well. In comparison to other circuits, the track at Spa is quite long with some interesting corners and passages - Eau Rouge, Blanchimont, Pouhon and so on. Engine power is the crucial factor - as it also is in Monza. On this circuit, which is the fastest on the calendar, we need to find a compromise with the downforce level giving us a high straight-line speed, but also finding the right set-up for a stable and fast car through the chicanes. There is always a thrilling atmosphere in the Autodromo, and the Italians are really passionate about motorsport.”
“Spa-Francorchamps is the opener of the second part of the season - and my favourite circuit on the calendar. The track is unique, having a lot of high-speed corners and a great corner combination. As a driver you get a nice flow going - up and down - through these corner combinations. From the technical side, the combination of low downforce and traction is essential to be competitive. At Monza we also need to find an efficient balance for being fast on the straights and not losing too much time in the corners. The flow is really nice too, with Parabolica being my favourite corner. Monza is an historic and unique circuit for me. I know the circuit well from every series I have come through. It reminds me a lot of the time when I moved to Italy in 2009 as a young racing driver. Back then I lived very close to Monza.”
“When I think of Spa-Francorchamps, the first thing that comes to my mind is Eau Rouge - it's a corner I really enjoy and where you need to be brave and go for it!
“The straight after that is quite long and a good spot to try and overtake your rivals. You then arrive to Turns 5 and 6, a fast chicane, and you then need to prepare the exit out of Turn 7 well.
“Turns 12 and 13 form another fast chicane, and the exit out of Turn 14 is important as you then drive flat out until the end of the lap.
“This is a very special track which I really enjoy; it's high-speed, full of elevation changes and with many fast-flowing corners which make it very exciting for the driver. The second sector in particular is the part I enjoy the most, as it includes a lot of cool corners.
“I can't wait to race there again!”
“Spa-Francorchamps is, together with Silverstone, my favourite track. I'd describe it as the best track in the world!
“Turn 1, the La Source hairpin, is a good overtaking spot. Turn 2 is the famous Eau Rouge, which is flat out, even though you always doubt if to do so during your first lap in FP1… It's probably the best corner in the world, it's amazing!
“We then get to Les Combes, another good place for overtaking and Turns 5 and 6 form a fast chicane which is taken in fourth gear - it's nice and flowing. Turn 8 is a very long corner and then we arrive to another of my favourite corners, Turn 10, which I'd say is as nice as Eau Rouge.
“Turns 12 and 13 create another fast chicane and the key to Turn 14 is to get a good exit. It's then all flat out from Turn 15 until the last chicane, where you can also try and overtake the car in front.
“I am really looking forward to racing here, it's a unique race weekend!”
“It’s crazy how quickly this year is going by. It seems like a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona for winter testing and now we’re through the summer break, heading to Spa. The first half of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster, so it’s great to be in the position I’m in with more than half of the races behind us. There will be more up and downs to come, I’m sure. But the way myself and the team have performed so far gives me huge confidence. I’m feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready to go after a fun few weeks off, so hopefully everyone else has had a good rest too and we’ll come out fighting. Spa is a great track - one that every driver enjoys. It was great to finally get back on the top step there last year, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to have another strong race this time around. It’s been such a proud few weeks for British sport, with the Olympics and then Cal Crutchlow becoming the first British MotoGP winner in more than 30 years. I’ll do my best to keep the flag flying this weekend. A big shout-out to the British fans heading out to this one. I’m sure they’ll be out in force as always!”
“It’s been great to have a couple of weeks with the family to relax and recharge the batteries. I’ve loved every minute - but now it’s time to get back to work! For me, it’s like a clean slate at this stage. What’s happened so far this season is in the past. I can’t wait to get in that car, put my foot down and get everything I can from these next races. Belgium is a great place to kick start the year after the break. It’s such an awesome track, with so many challenges and usually some crazy weather just to mix things up even more. If you ask any driver they will tell you how much they love racing here. And, if you look back through the years, there have been some great moments too - that mega move from Mika Hakkinen on Michael Schumacher down the Kemmel straight, for example. All of that history just makes it even more special, so I’d love to add my name to the winner’s list. I’m feeling strong in myself, I know I’ll have the best car out there and I’m massively pumped to be back on track, so let’s see how it goes.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“We return from the summer break with fresh energy for the next phase of the season - and we will need all of that energy, as time and again we’re reminded that nothing is clear cut. We were expecting Hungary to be tough, with Hockenheim playing more to our strengths. That wasn’t the case. It’s an unusual situation to be winning for so long, so you can’t expect it to last - especially against opposition with such passion and resource as those around us. We will continue to fight hard. For the drivers, it’s the same story. There are more than 200 points to be won in their title battle and a lot of racing to be done yet. Lewis is on an impressive run, just like Nico had at the end of last season and into this one. The advantage constantly swings, so it will be exciting to see how their battle pans out. We’re also pleased to see both of our Junior drivers side-by-side at Manor, with Esteban (Ocon) joining Pascal (Wehrlein) on the grid from this weekend. The coming races will be important for both of their development, so we will watch their progress with great interest. There is plenty to be excited about heading into these next nine races. I, for one, can’t wait to get back out there.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“Spa is one of the truly great Formula One venues, with long straights, a range of high-speed corners and significant elevation change creating spectacular racing and making it tough to find the best setup. You need a car which is quick through the corners for good lap time - but the long Kemmel straight leaves drivers prone to overtaking if they’re carrying too much drag. The speed they can carry through Eau Rouge is also crucial, with significant compression through this corner a notable setup consideration. Today, with the Hybrid systems, energy management also comes into play. Drivers must manage the lap wisely to protect against attack from behind and give themselves the best chance of making a pass themselves. There is so much variety and opportunity in the circuit. It’s a great formula and one which new venues should look to emulate. What’s more, thousands of enthusiastic fans from across Europe flock to this race and camp around the circuit. I have huge respect for them, as it can get very cold and wet out there. This is definitely a race which sorts the true fans from the glamour seekers! It’s important to get a good result here, as it’s a good test of all-round performance and sets you up for the rest of the season, so we’ll be pushing hard.”
“I love it [Spa-Franchorchamps]. I remember the first lap I did there in 2009 in a Formula Renault 2.0 car. That car is way too slow for the track! You need an F1 car as it is just so big. I feel very lucky to have done it now as you can appreciate the flow and speed of the corners. I love Eau Rouge - even though it’s flat now it’s still so enjoyable to go through. On top of Eau Rouge you can run the kerb and straightline a lot so it’s a bit of a shame it’s not gravel or wall on the outside as would make it even more of a challenge. In the wet it is still a massive corner and you can guarantee it will be wet at some point over the weekend! It’s one of my favourite corners.
“The track is so long that it can be wet in one part of the track and dry in the other. In these cases your normal cut off points for intermediate, wet and dry tyres go out of the window as you have to judge how much you will gain on slicks in some corners versus the risk of wet in other. It’s one of the main difficulties of Spa.
“I have won in everything I have raced (there), except F1, but I have had some fun races. I held back Alonso for the whole race… he was very annoyed with me and I actually ended up getting a penalty for defending too hard, but I definitely enjoyed that one!
“The car felt good [at the last round in Germany] and we were competitive in the first two stints on the supersoft tyre but ran too long on them. The two stop strategy didn’t really work but at least we showed at the start that we were competitive. With the right strategy we could have fought with Toro Rosso at the end of the race. I hope we can be at this level in Spa again.”
“When I first drove it [Spa] thought, I remember I thought it was incredible. The first thing that hits you is Eau Rouge. It’s just awesome. You see it on TV, or on the onboards or on the Xbox, but it is even better the first time you drive it. Nothing prepares you for heading flat out down the hill and then coming up the other side and down that straight. In the dry we are now easily flat, maybe just slightly under with high fuel in the race, but it’s a real corner.
“The whole circuit feels very flowing and you can appreciate the size of it. Pouhon is a very quick double apex left and it is probably the biggest challenge now. It also goes downhill so you pick up so much speed - even with the run off, if you get it wrong you’ll be off. Blanchimont is now easy flat but leads into the Bus Stop chicane, which is a great overtaking place when you scream round at the end of a fast lap. It’s very easy to get wrong, but hard to get right.
“I actually won my first race at Spa, which was in Formula Palmer Audi. I remember it was wet - as always for Spa! I’ve had podiums in GP2 since but have always missed a win somewhere. I also started on the front row last time I went there. I’ve had some good memories but I’m eager to make some more!
“Qualifying is important, but in the race overtaking is easier than at other races. The biggest thing is to keep one eye on the weather as you always need to be on the right tyres at the right time. If you get caught out it’s such a long lap that it can take you two minutes to get back to the pits and change tyres, by which time you would have lost so many positions.”
Bob Bell, chief technical officer
“Spa is the longest track of the year at 7km and very fast with a good mix of high and medium speed corners, sweeping sections and some low speed corners in the mix. There’s also elevation changes and you always have unpredictable weather too! It will be difficult for us, but the work we have done in the last races should stand us in good stead. We’ve got a better handle on car balance and I think we should be able to keep our current level of performance. We’ve not got a major upgrade, but we should see the progress made in the last two races transfer forward to Spa. We fought with Haas and Toro Rosso and I think we are capable of getting on their tails again. There will be some developments coming through that were scheduled to come on stream in the second part of the year so even though our focus will primarily be on 2017 after the shutdown, we should still be able to improve upon our current level of form.”
Fred Vasseur, team principal
“If you look at the last two or three events, we are improving but we need to be focussed on the smaller details. We need to look at set-up and strategy and make sure we are doing a better job compared to the last events. We also need to understand tyre management a bit better. Over the last two or three races we have looked at it a lot and we have a much better understanding now, so we need to keep on with this trajectory. We are improving on the grid but if you look at race pace we are always better off than in qualifying. This means we need to get more from the Saturday situation. We are going in the right direction but we need to find two or three tenths and it is in the smaller details we need to improve and find it.”
Paul Hembery, motorsport director
“Spa-Francorchamps needs no introduction as one of the most iconic circuits out there. For the tyres, it’s a demanding track with the sort of high-energy loads that make it absolutely thrilling to drive. It’s not easy to find the right set-up but with such a long lap and plenty of overtaking opportunities, there are a number of different strategy permutations possible. During the summer break we’ve started testing the 2017-size tyres, and we look forward to a busy second half of the season as we continue the testing campaign and also move straight on to our home race the weekend after Belgium.”
“It’s time to go racing again! I’ve enjoyed the summer break, spent some time with my family in Asturias and at my kart circuit, enjoyed a break in California and managed to fit in some training too, so it’s been well spent. It’s also been a good opportunity to reflect on the first half of the year, the progress we’ve made, and channel our energy into the second half of the season. As a team, we’re getting stronger and stronger, and I’m looking forward to getting going again.
“Spa is a great challenge and the perfect venue to come to after the summer break. I feel refreshed and raring to go, and ready to take on the incredible twists and turns of this legendary track. There’s a lot to think about at this circuit: strategy, tyres, fuel, power unit management, and then there’s the weather. This is the sort of circuit that always throws up something unpredictable and there’s usually some drama during the race, so I hope we can fight hard and take advantage of any situation that comes our way.
“Spa is an incredible circuit that definitely deserves its reputation as a legendary place to go racing. You have to have a strong package there, in terms of performance and reliability. More than 70 percent of the lap is spent at full throttle, which will be a challenge in itself, but we’ve shown over the past few races that, even on the circuits that statistically should be difficult for us, we’ve worked hard and surprised ourselves with our level of performance relative to our competitors.
“It’s a long lap, with two very high-speed sections and a twistier section, so we have to find the right balance between the two to get the best car set-up. We’re seeing good correlation between the data back at base and in the car on track, so I hope we can continue our momentum and get the maximum out of the weekend. This circuit is always a tough challenge for car and driver but if we can pull all the elements together we can enjoy a positive weekend. It won’t be an easy race, but as always we’ll be pushing for points as hard as we can.”
“I love Spa! Eau Rouge is one of those fabled corners that drivers and fans always talk about - but it really is that special. The feeling of the sweep uphill through the corners is just awesome, every time. As well as being the longest circuit on the calendar, it also has an average speed of 230km/h (143mph), so it’s pretty quick! That means it’s pretty brutal on the cars - you’re at full throttle for almost three-quarters of the lap - so all the team and drivers will be working hard to manage all the different aspects of the car and react quickly to anything that crops up during the race.
“The important thing, as always, is reliability, and because of the nature of the Spa circuit it tends to be a race of attrition. The guys and girls back at MTC and also in Sakura are working hard to keep pushing the limits of our package, and I hope we can enjoy a smooth race from that point of view. I’ve always loved Spa right from the early days of my career - it still feels mega with every lap you do and never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s easily one of the best circuits on the calendar and definitely one of my favourites, so let’s see what we can do - I hope we can have a solid weekend.
“Spa is one of those legendary classics. It fully deserves its reputation as one of the great circuits on the calendar, and it never fails to provide great racing year after year. I often stay in my motorhome next to the circuit at European races. Spa is one of those special places where the atmosphere is incredible - the fans are really passionate and flock from all over, and everyone is itching to see the F1 cars scream past them and race wheel-to-wheel after a few weeks off.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the car. The summer break has been great - a chance to rest, recharge and spend time with friends and family. I spent most of it in the United States, but still managed to keep up with Team GB’s efforts in the Olympics - incredible! It’s been a great summer of sport and I’m hoping for more positive results as we start the second half of the season. There’s a lot to work on, but we are all pushing hard together towards the same goals, and fighting for more progress. Spa is a great place to get going again, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Spa-Francorchamps is a very special race for us, for a number of reasons. It’s the venue where McLaren took its first ever grand prix win at the hands of our founder Bruce McLaren, in 1968. It’s also the home race for our reserve driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, who is sure to have a busy weekend there. Its legacy is richly deserved, a classic circuit with an impressive heritage and a track layout that’s the stuff of legends. The circuit is a huge test of both car and driver, and an incredible spectacle for the thousands of fans that travel there from all over Europe.
“The whole team has had a well-deserved break after the gruelling schedule of 12 races since the start of the season. We are now just over halfway through, and ready to fight again to achieve our end-of-season goals. The midfield pack is particularly close, and each team is stronger on different circuits, so there’ll be no let-up in in how hard we push or the developments we bring to the car in our bid to continue our progress through the rest of the season and into next year.
“Together, McLaren-Honda is continuing to push hard, and everything we bring to the car - be it on the chassis or power unit side - is valuable learning for next year. We’ve enjoyed a couple of weeks away from Formula One, but our ambition is as strong as ever, and we’re definitely ready to go racing again!”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“After a hard-earned summer break, it’s exciting to start the latter half of the season at such a magnificent track as Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. This track is as beautiful as it is challenging – probably one of the most challenging circuits on the current F1 calendar. The steep uphill of Eau Rouge to Raidillon, and the fast technical downhill to Stavelot will especially require the ultimate combination of power, car balance and driver performance.
“Though the long and power-hungry nature of Spa won’t suit us, our target for the remainder of the season is clear: to aim for championship points and take further steps forward with each race. We hope that we can continue our positive momentum that we had before the summer shutdown and look to another strong weekend in Spa.”
"I spent my summer holidays in the Californian sunshine. It was really good, I have some friends there and some close mates from home came over as well. We had good fun, no racing chat so we just switched off and caught up. It was especially nice to see those friends from Perth who I only see once or twice a year.
"Spa is cool and the track is amazing. It's very historic, fast and flowing. I had a win there two years ago so it has always been a good track to return to for me. I think it's funny how spread out the circuit at Spa is, on one side you can have sun while it rains on the other. You always get a lot of regular fans there, you see them year after year so it's nice to see real F1 fans out there. Food wise fries and waffles seem to be the local cuisine, it's not really race diet but it tastes pretty good.
"We are straight in to Italy after Spa. It has the best pizza place in the world, it's ridiculous and I love it. The fans in Italy are cool too, they are crazy about racing and extremely passionate. I like the track through the park, racing there is good and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities."
"It has been a nice relaxing break after a busy start to the summer. I managed to spend some time with my family, get some rest and have a bit of fun. Going into Spa it should be a great weekend, there will be a lot of Belgian and also Dutch fans. They are all coming to one of the most famous tracks on the calendar and from the driver's point of view one of the favourites also. I had a really good weekend there last year so hopefully we can have an even better result this year.
"Spa is the longest track we go to, I did a track walk last year and it felt long so I will probably use a bicycle this year. Also last year I drove part of the circuit the wrong way for a Live Demo, it was definitely interesting and quite a lot different. Downhill into Eau Rouge was pretty scary, the barriers aren't made for that but it went well and not many people get the chance to do it.
"After Spa we head straight to Monza, it's really cool because of the history of the track as well as being a really fun track to drive. The food though is of course the best in the world. I have spent a lot of time in Italy so to go back, eat some local food and see some old friends will be very nice. I can't wait to get back there."
"It's nice to get back to action after a month without racing. Holidays are fun – you spend time with your friends, take your mind off work and recharge your batteries – but nothing beats the thrill of a Formula One car. So it's great to be back, and I can't think of a better place to return to racing than Belgium.
"Spa is one of the best tracks out there. It may sound like a cliche, but it really is great fun to drive it - it's up there with Suzuka. It's got great flow, lots of challenging and ballsy corners, high speeds and changes of elevation. It's just a great place. Everyone talks about Eau Rouge, but my favourite corner in Spa is Pouhon – the very quick downhill double-left hander. Eau Rouge and Raidillon are legendary, but they're not the challenge they used to be.
"For all the excitement on track, Belgium is one of the quietest weekends off it. It's the opposite of some of the “lifestyle” events like Barcelona, Budapest or Montreal – but it's a nice change to have some more relaxed events. Hopefully we will be able to pick up where we left off in Germany and continue showing our points-scoring form."
"The summer break was a great opportunity to relax, especially as this season is quite long and the races don't leave us too much time to recover. It was nice to spend some time in Mexico, with my family, my dogs and my friends: it's always great to go home and I can't wait to be back there later in the year when we come racing in Mexico City.
"Spa is one of the most historical tracks; one of those kids dream about, with legendary corners like Eau Rouge. You never get a boring race there. There are many fast corners and you pay a price for all mistakes because it's an old-school track with not much run-off. It's one of the circuits where the driver can make a difference and bravery is rewarded. I have got some great memories from Spa: I won there in GP2 and I had a battle for the lead against Hamilton on the first lap last year.
"The key to being fast around Spa is having a good rhythm and enough downforce to be quick in the corners without losing too much on the straights. You want to be able to attack and defend in sector one, but not have too little wing to be struggling in the twisty parts of sector two. It's a fine balance you need to strike and it can make or break your weekend.
"We have been really strong in the last few races before the break and hopefully we can keep this form in the second part of the season. Being in the battle for fourth place in the championship gives us a lot of motivation and we approach every weekend knowing we can be strong. I am enjoying my driving and working with the team, and I think we have everything in place to be competitive this weekend."
Vijay Mallya, team principal
"We are performing well and delivering results, and Spa represents a good opportunity to continue our run of points finishes. The updates we introduced at Silverstone have made a difference and there is still more performance to be extracted from our chassis. I think all teams have now switched their focus to 2017 so the pecking order should not change dramatically. Some tracks will suit us more than others, but Spa is certainly a track where the VJM09 can be strong.
"I regard our podium in Monaco as the turning point of our season – both in terms of the result and our public perception. Then, our strong showing in Baku just reinforced the great job we are doing as a team. It's a fierce battle in the midfield, but we are performing well. Since Monaco we have scored 67 points compared to the 31 of our nearest rival. If we continue scoring at this rate, it will be interesting to see where we can end the season."
“It’s just a great track. There are very high-speed corners and there are a lot of turns, different types, some high speed, some low - just a good variety overall. It gives you a good feeling to drive. I can’t choose just one part and say it’s my favourite. The whole circuit just comes together nicely.
“The first lap you go through [Eau Rouge and Raidillon] flat out, you feel sick, like you’re on a rollercoaster because it goes up and down. You’re thinking, will I make that for the race? But, once you’ve done it once, it’s all ok and you just enjoy the g-forces.
“[Eau Rouge is] certainly a corner where you don’t want to have a mistake. Qualifying in clean air is certainly quite good. On the other hand, if you get a big tow, you can have a massive advantage going into turn five. There’s a bit of an argument for both philosophies there.
“You always see different approaches at Spa. Either you’re fast in sector one and sector three, which are the high-speed sectors, or you’re fast in sector two, which has more of the corners. Both work pretty well, so it’s a matter of how you want to approach the race.
“We had a good car in Belgium last year. I had qualified fourth, but started ninth due to a gearbox penalty. We had a good strategy and good timing with a safety car, too. I managed to overtake a few cars and get on the podium. Honestly, it was one of those weekends where everything just goes to plan.
“It was great for all the guys, and for myself. We had a perfect weekend on the track. For everyone involved, it was a very good feeling. I guess it was kind of the same feeling as scoring the first points for Haas earlier this season. I [also] won the GP2 title there in 2011. That was a great year.”
“I think [the unpredictability of the weather at Spa means] you need to make quick decisions throughout the weekend, especially during the race as it’s a way to gain an advantage. Making a wrong decision can be very detrimental, but that’s what’s special about Spa. It’s a very long track and it can sometimes only rain on one part of the track, on one or two corners, and if you’re on slicks you just need to deal with it. Ultimately, you only want to come in for full wets if it’s raining throughout. You really have to be ready and open minded during the weekend.
“It’s a track that has a lot of corners, as well as being a very long track where you can gain a lot of time if you do everything properly and if you’re consistent throughout the lap. This also depends on how much downforce you have on the car as the circuit has a lot of high-speed and fluid corners, which are important factors.
“It’s a track where you have to compromise a lot because you don’t want to lose too much speed on the straight and you don’t want to lose too much downforce in the corners. It’s important to have an efficient car to find the best compromise between aero and the mechanical set up.
“[Eau Rouge and Raidillon] are usually flat out. It’s an amazing feeling approaching Eau Rouge. It goes up and you can feel the compression at the beginning of the corner and as the car is moving though the corner. As you go uphill, sometimes the car is jumping on the curb at high speed. It’s amazing. It’s difficult to describe it because you have to experience it.
“Even in the race sometimes you have to be flat out if you are running behind someone you want to overtake. It’s a corner you don’t require much downforce to make it flat out. Usually, we reduce the downforce at Spa because of the long straights and you want to have the least drag possible in those areas. It’s a compromise of how much downforce you set. Even with a low configuration of downforce, Eau Rouge becomes quite challenging, but usually very nice if you can take it flat out. I would say Eau Rouge [is my favourite part of Spa]. It’s a great corner. It’s iconic and it’s great to drive.
“I’ve had a few incredible races in the wet at Spa. One of the most fun races I’ve had was starting from the back after being disqualified. I manage to overtake my way up the grid but, unfortunately, at the end I was penalized again by overtaking someone on the very last lap when the safety car was out. It’s a great memory of Spa and it’s a track I always enjoy. Hopefully this year will be just as enjoyable and we’ll do our best to make it a successful weekend.”