Belgian F1 Grand Prix 2011: Preview (VMM)

Lewis Hamilton

“After a month out of the cockpit, I think every driver on the grid is really looking forward to racing on a track like Spa-Francorchamps, which is easily one of the greatest circuits in the world.

“Spa’s always been one of my favourite tracks – it’s a place where you really feel on the limit, and that’s pretty awesome in a Formula 1 car. I’m already looking forward to my first flying lap on Friday morning.

“Corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are fantastic, just because they’re so fast – Pouhon, in particular, is incredible, because you’re really at the limit of the grip level, and you’re gently playing with the throttle and trying not to scrub off too much speed with the steering. Getting it right is an amazing feeling.

“I think we go into the race weekend in a pretty good place – we’ve won the last two grands prix and the car feels strong; we’ve worked hard to improve the set-up, so it’s really inspiring confidence at the moment, which means you can push it that little bit further, particularly in qualifying.

“Of course, the weekend is likely to be affected by the weather, which is always somewhat unpredictable at Spa. I’d prefer a dry race, but, to be honest, I’ll take any track condition: I just can’t wait to get back out in my car!”

Jenson Button

“I love racing at Spa, but, unfortunately haven’t done too much of it recently as I’ve been taken out of the last two Belgian Grands Prix through no fault of my own. This year, I’ll be hoping for a little more luck!

“It felt great to go into the summer break off the back of the win in Hungary. That was a race I think we could just as well have won in the dry as in the damp – which will be worth bearing in mind in Spa, as it’ll probably be wet and dry – and everything in between – at some point during the weekend.

“Once again, our aim will be to put pressure on the championship frontrunners, particularly Red Bull. Our car definitely feels really driveable right now, so I don’t think this weekend’s tyre compound selection will affect us too much. We learnt a lot about the Pirelli Medium after the race in Valencia, and I think we’ve moved on quite a bit since then.

“I don’t think DRS will be as critical here as it’s been at some of the other circuits. I’m still not certain where it will be deployed, but there’s always been lots of opportunities to use the slipstream up the hill out of Eau Rouge to pass into Les Combes. It’ll be interesting to see whether DRS can add even more to the show – it should hopefully be another great weekend for Formula 1.”

Martin Whitmarsh
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“It’s exciting to be returning from the summer break and heading straight back into the fray at Spa: it’s one of Formula 1’s greatest circuits, and always a place where the unexpected tends to happen.

“As we all know from races here in the past, the weather in Spa can be notoriously fickle – and with the field so competitively poised, that’ll put great emphasis on solid and effective teamwork. A good call on tyre choice at a critical point in the race could make a massive difference to the result.

“This final stretch of European races will break the back of the calendar, so it’s important that we hit them aggressively and confidently before pushing on into the final flyaways. The whole team has returned to work feeling refreshed, relaxed and recharged, and I’m confident that we’ll see the benefit of that at the racetrack: our engineers and strategists are hungry to get back to business, and our mechanics are fit and ready to continue the excellent progress they have been making all season with fast and reliable work in the garage and the pitlane.

“Despite winning three of the last five grands prix, we are still hugely determined to be stronger than before. Time and time again, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has proved its resilience and determination, particularly at this crucial stage of the world championship. We are more than ready for this fight and relishing every race.”

* Official photo and details courtesy of VODAFONE MCLAREN MERCEDES *

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