Hear from McLaren Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for Round 12 at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I love the first race after the summer break! It’s a great feeling to come back feeling rested, relaxed and recharged, and ready to go again for the second half of the season. I’ve enjoyed time away with family and friends, worked hard on my training and now I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car.
“Spa is incredible – for many of us it’s one of our favourite tracks. It’s got a legendary reputation and it’s totally deserved. The feeling when you drive Eau Rouge is completely different to any other corner on the calendar. You’re so low in the car and the gradient is so steep that as you go up it you can only see the sky – it’s completely surreal.
“As the season goes on we’re getting stronger and stronger, and I hope the second half of the year will bring us some more points-earning finishes. This race is a difficult challenge for the whole team – the engineers and the mechanics – as you’re on the throttle for almost three-quarters of the lap, which makes it’s a tough circuit for both the car and the driver. We know we’ll have to work hard to get any kind of result there, but it’s a long lap and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities, so we’ll keep pushing to get everything we can from the weekend.”
“I’ve been looking forward to driving in my first Belgian Grand Prix as a Formula 1 driver for so long. It’s exciting for any driver at their home grand prix because it’s always a special weekend. It’ll be great to have the backing of my home crowd, and there’ll be a lot of fans out there, as well as family and friends coming to support.
“After a busy first half of the year you always look forward to a holiday, but after a few days I already wanted to be back in the car! But it’s been good to have a bit of a break, reflect on what’s happened in the last few months, analyse the good things and the bad things, train hard and then come back even stronger in Spa for the second half of the season.
“The start of the season has definitely been challenging – not only from my side but for the team as a whole. We’ve suffered a few problems which have hampered our running, and I think maybe from my side it took a bit more time to really understand what I needed from the car because of those problems. However, more recently we’ve been seeing the results of a lot of hard work I’ve been putting in with the engineers and with the team back at the factory. Everything we’ve been working on has been a good step, and from that we’ve seen positive progress. The margin for improvement is still significant and there’s more good things to come, so I’m hopeful the next few races will be promising for us.”
Circuit name: Spa-Francorchamps
First race: 1950
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most revered racetracks in the world. Its fast, undulating sweeps are a stern test for car and driver, and with an average speed approaching 233km/h/145mph, it’s one of the fastest laps of the season. The circuit is inextricably linked with McLaren because it was here, in 1968, that the team scored its first world championship grand prix victory in the hands of Bruce McLaren.
What makes the race special?
Spa-Francorchamps is one of only four circuits on this year’s calendar that featured in Formula 1’s inaugural season, in 1950. The others are Silverstone, Monaco and Monza.
Bet you never knew...
The original Spa-Francorchamps circuit was 14.863kms/9.236 miles. Pedro Rodriguez won the last grand prix to be staged at the track, in 1970, at an average speed of 149.936mph/241.300km/h. It remains the sixth fastest race of all time.
Lap one of the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix. The track was wet and David Coulthard spun out of second place exiting La Source. His MP4-13 ricocheted off the barrier into the path of the pursuing pack and 13 cars were taken out, bringing out the red flag.
What we love
Eau Rouge has been straightened over the years, but it’s still one of the most thrilling corners in F1: a deft flick to the left at the bottom of the hill, before the track climbs 190-feet (58 metres) through a long right-hand bend – taken at just under 310km/h/190mph. The drivers experience a 2g compression at the bottom and 4.6g lateral load through the right-hander.
2000, when Mika Häkkinen produced one of the most audacious overtaking manoeuvres in history to take victory. Race leader Michael Schumacher put him on the grass at 310km/h/190mph on lap 35, but Mika got his revenge on the next lap. He swooped around a backmarker on the Kemmel Straight and leapfrogged ahead of Schumacher at the same time to take the lead.
This is the 50th Belgian Grand Prix to be staged at Spa-Francorchamps. The track was shortened and re-profiled ahead of the 1983 race, since when it’s thrown up some fabulous grands prix. Of the 31 races staged at the ‘new’ Spa, 28 of them have been won by world champions. That sums up the track’s legacy.
Did you know?
Spa-Francorchamps is the longest track on the 2017 F1 calendar. It’s 1km/0.6 miles longer than the second longest track, which is the Baku City Circuit.
McLaren has 14 wins on Belgian soil, the most recent victory coming in 2012.