So, Daniel, when did you first encounter the Beast of the Ardennes?
When I was a kid I played the racing games quite a bit and Spa was always the track I played – it was my favourite – and when I got to drive there for real, every bit was as good as I thought it would be. My first race was in Formula Renault 2.0 and I can still picture the first lap, thinking ‘wow’ as I went through Eau Rouge. To win the grand prix last year was really, really cool.
The race behind you wasn’t bad either. Shame that you missed it…
Don’t worry, I’ve seen the replay a few times since.
You had a comfortable lead for the second half of the race last year – but perhaps not the easiest car to drive – what was that like?
It was pretty tough to drive. We ran really low downforce, pretty much Monza-spec. It made it tricky: tail-y but fun. Trying to keep up the rhythm when the car is moving around is not always easy – but I think it was the best package we had for the weekend.
You often talk about races you’d like to visit as a spectator – does Spa qualify?
Yeah, it does – but I don’t like the cold. Rain’s the only thing that would put me off. When Spa’s sunny, it’s great. A proper old-school grand prix for the real racing enthusiast. Great atmosphere, great fans, great beer and definitely the place to come if you like the frites. Only drawback is that it’ll be 30°C with blue skies one minute and hosing down the next.
So Dany, you’ve had a few weeks off, you’re chilled, relaxed and calm and now that’s all about to change as you take on the ‘big one’ – Spa. Ready for it?
Yeah, definitely. Spa is one of my favourite tracks of the year. I think that’s a bit of cliché but I think it’s a favourite for all the drivers. It’s really long, really challenging, there are some proper fast sections and some properly balls out corners. At Spa, more than anywhere, you feel that you’re really driving an F1 car.
The big balls corner at Spa seems to change depending on the cars being driven. What’s the turn that requires the biggest now?
Eau Rouge once again. With these cars it’s back to being a bit of a ball out corner – especially in the wet. Pouhon is pretty much and Blanchimont still, but really only in the wet. It’s full of great, flowing, interesting sections.
Do you get the sense of history that permeates the place?
Yeah, I love it. It’s a totally unique feeling. There’s great history there; the atmosphere is amazing. To be honest it’s quite hard to put into words. I like the weather. It always feels like one of the freshest weekends of the year, if that doesn’t sound strange, but it’s cold at night, and the mist and everything adds to the atmosphere.
So is it a special race for you?
Yeah it’s a great circuit and I think it brings out the true fans and that’s quite special.