IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK!
Back racing, and back at Spa, a track that is teeming with the F1 history we love. We’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as we prepare to get stuck into the remaining nine rounds of the 2016 calendar. We’ve a new teammate for Pascal Wehrlein, as we welcome Esteban Ocon to the cockpit of the MRT05-02. What a track to make his F1 debut at, just as Michael Schumacher did here 25 years ago.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, 26-28 August
After two weeks of well-deserved R&R, we’re back firing on all six cylinders and ready for Round 13 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the 2016 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Everybody loves this legendary 7.004km race track, with its picturesque setting, fast and undulating topography and typically unpredictable microclimate (which, with forecasts of up to 30°C all weekend, looks set to be anything but typical). Let’s hear from Pascal and Dave Ryan, but first from our new recruit, Esteban.
Esteban, HOW excited are we?
“Very! I’m pumped. 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!”
Spa is a dream circuit to be making your debut at. Great that you have experience of racing here!
“Yes, 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.”
What’s the plan? What are your objectives?
“Pretty simple, really. 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.”
And Team Esteban. Who’s coming?
“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.”
Pascal, how was the break?
“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.”
It’s four years since you last raced here in F3. How do you like it?
“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, everyone in the team seems pretty perky after the break?
“Yes, 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!”
And a new driver in the Manor Racing fold. All set?
“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.”
And the plan for the rest of the season?
“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.”