2017 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, PREVIEW
Sahara Force India returns from its summer break and looks ahead to the Belgian Grand Prix.
Vijay Mallya: “Spa is always a special weekend for Formula One. It’s one of the greatest circuits in the world and a marvellous venue to appreciate the best drivers in the fastest cars. It’s been a happy hunting ground for this team too and I’d like to think we have a good chance of adding some more memories this weekend.
“We’re over the half-way point of the season now and feeling upbeat about the remaining nine races. Along with Spa, there are some other tracks coming up that should allow us to show the speed of the VJM10. We are pushing hard with the development of this car and there are some further steps we will introduce over the next few events.
“Our consistency has been our strength this year. We’ve scored points in ten of the eleven races so far and had double points finishes in nine of those races. I’m proud of the team for this achievement and it shows that all our hard work is paying off. We’ve still got our sights on the podium for this year and if the opportunity arises I believe we are ready to take it.”
Sergio: “I’m feeling fresh and relaxed after the summer break and really looking forward to getting back to racing. I had a very nice break with my family, but now I can’t wait to be back on track.
“Belgium is the one of the best circuits to experience an F1 car. I love the high-speed layout, the history of the place and you get to meet some very passionate fans there. It’s just a great weekend and there is also the question mark over the weather. It nearly always rains at least one of the days.
“Pouhon is one of my favourite corners of the year. It’s so quick and satisfying when you get it just right. The 2017 cars will feel extra special through this part of the lap, as well as through Eau Rouge.
“As we begin the second part of the season, I want to improve on what we have done so far. We have been competitive, but we also lost a few chances to score more points than we did. Hopefully we will make up for those lost points in the races to come.”
Esteban: “I had a great summer holiday in the south of Spain. My batteries are fully recharged and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car. It’s now a year for me as a Formula One driver and the time has gone by really quickly. So I’m no longer a rookie!
“Spa is where I made my debut last year. It’s a great track, but it’s not necessarily one of my favourites. There are some special corners, especially through sector two, which has a nice rhythm. It’s a circuit where you have to be totally at one with the car because you need to be really committed through the high-speed corners.
“Spa is usually a good track for racing because it’s easier to overtake there compared to some other tracks. There’s also the famous Spa weather which brings unpredictability. I don’t mind if it rains because it could bring some more opportunities our way.
“I think we can be competitive this weekend regardless of whether it’s dry or wet. The layout of the track should suit our car quite well. Everybody loves driving through Eau Rouge and it’s certainly the most famous part of the lap. In these cars it will be an amazing experience. Maybe the first lap of the race will be a bit of a challenge, but after that I think we should be able to take it easily flat.”
Sahara Force India’s Chief Race Engineer, Tom McCullough, analyses the challenges of Spa-Francorchamps.
“Spa is an iconic circuit and a great test for Formula One machinery, even more so this season. It’s the longest lap of the season with a mix of slow and quick corners, long straights and elevation changes: finding the right setup is always a challenge. There are some unique corners, like the Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex with its rapid compression and decompression, which will be asking a lot from the driver, the car and the tyres. There are also many long and fast corners putting big loads through the tyres: it will be important to understand how the compounds on offer, the three softest of the range, work in these conditions. Usually, races in Spa are very entertaining: there are many overtaking opportunities, mistakes are easily punished and the weather can play a big part. It often rains and the extended nature of the circuit means you could be driving on a completely soaked track in one sector and on bone dry tarmac in another. Choosing the right strategy and being ready to adapt to the changing circumstances is crucial.”