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Belgian GP: McLaren – Still everything to play for at Spa-Francorchamps


By Berthold Bouman

The Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes is not only the favourite of many Formula One drivers, but together with Silverstone, Monza and the Nurburgring, Spa is one of the greatest Grand Prix circuits, a historic venue, also popular with the spectators.

Lewis Hamilton won the last race, the Hungarian GP

Say ‘Spa’ and one thinks of Blanchimont, Stavelot, La Source, and the most famous corners in Formula One: Eau Rouge and Raidillon. Drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher became legends after winning on this historic circuit.

McLaren is part of Spa’s history, as they won 13 races, scored 10 pole positions and recorded the fastest lap ten times on the Ardennes circuit, and McLaren hopes to add more poles and wins to their tally this weekend.

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is happy the second half of the season starts at Spa. “It feels appropriate to be returning to the fray at Spa-Francorchamps. Formula One’s historic venues provide us with a richly storied backdrop that few sports can match, and Spa is truly one of the greats. Everybody is looking forward to hearing the engines fire up in anger once more, and there are few better places on earth to watch a Formula 1 car at speed than around Spa,” said the Briton.

McLaren were the first to shut-down their factory, and thus had the last two weeks to prepare for the race. “We’re fortunate to have had two full weeks available to prepare ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. As usual, we’re heading into this double-header hopeful of closing the gap to the leaders in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Lewis’s victory in Hungary certainly provided further proof to us that we can take on the fight for both — and that remains our aim: to win both world championships,” said Whitmarsh.

Jenson Button has never won at Spa, and after the summer break he is looking forward to get behind the wheel again, “You couldn’t really ask for a more spectacular double-header for Formula One’s return: Spa is the daddy of them all, one of the all-time great Grand Prix tracks, and Monza is one of the most historic and evocative circuits on the calendar.”

He is even aiming to win at Spa, “They’re each places with their own unique atmosphere. I’ve got some really great memories of both circuits, but I’ve won neither. Given our pace in the last few races, I go forward feeling positive about rectifying that over the coming weekends!”

Lewis Hamilton won the race once, in 2010, but the race last year became a disappointment as he crashed at the end of the Kemmel straight after a collision with the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.

Nevertheless Spa is also one of his favourite circuits, “I really couldn’t be happier that the season gets back down to business again in Belgium. Spa is one of the best circuits in the world — it’s always a buzz to nail a fast lap around there, and, after five weeks out of the cockpit, that first lap on Friday morning is going to feel absolutely sensational.”

Asked about the championship the victor of the last race, the Hungarian Grand Prix, said, “Given the unpredictability of the sport, I think it’s still difficult to predict accurately who’ll win the next Grand Prix, but I reckon the coming few weeks ought to give us a much clearer idea of the destination of the world title.”

The championship is certainly still wide open, according to the 2008 World Champion, “It’s going to be an extremely tough, tactical and interesting finale to the season. There’s no team with a clear advantage — although we’re all pushing hard to catch Fernando [Alonso]’s points tally in the drivers’ championship — so there’s still everything to play for!”

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