As Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button complete their preparations for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps both are sounding pretty confident of challenging for another race victory this weekend.
Hamilton won in Belgium last year and has performed well at the last couple of races – drive-through penalties and strategy decisions in Hungary notwithstanding. The 2008 world champion is very much looking forward to getting back to one of his favourite circuits on the calendar.
“Spa's always been one of my favourite tracks – it's a place where you really feel on the limit, and that's pretty awesome in a Formula 1 car,” he says. “I'm already looking forward to my first flying lap on Friday morning.
“Corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are fantastic, just because they're so fast – Pouhon, in particular, is incredible, because you're really at the limit of the grip level, and you're gently playing with the throttle and trying not to scrub off too much speed with the steering. Getting it right is an amazing feeling.
“I think we go into the race weekend in a pretty good place – we've won the last two grands prix and the car feels strong; we've worked hard to improve the set-up, so it's really inspiring confidence at the moment, which means you can push it that little bit further, particularly in qualifying.
“Of course, the weekend is likely to be affected by the weather, which is always somewhat unpredictable at Spa. I'd prefer a dry race, but, to be honest, I'll take any track condition: I just can't wait to get back out in my car!”
Button has not had much luck at Spa in recent years – last season he was shunted out of the race after a bizarre crash with Sebastian Vettel – but having won the last race in Hungary, the 2009 champion goes into the weekend full of optimism.
“I love racing at Spa, but, unfortunately haven't done too much of it recently as I've been taken out of the last two Belgian Grands Prix through no fault of my own,” explains Button. “This year, I'll be hoping for a little more luck!
“It felt great to go into the summer break off the back of the win in Hungary. That was a race I think we could just as well have won in the dry as in the damp – which will be worth bearing in mind in Spa, as it'll probably be wet and dry – and everything in between – at some point during the weekend.
“Once again, our aim will be to put pressure on the championship frontrunners, particularly Red Bull. Our car definitely feels really driveable right now, so I don't think this weekend's tyre compound selection will affect us too much. We learnt a lot about the Pirelli Medium after the race in Valencia, and I think we've moved on quite a bit since then.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh reckons the whole team are ready and raring to go for the final eight races of the season, and that they are all determined to pick up more victories.
“It's exciting to be returning from the summer break and heading straight back into the fray at Spa: it's one of Formula 1's greatest circuits, and always a place where the unexpected tends to happen,” comments Whitmarsh.
“As we all know from races here in the past, the weather in Spa can be notoriously fickle – and with the field so competitively poised, that'll put great emphasis on solid and effective teamwork. A good call on tyre choice at a critical point in the race could make a massive difference to the result.
“This final stretch of European races will break the back of the calendar, so it's important that we hit them aggressively and confidently before pushing on into the final flyaways. The whole team has returned to work feeling refreshed, relaxed and recharged, and I'm confident that we'll see the benefit of that at the racetrack: our engineers and strategists are hungry to get back to business, and our mechanics are fit and ready to continue the excellent progress they have been making all season with fast and reliable work in the garage and the pitlane.
“Despite winning three of the last five grands prix, we are still hugely determined to be stronger than before. Time and time again, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has proved its resilience and determination, particularly at this crucial stage of the world championship. We are more than ready for this fight and relishing every race.”