Both Team Lotus drivers have had a good rest of the last three weeks and are now looking forward to the Belgian Grand Prix – round 12 of this 19-race F1 season – which takes place at the great Spa Francorchamps circuit next weekend.
“After a really good break in Finland it'll be good to get back to work,” says Heikki Kovalainen. “I'm feeling better than ever and it's always exciting heading to Spa. Eau Rouge is, of course, the corner everyone talks about and while it is still flat-out it's actually not that hard for us now, but it's still a big thrill. Any corner you take at 300km is pretty quick so you hang on the wheel pretty hard so that you don't get any snap out of the corner, build up a good speed down then you feel all that compression as the car bottoms out through the corner and then you're up the hill. It's still very exciting!
“It's been said so many times before but Spa is what a racetrack should be – hardcore corners, massive speed, overtaking opportunities and passionate fans, and, being Spa, anything can happen with the weather. Actually, it's not just Spa this year – we've had rain following us all season so in Spa maybe we'll have a hot and sunny weekend for once! I doubt itâ€¦ it's almost certain it will rain somewhere on the circuit at some point over the weekend and that could well be an opportunity for our team. We just have to keep pushing and make sure we're in the hunt if there's an opportunity to be grabbed, work hard all weekend and keep taking little steps forward.”
Jarno Trulli has crossed the Atlantic since the last race in Budapest and says that his season took a significant turn for the better in Hungary, despite the fact that neither Team Lotus driver finished that last race at the end of July.
“Since Hungary I've been able to spend the last couple of weeks with my family in Miami – I've had a good rest and after we took such a step forward for me in Hungary I can't wait to get back on track,” explains the Italian. “Honestly – it's hard to describe in simple terms just how much happier I was in the car from the very first laps in Budapest but it really was like night and day. For the first time all season I could work on the setup from a baseline I had confidence in, and that puts me and the team in a really good position for the rest of the season.
“It's also good that the next race is at Spa – it's pretty much the total opposite of Hungary, so it'll be another good chance to keep learning how to get the best out of the new system on a much quicker track with more high speed corners. Enough's been said over the years about what a great circuit Spa is, and for me it's the same as everyone else – it has some unique challenges and it brings out the best in the whole team – the drivers love the track, the engineers have to work hard to set the cars up right for the whole lap and the mechanics have to be on it all weekend to deal with the changing weather conditions, so while everyone talks about it being a drivers track, for me it's really a teams track.”
Whilst his drivers have been relaxing, team principal Tony Fernandes has been having a much busier August. He has acquired himself a football club and been attending to his other businesses.
“The whole team has had a good break and now they are all back and ready to get back to work in Belgium,” says Fernandes. “We will do our best in Spa to keep taking measured steps forward and we need to make sure we have put the reliability issues that have affected some of our recent performances behind us.
“Off track, while the team took a deserved rest the last couple of weeks have been as busy as ever for me. We announced this week that we have taken a significant stake in QPR and while that is another new challenge it also opens up some very exciting opportunities for all the businesses I am involved with. One of the most interesting areas we will be looking at straight away is what we can learn in Team Lotus about the interaction between QPR and its fans – across the whole football industry there is a much more integrated day to day relationship with clubs' supporter bases than F1 and its teams have with their fans and I think that we can learn a huge amount very quickly about how we can be even more accessible to our fans than we Team Lotus has been since day one.
“While QPR has obviously been a focus for the last few months we are also progressing exactly as planned with the wider Team Lotus and Caterham Cars group. We have already made a number of very big announcements this year, about our racing, road car and football activities, let alone AirAsia and Tune Group, and there is more to come over the next few months that will keep us moving forward in exactly the right direction.”