2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Preview

The midfield is still tight, as evidenced by fifth-place Toro Rosso being 17 points away from Rich Energy Haas F1 Team. Can a run up the constructors’ ranks still happen in these last nine races?

“Yes, anything can happen – that’s why you should never give up. We’re going to do our best, obviously, but on paper things are a bit more complicated than they were last year. But again, with a good summer break and a good understanding of our issues, we could be back on target for a really good points finish, just like Austria last year where we scored 22 points in one event.”

Does it almost feel like a new season when we show up at Spa after the summer shutdown because everyone has had the chance to rest and regroup to focus on these final nine races? 

“It maybe doesn’t feel like a new season, but it does feel like a fresh start. It’s always good because everyone’s well-rested and ready to attack the second part of the season.”

Rain in Germany provided Formula One the opportunity to have a standing start on a wet track. It seemed race control did a thorough job of getting real-time feedback from drivers, and then the start took place without any major dramas. How did it all go from your standpoint, and knowing the weather is often a prominent fixture at Spa, could a wet standing start take place again?

“I think it works in the wet. It worked quite well in Germany. Obviously, when you’re in the midfield it’s tricky because you don’t see much. We’ve seen some on-boards of the guys at the back and, really, it was difficult to see. Even though I was toward the front, I couldn’t see much. I thought it was quite good for the show. It was a good procedure there.”

Spa has been called a driver’s track. Why?

“Probably because of the layout of the corners and the high-speed part of the track. It just has a good variety overall and it gives you a good feeling to drive.”

Spa is one of Formula One’s classic tracks. Much has been made of next year’s schedule, as well as future schedules, specifically balancing classic tracks like Spa with new venues like next year’s race in Vietnam. What’s your take on this issue, and what is the proper balance between holding onto Formula One’s history and crafting Formula One’s future?

“It’s not an easy task and I don’t really have a proper answer. The only thing I can say is that for the teams, the European races are easier as most of them are based there. Losing Spain or Germany would be a bit sad, just because they’ve been here for a long time with good histories, and the tracks are quite cool. Obviously, you always know what you lose and you don’t know what you gain, but maybe what we gain is better, maybe it’s worse. Personally, I think every driver has some tracks that they love to go to and others that they would happily remove from the calendar.”

It looks like Formula One will have a 22-race schedule next year. Are teams at their limit when it comes to preseason testing and the current slate of 21 races, or can another race be added? 

“I think we’re getting close to the limit for everyone. But the human body is strong, so let’s see what we can do.”

Your most recent podium was earned in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix. You started ninth and made it all the way to third, finishing behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. How did you make up so many positions?

“We had a good car in Belgium that year. I had qualified fourth, but started ninth due to a gearbox penalty. We had a good strategy and good timing with a safety car, too. I managed to overtake a few cars and get on the podium. Honestly, it was one of those weekends where everything just goes to plan.”