As Formula 1 returns to its grandest theatre, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button are eager to tackle the celebrated Spa-Francorchamps circuit at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. The last race in Hungary proved ...
As Formula 1 returns to its grandest theatre, Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button are eager to tackle the celebrated Spa-Francorchamps circuit at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The last race in Hungary proved disappointing for both drivers, with the Team failing to score points. Since then, Button has spent two days training with members of the Renault F1 Human Performance Centre. Trulli has continued his personal training programme and also attended the Team's annual summer party last Saturday at Enstone.
Each of them, however, has had one eye on this weekend's challenge: "Spa is just a very exciting circuit," enthuses Trulli. "It has every kind of corner, and it's the kind of track where you can gain time everywhere, pushing yourself and the car to the limit. Obviously, Eau Rouge and the Raidillon are the highlights, but the whole lap is a real challenge."
As ever, much attention will be focused on how the drivers negotiate this 190mph complex. Each driver has his own thoughts on the nature of the daunting sequence: "I find it very difficult to explain," says Trulli. "Eau Rouge is just different from any other corner during the whole season. Being able to take it flat is a question of confidence in the car. That is definitely the most important thing."
In Button's mind, however, the annual obsession about taking the corner without lifting is misplaced: "I think the challenge is more in the heads of the media than the drivers!" he said. "Sure, it is exciting and different, but it's just one corner. You won't win a race by only being quick through there!"
Instead, he judges other parts of the high-speed lap to be just as taxing: "Blanchimont is a great corner -- exciting and a little bit scary. The complex at the end of the straight (Les Combes) is important for a good lap time, and also the double fifth-gear left-hander at Pouhon."
For 2002, the circuit has been lightly modified, with changes on the exits of Eau Rouge and the Bus Stop chicane. Although drivers in the recent 24-Hour race suggested that the modifications meant less precision was required on a fast lap, Button is reserving judgement until seeing the alterations for himself.
"I don't know what it will be like to drive, but it's definitely a lot safer now, and that's a step forward."
The track's characteristics may be unique, with its steep gradients and switches between public roads and the purpose-built circuit, yet Button insists he will be looking for many of the same qualities in his set-up as at any other venue. "Like pretty much everywhere else, the car will need to be well-balanced, and I'll be looking for it to work well in the high-speed corners as well as having a good change of direction. It's definitely my kind of circuit, and we should be competitive."
After qualifying in the top eight at nine races so far this year, and having shared the front row in 2000, Trulli is confident that the Team can expect another strong performance in Belgium.
"I think we can perform very well here in qualifying and the race," says Trulli. "We are well prepared, but a lot will come down to the performance of the tyres. We need to wait and see how things stand on Friday."