Cyril Abiteboul, managing director: We can look back on the Belgian Grand Prix with mixed feelings. We can be pleased with some elements - such as gaining performance over the weekend in the course of the previous races, putting two cars through to Q2 for the first time since Australia, Jolyon's best-ever starting position, and running in the top ten on the most technical track we go to. Naturally, however, it was clouded by Kevin's accident. Fortunately he is OK and able to race again but it was a very big impact and a reminder for everyone that danger is just a kerb away. Again however it is another credit to the overall safety level reached by F1 cars.
Fortunately, we have an opportunity to build on the positives just days away. As everyone knows, Monza is very specific and you need a different set-up there from anywhere else on the calendar, but there are some elements we can bring forward from Spa. We now better understand the car's competitiveness on the various types of track and the drivers have the confidence to push in qualifying, which sets us up well for the race.
It's the final event in Europe before we head off to the long-hauls so a good result would set us up nicely for what's going to be a very long and physically tough end to the season.
Fred Vasseur debriefs on an eventful Belgian Grand Prix and is cautiously optimistic about our chances in Italy.
Firstly, how is Kevin after that big accident in Spa?
Fred Vasseur: I've spoken to him several times since Sunday and he is doing well. His ankle was bruised in the accident and he was taken to hospital in Belgium as a precaution, but released the same day. He has since undergone several further checks at home in Denmark and every check has indicated he is recovering well and able to race in Monza.
Until that point, the Belgian Grand Prix was going well for the team. How would you review the weekend overall?
FV: We built performance over the weekend and had our best qualifying of the year so far. We got two cars through to Q2 for the second time this season and the starting positions, twelfth and thirteenth, were the best we have had. Before the safety car came out we had both cars in the top ten, but eventually we were racing with Toro Rosso and Haas, which is where we expected to be coming into the weekend. Naturally we would have loved to keep in the top ten, but we suffered with tyre degradation and also cars coming through the field out of position. But it's showing that we are definitely in the fight now and also in the fight at all types of circuits.
What can we expect from the team in Monza?
FV: Monza is a very special track that challenges the car at the top end of its limits. We are realistic, but optimistic that we can keep the momentum we started in Hungary going. We need to build over the weekend and take every chance we can in the race. As we've seen in the last Grand Prix, anything can happen in front of us so we need to keep ourselves in a position to capitalise on every opportunity.
Technical Director Nick Chester looks at the unique challenges of Monza and what it takes to fly down those straights.
We hear a lot about Monza being a very unique track on the calendar. What makes it stand out from a technical point of view?
Nick Chester: It is a special track, like nowhere else we visit over the season. There are four long straights so we need to run the lowest wing level of the year to be able to reach the highest speeds we can. However, you still need to make sure the car has good balance with a low level of downforce. There are some very hard braking points, but you have a lot less wing to be able to slow the car down. It can be quite tricky to find the right balance between speed and grip. Good traction out of the chicanes and getting up to speed quickly down the following straight is key to a good lap time.
Performance in Belgium was quite strong, particularly in qualifying. Do you feel this is a good departure point for Monza?
NC: We were cautious going into Belgium as we knew it was a big power track that places a lot of demands on the car. However we performed competitively in qualifying after building up performance each session. It demonstrates that the car is working well at most track configurations now so we can go to Monza expecting to do a reasonable job.
Kevin obviously had a very big accident in Belgium. Have you been able to repair the damage for Italy?
NC: The accident was clearly sizeable and the damage sustained is too great to use the car for Italy. The current spare will become Kevin's car in Monza and we will take another chassis out as a spare.
Spa was blazingly hot and Monza can also be toasty. Any worries about temperatures or any tricks you have picked up?
NC: Monza can be one of the hottest races, but it is also the start of the autumn and you can drive in in the morning and see the mist is hanging over the park. We may see cooler temperatures in Monza than Spa, which would be unusual, but anything can change. We didn't have any particular problems with the heat in Belgium so even if it does transpire to be as hot it should not be an issue.
Do you have any developments coming through for Monza?
NC: For the second part of the year we will have small updates that were planned as part of the usual development cycle at the start of the season. Unfortunately we didn't run our new bodywork in Spa as it was too hot, but we have some cooling modifications and minor aero updates and possibly some mechanical changes coming through shortly. Really it's now about getting the most from the package we have in hand.