Nico Hulkenberg is feeling refreshed, recharged and determined after the summer break, as he targets a bright outing at Spa-Francorchamps, to kick off the next part of the season.
What do you like about Spa-Francorchamps?
Nico Hulkenberg: Spa is up there as one of my favourite tracks in Formula 1 and one I always seem to go well at. The track is located within some nice natural scenery in the middle of the forest, which can throw up some surprises, especially with the weather. Spa is notorious for its elevation changes and fast, sweeping corners. Driving at Spa is special, especially in a modern Formula 1 car, as it sticks to these flat-out corners at high-speed, it's so unique and gives you a thrill. Eau Rouge is of course the corner that everyone talks about, but Pouhon and Blanchimont are also exciting and taken at very high-speed. Spa is really suited to my style of driving.
What's it like to wrestle a Formula 1 car around the 7km circuit?
NH: It's the longest lap on the calendar with lots of corner combinations to tackle. Striking car balance can be difficult as you need high-downforce for some of the corners in the mid-section, while also shaving downforce to get the top-speed on the straights. It's very important to get that right. You have to be on top in every corner around Spa, and string the sectors together. The middle part of the lap flows well, it's quite busy, but it makes or breaks a lap-time. We'll see what the weather will bring. It can be strange in Spa, one part of the circuit might be dry, while on another it could be torrential rain. Anything can happen and we'll ensure to be in a position to capitalise on these chances.
What did The Hulk get up to over the summer break?
NH: It was nice to kick back a bit and relax. June and July were very busy with a lot of races and hard work, so it was nice to have a short break to recover some energy. I restored some balance and harmony in the sun and kept to a good workout routine. I'm ready.
How are you feeling ahead of the second-half of the season?
NH: We know we have to get back to it and set the tone straight away if we are to stay ahead of our midfield rivals. We're well aware we have a battle on our hands, but I know the team are motivated to keep developing the car to find performance. They can be sure that I'll be putting the effort in behind the wheel to deliver the results, there's a lot of hard work ahead of us, beginning in Belgium.
What's there to say about Spa-Francorchamps?
Carlos Sainz: Spa is very enjoyable as it has everything: fast corners, long straights, overtaking opportunities, elevation changes and random weather! I like racing in Spa, it's one of the special Grands Prix in Formula 1, and one all drivers look forward to racing. I enjoy sector two, as it's quite busy and has a nice flow to it. It's tough to find that perfect car balance between setting up for the flowing corners, which require high downforce, while being careful not to take off too much straight-line speed, which you need for the Kemmel Straight and before the bus-stop chicane.
Do you have a favourite corner there?
CS: Of course Eau Rouge is the most famous corner at Spa, but I quite like Pouhon, the long left-hander in the middle sector. It's quite a difficult corner to get right, as you head down the hill and pray for grip with the car taking the corner at over 260kph in seventh gear. You get such a buzz through there!
What did you do over the summer break?
CS: It's been an intense summer due to the movements in the driver market. However, I spent my summer break with my family and friends and had a good chance to rest and pick up some energy before this second part of the season. Training and nutrition were still present during the break, but I did have a couple of extra ice creams!
What's the plan of action for the rest of the season?
CS: There are still a lot of races to go this year and I'm determined to leave Renault having driven the R.S.18 at its very best. While it's nice to have a little break, I'm a driver and I love to race, so the sooner I get in the car, the happier I will be! We have a lot of hard work to come throughout this next phase of the season. Staying fourth in the championship will not be easy, but we're up for the challenge, and I'll be giving it my all to deliver the results on track. It's good that I'll still have the link to Renault next season, but my focus is definitely on the races this year.