Next weekend Formula 1 will return for the Belgian Grand Prix after having four weeks off. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is one of the fastest, iconic and most loved tracks on the calendar and Haas F1's Romain Grosjean is one driver who is very fond of the circuit, linking it to some of the best moments of his career in racing.
Not only is Spa the track where Grosjean secured his most recent podium in 2015 for Lotus, but is also the track where he won the GP2 title in 2011: "We had a good car in Belgium that year," he said, reflecting on the 2015 race. "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.”
“It was great for all the guys, and for myself," he added. "We had a perfect weekend on the track. For everyone involved, it was a very good feeling. I guess it was kind of the same feeling as scoring the first points for Haas."
When asked if a maiden podium for Haas could be on the cards at Belgium, Grosjean said: “If I turn up at a race weekend not thinking that I’m the best, or that I can’t win the race, I’d be better off staying at home with my children. I always want to be on the podium. I always want to try to win the race," showing that he is still hungry for glory in the top tier of motorsport.
Of course, it depends a lot on the car. But in the end, you can never give up and you always strive to give your best. That’s the mentality you should have," he added.
Spa also brings back some difficult memories for the Frenchman, with it being the site of at accident that he caused in 2012 where he tagged the back of Lewis Hamilton at the race start which caused the pair to wipe out Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi. This subsequently meant that he was handed a race ban, which prevented him from racing in the following event at Monza.
Grosjean pushed these incidents behind him and expressed how he is looking forward to racing on the track once more: “I can’t choose just one part and say it’s my favourite," he said. "The whole circuit just comes together nicely. There are very high-speed corners and there are a lot of turns, different types, some high speed, some low. Just a good variety overall. It gives you a good feeling to drive.
"The first lap you go through flat out, you feel sick," he revealed. "Like you’re on a roller coaster because it goes up and down. You’re thinking, 'Will I make that for the race?' But once you’ve done it once it’s all okay and you just enjoy the g-forces.
“You start off with the hairpin at La Source. It’s a very low-speed corner. You need a good exit to go flat out up to Eau Rogue. It’s certainly a corner where you don’t want to have a mistake," said Grosjean, reflecting on 2012. "Qualifying in clean air is certainly quite good. On the other hand, if you get a big tow, you can have a massive advantage going into turn five. There’s a bit of an argument for both philosophies there.
"Turn seven is quite good fun," he added. "It’s a high-speed corner going down. Then you’ve got turn eight with tricky braking. You need to be well positioned on the right hand side of the exit for turn nine. Then you’re downhill again massively to the double-left turns 10 and 11 – the fastest corner of the circuit. Then it’s on to the second right-to-left corner, carrying a bit more speed than you did into five and six.
"The next double right hander is very important to go to the backstraight, which is very long. You then go through the Bus Stop chicane – you need big braking. Then you have a very tricky low-speed corner, where the exit and the traction are tricky. It’s very difficult. If you get it right, you get a good lap time."
Being a circuit that Grosjean loves, Spa presents the Frenchman and Haas with the opportunity to get a good result: "You always see different approaches at Spa. Either you’re fast in sector one and sector three, which are the high-speed sectors, or you’re fast in sector two, which has more of the corners," he said. "Both work pretty well, so it’s a matter of how you want to approach the race."