"Spa is a legendary circuit, one of the greats and a race that every driver looks forward to. The track has changed over the years but it still retains a lot of the characteristics that make it so special. It's quick, the weather almost always makes it a real challenge and the fans are hardcore F1 supporters so the atmosphere is always good.
"Spa's also home to Eau Rouge, possibly the most famous corner in F1. It's still feels good as you head down the hill and start feeling the compression as you head back out onto the straight, but in all honesty it's not the challenge it used to be. You can go through there flat without any major issues and compared to what it must have been like when the cars had less downforce it's relatively tame. Despite that, you still have to get the line right and if you do and you're close enough to the car ahead you have a good chance to overtake on the run down to Les Combes.
"Before Eau Rouge you're on the throttle for about 20 seconds out of the hairpin and down the hill. You need to make sure you have a good exit out of the hairpin to have maximum speed through Eau Rouge and onto the first long straight or you can lose time and track position in the first sector. We then head down into turns 5, 6 and 7 which are taken in third gear and through which you can be pretty aggressive, using the kerbs to save lap time and pushing on into Rivage which is taken in first or, at best, second gear. Rivage is slightly off-camber so the cars tend to fall off the track a bit and you can't really attack other cars into there. Sometimes you see the front rights locking up into that corner as the cars struggle for grip and there's a bump on the exit to deal with. The key is to carry as much speed as you can out of Rivage and down the hill through turn nine and into Pouhon which is another of Spa's most famous corners.
"Inside the cockpit Pouhon is a good test. You head into it on full power, lift off a tiny bit and then you're straight back on the throttle. It's quite tight on the entry but then it opens up on the exit so you can carry a fair amount of speed through it and out onto turns 12, 13 and 14 which are pretty similar to 5, 6 and 7. After that you're into turn 15, pretty much at the bottom of the valley and on your way back up to the start-finish straight. Turn 17 is Blanchimont, the third of the famous Spa corners and another one that these days we take flat. Like Eau Rouge it's not quite what it was a few years ago, but you still need to have the car set up right to go in and out of there flat and carry the speed through to the final chicane at turns 18/19. Braking into there is crucial - you need to make sure you don't lose time through the final two turns and back out onto the run down to turn 1.
"That's a lap of Spa. It's rightfully one of the great races and even though it usually rains for at least half the race weekend it's still one everyone looks forward to. After a good break and the move to our new home in Leafield the whole team is up for it and we can't wait to get back on track."
"It's been a good break but I can't wait to get back to racing. Spa's the perfect place for the season to start again as it is one of the great tracks we race on. It's always a real pleasure to go back to Belgium and for the drivers the circuit itself gives us one of the best challenges of the season. Driving an F1 car around there flat out is a very special feeling as it has everything you want; really quick corners like Blanchimont where you can feel the downforce pushing the car into the track; elevation changes, Eau Rouge for example, where you need to have the right setup to make sure you can really push in, through and out of each corner; and massive history. There are so many stories about previous races and what the place was like back in the old days when it was much longer, you can't help but feel how special it is.
"The atmosphere is pretty incredible all weekend. There are thousands of fans on track from Thursday right through to Sunday, like Canada, Japan and the UK and it's another one of those races that they absolutely love. For the fans it must be pretty cool seeing the cars come down the hill and into Eau Rouge - it's one of the few places in the whole calendar they can really see the cars working at maximum capability and that helps make it such a good weekend for everyone.
"One of the big topics of conversation all weekend is the weather. It's the same every year and we all know what we're going to face there, but there is almost a unique micro-climate around the track. It can be dry on the startline and pouring with rain down at turn 14, so you can't let your concentration slip for one second and the engineers and mechanics have to be right on it all weekend to take advantage of the weather changes, which can happen very quickly. I like the wet, it's a massive test of car control and skill and at somewhere like Spa that's even more true. The spray seems to hang in the air and visibility can be pretty bad when it rains, but it's the same for everyone and it gives us a chance to do something special if the guys ahead make even the smallest of mistakes.
"The whole team is heading to Spa in a very good mood. The factory move was done without any problems during the break and that puts us in a great position to keep fighting for the second half of the season. We may not have achieved what we set out to so far this season, but we're getting there and with Leafield now up and running, we have everything in place to bridge the gap to the cars ahead."
Mark Smith, Technical Director
"Before looking ahead to Spa it I want to thank everybody involved in helping make the move to Leafield so smooth. It was a huge task but one that was managed efficiently, quickly and with a minimum of fuss. On behalf of the whole team I also want to thank Tony and Kamarudin for investing in such a good new facility for us. The move to Leafield puts us firmly in the middle of the UK's motorsport valley and gives us a site we can expand into for many years to come, giving us the platform we need to grow into an operation that can challenge for long-term honours.
"Now that the move is complete our immediate focus turns to Spa, Monza and the rest of the season. Obviously we could not work on the car during the August break, but before and after the holiday we have been working on a slightly revised exhaust layout and a number of small aero updates to areas like the brake ducts. As most of the teams will, at Spa we will be running with medium levels of downforce, similar to what was run in Canada, and then for Monza we will be running low downforce settings. We do not have any major updates at either race, but for Singapore we have some new parts that will be run for the first time when we head back to the Far East.
"We will then be bringing updates to every race until the end of the season and while the refurbishment program at Leafield may create a few technical and logistical challenges in our update schedule, we already have plans in place to work around any issues that may crop up, and are determined to fight until the last lap of the last race of the season."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal
"I am delighted we are back and racing. It has only been a few weeks since the team packed up in Hungary and headed to Leafield for the first time to unpack the trucks, but as we are starting the second half of the 2012 season at our new permanent home in Oxfordshire it does feel a little like we are starting fresh all over again. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard to help make the move as seamless as possible and I want to thank them for their efforts over the August break, and to give a very warm welcome to them and everyone who comes to Leafield in the future.
"I cannot stress highly enough how important the move to the new factory has been. On one level it is fantastic to see just how motivated everybody in the team is to be starting work in our new home and on another level Leafield sends out the clearest possible message about our long-term aspirations. We have invested a considerable sum in purchasing the site and refurbishing it to bring it up to the standards needed to compete for honours in F1, GP2 and all the motorsport categories we take part in now and in the future. That investment puts in place the final piece of the jigsaw needed to take the next step and join the midfield - now we have no excuses.
"In addition to the Leafield move we also have more good news coming at Spa on the commercial front. We have another major new sponsor joining the team from the Belgian Grand Prix and their logos will be proudly displayed across the cars and the whole team. We will be unveiling that new partnership on the Thursday of the race weekend and that will send out another very powerful message about how serious we are about taking the fight to the teams ahead.
"We have not scored our first point yet, and we have much more work to do to chip away at that gap to the pack ahead, which is now less than one second, but it is fair to say we are disappointed with where we are, as I am sure many people who follow us are. However, the belief that we can achieve what we have set out to is what drives us on and we have to remember that just 35 months ago we did not even exist. Since the first day of this team we have had to fight extremely hard and, off track, we have had to deal with two major court cases. Both cases we have had to face, with Group Lotus and Force India, have been painful processes, for the team and personally for everybody involved, but we have not let them distract us.
"Whilst those fights were being won in court we have continued to make significant progress on track, particularly compared to the other two teams who joined the sport at the same time as us. We are absolutely determined to keep building on that progress and use the passion we have to join the midfield to keep pushing us forwards, and we will get there. We have everything in place to accomplish our goals and with the fierce determination we have to succeed we can kick on from there and keep climbing up the grid."