In Davide Valsecchi's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Lotus F1 Team third driver and 2012 GP2 Series Champion reflects on Hungary and previews the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...
We've passed the halfway point in the 2013 F1 World Championship now and the season so far really has been great. We have had lots of overtakes and the passion for the sport has been brilliant everywhere we have been. Let's hope the second half is even better...
The recent Hungarian Grand Prix went well for Lotus F1 Team. It was a great race for us and we had a great Saturday too. Romain [Grosjean] was really quick and in the end he got third position on the grid in qualifying. We were all very pleased with that. Kimi [Raikkonen], in contrast, struggled to find the perfect balance with the car - but he still finished in sixth and was feeling positive going into the race.
Then in the grand prix itself, Kimi had a great afternoon - he did some good overtakes and at the end when he was in second place, he defended the position perfectly against Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel. It was really impressive and he got the job done. Our car showed it was really, really competitive too and we delivered a good result.
It was a bit of a pity for Romain, although sixth wasn't too bad given the two penalties he picked up, one for the run-in with Jenson Button and the other for the pass on Felipe Massa. I thought both those judgements were a bit harsh, especially the move on Felipe. In the corner when he passed him on the outside, it was one of the best overtakes of the season in my view. But he positioned the wheels just a bit out of the white line and the rules say you cannot do this. He got a drive-through as a result. That seemed a bit tough, especially as it wasn't 100 per cent clear what had gone on. The one with Button was a bit more expected, but luckily for us the addition of a 20-second time penalty didn't affect where Romain finished.
Hungary was of course the first race with the new Pirelli tyres and they performed as we anticipated. Nicolas Prost and I ran on them at the Young Driver Test the week before the trip to Budapest and we left knowing they were good for us. We did a lot of race simulations at Silverstone and I felt we had great pace and our balance was very competitive. Then in Hungary our car adapted really well to them. They performed in line with our predictions and the balance in the race was pretty much spot on.
Lotus F1 Team now lies fourth in the Constructors' Championship going into the summer shutdown, but with just 25 points covering us, Ferrari and Mercedes, it clears there's a long way still to go.
Mercedes look incredibly fast at the moment, however. Lewis Hamilton scored pole position in Hungary and got the victory. They really are at the top level. They've always been on the front row in the last eight events. It will not be so easy for us to catch them. But we can definitely fight with Ferrari.
It seems that our car is now better than the Ferrari. It looks like we are faster and it should be a good battle for third place in the championship.
Overall I think the team is delivering more than we expected. Kimi has scored six podiums - including one victory. That is better than what we forecast at the start of the season.
Kimi also moved up to second in the Drivers' Championship post-Hungaroring and while Vettel has a 38-point lead you never know what could happen – there are still nine races to go and 225 points up for grabs. Kimi is there then and fighting for the championship. We will see what happens. Maybe with a bit of good luck and maybe if Vettel has a bit of bad luck we can do it. We should definitely be able to fight until the end and I am sure Kimi will be able to fight for some victories along the way.
Before the next race in Belgium, we now have a little break and for me personally, it will be a good chance to spend some time with my family and my girlfriend. We have been away a lot of days what with my involvement in the race weekends and also I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and at the Young Driver test, so I am looking forward to staying at home for a bit and relaxing for the next two weeks.
For the team it is something of a mixed blessing. I'm sure they'd like to be able to press on and continue working on the car, but the people at the factory and the race team all need some R&R too.
During the next few weeks we will have to close the factory for two weeks and that means there won't be much time to try and improve the car and work on it. But rest assured we will all remained focused and will go to Spa-Francorchamps in a few weeks time determined to start the second 'half' of the season in a positive way and with a strong result.
I love Spa - it is one of my favourites and that is the case for most – if not all – the drivers. It is incredibly fast and while it will not be so easy for us to fight for the victory there, it is one of Kimi's favourite circuits and that bodes well. He has won there many times and we hope he can deliver a great result again.
I've never had a victory there myself, but I got a third place last year in the GP2 Series feature race. My dream is to get back on the podium there in F1 one day.
What makes Spa so special?
It has to be the history, the crowd and the circuit itself. The passion at the track is always fantastic - the fans there really love motorsport and F1. It makes it a great weekend. The circuit is also steeped in F1 history, so that is important. It is a quick one too and with corners like La Source and Eau Rouge, what is there not to like?
We will be looking to fight for podiums in Belgium, like we have been doing elsewhere, so fingers crossed....
Until next time,Davide Valsecchi
To keep tabs on the Lotus F1 Team's progress in 2013, simply follow this link: www.lotusf1team.com