Lewis Hamilton has asserted that he and McLaren-Mercedes are 'in a pretty good place' as F1 2011 prepares to rouse itself from its summer silence with next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps – and he admits that he 'just can't wait to get back out in my car'.
Whilst runaway world championship leader Sebastian Vettel's advantage in the title standings approaching the final eight races of the season might be much the same as it was a couple of months ago – at 85 points over his closest pursuer – the truth of the matter is that in recent outings, the Red Bull Racing star has not been the all-conquering force that he was earlier on in the campaign, and he has in fact prevailed only once in the last five grands prix, with McLaren having accounted for three of the other victories.
Hamilton's contribution to that tally was his outstanding Nürburgring triumph last month, and if the 2008 F1 World Champion endured more of a scrappy weekend at the Hungaroring a week later – yielding a gritty if frustrated fourth place – he is nonetheless clearly one of the form men at the current stage of the season.
Better still, the 26-year-old produced a sublime performance to win in Belgium last year, and also took the chequered flag first-on-the-road there in 2008, prior to a controversial post-race penalty that demoted him to third. Palpably excelling around Spa's challenging and undulating layout, the Briton is ready to put a dent in Vettel's designs on glory this weekend.
“After a month out of the cockpit, I think every driver on the grid is really looking forward to racing on a track like Spa-Francorchamps, which is easily one of the greatest circuits in the world,” enthused Hamilton. “Spa has always been one of my favourite tracks – it's a place where you really feel on the limit, and that's pretty awesome in an F1 car. I'm already looking forward to my first flying lap on Friday morning.
“Corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont are fantastic, just because they're so fast; Pouhon, in particular, is incredible, because you're really at the limit of the grip level and you're gently playing with the throttle and trying not to scrub off too much speed with the steering. Getting it right is an amazing feeling.
“I think we go into the race weekend in a pretty good place – we (McLaren) have won the last two grands prix and the car feels strong; we've worked hard to improve the set-up, so it's really inspiring confidence at the moment, which means you can push it that little bit further, particularly in qualifying. Of course, the weekend is likely to be affected by the weather, which is always somewhat unpredictable at Spa. I'd prefer a dry race but, to be honest, I'll take any track condition – I just can't wait to get back out in my car!”