Perez expecting intense racing in Belgium

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McLaren driver Sergio Perez expects another intense grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps next weekend as Formula One returns after its summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The team has endured a difficult start to the season, currently lying sixth in the constructors’ championship and struggling for outright pace with Jenson Button already writing off any hopes of a McLaren victory at Spa next weekend. However, Perez is pleased with the progress that has been made.

“We had a positive race in Hungary, which was a nice way to end the first half of the season,” Perez explained in a team statement, “Hopefully, it gave everybody within the team the motivation to return to work after the summer break with renewed focus. I’m certainly feeling incredibly strong and refreshed and am really looking forward to getting back into the cockpit and back to work.”

Like many drivers, Perez is a fan of the circuit as it poses a unique challenge thanks to its rapid changes in elevation and high-speed sections.

“It’s such a great place – I love fast corners, and the feeling of taking to the car to the limit around such a big and long circuit is incredible.

“The racing at Spa – particularly with KERS Hybrid and DRS – is usually pretty intense, so I’ll be looking forward to another exciting weekend.”

Perez has failed to finish before in Belgium, retiring from both of his previous grands prix at Spa. However, the Mexican driver did start an impressive P4 for Sauber before being caught-up in the accident at turn one caused by Romain Grosjean, resulting in the Lotus driver receiving a one-race ban.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “