Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix 2014: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying
Lewis Hamilton's quest to catch Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg atop the Formula One Drivers' Standings is ready to be reignited at the Belgian Grand Prix, the first race back after this season's summer break.
Rosberg currently sits nine points ahead of the Englishman, who managed to claw a little ground back during the last race in Budapest, where he finished third to the German's fourth.
Aside from Rosberg's retirement at Silverstone, this finish represented the first time he has failed to conclude the race inside the top two this season, allowing his colleague to regain precious ground.
Hamilton's early-season dominance has subsided—he managed to win four consecutive races after retiring during the opener in Australia—but ability to make the podium remains consistent.
In fact, Hamilton has finished at least third across all nine circuits he has seen through to the end. Importantly, his performances have remained sharp since Canada, which saw his brakes blow out during a battle for victory.
Rosberg may be nervous to consider he is yet to win back-to-back races. He admitted to having gained a vital lesson after the Hungarian Grand Prix, which saw Hamilton disobey instructions in order to stay ahead of his team-mate:
"Of course we discussed it after the race, because it's important to review a situation like that and to know how to move forward," said Rosberg, per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport. "I've also learned various things which I will try to adapt for the future."
Daniel Ricciardo is among the chasing pack who will be looking to gain ground on the Mercedes duo at Spa-Francorchamps. The 25-year-old claimed his first win of the season last time out and will want to maintain his 16-point lead over Fernando Alonso.
Alonso is working well with a less-impressive car this season, highlighted by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen's troubled performances since returning to Ferrari. The Finn languishes down in 12th overall heading into the Belgian Grand Prix, his best finish this season coming in at sixth.
Valtteri Bottas, Raikkonen's countryman, has enjoyed a comfortable campaign so far and remains in fifth. While the Williams driver was unable to finish second for a third consecutive race in Hungary—where he came eighth—he remains in the running to be crowned this season's "best of the rest."
At this stage, it seems highly unlikely the dominance of Rosberg, Hamilton and Mercedes will be overthrown. Spa offers a challenging route, one bursting with opportunities to overtake and gain vital speed, but the pack will need to begin gaining ground soon if a Mercedes winner isn't going to be crowned come the end of the season.
Nico Rosberg Saunters to Pole Position
As predicted after a tame showing in the third practice race, Team Mercedes' drivers had saved themselves for the battle for pole in the qualifying races. So it proved as professional teammates and personal rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dominated the front line in Belgium.
The pair split the first two qualifiers, with the first going to Rosberg, before Hamilton pipped him in the second. However things weren't nearly as close during the Q3.
Rosberg romped home in spectacular style to leave Hamilton trailing and frustrated. Sky Sports reporter James Galloway detailed how the result maintains Rosberg's recent dominance over his uneasy teammate:
For the seventh race in a row the championship leader will start ahead of his team-mate and sole drivers' title rival, with Hamilton coming up short in Q3 despite proving the lead W05 through most of practice and the first two stages of qualifying.
Hamilton suggested suspect brakes had a lot to do with his inability to handle the pressure and produce his best race, also per Galloway:
I had a glazed front-left brake disc which meant the car was pulling to the right and there was nothing l could do on the out-laps about it. I was struggling in the braking zone and losing massive amounts –particularly in Turn One.
It's a result that not only gives Rosberg the advantage for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, it's also one that dents Hamilton's bid to claim the world title.
Here's a full breakdown of the results from the qualifying sessions, courtesy of Formula1.com:
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||2:10.105||2:08.868||2:07.717||24|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Re Bull Racing-Renault||2:10.089||2:08.989||2:07.911||21|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||2:10.666||2:10.084||16|
|18||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||2:11.267||8|
P3: Bottas Dominates
Finland's Valtteri Bottas was surprisingly dominant during the third practice session at the 2014 Belgium Grand Prix. His performance shows off the possible power Williams can bring to this race as a potential challenger to Mercedes' dominance.
Of course, new power in the engine aside, there's no doubt Bottas was aided by the weather at Spa-Francorchamps. A wet morning session made many drivers tentative.
However, the elements might not have contributed to some uncharacteristic timidity from Mercedes heavyweights Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
The uneasy allies took a largely cautious approach to the practice run. Obviously, this could be a sign the pair are saving their best for the qualifier later today, where pole position is the reward.
But there's also little doubt that the single-lap pace, usually a Mercedes trademark, was lacking. It was a strange ploy by Hamilton and Rosberg.
They have the advantage of superior engines powerful enough to take advantage of the fast track and long straights in Belgium. Mercedes' timidity, intended or not, let Bottas set the decisive pace.
But the Finn's finishing time was further proof of how Mercedes laboured through the race, as Sky Sports reporter James Galoway noted:
With laptimes tumbling all the time as a result as the grip levels around the undulating 7km began to ramp up again, Williams' Bottas ultimately emerged on top with a lap of 1:49.465 - the Finn's best time of the weekend so far, but three tenths shy of Lewis Hamilton's impressive benchmark from Friday.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.268|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+0.428|
|10||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||+1.070|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||+1.127|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||+1.349|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||+1.401|
P2: Hamilton Sneaks Ahead of Rosberg as Maldonado Crashes Again
Lewis Hamilton posted a smooth second practice in Belgium, where he wrestled ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg prior to the weekend's qualifying.
Hamilton appeared in positive spirits before practice and suggested his decision not to let Rosberg pass in the previous race—despite team orders—had been addressed by his bosses:
"I got off the phone thinking the team are going to be on it to make sure the issues don’t happen again so I had that 100 percent confidence," said Hamilton, per Giles Richards of The Guardian. "It was an awkward position, not a very clear situation with the team orders and I’d like to think I handled it quite well."
While it is not clear whether Mercedes' race control will deploy individual instructions during the remaining eight races, both drivers shrugged the Hungary mishap off to put in dominant displays on the Belgian circuit.
Even so, tensions are sure to remain high while both men are within touching distance of each other in the Drivers' Standings. Hamilton bettered Rosberg's offering by 0.604, as both knocked near two seconds off their morning times.
Below the front two, Alonso maintained his third position after deciding to end his session slightly early. The Spaniard's composed performance holds him in good stead for the weekend and maintains a run of impressive form considering the limitations of Ferrari's car this year.
Massa improved massively from the morning session to take fourth. He was a lowly 15th after first practice and tightened his game to impress for Williams.
Pastor Maldonado's session ended quickly after the Venezuelan lost control of his Lotus on the way down to Pouhon, before hitting the barriers. A red flag was raised, but the 29-year-old quickly confirmed he was unhurt, per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport.
Sebastian Vettel also failed to post a time after a power-unit change ensured he would have the afternoon off.
Full practice results via Formula1.com:
|8||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:50.977||1.788||16|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:51.077||1.888||26|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:51.573||2.384||28|
|21||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||No time||N/A||2|
|22||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||No time||N/A|
P1: Rosberg Edges Hamilton After Marussia U-Turn Sees Chilton Reinstated
A familiar order took place during the first Formula One session back after the summer, as both Mercedes drivers topped the initial practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg wasted no time in reaffirming his authority on Friday, a vital step after he missed the podium during the previous race in Hungary. The 29-year-old finished 0.097 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton along the 7.004km circuit at Spa-Francorchamps to give himself an early advantage heading into the action of the main race, per Mike Wise of Sky Sports.
This is the fifth consecutive one-two session from Mercedes, who continue to set the pace across most race weekends.
Fernando Alonso continued to go about his work in professional style by ending the session third fastest. The Ferrari driver finished 0.06 seconds ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren and further in front of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who overcame an overheated ERS system to finish fifth.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel are perhaps further afield than they would like, having finished ninth and 11th during the practice session.
Team principal Chris Horner expected this, saying, "It will be damage limitation in the next two races, because Force India will suddenly reappear, Williams will be quick, McLaren will be quick and obviously Mercedes will be quick," per Reuters and via Eurosport.
The session was also notable for Marussia's U-turn over Max Chilton, who looked set to miss the Belgian Grand Prix over "contractual issues," reported via Byron Young of the Mirror.
Chilton will take part after the team's request to reinstate him over Alexander Rossi was officially accepted by stewards on Friday morning, per the Formula One website.
Full practice results via Formula1.com:
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:52.903||1.326||24|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:52.937||1.360||22|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:52.972||1.395||19|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:53.369||1.792||11|
|17||36||Giedo van der Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1:54.335||2.758||16|