Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rosberg Posts Top Speed in Damp Spa-Francorchamps Qualifying

Photo Credit: Pirelli/ Andrew Hone Photographer

The Formula 1 cars return to action after a now customary extended hiatus for weeks in the summer. At the ongoing 2014 season's last race in Hungary, Daniel Ricciardo scored a second career victory with Red Bull Racing in a season dominated by the Mercedes AMG team. All but two of the 2014 Formula 1 season's 11 rounds have resulted with either Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton being at the top of the podium at the conclusion of a race. The mid-summer break for the Formula 1 championship has presented an opportunity for drivers, crew members and race shop personnel of the eleven teams to officially rest ahead of the homestretch run consisting of eight grand prix events. Of course, it only seems natural that some, if not all of the Formula 1 teams have taken this time to evaluate their performance and perhaps unofficially search for ways to improve their on-track product. As the 2014 Formula 1 season returns to action at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, there was some interest in whether some teams would arrive from the summer break with better footing.

Qualifying for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix showed few signs that the story of Mercedes AMG's life at the front of the race field may not change going forward. Nico Rosberg posted a 2-minute, 5.591-second lap time around the historic 7.004-kilometer track in Q3 on intermediate Pirelli tires. A wet Spa-Francorchamps track caused over two minute lap times for the entire Formula 1 field in the three time trial sessions. Although the circuit became drier as the qualifying progressed, cars were never able to transition to slick tires.

Despite the wet circuit, drivers were able to mount some splendid time attacks against each other. The greatest duel came with the Mercedes AMG team drivers wanting to top spot in qualifying. Though Nico Rosberg prevailed with the fastest time in Q3, Lewis Hamilton made it a close battle throughout the final session. Hamilton will start second with a fast lap time 0.228 seconds off from Rosberg. Both Mercedes AMG cars were around two seconds faster than the second row occupants for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull-Renault was the best non-Mercedes-Benz engine machine in qualifying. The reigning champion's time for third place on the grid was 69/100th of a second faster than the fourth-fastest in Belgium. Fernando Alonso positioned his Ferrari between the Red Bull Racing cars with Daniel Ricciardo starting fifth on Sunday. Customer Mercedes-Benz powered vehicles belonging to Williams and McLaren occupy four of the remaining top-10 positions. Williams driver Valtteri Bottas will start sixth ahead of McLaren rookie driver Kevin Magnussen. The second Ferrari driven by Kimi Raikkonen is the meat inside a Mercedes-Benz sandwich. Felipe Massa and Jenson Button round out the top-10 for the Belgian Grand Prix. 

One change to the field for the Belgian Grand Prix is Andre Lotterer driving a Caterham-Renault. Japanese Kamui Koboyashi is a healthy scratch from the scoreless Formula 1 outfit. Regularly a driver for the Audi Sport Team Joest's R18 prototype sports car in the World Endurance Championship, Lotterer will be starting his first career Formula 1 in 21st spot outrunning teammate Marcus Ericsson by one second in qualifying.

Sunday's 44-lap race around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is set to take place under dry conditions.

2014 Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
4 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
7 22 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes-Benz
8 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
10 22 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
11 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
12 25 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
16 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari
17 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault
18 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
19 4 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari
20 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari
21 45 Andre Lotterer Caterham Renault
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault