2015 Belgian Grand Prix Practice Review

Spa-Francorchamps_overview

Sebastian Vettel wins the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Daniil Kvyat in second place (securing his first podium in the sport) ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in third place. Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Marcus Ericsson also scored points for their respective teams from the event too.

Heading into the race weekend, Honda have announced that they are eying up Ferrari with regards to their planned upgrades to their engines this weekend and hoping that their hard work pays off for them with better results on the track.

We also have found out that two new teams have not passed the accordance checks that the FIA have in place in order to allow them onto the grid and that Gene Haas who enters the sport next season has his eyes on 5 drivers for two race seats including Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Finally, yesterday saw the Ferrari team announce that they have resigned Kimi Raikkonen for the 2016 season. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/ferrari-re-signs-kimi-raikkonen-for-the-2016-season/.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the classic Formula One tracks, but it is sometimes called “The greatest modern motor racing circuit in the world”. It is thoroughly enjoyed both by F1 drivers and spectators.

There are many reasons that drivers love Spa but mostly because it is fast, hilly, twisty, challenging and difficult to master. The circuit probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other track in the world. The Belgian Grand Prix is a challenge both in terms of car set-up and in predicting the weather.

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times. The track was originally 15 kilometers in length, today it is 7 kilometers with 19 sweeping medium and high-speed corners, 9 right turns and 10 left turns. It still retains much of its previous character and charm. Spa has the longest full throttle section in Formula One.

From the hairpin at La Source to the chicane of Les Combes at the top of the hill; the cars spend more than 20 seconds at full throttle. This period at full throttle includes the passage through the legendary Eau Rouge.

There are many reasons that drivers love Spa but mostly because it is fast, hilly, twisty, challenging and difficult to master. The circuit probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other track in the world. The Belgian Grand Prix is a challenge both in terms of car set-up and in predicting the weather.

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times. The track was originally 15 kilometers in length, today it is 7 kilometers with 19 sweeping medium and high-speed corners, 9 right turns and 10 left turns. It still retains much of its previous character and charm. Spa has the longest full throttle section in Formula One.

From the hairpin at La Source to the chicane of Les Combes at the top of the hill; the cars spend more than 20 seconds at full throttle. This period at full throttle includes the passage through the legendary Eau Rouge.

As the longest track on the Formula 1 calendar, Spa-Francorchamps has its unique problem. The place is famous for its unpredictable weather and it often rains at one end of the track while the surface is dry at the other which has given us some great races over the past few years.

The race weekend begins now….

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1 and FP2.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1 and FP2.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.51.082 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.242 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo was in third with a gap of 0.291 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was in fourth 0.396 seconds behind and Sebastian Vettel was in fifth place 0.784 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniil Kvyat was in sixth 0.878 seconds behind, Max Verstappen was in seventh 1.076 seconds behind, Carlos Sainz Jr was eighth  with a gap of 1.339 seconds behind, Sergio Perez was ninth 1.341 seconds behind and Valtteri Bottas was in tenth 1.429 seconds behind Rosberg.

Pastor Maldonado's Lotus after the incident in the final 40 minutes of FP1.

Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus after the incident in the final 40 minutes of FP1.

During the session, we saw in the last 40 minutes of the session Pastor Maldonado having an accident when he lost the rear of his Lotus exiting Malmedy at the top of the circuit. His Lotus slewed sideways across the circuit towards the inside of the track and made heavy contact with the tyre barrier, ripping the front right suspension from its mountings.

Maldonado got out of the car okay and wasn’t injured as a result of this accident. This then brought out the red flag in order to recover the Lotus from the race track. The car will require a fairly substantial repair job ahead of second practice.

Just before the start of FP2, it was announced that McLaren-Honda and its drivers were to receive a total of a 55 grid grid penalty this weekend. If you want to read more about this, please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/mclaren-honda-and-its-drivers-hit-with-a-combined-55-place-grid-drop-this-weekend/.

Practice 2 saw Rosberg remain top of the timesheets  with a lap time of 1.49.385 ahead of his team mate Hamilton in second place who was  0.302 seconds behind him, but was ahead of Ricciardo in third place who finished 0.751 seconds behind the Mercedes of Rosberg. Kvyat was in fourth place 1.014 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fifth place 1.076 seconds behind and Nico Hulkenberg was in sixth place 1.076 seconds behind Rosberg.

Romain Grosjean was in seventh place 1.104 seconds behind, Marcus Ericsson was in eighth place 1.324 seconds behind, Felipe Nasr was in ninth place 1.543 seconds behind and Vettel was in tenth place 1.555 seconds behind Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg's Mercedes W07 being taken back to the garage after his tyre blow out in FP2.

Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes W07 being taken back to the garage after his tyre blow out in FP2.

Rosberg’s blowout happened on the run down to Pouhon and Rosberg said there were no signs from inside the cockpit that it was about to let go. He was on a long run on the soft compound at the time and when the tyre went he was lucky not to be pitched into a barrier on either side of the straight.

He then ended up with the three remaining tyres still on his car locked as he skidded down the straight and came to a halt in the run off for Pouhon. The incident will be fully investigated by both Mercedes and Pirelli, but a replay from FOM showed that there was some damage to the tyre earlier in the lap on the Kemmel Straight.

The session was red flagged to recover the debris but was suspended for a second time with 10 minutes remaining when Marcus Ericsson hit the wall at Pouhon. Ericsson ran slightly wide through the sweeping left hand corner and lost the rear of the car on the exit kerb. Within a fraction of a second; the Sauber had swapped ends and slammed into the barriers side on. Ericsson walked away from the accident but only after apologising several times to his team on the pit-to-car radio.

At the end of the session, Romain Grosjean stopped his Louts on the track at Turn 9 with suspected electrical failure with smoke coming out of the back of the car. This then brought out the double yellow flags in order to recover the car from the track.

After FP2, it was announced that Max Verstappen will take an engine penalty this weekend. If you want to read more about it, then please read my article:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/verstappen-to-receive-an-engine-penalty-this-weekend/.

Also, it was announced that Lotus could have an impound order against them as their former Test Driver Charles Pic has taken legal action against them. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/lotus-facing-impound-threat-this-weekend-at-the-belgian-gp/.

Before the start of FP3, it was announced that Romain Grosjean will take a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox while the FIA announced that the kerb at Eau Rouge has been removed as a result of the drivers briefing last night. If you want find out more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/kerb-at-eau-rouge-has-been-removed/.

It has also been announced that an external source caused Nico Rosberg’s tyre blow out in FP2 yesterday. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/pirelli-believe-that-external-source-caused-nico-rosbergs-tyre-failure/.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3. All rights reserved to LAT.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3. All rights reserved to LAT.

Practice 3 saw Hamilton topping the timesheets with a laptime of 1.48.984 ahead of his team mate Rosberg who was in second place 0.498 seconds behind him but was ahead of Vettel in third place who was 0.645 seconds behind the Mercedes of Hamilton. Raikkonen finished in fourth place 0.880 seconds behind and Perez finished in fifth 0.882 seconds behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo finished in sixth place 0.946 seconds behind, Kvyat finished in seventh place 0.996 seconds behind, Hulkenberg finished in eighth place 1.016 seconds behind, Bottas finished in ninth place 1.195 seconds behind and Massa rounded off the top ten 1.463 seconds behind Hamilton.

During the session, we saw Kimi Raikkonen going off the track but he managed to keep the car under control and was able to continue on during the session. Sadly, things are not looking good for Fernando Alonso and McLaren-Honda. Alonso’s engine didn’t sound good as he prepared to go out onto the track and the team were looking into the issues as quickly as possible.

We also saw Romain Grosjean go off at the Bus Stop Chicane and managed to correct the rear of the car spinning. Grosjean was able to get the var back on track and continued on during the session.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race.

But Vettel is looking strong this weekend and could snatch pole from them. However, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and even Bottas or Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Lotus, Toro Rosso or Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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