The Formula One Belgian Grand Prix promised to be a thriller, helped by a slightly mixed-up grid, but in the end, the expected rain never came and after a clean first lap, it proved to be a race of few surprises. Sebastian Vettel’s win wasn’t great for the title battle, but it was well-deserved after a faultless weekend for the German. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton did at least add to their scores, but it was a bad day for Kimi Raikkonen. Here’s what happened among the 11 teams.
Lewis Hamilton surprised even himself after beating both Red Bulls to secure his fourth consecutive pole position in a rain-soaked qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Mercedes driver is the first Briton since Damon Hill in 1995 to get four straight poles and has set himself up perfectly to keep the pressure on championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who starts Sunday’s race from second ahead of teammate Mark Webber.
“I dropped to five, six seconds back, so I didn’t know what was going on,” Hamilton said. “But I kept pushing … I feel so fortunate to get pole.”
He had expected worse.
Fernando Alonso was in a positive mood after free practice in Friday, despite ending the day a modest seventh.
However, headline times don’t always tell the full story, and the Spaniard insisted that Ferrari made progress.
“This was a good day, even if in the morning we, and in fact everyone, lost time because of the rain, and so in the afternoon we found ourselves facing double the workload,” he said. “Before drawing any conclusions, we need to wait for the analysis of the data acquired this afternoon from both cars. Felipe (Massa, teammate) and I tried different aero configurations, with more and less downforce, which will be the real key to this race, along with the weather.
“In terms of today’s times, we have got closer to the favorites, but I’m not sure which weather forecast I would prefer. It’s true that in the rain, the cards on the table can be shuffled up, but in the wet there are as many chances to benefit as there are to lose.”
Pirelli is investigating the causes of right-rear punctures that afflicted Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in FP2, and also a series of cuts seen on other Formula One tires.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery believes that something on the track was the likely cause in most cases, while also suggesting that a piece of debris was responsible for the Vettel problem.
Inevitably, given the events of Silverstone and the high-speed nature of Spa, teams and drivers are looking for some reassurances from Pirelli.
“It looks on the Red Bull as if something has been rubbing on the surface and then cut straight through the surface,” said Hembery. “And on the Ferrari there are two quite clear holes through the top of the tread. We’ve got to go and look at the track later and see what’s been turns 13 and 15.
Lewis Hamilton had a difficult first day at Spa, finishing FP2 only 12th and some 1.420 seconds off pace-setter Sebastian Vettel after struggling to find one-lap speed.
Hamilton, who came to Belgium on the back of his Hungarian GP win, said he lacked grip with the low downforce specification used at Spa.
“We have some work ahead of us this evening to get the car feeling just right, but overall today was a reasonable start to the weekend,” he said. “The car feels very different here with the low downforce setup, compared to at the last race, and we need to refine a few areas to get the balance sorted.
“We were able to get some good long-run work done today, and that’s the most important thing for the race. We’ve got time to make the changes required, so I’m optimistic that tomorrow will see an improvement.”