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Free Practice 2 15:33
Free Practice 1 13:20
Spa Golden days are over 12:25
Free Practice 2
It was a Red Bull exhibition. First on the hard tyre Vettel was quickest and then Webber switched to the medium to claim the fastest lap. This was short lived as Vettel tried out the softer compound and responded with a time 0.06s quicker than his Aussie team mate.
Only for drivers managed to get within 1 second of the Red Bull standard, Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen.
Things looked a little better for Ferrari than they had in FP1 with Alonso managing 7th place, but this may be a long and barren weekend for the team from Maranello and the driver who has been the topic of most conversation during the summer break.
Force India have failed to produce their best form a ta circuit they believe they should be quick and Perez is once again ahead of a rather dejected Jenson Button.
Vettel finished the session with a puncture and some minor damage to the car whilst Van de Garde had a big off for no apparent reason at Stavelot, hitting the tyre barrier side ways on in reverse at over 100mph.
Let’s wait and see what mysteries Dr, James Beck unravels from this session before we all make of GP Predictor guesses.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m49.331s 22 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m49.390s +0.059s 34 3. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m50.149s +0.818s 34 4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m50.164s +0.833s 27 5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m50.253s +0.922s 28 6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m50.318s +0.987s 33 7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m50.510s +1.179s 21 8. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m50.536s +1.205s 27 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.601s +1.270s 33 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m50.611s +1.280s 27 11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m50.629s +1.298s 30 12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m50.751s +1.420s 27 13. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.972s +1.641s 33 14. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m50.991s +1.660s 28 15. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m51.195s +1.864s 28 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m51.447s +2.116s 26 17. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m51.568s +2.237s 28 18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m51.644s +2.313s 26 19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m53.157s +3.826s 21 20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m53.251s +3.920s 29 21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m53.482s +4.151s 28 22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m54.418s +5.087s 12
Drivers prefer making babies to looking after them
For those of you who missed the driver conference, here was an amusing segment predicated by a question from Julien Febreau – Canal Plus)
Question to all of you except Romain Grosjean: do you feel ready to be a father?
Vettel: Oof. I don’t know. Maybe. Obviously Romain is a father, so maybe he can comment on what made him think he’s ready or not. I think in the best case it doesn’t take too long to get the job done! (much sniggering) I think in that case we are all ready!
JEV: Well, following what Seb says, I will be ready to do the job but not the rest.
GvdG: (James Allen is audibly chuckling still) I think when Seb does one he will have a nice boy or girl with the same hair. Just kidding. I don’t know. First of all, I’ve been with my girlfriend for quite a long time. We’re getting married this year and after that we will see what comes. I think we’ll wait for a few more years.
Vettel: (pointing to all the drivers except Grosjean and grinning) We are still in free practice! (uncontrollable laughter in the room)
Bianchi: (grinning) I think it’s the same (for me); I don’t feel ready at the moment but I’m practising!
Pic: (serious face) For myself at the moment I’m focusing on racing and my season and after that we will see.
Julien. If you ask such a question to a bunch of F1 drivers…. what exactly did you expect???
Massa – Eau Rouge not great
Felipe Massa won the Belgium GP in 2008, but tells the assembled F1 media that Eau Rouge is not what it was.
“When I started in Formula 1 with the V10 it was always a more difficult corner to do. On new tyres [it was] flat out, but most of the laps not flat out and a very tricky corner to do.
Now it is flat out first lap and whatever tyres you have, you’re doing that corner flat out so it’s not a corner anymore, it’s a straight. You have all the corners that are much more tricky now compared to Eau Rouge.
This is the situation unfortunately because Eau Rouge was a great place to watch, a great corner, and now it’s not for us driving.”
Jean Eric Vergne however states, “I love this track. I’ve always loved racing here”, and many of the driver’s believe the unique layout of the Spa circuit which winds it’s way down several hundred feet of elevation on the side of a mountain is still one of the best on the calendar.
Free Practice 1
There was barely 15 minutes of running before the famous Ardennes weather closed in on the circuit in Spa-Francorchamps. Jenson was quickest an d the McLaren looked as though once again the Woking team had made a step forward.
On 45 minutes, Mark Webber braved it out onto the track on slick tyres and went fastest in sector 2 though his lap time was 9 seconds slower than Button’s. Red Bull were clearly targeting aero work on the sector where they believe their car will perform best.
Ferrari had been conspicuous by their absence and with less than 30 minutes to go, Alonso made his track debut and posted the quickest time. Perez and Di Resta displaced him but with the return of the rain imminent Alonso once again captured top spot.
All the drivers managed to stay clear of the barriers for which their engineers and mechanics will be eternally grateful.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m55.198s 11 2. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m55.224s +0.026s 10 3. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m55.373s +0.175s 11 4. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m55.518s +0.320s 14 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m55.614s +0.416s 10 6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m55.636s +0.438s 14 7. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m55.954s +0.756s 18 8. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m56.110s +0.912s 11 9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m56.770s +1.572s 14 10. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m56.858s +1.660s 18 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m56.863s +1.665s 10 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m57.081s +1.883s 14 13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.084s +1.886s 17 14. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m57.281s +2.083s 14 15. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m57.358s +2.160s 10 16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m57.821s +2.623s 16 17. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m57.887s +2.689s 16 18. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m58.600s +3.402s 14 19. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m58.929s +3.731s 12 20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m59.209s +4.011s 12 21. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m59.441s +4.243s 11 22. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2m03.176s +7.978s 15
Long wheel base Lotus E21 delayed again
Lotus have been planning the introduction of a new chassis which is 10cm longer than the current E21 for some time. It was due to make its debut in Hungary having not passed the appropriate crash tests. Spa was earmarked as the next target for the introduction of the E21a, however reliability problems have frustrated the Enstone team once again.
The team is confident however that Monza will now see the introduction of the longer wheel based version of Lotus 2013 car, but this will be the last major upgrade of the season.
Gerard Lopez tells Autosport, “In the second half of the season all you are doing is coming up with new wings, you’re not look at changing the wheelbase or things like that – those are things you do in the first 10 races,”
Japan race secure to 2018
One circuit which has been a historic pillar of the Formula 1 in Asia has this today in Belgium secured its future signing a new five year deal with F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone.
It almost went unnoticed when a group of Japanese wandered through the paddock and onto the track of Spa-Francorchamps; despite the rain they all appeared in high spirits and the reason being they were the people who work with Masaro Unno, the promoter of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Unno says, “We actually expected no other outcome of the negotiations but nevertheless it is always a beautiful sight, then really see the signature of Bernie on paper.”
The Grand Prix of Japan, first became part of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1976 (the memorable championship showdown between rain-meister Niki Lauda (Ferrari) and McLaren ace James Hunt. From 1987 to 2006, the drivers enjoyed at the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit, owned by Honda.
In 2007 the F1 circus returned to the Fuji track which had been re-configured by Tilki and was owned by Toyota. The race was held in torrential rain and started behind the safety car. Lewis Hamilton took the victory while his team-mate Fernando Alonso crashed heavily. Heikki Kovalainen finished 2nd, his best result until that date and Kimi Räikkönen 3rd, marking the first time that two Finnish drivers were together on the podium.
In 2008, the first corner brought troubles for the McLarens and the Ferraris, and Fernando Alonso was able to take win in a Renault. Felipe Massa was 7th after a penalty for a collision with title rival Lewis Hamilton, while Hamilton finished outside the points, having also served a penalty for an incident in the first corner.
A plan was announced for Fuji and Suzuka to alternate as hosts for the Japanese GP but in July 2009, Toyota cited a global economic slump as the reason that the Japanese Grand Prix would not return to Fuji Speedway in 2010 and beyond.
In a rather dramatic statement to Associated Press a company spokesperson stated, “continuing to host F1 races could threaten the survival of the company.” As a result, the 2010 Grand Prix was held once again at Suzuka
The fact Honda are returning to F1 in 2015 meant the extension of the Suzuka contract was merely a formality at some point, but the timing of this announcement is interesting as Bernie awaits announcements from Munich yet once again justifies his worth to his employers CVC.
Spa Golden days over
In 1992, the Belgium circuit in the village of Spa-Francorchamps saw F1 crowds in excess of 110,000 attend the race day, but times have changed. Last year’s race saw a mere 50,000 attend following ticketing problems with a Dutch agency which meant the promoters had to refund thousands of fans who never received their tickets. This resulted in a 6m euro loss for the event.
In financial trouble in 2012, Ecclestone provided André Maes, promoter of the race with a sweet deal and a 3 year extension which hopefully see’s this historic race continue at least until 2015. At the time, the Belgium authorities who provide much of the hosting fee were hoping to secure a deal whereby they alternated year on year with a French GP, however, the French government had other ideas.
Maes explains to Speedweek some of the costs of putting on such an event. “The fact that we want to set up video screens for half of the fans, means a cost of half a million euros and a lot of generators and cabling that costs another 100,000 euros.
Then there are rules such as that half the fans have to sit under a roof. Traffic management and safety also contribute to rising costs. Then there is our contribution to the costs of policing. There will be in attendance 950 Belgium police and then there are officials here from France, Holland and Germany so that fans have the opportunity to talk with a policeman in their language”.
Apparently 60,000 fans on race day will mean the event breaks even and 7,000 tickets more than in 2012 had been sold by Monday this week.
2014 may be an even tougher ask for Spa to break even should the Red Bull Ring in Austria be added to the calendar.
Pirelli issues strict tyres specifications for Spa
Due to the high-speed nature of the Spa circuit Pirelli has issued strict limits to the teams running its tyres to ensure no repeat of 2011. Red Bull and McLaren were running excessive front camber angles causing severe blisters and had Adrian Newey sit on the pit wall with his heart in his throat.
The maximum front camber is 3.5 degrees and 2.5 degrees at the rear. Air pressure (when cold) should be no less than 18 PSI to allow for a 20PSI tyre when warm.
McLaren’s Sam Michael does not see a problem though. Spa is “generally run at high pressures,” he said, “The 2012 carcasses have worked in the past year“.
So just remember the cambers Sam, just remember the cambers…
Button, the inevitable has happened
After having been linked to a move to Ferrari two UK newspapers (Telegraph and Mirror) are reporting Button could be considered as a replacement for Mark Webber at Red Bull. Horner was quoted saying, “I think Jenson is an asset to any team. Jenson’s a class act, as a team player, a human being, a driver – he’s done a great job in his career. But he’s not on our radar because he’s not available.”
Asked if he [Button] was willing to pledge his future to McLaren after earlier links to rivals Ferrari he replied, “I need to be asked first. Where is Martin? He still hasn’t asked me. I want to win the world championship again it’s not which team.”
McLaren has yet to exercise their option [to keep Button for 2014] which is expiring at the end of the month (according to the Telegraph) making him a free agent. Considering what we know about Horner, using 10,000 words where 10 would do, his answer is a diplomatic ‘not interested’.
Reading between the lines, this is more Button wanting to secure his seat with McLaren and reminding Whitmarsh about his option.
Sirotkin signs for Sauber
Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn has confirmed that the contract with Sirotkin is now in place reports German publication Der Spiegel. The young Russian visited the teams factory in Hinwil this week to familiarise himself with the team and the car and signed his contract, just in time for Spa and keeping creditors at arms length.
Sirotkin may find himself in a race seat next year however should he struggle it will only damage his chances later on in his career. Is Sauber’s need for investment now clouding their ability to judge talent?