Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The second half of the season swung into gear with Red Bull opting for shorter gears in order to hopefully make up for some of their lack of power from the feckless Renault PU. A nice long interview with Jos “the Boss” on Sky pre-Quali as the topic of young Verstappen dominated even the impending Mercedes fratricide. With air temps of just 9◦C conditions were bound to be tricky, especially as the caprice of the Weather Gods made itself known by bucketing down rain 45 minutes before the start and yet lapis skies greeted the start of the session.
No matter as Spa delivered its famously changeable weather, without much effect sad to say. The biggest excitement was Bianchi’s move into Q2 (possibly to Ferrari as well if he continues his run of form) and the inevitable duel of the teammates the only real unknown going into Q3. Rosberg continued his dominance of pole position with his 4th in a row as Hamilton struggled in Q3 with tetchy brakes. Haters will call it nerves but his car never looked settled in Q3 the way it did in Q2, depriving true fans of the nail biting spectacle they all craved. Fortunately, to make up for it, Vettel surprised Ricciardo by taking 3rd, as the Colgate Kid decided to go rally crossing on his final effort, easily costing him that spot. With tomorrow’s predicted dry race there will be plenty of room for argument as the points await tomorrow’s checkers.
Marussia made the early start followed by Caterham and Toro Rosso as the backmarkers hoped to take advantage of the weather and sneak into Q2 in the event the rain worsened. With long laps made even longer by the wet, no times were posted as the rest of the field began to circulate. Early efforts were in the 2:14’s as the big decision was between wets and inters. Earlier runners including Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso, Kvyat, Sutil and Gutierrez opted for wets whilst Hamilton, for one, chose to go with the inters. After the outlap it became increasingly clear that inters were the choice and Kvyat showed the entertainment available to the drivers with the new Power Units as he spun the tyre in each gear as he accelerated into his first timed lap, wiggling the rear end of the car like a drunken Nicki Minaj.
The first times rolled in around the 13 minute mark with Kvyat’s 2:14 eclipsed by Vergne’s 2:13 as the soon to be ex-Toro Rosso driver continued to demonstrate his wet weather prowess. Massa had an off in replay at Les Combes and Ricciardo went to the top by jumping into the 2:10’s. Not for long as Hamilton, despite missing the Bus Stop entirely, still went into the 2:09’s to take the early lead. Going round for another go, he cleaned up his mistake and was into the 2:07’s followed by Rosberg.
Halfway through and Sutil, Grosjean, Chilton, Raikkonen, Ericsson, and Lotterer languished at the bottom as Gutierrez parked up his Sauber at Stavelot, giving at least one of the backmarkers a chance to escape Q1. Raikkonen wasted no time having another go and Vettel improved his lot to 3rd as the clock crossed the 7 minutes to go mark. Raikkonen came P5 to put himself temporarily out of danger as Kvyat attempted to get himself out of 16th with Bottas lighting up the track through Sector 1.
Kvyat made it across the line in 8th with 3:30 left and the times started to come thick and fast as Spa’s unpredictable weather caused a few grey hairs on the pit wall. Maldonado encountered trouble as Massa managed a 3rd that all but guaranteed his advancement. Hamilton, not content to sit on his laurels, went round for another go and Bianchi pulled off a P10 that very much made him the beneficiary of Gutierrez early exit.
With 1:30 to go rain began again and it was Maldonado going for a quick spin in the Chicane thus spoiling Vettel’s lap but fortuitously leaving him enough time for one more try. Sutil fell into 17th as desperation gripped the back end of the field and the struggle to advance entered its final phase. Rosberg came through, finally displacing Hamilton atop the field, but the real action was at the back as Sutil and Magnussen were in 15th and 16th respectively.
In quick succession they came across the line after the checkers fell and it was Hulkenberg losing the battle with cold brakes as the others managed to get through. Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Chilton, Gutierrez, Lotterer and Ericsson occupied the back end of the grid at session’s end, going no further. Lotterer, who at one point was well outside the 107% rule, wound up besting Ericsson by over a second, raising real questions about how much longer the new owners of Caterham might be willing to keep him on, despite his cash.
Thoroughly raining at the start of the session with DRS disabled and Grosjean was out first, making his way round a lonely looking track. He was quickly followed as the weather showed no immediate signs of improving and the desire for bankers was great as the only question was would the drops get bigger or smaller.
Early times were Grosjean 2:13 followed by Sutil in a 2:11, Button in 2:09 and then Bottas in 2:08 neatly showing the stratification of the field with 9 minutes to go. Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso all booted their first laps and were forced to go round for a second time in order to post a time with 9 minutes left.
After an agonizing wait, finally they came through and it was Hamilton with the advantage in a 2:07, nearly a second up on Rosberg. In replay, it was clear he caught the back of the kerbs at Eau Rouge and very nearly lost the car after quite the fun little moment. Raikkonen leaped into 5th and Vettel 4th. Rosberg continued to have a tough time of it in Rivage but still managed to improve, staying P2. Kvyat, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean and Bianchi were all at the back as Magnussen hung round in 10th and Vergne had yet to set a time.
With 4 minutes to go, Vergne finally set a time, but it was only good for 12th. Needing to do better, he kept the fires lit for another turn. Kvyat came through with a minute to go and shoved Magnussen firmly off the cliff and put Button into danger with Sutil unable to improve.
As the checkers fell, Hamilton was into the 2:06’s and it was Magnussen’s turn to shove Button off. Rosberg failed to best Hamilton as Lewis looked increasingly untouchable in these conditions. Vettel was on edge as Ricciardo came through, confirming 8th. Vergne came 12th, as Button went P9 putting Vettel out and Kvyat into 10th. Long moments in the Red Bull garage as the wait for Vettel’s lap slowed time to a crawl. He came through in 7th, doing in Kvyat’s chances and leaving only Perez on track to finish a thoroughly uninspired 13th.
Kvyat, Vergne, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Bianchi hung up their gloves as the top 10 got themselves sorted for one last effort.
Clearing skies, but the rain had failed to make much of an impression on the results thus far, though not sure about the drivers tidies however.
Vettel was lined up and waiting for at least a minute before the pit exit opened. Just as the light turned green, Hamilton came roaring up behind him, just ahead of his teammate. Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s mechanics were just tidying up his car as Sebastian was getting on with it. It was only a brief delay and Ricciardo joined the rest of the field as long laps left little time to play.
With only 8 minutes left Vettel crossed the line followed by Hamilton, who immediately went wide at La Source, handing Rosberg a big advantage. As the lap progressed, it was clear he had decided to save tyres for a second go and with no surprise, Rosberg took P1 2:05 to Vettel’s 2:08. Alonso slotted in behind Vettel, Massa behind Alonso as the rest of the field completed their first effort, with Ricciardo in 5th followed by Button and Magnussen.
With time short, Hamilton came through for the second time and managed to get his P2, but the car looked to be a real handful compared to Q2. As the rest of the field circulated on their out lap having stopped for new tyres, Hamilton had to push to get through his stop and make it back across start finish for one last try. It wasn’t to be, as yet again he struggled with the first turn. Still he was up on Rosberg’s time through Sector 1, but he gradually hemorrhaged time through Sector 2 and was unable to improve on Rosberg’s initial mark, a fact he attributed to glazing on one of his front brakes, possibly the front right as it featured in a radio call from Bonnington after his first try went sideways. Behind the Mercedes pair, which still were easily a second ahead, it was Vettel best of the rest, slinging his car through the turns with a masterful display of wringing every last bit of time out of a lap. Alonso came behind Vettel and it was Ricciardo with it all to prove as time expired but this time it didn’t work out as he had a massive off at Stavelot which consigned him to 5th, followed by Bottas. Magnussen, Raikkonen, Massa and Button occupied P7-10.
The fact that Quali was wet opens up the possibility of interesting tyre strategies for the top 10, but it will be the race to La Source that occupies everyone’s attention tomorrow as points are finally on offer after the long summer’s break.
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|18||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|