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GP Week : Issue 208
QUALIFYING the circuits are drier than others, so nearly every lap you're driving blind.” Perhaps the most satisfied man after qualifying would have been Fernando Alonso, fourth- fastest. The Spaniard only missed P3 by under a tenth: “We tried various aerodynamic configurations and, if we seemed more competitive, maybe it’s because we managed to adapt better than some other teams. The rain certainly helped, but we also had good pace on the long run in the dry yesterday. “Tomorrow, whatever the conditions, we must simply try to run a perfect race and above all make the right tyre choices.” Kimi had had his dramas on Friday and was just a fraction down on his team-mate in each sector – that was enough to land him on grid eight. Both Williams and McLarens made Q3 with Valtteri Bottas again underlining his blossoming role at Didcot with a strong sixth, in conditions which really didn’t suit the Williams – which had looked particularly good in the dry practice: “The final practice where I finished P1 showed that we have a very strong car in the dry, but wet conditions allow other cars to move closer to us and unfortunately we didn't qualify as high today as we can. I lost some tyre temperature in my warm up lap because of traffic which is crucial for us and this made my final run trickier than the ones before, and throughout qualifying we were losing time in the second sector.” Felipe Massa is accustoming himself the the fact of his young team-mate’s pace and, also with tyre temp issues, was a whole second away, in ninth. It was much the same at McLaren, Kevin Magnussen doing the job a second faster than his experienced team-mate to grab grid seven, as team boss Eric Boullier noted: “Kevin did a particularly doughty job, ending up in P7, which was a mighty fine effort, especially bearing in mind that he achieved it with a low-downforce dry-weather set-up. Jenson, too, did well, and would have done better still had he not locked his brakes at the top of the hill before Turn 8 when he was running his quick Q3 lap on new inters.” Jenson was as usual honest in his assessment: "During my second run, on new Inters [tyres], in the slightly drier conditions, I locked up at the top of the hill – and, as soon as you lock up, that's it really. I went straight on, and that was the end of my lap. I tried to continue, but I was 1.5 seconds down, so I was never going to get that back. It should have been the run that got me the lap-time I wanted, but it wasn't to be, which was a pity." Ultimately, then Spa produced the most form-driven qualifying result of the year to date – the ‘top five’ teams with both cars in Q3. Of the rest, Toro Rosso annexed the sixth row, with notable efforts from Caterham debutant Andre Lotterer, blowing away team-mate Marcus Ericsson by a second at the tail of the field, and Jules Bianchi again pushing his Marussia into Q2. 2014 FORMULA 1TM SHELL BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 44 LAPS ROUND 12/19 << Last Race – Hungary Four Weeks Ago 1 Next Race – Italy >> Two Weeks’ Time 2014 FORMULA 1TM SHELL BELGIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION 1 – Mercedes achieved a little bit of history in this qualifying session. With a 1.898s gap separating both Mercedes cars from the rest of the field, it is the biggest gap that has ever separated a two-car team from all of their competition since Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s Mclarens were 1-2 on the grid at the 1988 San Marino GP, 2.581s ahead of the next-fastest car (Nelson Piquet’s Lotus-Honda). Coincidentally that was the last previous season of turbo engines. 2 – Aside from that, Nico Rosberg took a 4th consecutive pole position, and a 6th pole in the last 7 races. Rosberg has outqualified Lewis Hamilton in all 7 of those races, but unbelievably for Hamilton this is a first front row start since Canada in mid-June. Sebastian Vettel has been on the front row twice in that time, and both of his podium finishes in 2014 have come when he started in the top-3 on the grid. 3 – Fernando Alonso ties his and Ferrari’s best qualifying of 2014 in 4th place, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who hasn’t qualified in the top-3 at any of the last 5 Grands Prix, but won 2 of them. Sixth place for Valtteri Bottas equals Williams’ best performance at Spa since 2007 (Maldonado was also 6th in 2012, before jumping the start and retiring after 4 laps!). 4 – Seventh place for Kevin Magnussen means the Mclaren drivers are tied 6-6 in their season head-to-head this year, while 2 of Kimi Räikkönen’s 4 Belgian GP wins have come from outside the top-5 on the grid (10th in 2004, 6th in 2009), and on both occasions they were his only wins of the year. 5 – No Toro Rosso reached the top-10 on the grid for the first time since Spain, over 3 months ago. Force India’s Sergio Perez starts 13th, the same position he started here last year. Giantkiller Jules Bianchi reached Q2 for the 3rd time in the last 4 Grands Prix, and for the 2nd consecutive year in Belgium, the adopted country of his great-uncle Lucien Bianchi. 6 – Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado was knocked out in Q1 for the 9th time this year, whereas for Nico Hülkenberg it was a first Q1 knockout since the 2012 Italian GP. For debutant Andre Lotterer – at 32 the oldest debut driver since Giovanni Lavaggi at the 1995 German GP – he was a remarkable 0.989s quicker than regular driver Marcus Ericsson. Lotterer is also the first man to win Le Mans and make an F1 debut in the same season since Didier Pironi in 1978, and the first man of any experience to race in F1 in the same year as winning Le Mans since Yannick Dalmas made a brief F1 return for Larrousse in 1994. 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> BELGIUM PARTNERS: