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Friday analysis - Red Bull set the bar high in Belgium 23 Aug 2013

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Lotus F1 mechanic with Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 The car of Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03 is recovered to the pits after crashing in the second practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 23 August 2013

After a still-damp track rendered FP1 an inconclusive affair in Belgium, teams were able to start dialling in their cars in earnest as the track had dried completely by the start of FP2, which was run in 32 degrees Celsius track and 23 degrees Celsius ambient temperatures. Sebastian Vettel suffered a right-rear puncture on his Red Bull in FP2, and Fernando Alonso later reported that he had also incurred one on his Ferrari. Pirelli are, of course, analysing both. In the meantime, it is Red Bull who look very much the team to beat at Spa-Francorchamps. We take a team-by-team look at the early running…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 55.636s, P6/1m 49.331s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 58.929s, P19/1m 49.390s, P2

Red Bull looked to be in a class of their own in FP2 as Webber set the pace initially on both the hard and medium Pirelli’s, but at the end of an 11-lap run on the softer compound Vettel suffered a right-rear puncture that is being investigated by the team and Pirelli. The tyre manufacturer, of course, has mandated pressure and camber angle settings after the dramas at Silverstone, and also bans teams from running their uni-directional tyres in the reverse direction, which some had done to alleviate wear. The incident blighted the team’s day, but otherwise Vettel and Webber, who were separated by just 0.059s, were quite happy with how things had gone.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 2m 03.176s, P22/1m 50.149s, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 59.441s, P21/1m 50.318s, P6

Lotus came on strong in FP2 with Grosjean third and Raikkonen sixth, albeit nearly a second off Red Bull, but after the rain-affected first session they took the decision not to run their passive double DRS as they hadn’t been able to put sufficient mileage on it to validate it. Part of that was the weather, but part was due to a front wheel problem on Raikkonen’s car. The E21 appeared quick in the afternoon, but the Finn said he felt Red Bull will take a lot of beating this weekend.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 56.863s, P11/1m 50.164s, P4
Fernando Alonso, 1m 55.198s, P1/1m 50.510s, P7

At Ferrari Alonso and Massa tried different aero set-ups in the afternoon as that will be a key factor in the race. The Spaniard’s puncture at the end of FP2 was naturally cause for concern, but he offered the opinion that the situation was different to that at Silverstone and possibly due to a random set of circumstances that require further investigation.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 57.084s, P13/1m 50.253s, P5
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 56.770s, P9/1m 51.447s, P16

Vergne said he had one of his best days in the F1 arena and that the STR8 felt great over a single lap, slightly less so on a long run. Ricciardo was less happy but knew the reason: the team deliberately tried a different set-up on his car that just didn’t work.

McLaren
Sergio Perez, 1m 55.518s, P4/1m 50.536s, P8
Jenson Button, 1m 57.281s, P14/1m 51.195s, P15

Perez looked good in the revised McLaren in FP2 after being fast too in FP1. He said it was quick and strong in the morning, but felt less consistent in the afternoon. Button set the pace for a long time in FP1, and said the balance was really good as the track dried. In the afternoon, however, the increase in temperature spoiled that balance and he struggled.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 55.614s, P5/1m 50.601s, P9
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 57.358s, P15/1m 50.751s, P12

Rosberg was quicker than Hamilton in both sessions, albeit not by much in FP2. The German said he was quite happy, but Hamilton said that his car felt much less settled in low-downforce trim than it had with more wing in Hungary, but believes that a good night working on the set-up should move them back towards the front where Mercedes had expected to run. On the plus side, the long-run pace was good.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 55.224s, P2/1m 50.611s, P10
Adrian Sutil, 1m 55.373s, P3/1m 50.629s, P11

The Force Indias were very quick in the mixed conditions in FP1, less so in the afternoon as Di Resta and Sutil honed their set-ups. Clearly they have moved forwards again since Hungary, and the Scot was optimistic that they will be in the mix for Q3 tomorrow.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 56.110s, P8/1m 50.972s, P13
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 55.954s, P7/1m 51.644s, P18

Sauber tried some new aero parts and continued work on their passive DRS. Neither driver was happy with his car’s balance, and Gutierrez’s situation wasn’t helped when he lost part of his C32’s diffuser in FP2.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 57.081s, P12/1m 50.991s, P14
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 56.858s, P10/1m 51.568s, P17

Both drivers did their usual set-up and aero work, and complained primarily about oversteer.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 57.887s, P17/1m 53.157s, P19
Charles Pic (pm only), 1m 53.251s, P20
Heikki Kovalainen (am only), 1m 57.821s, P16

Kovalainen said that he felt the CT03’s ride and front end had improved a lot since he last drove it in FP1 in Barcelona, but both Van der Garde and Pic complained of oversteer and spent their track time trying to eradicate it. It got the better of the Dutchman late in FP2 when he spun into the tyre wall at Turn 15, but the car is repairable.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 59.209s, P20/1m 53.482s, P21
Max Chilton, 1m 58.600s, P18/1m 54.418s, P22

No problems for Bianchi as he settled back in after the summer break, but Chilton’s progress was hampered in FP2 when his MR02 needed a change of steering rack.

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