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Qualifying analysis - Mercedes revel in the rain 23 Aug 2014

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and pole sitter Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F14 T.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW36.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW36.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) McLaren MP4-29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India VJM07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 talks with Natalie Pinkham (GBR) Sky TV.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014 Andre Lotterer (GER) Caterham CT05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 23 August 2014

The tone for qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps day was set in FP3 when the heavens opened and obliged the use of Pirelli’s full wets and then intermediate tyres. Things had virtually dried out until 40 minutes before qualifying it rained torrentially, and with showers during Q2 the track remained wet enough for intermediates right to the end. As most forecasts predict dry weather tomorrow, however, several teams compromised with low wing settings and took the downforce and comfort hit in preparation for a more competitive showing in the race. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s form in Belgium…

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 2m 05.591s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 2m 05.819s, P2

Rosberg and Hamilton shared the honours in Q1 and Q2, but right from the start of Q3 Hamilton ran into trouble with a glazed left front brake which caused his F1 W05 Hybrid to pull to the right and obliged him to revise his brake balance and braking points. Rosberg, meanwhile, had no trouble and didn’t put a wheel wrong, and set his seventh pole of the season, his fourth in succession and his first at Spa on his first run. Though Hamilton improved on a troubled first run, the gap between them was almost three-tenths of a second. The gap to the next best car, Vettel’s Red Bull, left their opposition gasping.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 2m 07.717s, P3
Daniel Ricciardo, 2m 07.911s, P5

Red Bull had little option, given the Renault’s relative lack of grunt, to run as little downforce as possible. That made life very tricky for both Vettel, a rejuvenated third, and Ricciardo fifth. But it may be just the right thing to have done for a dry race…

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 2m 07.786s, P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 2m 08.780s, P8

Alonso said that fourth place was a great result, given the problem of predicting the level of grip correctly every time you ventured out. And as his long-run pace wasn’t bad yesterday, he feels that Ferrari have a decent chance in what he predicts will be an “interesting” race. Raikkonen was happier with his car than he had been yesterday, but admitted to a few mistakes on his best lap in Q3 which left him a second off Alonso.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 2m 08.049s, P6
Felipe Massa, 2m 09.178s, P9

After Bottas had been quickest in FP3, sixth and ninth were a disappointment for Williams. They were very happy with the speed of the FW36 in FP3, but in Q3 both drivers said they lost crucial tyre temperature on the warm-up laps for their final runs, and still struggled in sector two. Tomorrow it could be a different story.

McLaren
Kevin Magnussen, 2m 08.679s, P7
Jenson Button, 2m 09.776s, P10

Magnussen admitted that he nearly screwed his chances as early as Q1 when he locked the front wheels at the start of his best lap and flat-spotted the tyres, but he just squeaked into Q2 and then did a good job to take seventh in Q3. Button said that he locked up at Les Combes on his second lap of Q3 and immediately lost 1.5s, ruining his chances of doing better than 10th.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat, 2m 09.377s, P11
Jean-Eric Vergne, 2m 09.805s, P12

Kvyat said that continual work on his set-up honed his STR9 by the time of his final run in Q2, but he just didn’t quite have the pace to make Q3. Vergne said he was a lot happier with his car until an exhaust problem - of which the team had lots earlier in the year - stymied him as Q2 progressed.

Force India
Sergio Perez, 2m 10.084s, P13
Nico Hulkenberg, 2m 11.267s, P18

Perez said that he was disappointed that the team didn’t get everything maximised in Q2, while Hulkenberg had earlier complained in Q1 that his brake temperatures were too low, and later said that running the same set of intermediates all through had been a mistake.

Sauber
Adrian Sutil, 2m 10.238s, P14
Esteban Gutierrez, 2m 13.414s, P20

Sutil said that as usual the C33 was hard to drive in the wet, but felt that P14 wouldn’t be a bad place to start a dry race. Gutierrez, meanwhile, fell victim again to technical problems when a fault in the battery pack stopped him at Stavelot in Q1.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 2m 11.087s, P15
Pastor Maldonado, 2m 11.261s, P17

Grosjean said that he was disappointed with only 15th on the grid, but that the conditions in Q1 had suited the E22 more than those in Q2 when it had rained again. Maldonado blotted his copybook again with a spin in the Bus Stop chicane in Q1, and got bumped right at the end by Sutil.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 2m 12.470s, P16
Max Chilton, 2m 12.566s, P19

Once again Bianchi was mighty, putting Marussia into Q2 with a great lap in Q1. It would have been unreasonable, however, to expect him to have improved on his eventual 16th. Chilton wasn’t far off his time, but didn’t get through.

Caterham
Andre Lotterer, 2m 13.469s, P21
Marcus Ericsson, 2m 14.438s, P22

Lotterer said he was very happy with his two good laps in Q1, which ensured that he got within the 107 percent Q1 qualifying time requirement for his Grand Prix debut, even if the weekend so far for him has been a baptism of fire. But Ericsson, who was beaten by his rookie team mate, thought he could have done much better had he been in the right place on track in Q1 at the right time.

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