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Friday analysis - Ferrari lead Mercedes chase

22 Aug 2014

Conditions remained dry but cool in FP1, and dry despite rain clouds in FP2, but times fell away in the latter as the temperature rose from an initial 28 degrees Celsius, peaked at 31, and then dropped to 27.

But at least everyone got enough running to figure out the vagaries of Pirelli’s medium and soft tyres on this, the longest track of the season. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Belgium…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 51.674s, P2/1m 49.189s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 51.577s, P1/1m 49.793s, P2

There were no technical problems here and Hamilton said he was a lot happier in the afternoon than he had been in the morning. Relations between the drivers may still be a little strained after Hungary, and Rosberg said the cars needed work on their straight-line speed, but to all intents and purposes it was business as usual.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 51.805s, P3/1m 49.930s, P3

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 52.818s, P5/1m 52.234s, P15

Once again, Alonso was in heroic form as he squeezed out everything the F14 T had to offer. He said he was happy that the track performance correlated with simulation work. Raikkonen, however, was very unhappy. He encountered a brake problem in the morning, then electrical trouble in the afternoon.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 53.968s, P15/1m 50.327s, P4

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 53.172s, P10/1m 50.677s, P6

Williams did their usual aero and tyre work, but also tried a lot of set-up options. They weren’t as quick as they had been expected to be but look to be in strong contention for a podium on today’s form.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 52.404s, P4/1m 50.659s, P5

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 52.922s, P7/1m 51.074s, P9

McLaren had a promising day. Button said he was happier on the soft tyre, while Magnussen was happier on the medium, which suggests some overnight honing is required. The latter also said that Eau Rouge is flat even with high fuel, but Button admitted that he needed a few screams into his (pink) helmet as he coped with oversteer there at 300km/h…

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 53.594s, P12/1m 50.725s, P7

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 54.189s, P16/1m 51.383s, P11

Yet again, Kvyat was mighty, outpacing not just Vergne but also Red Bull. The Russian reported that set-up changes had resulted in improved balance for the second session. Vergne had a power unit problem in the morning, but said he made progress in the afternoon.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 52.972s, P9/1m 50.977s, P8

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 53.369s, P11/No time

It was a tough day for Red Bull. Ricciardo said that expectations of struggling here had been realised but hoped they might be able to muster more speed tomorrow. Vettel had a terrible time, with gearbox upshift problems between second and third, and third and fourth, upsetting his progress in the morning before a burned exhaust curtailed him early; then he was unable to run in the afternoon as his crew was installing his fifth Renault engine of the season. On the bright side, their race pace was decent.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 52.937s, P8/1m 51.077s, P10

Sergio Perez, 1m 52.903s, P6/1m 51.573s, P13

Both drivers reported productive days, in which they gathered plenty of data for assessment overnight.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 53.703s, P14/1m 51.450s, P12

Esteban Gutierrez (pm only), 1m 53.955s, P17

Giedo van der Garde (am only) 1m 54.335s, P17

Sutil said he had a reasonable day without any issues and decent balance. Van der Garde and Gutierrez, however, had the same problem. In the morning the Dutchman complained of lack of power, and in the afternoon the car’s MGU-K malfunctioned and spun him off at Blanchimont.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 53.597s, P13/1m 52.196s, P14

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 55.336s, P18/No time

Lotus had a mixed day. Grosjean went well in FP1, but had a small rear-end problem in FP2 which hampered him. Maldonado lost his car exiting Turn 9 and pin-balled off two walls before his E22 came to a damaged halt at Pouhon.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 55.782s, P19/1m 52.776s, P16

Max Chilton (pm only), 1m 54.040s, P18

Alex Rossi (am only), 1m 57.232s, P20

Marussia played musical drivers when Rossi’s planned Grand Prix race debut was put on hold as Chilton was reinstated after FP1. Both drivers said they were happy with what they achieved. Bianchi was also pleased, as well he might have been as he was more than a second quicker.

Caterham

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 57.997s, P22/1m 54.050s, P19

Andre Lotterer, 1m 57.886s, P21/1m 54.093s, P20

Caterham brought their revised CT05s to Spa, with a more elegant nose configuration and a new floor on rookie Lotterer’s car because the team wanted to maximise his technical input. Ericsson had some brake issues in FP1 but things were better in the afternoon. Lotterer said he was pleased with the speed with which he adapted to driving an F1 car, and that he was moving forwards.