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Friday in Belgium - team by team

26 Aug 2016

A round-up of the opening day's action from the 2016 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...
McLaren

Button had problems with oscillations within the gearbox which affected fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth gears in FP1, but got going to set the joint eighth fastest time in FP2.

Alonso's ICE developed a water leak in the morning so he didn't get a timed lap, and the necessity to change the engine means he carries a 35-place penalty into Sunday's race. But the mood is optimistic here, particularly given Honda's recent updates.

Fernando Alonso - FP1: No time, P22; FP2: 1:49.772, P12

"It's obviously not ideal to start the weekend with a brand-new power unit, only do three laps with it, and then have to change it, especially as it means we'll be taking penalties. It's not ideal, as I say, but you always prefer these things to happen in practice sessions rather than in races – and it's worse still if you're running in a points-scoring position when such mishaps occur. So let's look on the bright side: as ever, we'll learn from our mistakes and we'll make sure we minimise the incidence of repeat occurrences in the future. 

"We'll be starting Sunday's race from the back of the grid, but we'll be trying our best to recover positions from there. I expect Lewis [Hamilton], who'll be starting next to me, will be quicker than me, so I'll try to hang on to his tail, put a rope around his car and get him to pull me through the field! 

"I still don't have a feeling for the performance of the revised PU, as today we ran it only in conservative modes, so tomorrow we'll see how much we can push. I'm sure it'll be a step forward."

Jenson Button - FP1: 1:52.407, P18; FP2: 1:49.419, P9

"In the end we made a lot of progress today: after making set-up changes following a challenging first practice session this morning, we had a much improved second practice session in the afternoon. As a result, we've now achieved a handling balance that works for us, but there's still room for improvement. Our long run was reasonable; we seem relatively competitive, certainly compared to the cars against which we usually race. And we were quicker than Kimi [Raikkonen] on the longer runs, which was good to see.

"Getting through to Q3 is always our aim on Saturdays, but what happens on Sundays is more important still. Put it this way, we didn't get through to Q3 at Hockenheim yet I still finished eighth. And, here at Spa, it's easier to overtake than on most circuits, so I'm feeling reasonably optimistic about the race. 

"It's unusually hot here this weekend, but that'll mix things up for the race, which could be good for us too."

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director

"Today was a tricky day for us, compromised by a number of factors, but we reacted well to those challenges and by the end of FP2 we'd made good progress with regard to finding a decent handling balance. 

"As a result our corner speeds were competitive – competitive with anyone's in fact – but we knew in advance that the long and fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit wouldn't suit well the specific characteristics of our car's performance envelope. 

"Having said that, the work that both Honda and Esso have done recently, in terms of improving combustion efficiency and turbo/compressor harvesting/deployment, has had a small but discernible positive effect, for which congratulations are due. 

"However, we still have a lot of work to do before qualifying tomorrow, and of course whatever Fernando is able to achieve will necessarily be stymied in terms of grid position by his very significant PU-related penalties."

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

"For the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, we've introduced a new ICE with increased combustion efficiency and a new turbo/compressor combination, to increase power unit performance including efficiency for the latter half of the season. 

"Unfortunately, during FP1 we found a water leak in Fernando's MGU-H and had to cut short his running time. Based on the situation, we assessed that the MGU-H issue was not a consequence of the update and therefore elected to replace it with the same updated spec for FP2. As a result, we'll incur grid penalties for the race on Sunday. Thankfully the team did a great job in preparing a new power unit to run in FP2, and we were able to get straight back out on track at the start of the session. 

"Today's sessions were focused on running the cars with low downforce and checking grip levels, and, despite the power hungry nature of the circuit, we were able to finish in our now usual midfield positions. The initial feedback on the power unit updates has been positive, so we'll look to our engineers to fine-tune for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race."

Renault

Renault struggled for grip all day, and Palmer had power loss issues which compromised his track time. Both drivers were at least evenly matched in each session, although neither could propel themselves high up the timesheets.

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:53.053, P20; FP2: 1:50.375, P19

"We are not where we would like to be here and it looks like it will be a tough quali tomorrow. Tyre degradation seems to be the biggest issue, but I think everyone was suffering as well. The balance is not as predictable as I would like and we are lacking rear grip at the moment so we will look at everything now. I think we can make our normal progress, and we will do our best as always. We have the tools to improve and in the race anything can happen so you need to give it everything you can."

Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:53.089, P21; FP2: 1:50.562, P20

"We had a couple of issues but we worked through what we wanted to do. I missed the last run but everything else was relatively fine. We didn't lose very much in the afternoon in the end. The car feels OK and I think we found a reasonable baseline with it so it's just about fine tuning for tomorrow and adding some performance. We are not expecting to be super-quick here this weekend but we can still find the sweet spot. We'll work hard tonight and come back again tomorrow with some improvements."

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

"We've worked through our programme today, conducting lots of aero and tyre tests to prepare for tomorrow and Sunday's race. Pirelli have brought a softer tyre compound than we usually use here, with the supersoft, soft and medium. It's obvious that the supersoft is the way to go for Qualifying, but due to the high track temperatures it's unclear at present how to choose between compounds beyond that. It's been a strange weekend so far, with very high ambient temperatures that are very unusual for Spa at this time of year and it's predicted to stay that way so we will look at everything we have learnt today and put it into practice for tomorrow and the race."

Manor

Ocon's arrival has been very well received by Manor's management, and the French rookie gave a good account of himself as he and Wehrlein made the most of their Mercedes engines on this power track. This was a terrific start to their weekend, and the German's 11th overall was their highest practice position to date. Impressive -and a clear sign of progress.

Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:52.837, P19; FP2: 1:49.716, P11

"It feels amazing to be back in the car after four weeks away from the cockpit. Spa is a great track to be starting the second part of the season and I'm really enjoying being back here for the first time in four years. We have a few new developments for here, so we've had a really close look at those, plus everyone has been running the development tyres today. This afternoon we had a better balance with the Supersoft and the Soft, so I'm happy with that. Other than that, this was a pretty straightforward Friday. Everything looks positive, but we'll see how things even out tomorrow when it's a little clearer where we are.

"It's early in the weekend but it looks promising so far and the high temperatures are going to help us, for sure. Let's see what tomorrow brings but our pace is good versus our competitors and I'm happy with how we finished the day. I hope we can build on that tomorrow.”

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:51.787, P16; FP2: 1:50.659, P21

"Everything worked out perfectly. It was nice to let my driving do the talking after so many interviews and such a busy build-up to this weekend. And I was really happy with how the day went.

"The car felt good and I felt good in it, so after so much preparation, everything came pretty naturally. I got the chance to try out the Supersoft tyre early in the session, which gave me a feel for where the car is versus the competition. It looked pretty positive and because it's only Friday, there's something to build on as I get better acquainted with everything. I lost a bit of time this afternoon, but we've done what we set out to achieve. I'm looking forward to talking through the data tonight and coming back even stronger tomorrow."

Dave Ryan, Racing Director

"How good was that? An incredibly impressive debut by Esteban and a mega performance by Pascal with his 1:49.716 lap for 11th fastest overall. Great stuff - that's our team's best ever practice position. A really good way to kick the weekend off.

"Obviously, there's a lot of work for the guys to get through tonight but that's pretty much par for the course these days, so nothing different there. What is unusual though is the incredible weather we are experiencing here at the moment, it doesn't seem to be hurting us in terms of performance so let's hope it stays this way for the rest of the event."

Toro Rosso

Sainz was open about his fears that Spa would not suit the STR11 ahead of the weekend, and so it proved on the first day in Belgium, with the Spaniard and team mate Kvyat struggling to overcome poor straight-line speed.

Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:52.308, P17; FP2: 1:49.916, P14

“We were able to complete our programme today and we tried most of the things we wanted, so we have a lot of data to go through for tomorrow. We will now study as much as we can in order to improve, as today wasn’t an easy day at all and there are still some areas where we certainly need to progress. We will try our best to do that!”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:51.424, P14; FP2: 1:50.194, P18

“It’s been a tough Friday. Our main target has been to try and compensate our lack of top speed here in Spa. We are definitely struggling at this track, as there are so many up-hill and flat-out sections… But what we need to do is to just keep working hard - at the moment we don’t look very good and even though we knew this weekend was going to be a challenge, we expected to be a bit higher up than where we are now.”

Phil Charles, chief race engineer

“Certainly not a good day for us. We knew that coming here the high power and aero efficiency sensitivity requirement of this track would not be favourable for our package. That is reflected in our Sector 1 and Sector 3 times, which are certainly not strong on the short runs today. However, our Sector 2 times, where there is more medium-slow cornering, are not as competitive as we had hoped and do not offset our performance losses in Sectors 1 and 2. In more details, regarding Sector 2, I don’t think we have put the tyre in a happy window today and the drivers have not felt good levels of grip. We have had very high tyre temperatures in today’s hot conditions. I don’t think we are the only ones struggling in this respect, as there are a few occurrences of blistered tyres elsewhere, but we do seem to be outside of our normal performance ranking. So we will need to work hard tonight to try to work out what is making us particularly tyre-grumpy here. On the positive side, we elected to test the Halo here in FP1 because the circuit gradient changes in Eau Rouge would be of interest for visibility. It was fitted on Carlos’ car only for the installation lap as he did not find a significant compromise on what he could see looking up from the depression.”

Haas

This was a good day for the American rookie team.  Gutierrez was in the top 10 in both sessions, and set his FP2 time on softs. Grosjean moaned about lack of grip on several occasions, but even so was eighth on supersofts in FP2 before an MGU-K problem developed.

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:50.899, P11; FP2: 1:49.419, P8

“It’s not been an easy day for everyone. The tyres are very tricky to work. I’m not so happy with the tyre pressure we have to run here. It makes things challenging. On supersofts in the afternoon, we ran better. The car felt more together, which was definitely a positive. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do a long run because of an issue, but hopefully that won’t cost us too much in the race. We still have tomorrow morning to prepare for qualifying, and try a few set-up tricks that we’re thinking of. Generally, I think all our energy will again be on tyre usage.”

Esteban Gutierrez - FP1: 1:50.583, P10; FP2: 1:49.648, P10

“It was very tricky conditions today. It’s not common in Spa to have heat like this. The track is really hot, so we’re struggling a little setting up the car. We’ve done some tests to try to understand it a bit better, so now we’ll have a clearer direction as to where we have to focus. In both sessions we ran the Pirelli prototype tyres. They were pretty transparent. There was nothing very different with them. In FP2, we also did a race simulation, which I wasn’t too happy with, so we’ll be analysing all the data this evening to try and find a good set-up for tomorrow and continue through the weekend.”

Guenther Steiner, team principal

“In FP1 we had very similar issues with the cars, basically understeer in both, Romain probably a bit more than Esteban. We found something between FP1 and FP2. Things got a little bit better, but we still need to find a more stable balance for tomorrow. All in all, the second session was ok - nothing fantastic, nothing really bad. We just need to find more so the drivers are happy with the balance of their cars. Romain’s session stopped short by a few minutes, as we saw an issue with the MGU-K. We decided to stop as a precaution and not risk breaking something. He didn’t get his long run in, but we will make it up tomorrow.”

Ferrari

Vettel looked scrappy throughout the day, and while the track was slippery at times, the German also suggested that the failure to get a decent balance affected his day. Raikkonen was happy with his SF16-H in the morning, but said it was really tricky to drive on supersofts in the afternoon.

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:49.768, P5; FP2: 1:49.023, P4

“Today it was a very tricky day. It is very hot for Spa, and so it's very slippery out there. But I think in general, everybody was struggling to make the tyres last and sliding quite a lot. It doesn't matter which tyre you have, it's the same for everybody, so we need to try and work on that because the temperatures will be like this for the whole weekend. Also, I was struggling a bit with the balance of the car, but this is up to us. We need to improve the car. It is not yet where we want it to be. But I am sure we will be faster.”

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:49.147, P3; FP2: 1:49.244, P7

“In the morning the feeling with the car was pretty good, but then in the afternoon, when I put the supersofts on, I struggled to put a good lap together and I kept running off the circuit. For the long run we changed some things but I was still struggling, for whatever reason. It was one of those days when you start well and then the feeling is not right anymore, but I'm sure we can find the right set-up for tomorrow. It will be tricky with the tyres, but it's the same for everybody. I haven't had time to check what the others were doing, it's too early to have an idea, but for sure there is some work to be done. We have to go through everything and take out the best.”

Williams

Bottas didn't get a decent afternoon's running as an ECU problem required the unit to be changed. Massa struggled with the balance of his FW38 on both low and high fuel.

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:50.394, P9; FP2: 1:50.151, P16

“We had a small issue in FP2 with the ECU so we had to change it. We lost about half an hour there but otherwise it was a good day. It’s great to be back in the car again after the summer break. I really enjoyed it out there today. The car felt decent but I’m sure we can still fine tune the balance and make the car quicker. Our long run pace, compared to the others, wasn’t too bad but I think we still need to find everything there is to find. With these temperatures it’s very tricky on the tyres and there’s a lot of overheating, but it’s the same for everyone.”

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:51.122, P12; FP2: 1:50.157, P17

“It’s clear that we’ve had a very disappointing Friday. It was difficult to get the car working in both the short runs and long runs, and in different set-ups. We’ve got a lot of work to do tonight to try and understand why the car wasn’t working in the way we expected. It’s going to be a very long evening but I hope we fix today’s issues.”

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“The weather has been uncharacteristically kind to us so far and is really quite hot. With the Pirelli prescriptions that we’re running at the moment the running pressures are very high and therefore the degradation is massive. So I hope we can resolve this with Pirelli. Everyone was degrading the option and the qualifying tyre between three tenths and half a second, which is an amazing amount of degradation. With Valtteri, we lost most of the session this afternoon due to a telemetry issue resulting in an ECU change. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a clear run on the supersoft tyre so there’s obviously a lot that we can gain there. Felipe was struggling with the balance of the car on both high and low fuel, but we’ve got some good ideas on what we need to do tonight. What was really encouraging was Valtteri’s high fuel pace. I think he had the least degradation out of everybody and his pace was right there with the front running cars.”

Mercedes

It may have seemed incongruous to find Mercedes only sixth and 13th in the afternoon, but Rosberg and Hamilton had been 1-2 in the morning. Both drivers had fresh engines, with a five-token upgrade, and neither used the supersofts.

The German was happy with progress, and with the Halo with which he set his best time in FP1. But he did say the differences in tyre choice and general choice of programmes rendered the day slightly confusing when it came to quantifying everything. Hamilton's strategy meanwhile was shaped by his looming penalties, meaning long runs rather than one-lap pace were the main concern.

Nico Rosberg - FP1: 1:48.348, P1; FP2: 1:49.161, P6

“The team have done a great job on the Halo. It doesn’t disturb me when driving. I could go fast straight away and even set the best time of the session with it this morning, so I think that was a success. After that, car-wise we seem to be quick. The grid is a bit all over the place this afternoon with people doing different things with the tyres. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the race. Long-run pace will be important, as you can overtake here. I don’t know how we’re looking yet - we’ll need to look into that. But there was a lot of tyre degradation, so managing that on Sunday will be important.”

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:49.078, P2; FP2: 1:49.782, P13

“A straightforward day for me but a tough one for the guys in the garage with the engine change. Massive respect and a big thanks to them for all their hard work. It was actually quite tough to look after the tyres out there as the pressures are so high. But everyone is in the same position and it looks like we’re all experiencing the same thing. The important thing is that we got through our programme smoothly today and can start focusing on the rest of the weekend.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“We’ve seen unusually warm conditions at Spa today. Track temperatures exceeded 40 degrees (Celsius) this afternoon, which is almost unheard of! We managed to complete a full programme as planned - including fitting two new engines for Lewis, which will consign him to the back of the grid after penalties have been applied. On track, it was a rather complicated day in terms of relative run plans. We’ve seen more variety in tyre selections than ever before here, with the prototype tyre also thrown into the mix. The time sheets are difficult to interpret, with each team running different compounds at different times. From the data points we have, it seems to be very close between ourselves, Red Bull, Ferrari and also Force India on both single lap and long run pace. Clearly, our focus with Lewis today has been on race pace given that he will start from the back of the grid come what may. With Nico, it has been a balance of qualifying and race pace. Degradation has been a big issue on all three compounds - particularly on the rear tyres. We have a lot of work to do tonight if we are to get Nico on pole with a clear shot at the win and also make the best of Lewis starting from the back.”

Red Bull

Cautious optimism was the mood here, as both drivers were pleased with their positions and pace, yet mindful that Mercedes had not yet run the supersoft Pirellis. Ricciardo also admitted that he wasn't 100 percent happy with his car's set-up. Red Bull are definitely in the game here - but exactly how they compare to Mercedes remains to be seen.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:49.865, P7; FP2: 1:48.085, P1

“It has been a very positive Friday for us. We showed great pace today in comparison with other teams, though it’s hard to say what Mercedes is like. Of course I’m happy to be first in front of so many Dutch fans but it’s still not qualifying and not the race so let’s see. When I went up to first position in the second practice the fans were all cheering me on with their flags. It definitely gives me a boost and motivates me a lot. This track is very difficult for setting up the car balance so I also had some struggles but at the end it paid off with the last set up change we did. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m sure we can improve even more, but we have to wait and see what the others are doing. So far we had a very good start to the weekend.”

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:49.782, P6; FP2: 1:48.341, P2

“It was a pretty good day today, not bad. I think on the time sheets we look good, both Red Bulls are first and second, but I don’t think Mercedes used the supersoft (tyres) and Force India is quite close. I think we can still be quicker than what we showed today, but I feel like we definitely got into the right rhythm. No one is on holiday anymore and we’re back in work mode, the energy around the garage was good and everyone is ready to go. I think we can improve the set up tonight, as there are some things I’m not 100% happy with, but it’s nice to be back behind the wheel.”

Sauber

Sauber focused on assessing their new aero updates, which included a new front wing and floor and the new rear wing trialled in Hungary. Both drivers were cautiously optimistic that some improvement has been made, and hope to realise that more tomorrow once today's data has been analysed fully. Unfortunately, Nasr's FP2 was interrupted by misfires, while Ericsson will get a ten-place grid penalty for having to change his engine.

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:51.125, P13; FP2: 1:50.083, P15

“It was an interesting day, obviously because of the aero package we introduced here in Spa. My initial feeling is that there are some improvements. We need more time to try different configurations in order to optimise the package and see how it works in the best possible way. It was a good first day with the new package. Tonight we will analyse the data collected to get a better understanding. We will see how it works when it counts tomorrow.”

Felipe Nasr - FP1: 1:51.768, P15; FP2: 1:50.719, P22

“Today the main focus was on evaluating the new package. In the morning we did many scans, analysing different configurations on the aerodynamic side. We could already see some benefits from the package, which is positive. In FP2 we were then able to concentrate more on short and long-runs on soft as well as supersoft tyres. From a technical point of view, my top speed has been compromised because of misfires. I am optimistic that this issues will be sorted out by tomorrow.”

Force India

Hulkenberg was very happy with a day which started well and got better with every move he and the team made. Perez was a little less effusive and said there were lots of little things to do, but overall this was a tremendous start for the team fighting for fourth in the world championship for constructors.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:50.088, P8; FP2: 1:48.657, P3

“It was a good start after the summer break. We didn’t have any issues and we were able to work through our programme as planned. We collected the usual data and we made some very good steps between the sessions. I wasn’t too happy with the balance in the morning, but we were able to improve it for the afternoon: it’s still not perfect, so there’s a bit of work to do overnight, trying to use the information we got today, but it’s a decent starting point.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:49.274, P4; FP2: 1:49.100, P5

“The first indications are positive, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on the car to solve a few little issues. We need to understand the car balance a bit more and develop our set-up from there. The weather is going to play a big role: it will affect tyre degradation strongly, but I am sure we will be able to make the changes we need for the race.”

Robert Fernley, deputy team principal

“It’s only Friday, so there is no getting carried away with the practice results. It’s not easy to read the relative performance levels of the teams around us, especially when teams are experimenting with different wing levels or running development tyres. Today we simply focussed on our work: we collected all the data we needed and we got some good feedback from the drivers. They are happy with the car balance, but there is still room to improve. We will need to make some adjustments based on the weather, which is unexpectedly warm, although the forecast for the weekend is a bit cooler. It’s been a productive day, but what really matters is our performance tomorrow and on Sunday.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, motorsport director

“The teams were all able to accumulate a lot of relevant information that will be valuable when it comes to formulating their strategies for the race, with the supersoft being used at Spa for the first time this year. If the hot weather continues, as we saw some quite high degradation today, tyre management will be very important on Sunday. For today only, some drivers also made use of our prototype tyres, which were soft compound tyres containing certain new elements that are designed to further improve resistance to multiple impacts. This is part of our ongoing development plan, and we will now look at the data obtained to evaluate if these elements will be used in future.”