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In quotes - Friday in Belgium

21 Aug 2015

Formula One drivers invariably love the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit and Friday was their first chance of 2015 to get to grips with it. They and their teams report back on the action...

McLaren

Fernando Alonso
FP1 - 16th , FP2 - 18th

“It’s hard to make direct comparisons between the two engine specs – you’d need to compare both engines on the same day, and that’s impossible. Furthermore, the characteristics of the circuit – both here and Monza – are the opposite of what our car likes, which makes comparisons harder. But the dyno and the data tell us there’s more power, so we’ll keep going and improve the car as much as we can.

“We knew ahead of the weekend that we’d be starting from the last row, so it’ll be interesting if the weather changes and we have a crazy race on Sunday.

“Whatever happens, I will try to learn as much as possible.”

Jenson Button
FP1 - 18th, FP2 - 17th

“We’re running a new engine this weekend, and it’s definitely an improvement – but you never really know how much until you go through all the data, which is a lengthy task.
 
“Additionally, it’s always tricky here in terms of knowing what downforce level to run. I think we’re running too much downforce, and we’ll need to look at that and put it right for tomorrow.
 
“Nonetheless, the car got a lot better through the day. This afternoon was much better – the balance is still a little difficult when we’re on high fuel, but, on low fuel, the car feels reasonably good.
 
“Obviously, we’re not fully competitive around here, but the feeling with the car isn’t too bad.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director

“It’s been a tricky day for the whole team. We had a lot of validation and data logging to run through, and the red flags meant that was harder to accomplish.
 
“Clearly, there’s more to come, and you can be well sure our engineers will be trawling through the data this evening to ensure that we optimise both chassis balance and power unit settings for practice and qualifying tomorrow.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport

“Today was slightly disappointing. We brought our planned power unit updates, but the two sessions were very busy with red-flag interruptions on the track, as well as testing of the chassis and new aero parts. This meant we were not able to confirm the performance of the car as a whole.
 
“Hopefully, tomorrow we can run a more efficient practice session, by setting up the car using the data gained today, and preparing ourselves for qualifying.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo
FP1 - 3rd, FP2 - 3rd

“Generally I think if we can stay third and fourth at this track it would be good. It will probably be closer tomorrow as the gap from behind will close up a lot more, but let's wait and see. Hopefully we can maintain these positions for tomorrow. It would be good to find some more time on the option tyre, so we’ll do our homework tonight, like every team will. I had a bit of a moment at Eau Rouge, when it was on the edge, but it keeps it fun!”

Daniil Kvyat
FP1 - 6th, FP2 - 4th

“The conditions were pretty unusual for Spa today, with the hot weather and we had two good sessions. As a priority, we need to find some time in sector two. As always, we will do our homework tonight and try to improve the package we have for tomorrow, but the car felt good so far.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas
FP1 - 10th, FP2 - 14th

“It was nice to be back in the car after the break. Today our main focus was on aero testing, including the rear wing configuration and we also looked at the tyres as you would expect from a Friday. We collected plenty of data throughout the day so we know that today’s times are not too representative, and we will continue to strengthen our performance throughout the weekend.

Felipe Massa
FP1 - 14th, FP2 - 16th

“It was a typical Friday for Williams, we don’t go out trying to top the time sheets. We completed a lot of the work we had set ourselves, only held back by the red flags which were unexpected. This has meant my long run pace isn’t as clear as I would have hoped, but we should be able to be competitive tomorrow and build as the weekend progresses.

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“We have had a decent Friday. We had set ourselves an ambitious programme to complete and although the red flags hampered this slightly we are very well prepared for the weekend. We focused on rear and front wing development during the morning and this afternoon was all about tyres. We still have a bit of time to find on the low fuel, but we know where to find this. On the higher fuel loads we look quite competitive. There are lots of small areas where we can find performance, so everyone needs to ensure that they have done their job to be ready for FP3.”

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg
FP1 - 1st, FP2 - 1st

“It's good to be back on track after the summer break. The circuit is fantastic and our car seems to be quick again. It felt great out there and I was happy with my pace. In the second session it was quite a shocking moment for me when my rear tyre failed. When you are going as fast as 300 km/h and something goes wrong, that´s a horrible feeling. I thought I would end up in the wall and, to be honest, it was pure luck that I didn't. We now need to investigate with Pirelli what happened.”

Lewis Hamilton
FP1 - 2nd, FP2 - 2nd

“Today was generally a good day - no problems with my car, great weather and a lot of fun out on track. It’s not often it stays dry here and that makes it even more enjoyable with the way the track flows through great corners like Eau Rouge. It was great to be back out there. The car felt good and it felt very natural to be straight back to business which is a positive sign. Nico is very quick so I have some work to do tonight to see where I can find some time. Ferrari and Red Bull also look closer here than they have at past weekends, so it’ll be a close run thing and we’ll need to be up for the fight. What happened towards the end of P2 with Nico obviously wasn’t good but luckily he’s unhurt and of course the team will be looking into it with Pirelli. I have no concerns, though. You have to have trust in the car and in the tyres to go out there and push, so it’s not something you think about.”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“Today started reasonably well, with P1 running more or less to plan save a small engine problem for Nico which the team turned around very quickly. We tested a few different items before moving on to a standard P2 programme of prime and option runs. This ran smoothly until the long run on options, when a tyre failure for Nico brought out the red flags in the final third of the session. With one car ruled out of running, we decided not to continue the regular programme with Lewis until we had understood the problem. We’ll be working hard with Pirelli this evening to understand what happened and how we can ensure that we’re operating safely for the rest of the weekend. Overall, though, both drivers were happy with the balance of the car. It’s a tough lap to get right, as the ideal downforce levels required vary at different sectors around the track, so our pace was encouraging. We will be keeping a close eye on our competitors as always, though. Ferrari and Red Bull in particular look strong this weekend, so we’ll need to have good outright pace and the ability to defend at the end of the long straights to come out on top.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz
FP1 - 8th, FP2 - 12th

“It’s great to be back in the car and to do so at such an exciting track like Spa makes it an even better feeling. I enjoyed my first couple of laps in an F1 car for the first time here, it felt pretty special as this is the fastest I’ve ever driven around my favourite circuit! It was a positive day today. We know that it’s not going to be the easiest of race weekends for us as this track doesn’t suit our car very well, but we had a clean Friday. We managed to complete most of our run plan and, even though there were a bit too many red flags which means we are lacking a bit of information regarding the long run, I’m happy with today.”

Max Verstappen
FP1 - 7th, FP2 - 13th

“It was a good day today. I always enjoy driving at this great circuit and I’m happy to be back. Today it was my first time here at the wheel of an F1 car and it was a lot more challenging than with an F3 car. In general I’m happy with how the day went. Of course there’s still a few things to improve balance wise, but it was not bad at all. I slowly built my confidence up in FP1 and by the end of the session I was feeling great. In FP2 I didn’t manage to have a lot of free laps, but I’m happy with the behaviour of the car and I think our pace can keep on improving, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer

“It was a very interesting day for us and everything looked okay. We arrived here knowing that this track doesn’t suit our car that well, but after a good FP1, our FP2 was slightly underwhelming, so we’ve got a little bit of homework to do tonight. We also need to understand the use of the Option tyre in the race, because we didn’t get a perfect run due to the stop-start red-flag nature of the session, which affected the rest of the teams in the same way as us. This has made things interesting and looking forward to Sunday there are still quite a few unanswered questions, so we are all going into the race a little more blind than normal, but ultimately I think we will be okay. After going through the data tonight, we will hopefully be able to find a little bit of short-run performance. As for the race, we will need to understand the tyres well and work on a good strategy, especially for Max now, as he will have to pick-up a grid penalty for changing his engine. It’s a pity, being this his home Grand Prix, but this is racing and we’re looking forward to the challenge!”

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen
FP1 - 4th, FP2 - 5th

“The day was not too bad, even if our programme was a bit affected by the red flags, but then it was the same for everybody. In the end we were able to do all the work we had planned. Regarding the tyres we had had a little bit of blistering in the front, which obviously was not ideal, but not a disaster either, there are many things we can do for this. Tomorrow we’ll try our best and see what we can do for Sunday.”

Sebastian Vettel
FP1 - 5th, FP2 - 10th

“It’s obviously nice to come here after the last race and a great result, but we need to keep our feet on the ground. It’s a different circuit, different conditions again, so we’ll try to do our best as usual. Today it was not the best day for us, it was a bit difficult to find the rhythm, but for tomorrow I think we can do a step forward: we have to do so, because we don’t want to be tenth. I’m quite confident that we can tune up the car, because today I was not entirely happy with it: tomorrow it should be a better day.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson
FP1 - 15th, FP2 - 8th

“In FP1 we tried different set-ups on the car. In the afternoon we then continued to build on FP1, doing short and long-runs on the soft and medium tyres. Especially on soft tyres, I was satisfied with the balance of the car. Unfortunately, at the end of the session I made a mistake in Pouhon. I touched the grass, the car snapped and I hit the wall. I want to apologise to the team for this incident, which has given them a lot of extra work. It is racing, sometimes it happens, but when it happens it is, for sure, frustrating. Before the accident it had been a good day for us, and some of the outcomes from what we were doing were positive.”

Felipe Nasr
FP1 - 13th, FP2 - 9th

“I had two good practice sessions today. I am satisfied with the overall balance of the car, which gives us a good direction for the weekend. In the morning the temperatures were cooler, so we knew there was room for improvement. For FP2 we then made the right changes to the car. I still have some small margin for improvement on soft tyres, as I was stuck in traffic on my best lap. Overall I am quite pleased that the engine specification is a benefit for us here in Spa. It is a good start to the weekend, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg
FP1 - 12th, FP2 - 6th

“The car felt pretty good and I am fairly happy with the baseline set-up. Obviously, we will need to keep working, fine-tuning the balance and trying to find the last few tenths of performance, but I think we’re in a good place going into the weekend. The red flags in the afternoon meant we didn’t get all the long-run data and we will head into the race without the best knowledge of how the tyres will behave, but that's the same for everyone.”

Sergio Perez
FP1 - 9th, FP2 - 11th

“It was a really productive day despite the disruption that the red flags brought towards the end of FP2. We were able to get some good information, perhaps not as much as we would have wanted on the long runs, but overall I am happy with the day. We took two very different set-up directions with the two cars, which means we have plenty of data to analyse tonight, but I am confident for tomorrow.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“We are satisfied with our first day of work here in Spa. This is a unique track when it comes to car balance: there aren't many low-speed corners so the majority of our work focussed on finding the optimal balance for the medium and high-speed corners, and I believe we made some good progress. We continued evaluating the b-spec evolutions in the morning session and the drivers were pretty happy with the balance of the car straight away. The afternoon was a bit more complicated with the red flags: the first half went according to plan and we were able to evaluate some solutions to respond to the high track temperatures. Our long run data was compromised by the red flags but we expect a lot of people to be in the same boat. There's a lot of work still to be done but we're in a good place so far."

Marussia

Will Stevens
FP1 - 19th, FP2 - 19th

“Despite a nice relaxing break, you can’t underestimate the lure of racing and it was fantastic to be back in the cockpit today. I always enjoy it here, it’s such a mighty circuit, and as we’ve seen today with other teams, not an easy one to master. Nonetheless, I think we have done a good job here today on the opening day of running and it bodes well for the rest of the weekend.”

Roberto Merhi
FP1 - 20th, FP2 - 20th

“Overall, a good day for me and the team, at a circuit that is a bit of a favourite for me. The red flags made it difficult to maintain our rhythm, but we completed the programme and I think it is a good start to the weekend ahead. We have a few new things with the car; small developments but ones designed to help increase our confidence to push the car. It’s nice to be back in the close fight with my team-mate again and I hope we can continue to push each other like this for the rest of the season.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“It has been good to return to the racetrack today, and at such a challenging and visually stimulating track as Spa. The day has been punctuated by various red-flag incidents – thankfully, not involving us – and this has made it rather more difficult to get into a good rhythm. Nonetheless, we have had a straightforward and productive day in dry conditions similar to those expected on Sunday, so it’s good that we have achieved a good baseline with which to start the weekend. Although we find ourselves in what have become fairly typical positions this season, we are reasonably in touch with the cars immediately ahead. So, a good start from both drivers.”

Lotus

Jolyon Palmer
FP1 - 17th

“It was productive session for me and it was good to get the first taste on track of the new front wing which felt pretty promising from where I was sat. It's always difficult at Spa to find the best balance because it's a compromise between having aero and having straight line speed with the nature of the track. We tried something different across the two cars and we had a new front wing to try as well, which was good to test.”

Romain Grosjean
FP2 - 7th

“That was a good session for me. My first runs weren’t great and it was clear we had to make some changes to the car’s set-up. Once we did that the car felt a lot better and I felt that the car was a lot more how I wanted it with the soft tyres. We have a few other niggles to rectify but it’s lovely to drive Spa with wonderful warm weather. If we can find a little more pace from the car I think we can have a pretty good weekend here.”

Pastor Maldonado
FP1 - 11th, FP2 - 15th

“Today wasn’t the start to the Grand Prix weekend that we wanted. I lost the rear end in FP1 and unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep the car off the barriers. My crew did a great job to get everything back together for FP2, but then there were a couple of red flags to interrupt that session too. I think we can have a good weekend from now, there’s good potential in the car and we know what we need for a strong result.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director

“This wasn’t the most straightforward first day back on track for us after the summer shutdown. Pastor unfortunately had an off in FP1 in which his car sustained a reasonable amount of damage. The repair work continued into FP2 meaning his day was pretty compromised. On the other side of the garage, Jolyon completed a good tally of laps in the morning to assist with our assessment of our latest front wing, whilst Romain was able to continue with set-up work in the afternoon and made good progress and looked competitive finishing FP2 in P7.”