The summer break is over and Formula One action is back in Belgium. The weekend was opened with the drivers championship leader, Nico Rosberg, topping the first free practice session of the weekend ahead of championship rival and team-mate, Lewis Hamilton by a slender margin of just 0.097s.
Despite being in the middle of the session, this weekend will provide a Formula One race debut to André Lotterer, at the age of 32. He will be racing for Caterham in place of Kamui Kobayashi and it appeared early in the week that Alex Rossi would also be making his Formula One race debut whilst racing for Marussia in place of Max Chilton.
Caterham said; ‘The team will benefit from having another experienced driver [Lotterer] at the wheel of the car throughout the weekend and the German’s feedback will contribute to improve the performance of the car. The weather also plays a big role at Spa-Francorchamps and Lotterer is one of the most experienced drivers racing under mixed conditions.’
As for Chilton’s absence from the race seat, contractual issues between the two parties and financing issues resulted in Max resigning from duty this weekend and allowing Rossi to step in. However, during FP1 it was announced that Chilton would be racing after all and Rossi would only participate in the practice session.
As for the FP1 action, all drivers hit the track early on to carry out their installation laps before the waiting period kicked in. But once the drivers came out to pump in the laps it was Kevin Magnussen setting the early pace ahead of his team-mate and the other Marussia driver, Jules Bianchi.
Magnussen was pushed down the order soon after by the current championship leader with Rosberg taking P1. As for Alonso, he moved up to P2 before he stopping at Eau Rouge. Oddly, Fernando had his Ferrari going again moments later.
For most of the opening hour, Lotterer was unable to provide a lap time anywhere near his team-mate, Marcus Ericsson. With his lap times over two seconds slower but the experienced endurance racer eventually managed to better Ericsson, as the 32-year-old moved to P20. Right before Ericsson went for a spin at La Source.
Even Vettel had a moment in his Red Bull. The German had reported he was suffered an issue with upshifts, before running wide onto the Astroturf at Pouhon. Seb managed to control the rear of his car and prevent a spin.
The battle of the Mercedes began to hot up after Hamilton topped the time sheets. After moving ahead of Rosberg at the top, Hamilton himself ran wide at Pouhon. Coincidentally Rosberg regained the top spot at this moment. Lewis was then told by the team where Nico was gaining on him, with Rosberg finding time in the final chicane and T10 after entering slower, but leaving the corners faster.
Over the final half hour there was minimal changes to the time sheet order. Raikkonen suffered a temperature problem with the ERS system on his Ferrari, causing the Finn to pit. He went on to return to the track with his car covered in flo-viz paint, the same went for the rear wing of Ricciardo’s Red Bull.
Come the chequered flag, Hamilton finished in second place, tucked in tightly to his team-mate, with Fernando Alonso closing the top three. A good session for Ferrari and McLaren also saw Button and Raikkonen round up the top 5.
The session was not great for Red Bull with Ricciardo finishing in 9th and Vettel in 12th. Red Bull themselves do not expect to be challenging for the win this weekend, but they must be expecting an improvement from those positions as the weekend progresses.
|6||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:52.903||1.326||24|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:52.937||1.360||22|
|9||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:52.972||1.395||19|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:53.369||1.792||11|
|17||36||Giedo van der Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1:54.335||2.758||16|