Belgian GP FP1: Summer’s over and Mercedes are still on top through Rosberg

Nico Rosberg starts the second half of the season at the top, with the fastest lap during first free practice at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

La Source, Eau Rouge, Raidillon and onto the Kemmel Straight. Formula One brushes the dust off and gets the wheels rolling for the second half of the 2015 season. But after 25 days off, 14 of them without any work being put into the cars, Mercedes are still on top after Rosberg settled into Spa and posted the fastest lap of the opening practice session. The morning was not all to plan for Mercedes and Nico however, with Rosberg garage bound early on.

Lewis was starting the day off strong by setting the early pace for the Belgian Grand Prix and was steadily improving. But before Nico had the chance to challenge his British championship rival, the German was forced to coast back to the pits in seventh gear after an apparent power or gearbox loss through Blanchimont. Luckily the issue was mendable and after some considerable work to the rear of his Mercedes, Rosberg rejoined the track action later on.

While Rosberg was sat in the Spa garages, the rest of the field set about lapping up their Spa visit and testing the waters of the red river, by pushing to go flat out through Eau Rouge without needing to cut across the new sausage curb at Raidillon.

But while a curb that could easily upset the balance of a car pushing flat out, Malmedy claimed the first victim of the weekend as Maldonado wrote off the front of his Lotus and brought out the red flag. Pastor had lost the rear of the Lotus as he put the power back on through the exit of turn seven, sending him towards the barrier. Despite a flick to try and save it, the damage was done and after a big shunt his Lotus was done with.

The red flag came out at a poor time for Rosberg as he had just taken back to the track in search of his first timed lap. But after the repairs to his car, the short run at least gave him and the team a chance to shake down the system before flooring it when the track went green again. Rosberg actually took the top spot straight away when he set his flying lap and improved shortly after to create a two tenth gap back to Hamilton.

After Rosberg made his way to the top of the time sheet, Mercedes switched to high fuel runs. Hamilton was set the task of setting 1:56’s, 5 seconds off the pace. Other teams soon joined the programme leaving Nico in P1.

Ricciardo came close to Hamilton’s fastest lap over the session for third with Ferrari shortly behind with Raikkonen following his new one-year deal with the team. Vettel finished the session in fourth, four tenths back, while McLaren ended the session with both drivers in the bottom five.

McLaren were hoping for a better weekend than this as they have brought upgraded Honda engines to Belgium that they hoped would be closer to the Ferrari’s. Jenson also had a slight problem during FP1 where the left-hand side of the cockpit began to get “very hot”.

Position Driver Gap
1 Rosberg 1:51.082
2 Hamilton 0.242
3 Ricciardo 0.291
4 Raikkonen 0.396
5 Vettel 0.784
6 Kvyat 0.878
7 Verstappen 1.076
8 Sainz 1.339
9 Perez 1.341
10 Bottas 1.429
11 Maldonado 1.457
12 Hulkenberg 1.532
13 Nasr 1.558
14 Massa 1.571
15 Ericsson 2.344
16 Alonso 2.420
17 Palmer 2.717
18 Button 3.143
19 Stevens 4.419
20 Merhi 5.004