Formula One drivers preview highly anticipated Belgian Grand Prix
The Mercedes team rivalry, the oncoming of new drivers into Formula One and question as to which team has picked up the most pace during the summer break are all major talking points heading into this weekend's F1 race at Spa-Francorchamps.
(Top row from left) Jules Bianchi (Marussia F1), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Romain Grosjean (Lotus F1), (bottom row from left) Felipe Massa (Williams F1), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes AMG), and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing), in the Drivers Press Conference.
Alastair Staley / LAT Photographic
By Adam Cooper
Rosberg keen to move on from Hungarian controversy
Nico Rosberg was reluctant to say much on Thursday about the controversy that followed the Hungarian GP, when his teammate Lewis Hamilton opted not to follow an instruction to move over.
In essence Rosberg said he didn't want to stir up any more fuss in the media and had moved on.
“I gather it was a bit of a mess afterwards, after Hungary,” he said. “So it’s best I don’t add too much I think and I continue to not give too many details. In general of course we discussed it after the race – just because it’s important to review a situation like that and know how to move forward. Now we’re moving forward but of course, I have also learned various things from that race which I will try to adapt for the future.
“I don’t really want to go into much more detail than that. As I said, we sat down, discussed it all. That is important after such an occasion, such a situation, and then review, if we need to change something for the future and that’s what we’ve done.”
Asked later to clarify his position he added: “Let me make that more precise. I gathered that there was a bit of a mess in the media and so it wouldn’t be useful for me to give another extra bit to that at the moment, it’s better to let it all calm down. That’s what I meant.”
Established drivers welcome Verstappen
Established F1 drivers have reacted positively to the news of Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso deal, citing the fact that he's made it on ability – but some have warned that at 17, the Dutchman still has a lot to learn.
“Definitely, he’s a very quick driver,” said Felipe Massa. “He shows talent in a go-kart, in Formula 3, winning many races; I think he’s second in the championship. It’s his opportunity. First of all, I think it’s great that teams are still interested in the talent of the driver and not the money and I think that’s really positive, it’s good for the sport in general. I’m happy for that.
“Seventeen is a little bit young! For sure, we need to wait and see how he’s going to perform in his first year. I think the most important thing is that he has the talent; I mean he’s quick. I hope he can be clever as well, to learn everything from Formula One.”
Meanwhile Nico Rosberg said: “All the journalists are always asking ‘is it only with money that you can get to the sport?' and things like that. It’s great to see that if you have the talent and you really deserve it, there have been many examples recently that have made it into F1. That’s important, that’s good. Of course, it’s very young, but I think we’ll be OK.”
“It’s a wonderful opportunity that he has and it’s something quite special to come to Formula One,” said Romain Grosjean. “As everyone says, he has shown great talent early in his career, but he will have a lot of homework to do to learn everything about racing in higher categories – tire deg, speed, a lot of things.”
Most drivers agreed that in their own cases, they were not ready for F1 at 17.
“I tested an F1 car at 17,” said Rosberg. “Driving-wise I would have been ready, I feel, but the limitation at the time was physically. That was a big limitation because at the time it was still V10, big downforce – I’m not sure if more downforce than now, but the tire grip was higher. That was the big limitation at the time for me as, a 17-year-old. But nowadays it is a little bit easier physically, definitely, so that will help.”
“I think when I started, when I drove first time a race car, I was 15,” said Massa. “It was a Formula Chevrolet in Brazil. I think it was never a problem to be quick, it was a problem to understand – especially in Formula One. I was 20, I think it was a little bit too early for me. I really agree with what Nico says. Physically, at that time, it was a lot more difficult than now. Now I would say the race if very easy from the physical point of view, which is easier for a young driver to learn and understand – but at that time it was a lot more difficult from the physical point of view.”
“I was not ready at 17,” said Jules Bianchi. “It was my first year in Formula Renault 2.0, so I cannot say I was ready, for sure. I was doing mistakes there. So, if you still do mistakes in the previous categories, you cannot be ready for Formula One.”
Williams has been very much to fore in recent races, and the consensus is that the team's strong straight-line speed will translate into a strong performance at both Spa and Monza for Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
“Well, I hope it can be more than just on the paper,” said Massa today. “I hope we can show good performance on the track in this race and in Monza. But I would say maybe most of the races we can be competitive. Maybe Singapore will be the most difficult one, but I would say that at most of the tracks we can be there, we can be competitive. I hope that we can show that and I hope that we can still growing, still improving, like we did from the first race until now.
“It would be great to have a very competitive car and very good race here and Monza but also in the second part of the season. We’re still fighting. We know how important is the points. We’re going to fight; we're going to do everything we can to be competitive.”