Paddock talk: Hear what the F1 stars have to say after Friday's action
Lewis Hamitlon, Nico Rosberg and Rob Smedley all had words of encouragement after FP1 and FP2 on Friday, yet all are aware that Sunday's race will be a challenge.
Valterri Bottas climbs into his Williams F1 car prior to practice in Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium.
Glenn Dunbar / LAT Photographic
By Adam Cooper
Hamilton pleased with progress as Spa stays dry
Lewis Hamilton said he was pleased with progress at Spa after he picked up performance between FP1 and FP2, beating teammate Nico Rosberg by 0.6s in the afternoon.
“The morning wasn't as strong, but it definitely improved in the afternoon,” said Hamilton. “As always, we still have work to do tonight, but overall today was OK. It stayed dry throughout both sessions but the forecast is wet for tomorrow, so it was important to maximize track time, as this may be our last dry running before the race.
“We've seen rain so often here in the past and that can really mix things up - particularly when it's wet in places and dry in others. Your visor is almost level with the ground, so it's not like looking from above where you can see the different patches. That makes it really hard to pick out the areas where you can find grip, but it's also a lot of fun.”
“The drivers were not completely happy at the start of the day and worked hard to improve the balance for the long runs this afternoon,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “The headline times looked good but we still need to make some progress to convert that into a good advantage in race conditions. That will be our focus overnight ahead of qualifying.”
Eau Rouge tricky with less downforce, says Rosberg
Nico Rosberg was beaten to the top spot by teammate Lewis Hamilton at Spa today, although a slightly scrappy lap from the German on his hot lap on new soft tires may have flattered the Briton.
Like others, Rosberg found that the track's landmark Eau Rouge corner is more of a challenge than in the recent past.
“Eau Rouge is tricky this year with less downforce,” said the German. “You need to be really precise, and with worn tires it was tough to take this unique corner flat out. It looks like we have the quickest car again, but it's a bit different here than at some other tracks. It seems that some of the other teams are closer and we need to work a bit on our speed down the straights.
“As normal, it will be a long night analyzing everything that we learned today to really nail it tomorrow. The interesting challenge for this weekend is to find the right compromise between being quick over one lap and over a long distance in the race, especially if it's wet tomorrow, with the predictions currently saying we will have mixed conditions.”
Technical chief Paddy Lowe added: “We found the expected cool conditions today at Spa but fortunately neither session was disrupted by rain, so we completed a lot of work with both cars as we ran through the technical program.
“This is a very challenging circuit at which to find the optimum setup - balancing the requirements of the high-speed corners with the low drag you ideally want on the straights - so we did a lot of work on that to find the best compromise. Both drivers were struggling with the balance at different points of the session but we made good steps with the setup to get them happier by the end.”
Wind tunnel key to improvements at Williams, says Smedley
Improved correlation between the wind tunnel and the track is one of the keys to the improved form of Williams in 2014 according to Rob Smedley, the team's Head of Vehicle Performance.
Williams lost its way in terms of aerodynamic development in recent years.
“I think that we've had changes in process,” said Smedley, “Where we’ve looked at correlation between wind tunnel and track, how we improve the accuracy of the measurements that we take here at the track and the process of that whole thing.
“I think that being able to have accurate feedback from the start of the year from the track back to the tunnel, not only as to what the parts are doing in terms of correlation, but also in terms of what we want from a car – not only from total downforce but from car characteristics as well, in high, medium and low speed – has ultimately paid dividends.
“That correlation has thankfully been very good, because even when you do all your homework you can’t take it for granted that it will be. But I think that the work that has been done by the people back in Grove in the wind tunnel, by the operations group in terms of the accuracy of the aero measurements. It’s an ongoing process. We’re still improving it and we’ve still got a way to go with it, but at the minute it’s working well and I think we’re quite pleased with it.”
Smedley said the team still has a lot of work to in terms of the way it operates at the track: “I’ve said before it's an ongoing process. The team is on a bit of a journey. We’ve already made inroads as to where we need to get to, but if the team wants to make good on its ambitions of eventually winning races and then going on to win world championships again, as it has done in the past, then we still have a way to go.
“But the good thing is, the encouraging thing is that there has been progress made already and the team, as a group of people, there’s great synergy there. Everybody’s on board with it and everybody is pushing forward with it and every new target that we set, however big or small, the team gets on with it and gets it done, and that’s really encouraging.”