The Formula One Belgian Grand Prix promised to be a thriller, helped by a slightly mixed-up grid, but in the end, the expected rain never came and after a clean first lap, it proved to be a race of few surprises. Sebastian Vettel’s win wasn’t great for the title battle, but it was well-deserved after a faultless weekend for the German. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton did at least add to their scores, but it was a bad day for Kimi Raikkonen. Here’s what happened among the 11 teams.
Fernando Alonso was in a positive mood after free practice in Friday, despite ending the day a modest seventh.
However, headline times don’t always tell the full story, and the Spaniard insisted that Ferrari made progress.
“This was a good day, even if in the morning we, and in fact everyone, lost time because of the rain, and so in the afternoon we found ourselves facing double the workload,” he said. “Before drawing any conclusions, we need to wait for the analysis of the data acquired this afternoon from both cars. Felipe (Massa, teammate) and I tried different aero configurations, with more and less downforce, which will be the real key to this race, along with the weather.
“In terms of today’s times, we have got closer to the favorites, but I’m not sure which weather forecast I would prefer. It’s true that in the rain, the cards on the table can be shuffled up, but in the wet there are as many chances to benefit as there are to lose.”
Lewis Hamilton had a difficult first day at Spa, finishing FP2 only 12th and some 1.420 seconds off pace-setter Sebastian Vettel after struggling to find one-lap speed.
Hamilton, who came to Belgium on the back of his Hungarian GP win, said he lacked grip with the low downforce specification used at Spa.
“We have some work ahead of us this evening to get the car feeling just right, but overall today was a reasonable start to the weekend,” he said. “The car feels very different here with the low downforce setup, compared to at the last race, and we need to refine a few areas to get the balance sorted.
“We were able to get some good long-run work done today, and that’s the most important thing for the race. We’ve got time to make the changes required, so I’m optimistic that tomorrow will see an improvement.”
Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest time before his rear tire punctured in Friday’s second practice at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The three-time defending Formula One champion had to stop with about 20 minutes of the session remaining when his right rear tire popped and the loose rubber flapped around as he made his way back to the pits.
The German had earlier clocked 1 minute, 49.331 seconds, which was .059 quicker than Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and .818 faster than Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. While it was not immediately clear what caused the puncture, it could be unwelcome news for Pirelli given the furor surrounding its fast-shredding tires throughout the season. With his session over, Vettel stood alongside officials in the garage as they studied the car’s data.
Kimi Raikkonen skipped out on his Formula One commitments at Spa-Francorchamps on Thursday, and his Lotus team has said that the Finnish driver is ill, but will be back at the track on Friday.
Usually on Thursdays, drivers have media commitments, team briefings, and a track walk with their engineers, although Raikkonen opts out of the latter.
Inevitably, there is speculation that Raikkonen simply doesn’t want to face a barrage of media questioning about his future.
A more likely explanation is that he is making a point to the team, which is believed to be behind on salary payments. While missing Friday or any other track running will clearly harm his title campaign, he may well believe that he can skip Thursday and in doing so ruffle a few feathers at the team.
Meanwhile, his future remains up in the air after his management told the media earlier this week that any negotiations with Red Bull had ceased.
Although he can clearly stay at Lotus, he has to be convinced that the team will have a competitive package in 2014, and that the funds will be in place to properly recompense him.
Raikkonen is still potentially of interest to other teams, and a return to Ferrari is not out of the question.