Starting second could be an advantage – Hamilton

2014 Belgian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014Following today’s wet qualifying session Jenson Button is in no doubt what conditions he is hoping for on Sunday.

“I’d prefer it if it were dry,” he said. “The wet is always a real mess here, especially at Eau Rouge. After the first lap it always gets pretty horrible if it’s wet, in fact, so as I say I’d like it to be dry. It’ll be a better race if it’s dry, in fact.”

With the usual caveats about the unpredictability of the Spa weather, it looks like Button will get his wish tomorrow as a cloudy but dry day is currently forecast. That should reduce the enormous gap between Mercedes and their closest rivals, which was a whopping 2.2 seconds at the end of Q3.

“Sometimes in these wet conditions you just hit the sweet spot with both the car set-up and the tyres,” explained Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff, “and that’s definitely what happened for us today, with a car that was the class of the field on the intermediates”.

Wolff said the margin Mercedes had over their rivals was “not normal” and believes “our rivals will be dangerous in the race if it’s dry”.

Even so it’s hard to imagine victory in tomorrow’s grand prix being contested by anyone other than Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – unless Mercedes suffer more technical trouble.

The start

Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013A glazed brake disc was the cause of Hamilton’s problems during qualifying but he expects it will be sorted out for the race.

“When it glazes, it’s sometimes very hard to recover, especially in the wet,” he explained. “You have to put the brake balance forwards but whilst you’re trying to clear that, you’re also overheating the rears so it’s really not that easy to always clear.”

“But in the evening they’re able to scrub it and get rid of the glazing. I think it goes shiny and then you lose that bite so hopefully over the evening we will lose that and in the dry tomorrow it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Although he lost pole position to Rosberg, having started from first place last year he feels it’s not as great an advantage at Spa as it is at other circuits.

“If you look at the previous years, P2 is the best place to start here so I feel quite blessed that this is the case,” he said.

“I started on pole here last year and Sebastian [Vettel] flew past me down the top straight, so I think it gives you the most opportunity here at the start.”

Whether Hamilton is able to do to Rosberg what Vettel did to him last year will depend partly on how well the cars can run through the daunting Eau Rouge and Raidillon on the first lap. During practice it was clear the sequence can no longer be taken flat out easily in all conditions and fuel loads.

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Strategy

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014As none of the drivers used slick tyres during qualifying, the strategic situation for tomorrow is quite straightforward. Everyone will have plenty of new sets of the soft and medium tyres, and no one will be obliged to start the race on used rubber.

Fernando Alonso expects drivers to favour the softer compound. “I think the soft will be the one to use at the start and in the early part of the race,” he said.

“The medium is a bit slower, but similar to the soft in terms of degradation, so it will be a case of running it for as little time as possible in the race and to make the change at the right moment.”

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2’07.130 2’06.723 (-0.407) 2’05.591 (-1.132)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2’07.280 2’06.609 (-0.671) 2’05.819 (-0.790)
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2’10.105 2’08.868 (-1.237) 2’07.717 (-1.151)
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2’10.197 2’08.450 (-1.747) 2’07.786 (-0.664)
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 2’10.089 2’08.989 (-1.100) 2’07.911 (-1.078)
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2’09.250 2’08.451 (-0.799) 2’08.049 (-0.402)
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 2’11.081 2’08.901 (-2.180) 2’08.679 (-0.222)
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2’09.885 2’08.646 (-1.239) 2’08.780 (+0.134)
9 Felipe Massa Williams 2’08.403 2’08.833 (+0.430) 2’09.178 (+0.345)
10 Jenson Button McLaren 2’10.529 2’09.272 (-1.257) 2’09.776 (+0.504)
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2’10.445 2’09.377 (-1.068)
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 2’09.811 2’09.805 (-0.006)
13 Sergio Perez Force India 2’10.666 2’10.084 (-0.582)
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber 2’11.051 2’10.238 (-0.813)
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2’10.898 2’11.087 (+0.189)
16 Jules Bianchi Marussia 2’11.051 2’12.470 (+1.419)
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 2’11.261
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 2’11.267
19 Max Chilton Marussia 2’12.566
20 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 2’13.414
21 Andre Lotterer Caterham 2’13.469
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 2’14.438

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Nico Rosberg 33.678 (1) 59.395 (1) 32.486 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 33.713 (2) 59.470 (2) 32.636 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 34.245 (5) 60.016 (5) 33.308 (6)
Fernando Alonso 34.257 (7) 59.996 (4) 33.247 (4)
Daniel Ricciardo 34.110 (4) 60.195 (7) 33.549 (8)
Valtteri Bottas 34.042 (3) 60.184 (6) 33.217 (3)
Kevin Magnussen 34.345 (8) 61.012 (11) 33.274 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen 34.556 (10) 59.928 (3) 33.661 (10)
Felipe Massa 34.252 (6) 60.306 (8) 33.434 (7)
Jenson Button 34.467 (9) 60.771 (9) 33.767 (12)
Daniil Kvyat 34.759 (14) 60.844 (10) 33.664 (11)
Jean-Eric Vergne 34.770 (15) 61.075 (12) 33.791 (13)
Sergio Perez 34.716 (11) 61.548 (16) 33.820 (14)
Adrian Sutil 35.274 (16) 61.116 (13) 33.622 (9)
Romain Grosjean 34.756 (13) 61.685 (17) 34.108 (17)
Jules Bianchi 35.410 (17) 61.486 (14) 33.916 (15)
Pastor Maldonado 35.652 (18) 61.534 (15) 34.075 (16)
Nico Hulkenberg 34.744 (12) 61.889 (18) 34.196 (19)
Max Chilton 35.814 (19) 62.472 (19) 34.135 (18)
Esteban Gutierrez 35.880 (20) 62.881 (21) 34.653 (21)
Andre Lotterer 36.101 (21) 62.769 (20) 34.599 (20)
Marcus Ericsson 36.200 (22) 63.579 (22) 34.659 (22)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 278.2 (172.9)
2 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 273.8 (170.1) -4.4
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 270.8 (168.3) -7.4
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 266.7 (165.7) -11.5
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes 266.4 (165.5) -11.8
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 266.2 (165.4) -12.0
7 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 265.8 (165.2) -12.4
8 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 265.6 (165.0) -12.6
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 265.5 (165.0) -12.7
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 265.4 (164.9) -12.8
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 262.7 (163.2) -15.5
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Renault 260.6 (161.9) -17.6
13 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 256.1 (159.1) -22.1
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 255.6 (158.8) -22.6
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 253.4 (157.5) -24.8
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Renault 251.9 (156.5) -26.3
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari 248.9 (154.7) -29.3
18 Jules Bianchi Marussia Ferrari 245.5 (152.5) -32.7
19 Adrian Sutil Sauber Ferrari 244.8 (152.1) -33.4
20 Max Chilton Marussia Ferrari 241.7 (150.2) -36.5
21 Marcus Ericsson Caterham Renault 238.1 (147.9) -40.1
22 Andre Lotterer Caterham Renault 237.2 (147.4) -41.0

Over to you

Do you think starting second could be the advantage Hamilton hopes it will be? Who’s your tip for victory tomorrow – and ‘best of the rest’?

Share your views on the Belgian Grand Prix in the comments.

2014 Belgian Grand Prix

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercolo Colombo

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46 comments on Starting second could be an advantage – Hamilton

  1. Oli Peacock (@olliekart) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:05

    Can the speed trap values be of any use tomorrow? I know it’s after Radilion, but is there anything we can take from this, for the race?

    • Zane Jakobs said on 23rd August 2014, 19:49

      Because qualy was wet, generally higher up cars will be running more wing, because they can carry more speed through eau rouge in the wet

      • Glenn (@glennb) said on 23rd August 2014, 20:18

        If those speed trap figures were recorded in quali, I suspect HAM doesn’t have too much wing on at all. Looks like they must have removed the wings altogether on RIC’s car ;)
        Note the difference from fastest to slowest, ~40kph

        • Zane Jakobs (@zjakobs) said on 24th August 2014, 3:16

          @glennb the speed trap is at the top of Raidillon, so cars with more wing can carry more speed through it. Also in practice, Nico was several kph faster than Lewis at the end of Kemmel. Though running more wing may result in Hamilton having less tyre deg

    • Mr win or lose said on 23rd August 2014, 21:38

      Is the speed trap in the braking zone under wet conditions? Surely those cars should be able to reach top speeds well above 300 kph even with a high-downforce setup.

      • StefMeister (@stefmeister) said on 23rd August 2014, 23:48

        Speed trap is at the top of Eau Rouge rather than towards the end of the straght.
        Since you need a big lift through there in the wet the speeds are well down.

        Nico’s pole lap is on the bbc website & he hits 322kph on that lap before braking for Les Combes. In the dry yesterday i saw the 2 mercedes were around 335kph.

  2. AD (@donnington) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:13

    Alonso should be a fast starter and slip stream Vettel after the top straight. Looking forward to an ongoing battle between the two of them through the race with Ricciardo springing a surprise at the pit stops and jumping the pair for the podium.

    • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:52

      @donnington: RedBull have been one of the fastest team towards the end of the straight (RIC 339, VET 333, ALO 336) and the fastest at the exit of Radillion. I think it will be quite difficult for Alonso to overtake Vettel without DRS if he doesn’t manage it before La Source.

      • AD (@donnington) said on 23rd August 2014, 19:01

        I see your point. If he does pass Vettel on lap 1, it will be a ding dong battle through the race and he may well be repassed. Ricciardo would do well to watch for a few laps and strike later… But then again, Alonso has been strong all weekend and may make a good bid for that podium. I love the uncertainty.

  3. Wil-Liam (@wil-liam) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:13

    Hamilton ran a lower downforce configuration compared to Nico,I expect him to fly past before lap 5

  4. AD (@donnington) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:15

    Quite a mixed bag on engine suppliers on the speed trap list. I dare say the Mercedes and Williams rise to the top again once it’s dry.

  5. lockup (@lockup) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:24

    I’m not that sure Lewis can draft by on the first run down Kemmel. Maybe, or maybe not. Once he has DRS might be more likely.

    But mainly I’m hoping Merc have dropped that weird policy of forcing the second car onto the alternative tyre choice at the first stop.

  6. tezza (@terro55) said on 23rd August 2014, 18:37

    I just watch the reply of the race on Aussie tv and they replayed Daniel’s off at Blanchimont corner, i’am sure you can hear him yell in the car a certain expletive. Impossible i know but i’ve rewound it and listen several times and there is definitely a audible noise that sounds like it . Anybody know were the mic is located on the car are they in the cock pit.

  7. Damonw said on 23rd August 2014, 19:09

    The “speed trap” is at the top of Eau Rouge. Eau Rouge which was wet. That figure suggests Hamilton had more DF if he was able to have a better run through Eau Rouge.

    The ultimate top speed was at the end of Kemmel. Run by run between the two, Rosberg had the majority of fastest speeds through the S1 split. Sometimes they were equal.

    Because Eau Rouge wasn’t flat it’s hard to get a read as the speed at the end of Kemmel would have been affected lap by lap.

    If anything, Hamilton running higher downforce, makes Nico’s pole all that more impressive.

    • tezza (@terro55) said on 23rd August 2014, 19:16

      i don’t have a dog in this fight but gear ratio must be taken into account as well

      • MagicSpin said on 23rd August 2014, 19:25

        they’re fixed all year I think for 2014. I would be surprised if they are running different gear ranges (i.e. Lewis 1-7, Nico 2-8) so this doesn’t factor

    • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 24th August 2014, 0:59

      Sheesh, you’ve been pushing the “Rosberg will be faster because he’s running lower downforce” line for a long time now.

      Where is the source that says this?
      Even if he is, I doubt the downforce difference would be too much, because Lewis is more than smart enough to know that if he does pass Rosberg, he won’t want to be a sitting duck on the straights.

  8. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 23rd August 2014, 21:03

    You need to make it past turn 1 before you even consider making a pass into Les Combes. We have already seen multiple first corner shunts this season (mainly involving Felipe Massa) and Spa has a history of at least some contact at La Source. I’d be very surprised to not see a safety car during the first lap, at which point, Hamilton will need to play a sensible game. He will need to attack but at the same time not do anything too stupid. He’s already beaten Rosberg in a straight fight a few times this season but losing out in qualifying yet again will surely be a blow to him, regardless of whether he thinks P2 is a better starting slot or not.

  9. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 23rd August 2014, 22:28

    I think Hamilton will win tomorrow.

  10. dot_com (@dot_com) said on 23rd August 2014, 23:29

    Massa managed to go a little bit slower in each of the three sessions.

  11. dave mcgrory said on 24th August 2014, 7:40

    Hamilton wont do what seb done because he is not as good

  12. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 24th August 2014, 8:00

    It could be worth Lewis contemplating getting a better start off the line and all of a sudden he is 1st after La Source. Then, the tables are turned…

  13. kartik said on 24th August 2014, 8:30

    With only 7 races to go The Pole position trophy situation is
    7- Rosberg
    4- Hamilton
    1- Massa
    Lewis needs to be on pole from monza to yas if he needs to win the Trophy, for rosberg its only 4 more poles required.

  14. The good thing is, Lewis is better at attacking than defending, he also a lot more entertaining when he is attacking, partly because he enjoys it. I would rather see Rosberg on pole and defending than Hamilton defending. Will Lewis win? Who knows, I personally hope he does but it should be a good race up and down the grid no matter what, you never know when SPA will drop a SC or rain joker onto the pack.

  15. TMF (@tmf42) said on 24th August 2014, 9:35

    Vettel required Hamilton to screw up Eau Rouge for it to work last year, so I’m not really as optimistic as Hamilton that 2nd is really better.

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