Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2013

Starting second could be an advantage – Hamilton

2014 Belgian Grand Prix pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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