© FOTO ERCOLE COLOMBO

Belgium Grand Prix Practice – Ferrari

Belgian GP – Rain has its say as Ardennes action begins
Spa-Francorchamps, 26 August – The Formula 1 World Championship got underway in Belgium after the long summer break, with free practice for the twelfth round of the season. True to form, it rained this morning in the Ardennes, with the clouds arriving just minutes into the start of the first session. The Mercedes duo of Michael Schumacher (1.54.355) and Nico Rosberg (1.54.829) topped the time sheet, setting their times right at the start, followed quite a way back by Jenson Button (2.02.740) in the McLaren. The Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa (2.04.728) and Fernando Alonso (2.07.055) finished seventh and eleventh respectively. They spent the morning evaluating the aero adjustments as best they could in the conditions. They both ran intermediate tyres, as well as trying some practice starts at the end of the ninety minutes.

Belgian GP – Alonso second and Massa fifth in Spa practice
Spa-Francorchamps, 26 August – Bad weather at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit ensured that programmes were not completed in the second F1 practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix. Just as in this morning, the afternoon’s recently-completed second session was cut short because of intermittent rain. First on the timesheets at the end of the stormy session was the Red Bull of Mark Webber (1.50.321), followed by the 150° Italia of Fernando Alonso (1.50.461) and the McLaren of Jenson Button (1.50.770). The other Ferrari of Felipe Massa was fifth with 1.51.218. The team will now look into the limited data it has collected on the evaluation of the different aerodynamic configurations and the comparison between the two tyre compounds – Medium and Soft – brought by Pirelli for this round in the Ardennes. The third and final session of free practice is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 11am.

Belgian GP – A positive start in changing conditions
The weather was the main player today and why would it be any different given where we are? The rain meant there were only a couple of dry interludes at the start of each of the two sessions. Therefore, it is even harder than usual, if not impossible, to draw any conclusion as to the hierarchy on track. Alonso and Massa completed a total of 56 laps (31 for the Spaniard, 25 for the Brazilian,) but only half of these were done on dry tyres.

Fernando Alonso: “Even if I only managed a few laps in the dry, my initial feeling is positive: the car is well balanced and there are no major changes needed for the rest of the weekend. Sure, it’s always difficult to get a complete picture after a day like this, but as I said at the start, we have got off on the right foot. That is important because it’s never nice to have to make a major set-up change from Friday to Saturday, thus tackling the second day almost in the dark. Our main opponents were also very strong, from the little we could see: the Red Bull had a great top speed and was still quickest in the second sector, which shows good all-round performance and McLaren also looked good. Michael? I don’t know him well enough to be able to talk about him as a person, but he has left a significant mark at Maranello and this means a lot. As a driver, he is a legend: maybe these days he comes in for criticism in the press, but wherever we go, he is still a major attraction and the people shout his name, which shows how popular he is.”

Felipe Massa: “It’s hard to make much sense of such a strange day: first it was dry, then wet and then it repeated itself. Luckily, at least we managed to try both types of slick tyre brought here by Pirelli, even if just for a few laps. Along with the engineers, we will have to try and interpret the data in the best way possible to make the right choices: in any case, first impressions, from what I can tell, are positive. We have some new parts and I think we will use them for the rest of the weekend, because they have allowed us to improve our performance. Where we are compared to the others, we will only know tomorrow in qualifying. I really like this track a lot: maybe it’s lost some of its excitement in some corners, such as Eau Rouge, which is now practically a straight, but it is still great to drive a Formula 1 car on a track like this.”

Pat Fry: “We had a lot on our plate, in the form of a packed work schedule, evaluating new components and we tried to get through it as efficiently as possible, even though we were up against less than ideal weather conditions. Obviously, if the track had been dry it would have been better, however we still managed to gather a substantial amount of data which we can now work through calmly. But this is Spa, so we were hardly expecting stable weather! Some of the solutions we brought here seem to deliver positive results, while we need to look at others in more detail and that’s what we will do between now and tomorrow morning, when we will make our final choices for this race weekend. At the moment, it’s difficult to give a verdict on the tyres, because we managed so few laps in the dry.”

First session Second session
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 11th 2.07.055 12 2nd 1.50.461 19 291
F. Massa 7th 2.04.728 10 5th 1.51.218 15 290

Weather

First session: air 20/22 °C, track 20/23 °C; cloudy, rain at times.
Second session: air 21/19 °C, track 22/21 °C; cloudy, rain at times.

Belgian GP – A busy day in the rain
Spa-Francorchamps, 26 August – It’s over three weeks since Formula 1 cars were last in action at the Hungaroring, but as could be expected, the break has not had a radical effect on the pecking order in the paddock. At the end of the first day of free practice for the twelfth round of the World Championship, a Red Bull Racing car tops the time sheet, followed by a Ferrari and a McLaren. Mark Webber was quickest after the three hours on track, nearly all of it held in the rain, or at least on a wet surface. Behind came the first of the 150º Italia’s courtesy of Fernando Alonso, with Jenson Button completing the top trio. Felipe Massa was fifth in the other Ferrari, behind the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton and ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

No one was surprised to see that rain was on the agenda, as it is the most famous of the Spa Francorchamps clichés, but even by Belgian Grand Prix standards, the way the weather switched from dry to wet in the morning and then did the same all over again in the afternoon was quite unusual. It meant that evaluating the two types of dry weather tyre brought here by Pirelli had to be crammed into a very small window of opportunity. Equally difficult was getting a clear picture of the benefits of the new parts brought here to Belgium. Nevertheless, both Fernando and Felipe said they were happy with the behaviour of their 150º Italias, which seem to be well balanced around the seven kilometres of the longest track on the calendar. Both cars ran trouble free throughout the day. And speaking of clichés, Felipe, a real fan of the Belgian circuit, pointed out that Eau Rouge, generally considered one of the most fearsome corners on the calendar is now “almost a straight!” One new driver on the grid: Bruno Senna replaces Nick Heidfeld at Lotus Renault and the Brazilian ended the day in seventeenth place.

More rain is forecast for tomorrow: will it affect qualifying in the afternoon, will race day be dry? As usual, nothing at Spa-Francorchamps is ever clear cut, which all adds to the appeal of this charismatic venue.