SEBASTIAN VETTEL, Position: 3rd, (3rd Practice – P13, 1:50.814)
“Yesterday was a different story to today. Today we did a lot more laps and I think the rain helped us, in dry conditions we couldn’t have qualified so high up. So, it was a good day for us and a good result and we should be a little bit more competitive compared to Mercedes in the race tomorrow, so let’s see.”
DANIEL RICCIARDO, Position: 5th, (3rd Practice – P2, 1:49.773)
”I had a moment on Blanchimont; that corner is tricky in the wet. It’s never full, it’s always a lift or a dab of the brakes and knowing that the chequered flag was just there at the end of the session, then I just pushed it a bit too much. I guess in hindsight it cost a bit of time, but you never get the perfect lap in these conditions. Spa is unique, as the track is so long and some parts of the circuits are drier than others, so nearly every lap you’re driving blind. It’s great to drive here though.”
CHRISTIAN HORNER: “A great recovery by Seb after a difficult Friday and very little mileage to get third on the gird and with Daniel, despite running wide on his final flying lap, he managed to qualify fifth in a very low down force configuration in very tricky conditions. So, a tremendous job by both drivers and good grid positions for tomorrow’s race. Hopefully we’ll have a more competitive race car than qualifying car.”
THIERRY SALVI: “Obviously difficult conditions for this qualifying. The heavy rain appeared straight after FP3, making the management of both cars tricky, particularly at the end of Q2 when the rain increased. Seb was not able to change his tyres, but had the pace to go through to Q3. After that, the plan was to run as much as possible to cope with any unexpected weather conditions. Let’s see the race tomorrow with again some unexpected events to come.”
Final Countdown – My 10 minutes before the race starts
A period of last-minute setting changes and nerves, the 10 minutes before the lights go out for the formation lap and start of the race are some of the most intense in F1. One of the last off the grid is Daniel’s Electronics Support Engineer Oliver Fairclough. Here he takes us through his final countdown…
With 10 minutes to go we’re all on the grid, we’ve done our first fire up, we’ve downloaded the data, so we’re hopefully under control, but for us the procedure starts a few minutes before that. Everything is governed by when the national anthem is played; that’s 14 minutes to the hour. When it finishes the next thing we do is a fire-up. We then do what’s called a clutch scrub, partly engaging the clutch. I’ll do a quick check of the data from that to see that everything is OK and that would normally be the last fire up we’ll do before the formation lap. We’ll do a lot of checks after that – engine temperatures, system temperatures – and that’s done in consultation with a Renault technician looking at his systems beside me.
With 10 minutes to go I’m usually packing up what we call ‘the wheely bin’, which provides power and communications to the car. There’s a lot of equipment on the grid and you need to start packing it up in sequence. With about seven minutes to go the driver is normally getting into the car and my attention moves to that, checking that we have the steering wheel settings correct. I’ll usually confirm with the controls engineer over the radio that everything’s OK, such as making sure we’re in the correct torque map. Following this the wheels are usually fitted and then, with two minutes to go, we’ll go to what’s called ‘P2’, which means turning on the power and ignition systems in the car. I’ll be looking at the number one mechanic and making sure he’s aware of that, as he’s in control of the car in terms of operational personnel. I’ll call back to the garage to confirm they have got telemetry and when they’ve give the OK, that’s pretty much me done. That leaves the number one mechanic to look after the final 1m30s. With about one minute to go he’ll signal for fire-up and once that’s done the front-end mechanic will disconnect the umbilical connecting the car to the wheely bin from the car. I’ll pull the cable back and run to the side of the grid. Then we’re off, hopefully.
When I started this it was the most stressful part of the weekend. It’s the last opportunity before the race to do anything if there is a drama and you see something on the data that isn’t right. It does become fairly routine, though, and now on the grid I feel confident and I’m not worried. Everything is geared so that there is time to do something should you need to.