• Belgian Grand Prix

Who said what after Friday practice

ESPN Staff
August 22, 2014

ESPN rounds up all the reaction from around the paddock after Friday practice for the Belgian Grand Prix

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Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel: "Hopefully the engine we had a problem with today is not damaged, we have to check it properly. If it is then obviously we have to get another one out, not necessarily for this weekend but some weekends in the future so we'll have to wait and see. Obviously I didn't drive much except for a few laps this morning. There's a lot of boxes to be ticked in general, and it's important around here to get your eye in, every year's different. It's a long lap, there's a lot of high speed corners and therefore it's important to have a rhythm, whereas at a slower track maybe it's a little bit easier."

Daniel Ricciardo: "I think we knew it would be difficult to break away from the mid field here - we see Force India, McLaren and Toro Rosso and a few of the others are strong. Hopefully tomorrow we can find a bit more speed and get ahead of them. Our long run is better than our short run pace, so that's not bad, if we have a good race car then Sundays are always more fun. If the track keeps rubbering in, and we'll see what the weather does tomorrow, then it should come a bit more into our hands. Eau rouge is still flat out, but you have to concentrate a bit more, it's not a Sunday drive through there anymore!"

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton: "It's great to be back in the car and it was feeling good out there today. The morning wasn't as strong, but it definitely improved in the afternoon. As always, we still have work to do tonight, but overall today was ok. It stayed dry throughout both sessions but the forecast is wet for tomorrow, so it was important to maximise track time as this may be our last dry running before the race. We've seen rain so often here in the past and that can really mix things up - particularly when it's wet in places and dry in others. Your visor is almost level with the ground, so it's not like looking from above where you can see the different patches. That makes it really hard to pick out the areas where you can find grip, but it's also a lot of fun. The only bad part of today was that I had my suit on when I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was pretty cold but I didn't feel it that much, so I think I'll need to do it again to make up for it!"

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Nico Rosberg: "It's really great to be back at Spa. It's a fantastic track, the flow of the circuit is great and driving Eau Rouge is tricky this year with less downforce. You need to be really precise, and with worn tyres it was tough to take this unique corner flat out. It looks like we have the quickest car again, but it's a bit different here than at some other tracks. It seems that some of the other teams are closer and we need to work a bit on our speed down the straights.

"As normal, it will be a long night analysing everything that we learned today to really nail it tomorrow. The interesting challenge for this weekend is to find the right compromise between being quick over one lap and over a long distance in the race - especially if it's wet tomorrow, with the predictions currently saying we will have mixed conditions."

Toto Wolff, Executive Director, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "Spa is always a tough circuit for both the drivers and the cars, and it usually takes a little while for everything to come together during practice. The drivers were not completely happy at the start of the day and worked hard to improve the balance for the long runs this afternoon. The headline times looked good but we still need to make some progress to convert that into a good advantage in race conditions. That will be our focus overnight ahead of qualifying.

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): "We found the expected cool conditions today at Spa but fortunately neither session was disrupted by rain, so we completed a lot of work with both cars as we ran through the technical programme. This is a very challenging circuit at which to find the optimum set-up - balancing the requirements of the high-speed corners with the low drag you ideally want on the straights - so we did a lot of work on that to find the best compromise. Both drivers were struggling with the balance at different points of the session but we made good steps with the set-up to get them happier by the end of the day. However, we still have a lot more to do overnight to maximise the potential of the car."

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Ferrari

Fernando Alonso: "Compared to the other race weekends, the story is a bit different here, because Spa is a high speed circuit and, after a month off, getting back to racing at a fantastic track like this is a real pleasure. It was nice to be able to run in the dry today. The weather is always changeable here and in fact, the possibility of rain is forecast for tomorrow, therefore, as usual, we will ensure we are ready for whatever comes our way. At this track and at Monza, engine performance counts for a lot. We know there is no magic solution but we will nevertheless try to optimise everything. The car behaved as we expected from our simulations and that is definitely something positive."

Kimi Raikkonen: "A difficult day, complicated by a series of setbacks which cost us valuable track time. In the morning, I had a brake problem, but once it was sorted, we were able to get through our planned programme for the first session. The new components we brought for this race seem to be working, but only after we have cross-referenced all the data will we be able to work out what is the best package to use for the rest of the weekend. In the afternoon, an electrical problem complicated our work, preventing us from carrying out the race simulation. Tomorrow, we can expect a busy free practice session, in which we will do our best to prepare the car for qualifying and the race."

Pat Fry: "The Spa circuit is a very enjoyable one for the drivers and at the same time it presents a great challenge for we engineers, especially this year because of the parameters linked to the new Power Unit. In order to gather as much data as possible, we chose to run different programmes with our drivers. Unfortunately, in the second session, Kimi's work was affected by an electrical problem, which although it didn't prevent him running, did mean he couldn't make the most of all the systems.

"In the first and third sectors, top speed counts the most, while in the middle one, driveability and aerodynamic downforce come into play more and that makes finding the right set-up especially demanding, even more so when looking to the race, because while extra downforce can be an advantage in the second sector, it slows the cars on the straights, making it harder to attack and defend in the race. We are working hard on the efficiency of the car in general and on the thermal energy side of the Power Unit, but I think that at tracks like this one and Monza, which highlights these characteristics on our rivals' cars, we will have to try and defend with all means available and attack where and when possible."

Lotus

Romain Grosjean: "The first practice session went well today. We had a little bit more of a challenge in FP2 with a small technical issue on the rear of the car early on in the run and there was some loss in performance as a result. Given that this is a track which we knew would be a challenge, we focused mostly on finding the right downforce level and getting the set-up where we want it to be. It's likely to be quite a tough weekend but we're optimising every part of the package. You never know what can happen at Spa."

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Pastor Maldonado: "I lost the car at the exit of turn nine so that was my afternoon finished. There was a quick hello to the medical centre on the way back to the garage, but I'm fine and the damage to the car is not so much. I'd already been able to determine from the morning that we have a reasonable car here. Certainly, we have potential to fight for a good qualifying session and a good race. We do struggle with our power for the long straights, but it is better than we expected so that's a plus point. We're compensating with the set-up for the second sector so let's see what we can do tomorrow."

Gederico Gastaldi, deputy team principal: "Today was planned as a conventional Friday in terms of run programme, however Pastor was unable to get any useful running in the afternoon after his off. This meant we had to revise our plans for Romain somewhat. In the morning we completed our aerodynamic assessment schedule including Pastor evaluating a new front wing. In the afternoon we gained a good amount of data from Romain. His suspension set-up was not perfect and we've identified some easy gains there, and we also have sufficient data to run through ahead of tomorrow."

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen: "I really enjoyed today. Coming back to Spa is always a pleasure, because it's such a fantastic racetrack. Our car feels pretty good here, and I was able to push it today. Even so, we can still improve it, or fine-tune it anyway. "Personally, I hope it'll be dry tomorrow, because that'll give us developmental continuity - and anyway it's always more fun driving at Spa on dry asphalt. Oh, and by the way, Eau Rouge is still flat, even on high fuel. So, in summary, I reckon we're looking okay, and I'm pretty happy with what we've achieved so far."

Jenson Button: "We found a decent balance here today, but, as always on a Grand Prix Friday, we're never completely happy. On the option tyre, I'm very happy; on the Prime, Kevin is happier than I am, so we've got to work out the reasons for that this evening. In the first sector we're quickest, in the third sector we're a tenth or so off the pace, but in the middle sector we're almost a second down. So we'll have to work on getting the balance a bit better, and hopefully we can improve in the areas we're already strong in, too.

"Overall, I'd say our car feels reasonably nice to drive around here, but the circuit demands a low-downforce aero configuration, and that's given us some areas to work on, especially with the Prime tyre, on which we're struggling a little as I say. But there's definitely room for improvement, and hopefully we'll have a good weekend from here on in. Having said that, we don't really know what's going to happen with the weather; I think there's a good chance of rain tomorrow, which will change everything of course.

"Finally, I just want to say something about Eau Rouge. With our low-downforce set-up, it's interesting. You've got oversteer at more than 300km/h, and I admit I let out a few screams inside my crash helmet through there on a couple of laps, especially on high fuel. But this is a track on which you always have moments - and, as ever at Spa, it's a great experience, and I'm really looking forward to the next two days."

Eric Boullier, racing director: "Today we worked effectively and efficiently, completing our planned programmes for both our drivers, and I'm pleased to report that there were no major issues of concern on either car.Equally, our new aero components - a new front-wing flap, a new rear wing, a new floor and a new diffuser - showed accurate correlation from wind tunnel to track.

"This morning's FP1 session was decidedly chilly, but the air warmed up a bit this afternoon, and we saw a track temperature of 32C at one point. Both drivers preferred the feel of our car on the Option, which we expect to be our preferred qualifying tyre for tomorrow. Kevin was perhaps a smidgen happier with the car than was Jenson, who struggled a little with front and rear lock-up under heavy braking, but that's an inevitable side-effect of a deliberately lower-downforce aero configuration, which we've opted for here at Spa and will persist with at Monza in two weeks' time.

"Overall, then, I'd say we're reasonably satisfied with our day's work, and are now looking forward to many hours' hard graft this evening, in an effort to optimise our preparation for the morrow."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg: "Today was a solid day and we achieved all we wanted from our programme, which is a great way to start the weekend. Fortunately the weather was stable and dry and we could use our time in the most effective way. The car performed at a good level straight away from the start of the day and we collected a lot of useful data. It will be interesting to see the conditions tomorrow - the weather can change very quickly here so you can't really rely on the forecasts."

Sergio Perez: "It was a good day and we learnt a lot about the tyres and the balance. The long run pace looks good so I think we can look forward to a promising weekend. Hopefully we can get into the top ten tomorrow, putting us in a strong position to get big points on Sunday."

Robert Fernley, deputy team principal: "Spa is a unique track for the 2014 cars and it is very important to maximise the performance of the power unit on the long straights. We were pleased the weather remained consistent throughout the day, allowing an uninterrupted programme. Track conditions didn't change much between the two sessions, so we could carry out strategic tests to prepare for both qualifying and the race: we are happy with how it all went and we have gathered a lot of data for us to go through. We have shown a competitive long run pace and have got some good responses on the aero side. All in all, it's been a very positive day and we are looking forward to the weekend."

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Sauber

Esteban Gutiérrez: "It was a very short Friday for me. I did not drive in the morning, then in the afternoon we had a problem with the MGUK, which cost me the second free practice. At least I was able to run some laps. We have to investigate what caused the incident. Now I am going to focus on tomorrow. We have to work a lot and get things ready for qualifying."

Adrian Sutil: "It was a good day and I had a lot of fun driving on my favorite circuit. I am quite satisfied with our programme today, as we did not have any issues in the morning or in the afternoon. The balance of the car was ok, but there are still some areas which we need to optimise."

Giedo van der Garde: "It was not an ideal session for me. From the beginning on I didn't have enough power and I struggled during all the session with this issue. I could only complete two laps during my first run. I came in quite early on so we could try to solve the problem. Afterwards, I went out again for another installation lap, but the issue was still there. However, we had to finish our programme, and so I continued with the second run. The balance of the car was ok, but I still didn't have enough power and I struggled a little with straight-line speed. It is a pity, but this is motorsport and sometimes these things can happen. I am sure we can solve the problem together."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, head of track engineering: "In the morning we were more or less able to run through our programme, although the power unit on Giedo's car didn't deliver the maximum power output. In the afternoon we had more problems on the same car, but now with Esteban behind the wheel. After only a few laps the MGUK failed and caused Esteban to spin. He was able to make it back to the pits but couldn't continue the practice session, which limited his running today to just seven laps.

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"This is definitely not helpful. Adrian on his side was quite happy with the car, which is encouraging. It looks as if we are stronger in qualifying conditions than on longer runs, where energy management plays a crucial role, and we loose top speed on the straights. We definitely need to improve our reliability."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne: "There is some good and bad today. This morning I was quite happy with the car's behaviour but in the afternoon the balance got worse, making it difficult to drive. We need to understand why we lost performance in FP2 to get the best out of the car tomorrow but I still believe we have the potential to improve."

Daniil Kvyat: "It was a busy Friday as usual where we tried to get as many things done as possible. I enjoy driving this track but I wasn't too happy with the car balance in FP1, but we made a step forward during the afternoon's session. Hopefully we can make another step forward tomorrow."

Phil Charles, chief race engineer: "The morning session was quite good, but this did not continue into FP2, where we lost a little bit of balance with the car. At the end of the session, Daniil was happier with the balance, while JEV was not too pleased. There was a slight increase in track temperature which has given us a little bit of unhappiness with the car, so we need to understand the effect of the track temperature on the tyres and how we correct for that over the weekend. In terms of working through the programme, we managed to tick off most items on our relatively long test list. But all in all we are not yet where we want to be with the car, so there is still some work to do tonight."

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Williams

Valtteri Bottas:: We did a lot of set-up tests today with some good results and we will be aiming for a strong result in qualifying and the race because this is a track that is suited to our car. The car balance felt good from the beginning and we managed to improve it as the sessions went on, but there is still more performance I think we can unlock before Sunday. I didn't have a particularly good lap on the option tyres, but the time I set was still competitive so that is encouraging.

Felipe Massa: It was a good Friday for us with no issues and we were able to continue learning about the car. We saw some tyre degradation so that will make tyre strategy crucial and it will be important to be on the right tyre at the right time in the race. Mercedes are still looking very strong and seem to have an advantage over everyone else, but we should have a good opportunity to fight for the podium and we need to make sure that we continue improving the car over the course of the weekend.

Rob Smedley, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We managed to complete most of the work we needed to today and overall this has been a positive practice for us. Typically Spa brings a few challenges for teams with the high speeds we run at this track, but the drivers and their crew did a very good job in diligently working their way through the schedules. We focused on aero work this morning and we then moved on to tyre tests on low and high fuel levels, with encouraging results. The objective is to remain fighting for podiums in the second half of the season and from today's running it looks like we are still in the mix. We have a lot of data to work through and decisions to make tonight, and hopefully we can continue to progress the set-up of the car so that we peak on Sunday."

Marussia

Max Chilton: "It has been good to get back in the car again and to focus on the weekend ahead. It was a positive afternoon session for me, picking up the programme from Alex, who ran this morning and did a good job. The car feels better with the changes we have made and I'm sure we can continue to improve the package into tomorrow and have a good race on Sunday, hopefully achieving a strong two-car finish for the eam."

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Jules Bianchi: "I'm pleased to finish P16 after a good start to the weekend. It's always nice to be racing here in Spa, and of course this track has special associations for me, so it's nice to get back down to the racing here and see positive signs for the days ahead. I am happy with where I finished the day, particularly with respect to the cars around me."

Alexander Rossi: "The main point for me today is to reiterate my thanks to the Marussia F1 Team for the chance to drive the MR03 for the first time. Obviously it's disappointing not to race, but then I was not aware of the opportunity prior to coming here anyway, so it went away almost as quickly as it arrived. I'm a racing driver, so obviously opportunities to race are welcome, but equally I am part of this team now and I'm here to do whatever is required of me, and that means taking the rough with the smooth.

"So switching to the positives, I really enjoyed my first free practice session. I felt very comfortable in the car and I'm pleased with my performance considering I have never driven the MR03 prior to today. I got up to speed quite quickly and although this is early days, I hope I have demonstrated to the Team what I can contribute. They seem pleased with my progress and feedback and I look forward to my next FP1 opportunity."

John Booth, Team Principal: "We have enjoyed a positive first day back on track after the summer break. We brought some upgrades that we tested on the seven-post rig before the break and these represent the first reoptimisation of the car without the linked suspension system. These developments reflect a lot of hard work by our Vehicle Performance Group back at the factory and it is very pleasing to see that effort rewarded by a clear improvement in the car. Both drivers are happy with the balance, particularly Jules, and the timesheets clearly demonstrate our performance step.

"All credit to Alexander, who has conducted himself really well today, on and off track. I have been following Alexander since his early junior formula days and I'm proud to have him in our car and on our team. Alexander acquitted himself incredibly well to the MR03 and its systems. Despite a few system glitches that held back his overall lap time, he had a very good practice session and helped the team prepare for FP2. I have huge respect for him and he's done a tremendous job. It's not the first time he's been in a Formula 1 car and it certainly won't be his last. That I am sure."

Caterham

Andre Lotterer: "I'm very pleased with today. This morning's first practice was a good session for me; I got used to the car quite quickly and now I just need to optimise everything in terms of driving style. Considering it was my first time out, it all went according to plan and I was able to get a good feel of what it's like to drive the car. Now we need to keep working like this and continue improving the car.

FP2 was another good session and everything went smoothly even though we had to stop a little bit early due to a technical problem. It's definitely been another learning process for me on the option tyre - I went out and I didn't know what to expect, but I think it went very well. We've been able to follow the programme as planned, improving while learning and trying to play with the car slowly. We did some long runs and I'm certainly starting to feel comfortable with everything, even though I'm still in the learning curve."

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Marcus Ericsson: "It's good to be back racing - I've been training hard during the summer break and I feel in very good shape. We didn't have the best of starts, as this morning I had issues with the brakes and a few other technical problems, which is not what we needed. Nevertheless, we were able to complete quite a few laps and gather useful information for the weekend.

"FP2 was a better session for us. We solved the issues we had this morning with the brakes, so that was an improvement, even though we will need to solve a few other things overnight, but it's been a productive day. We've completed plenty of laps running on both compounds, so we have a lot of information that will be vital for the rest of the weekend."

Christijan Alberts: "We've certainly seen some visible signs that we're starting to move forward after the summer shutdown. Today we've made progress and this is what we intend to do during the rest of the season. Having André in the car is definitely helping us, he has done an extraordinary job on his first day driving for us. We focused on long runs today and tomorrow we will dedicate more time to qualifying performances. It's been a positive day and we look forward to the rest of the weekend - we will also have an eye on the weather, as here in Spa it can rain at any moment, so anything could happen and we need to be ready."

Renault

Remi Taffin, head of track operations: "Spa definitely lived up to its reputation today as the hardest circuit of the year for the Power Units. Every part of the PU is given a workout thanks to the flowing, high speed corners, gradient changes and aggressive stops. It certainly gives a long job list after practice!

"That said, we've learned a lot over the two sessions. The long run pace across Red Bull and Toro Rosso is positive but we have some work to improve performance over one lap. We have some margin to optimize the energy management and torque delivery but getting to grips with this is part of a usual Friday practice. Since we covered 250km with Daniel we got the bulk of the information we require to maximize performance, but clearly tomorrow will be a very busy day as we lost the second session for Sebastian after an ignition problem at the end of FP1. On inspection we needed to change the PU for a new unit so we do not expect a repeat of the problem.

"It's also been very interesting to work with a new driver in Andre Lotterer at Caterham. He brought a fresh and unique perspective to the team thanks to his extensive experience at Spa and delivered some excellent feedback. He was straight on the pace as well so we could run through our programme as expected. Lotus had a harder day with Pastor missing FP2, but Romain's performance and reliability is optimistic and the rain coming tomorrow could shake the order up a bit. Overall, although we've had some setbacks there is a lot of potential for improvement and we'll be ready to take advantage of any chances that come our way."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, motorsport director: "It's always a pleasure to be at Spa, which is one of the truly great race circuits of the world. This year, with reduced downforce, it has arguably become even more spectacular, with the cars sliding around more and drivers needing maximum bravery to take Eau Rouge flat-out. We experienced cool conditions today, which obviously had an effect on the performance of the tyres, but this looks set to remain for the rest of the weekend: perhaps with some rain on Saturday. Despite the cool temperatures, we experienced very little by way of graining, and there were no big surprises. We will now analyse all the data carefully, but from what we can see so far the tyres are behaving in exactly the way we would expect, and we are likely to see two pit stops during the race for most competitors."

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