A trip to the Spa

A trip to the Spa

Postby meteorite » Sat Aug 22, 2015 5:58 pm

One of the more challenging of the circuits of the Grand Prix season is Spa-Francorchamps in the Ardennes forests, long-time site of the Grand Prix of Belgium. It marks the resumption of racing after the summer break, and, after one more race the exodus from Europe to the fly-away races on various of the other continents.

Traditionally the break is a busy time, with the teams at their home bases in England, frantically figuring out the demon tweaks that they hope will give them that critical tenth-of-a-second for the final third of the season. How critical? Inspect the official table of qualifying results below and note that positions 3 through 9 are secured within the span of half a second - and on other occasions measurements even to a thousandth have still seen the odd tie. That on a track seven kilometres long.

Pos. No. Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:48.908 1:48.024 1:47.197 16
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48.923 1:47.955 1:47.655 17
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:49.026 1:49.044 1:48.537 19
4 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:49.353 1:48.981 1:48.561 17
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:49.006 1:48.792 1:48.599 16
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:49.664 1:49.042 1:48.639 17
7 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:49.688 1:48.806 1:48.685 15
8 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:49.568 1:48.956 1:48.754 17
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:49.264 1:48.761 1:48.825 17
10 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:49.109 1:49.065 1:49.771 12
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:49.499 1:49.121 12
12 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:49.469 1:49.228 11
13 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:49.523 1:49.586 12
14 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:49.288 8
15 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:49.831 10
16 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:49.952 6
17 22 Jenson Button McLaren 1:50.978 6
18 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:51.420 6
19 28 Will Stevens Marussia 1:52.948 6
20 98 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:53.099 7

Note - Verstappen, Button and Alonso drop 10, 50 and 55 grid places respectively for power unit/power unit component changes. Grosjean drops 5 places for gearbox change.

Note - Q1 107% time: 1:56.531

The list could be closer, too. Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari broke down before he could get a full-effort qualifying lap in , and he must run from his warm-up result. Verstappen and Vettel both complained their cars were not responding quite properly, and their results reflect this. For whatever reason all the improvements and upgrades about which McLaren were so optimistic during the break - and which cost them 50 and 55 grid positions grid positions to install - simply did not show up under fire.

It's worth noting that Hamilton is described as having a towering performance advantage over his team-mate - a staggering almost half second - while the Mercedes pair have nearly a second's edge over the rest of the field, which is enormous. Below them seven cars fit within a half-second blanket. This is the difference between unchallengably fast and bog slow in F1 these days.

So the early auguries are as usual - the Mercedes pair to likely lead from lights-out (unless a true banzai charge carries Bottas briefly past) and the next seven cars to fight it out for the remaining points. But as Hungary showed, changes can occur suddenly and almost whimsically - a tire can blow catastrophically, a nudge can bend a critical airfoil out of shape, a wheel nut can stick during a tire change, penalties can be incurred, and if the weather turns wet all bets are off.

But at the end of the day, Hamilton remains the best bet to hold the first place trophy ahead of Rosberg in a Mercedes one-two, with a stirring race-long battle between Bottas and Vettel needed to resolve the third step.

But this is motor racing, and there are no sure things.
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Re: A trip to the Spa

Postby meteorite » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:01 pm

Nothing in racing may be certain, but before you bet, check the odds. For instance, don't bet against the Mercedes team to share the front row of the grid in any race, and the top two steps of the podium at the end. Their cars simply have that margin of superiority this season, with Hamilton so far likelier to take the pole and the win. The suspense lies in who will take the subsequent spots. As pointed out above, the cars are exceedingly closely matched. Their shares of luck are not, as this official report from Formula One makes clear.

Hamilton wins Spa as Lotus return to podium

23 Aug 2015
A superbly controlled drive saw Lewis Hamilton beat Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg to win Sunday’s 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. The hard-charging Lotus of Romain Grosjean took third after Ferrari’s gamble to one stop Sebastian Vettel backfired with a spectacular tyre failure on the penultimate lap.

Daniil Kvyat made two strong passes in the closing laps to finish fourth for Red Bull, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. A typically aggressive drive from Max Verstappen resulted in eighth place for Toro Rosso, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson completing the top ten.

As expected, the new starting procedures mixed things up off the line, with Rosberg and Bottas making poor getaways from P2 and P3 on the grid, as Perez (starting P4) and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (P5) capitalised to chase polesitter Hamilton out of the first turn. Perez actually got ahead briefly on the Kemmel straight, but Hamilton had the inside line and reclaimed the lead under braking for Les Combes.

The Briton quickly pulled away and looked very comfortable, in part because Rosberg was stuck down the order. At the first round of stops the German was able to get back on terms with his team mate, and when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap 21 to remove Ricciardo’s broken-down Red Bull the gap was barely two seconds.

From there, however, Hamilton had things in hand, managing the gap to claim a 39th Grand Prix triumph, and an 80th podium - putting him on level terms with Ayrton Senna in fourth in the all-time lists.

The real battles were happening behind - most notably in the fight for third. Grosjean was pushing Vettel hard in the closing stages, with the gap falling rapidly as the chequered flag neared. With one lap to run Grosjean was within DRS range, but the fight was settled early - and dramatically - when Vettel's right-rear tyre blew. Grosjean therefore scored his - and Lotus's - first podium since late 2013, much to their collective euphoria.

Behind, Kvyat made use of a late stop for soft tyres to charge through the order in the closing laps. He picked off Raikkonen on the Kemmel straight for seventh, and then scythed decisively past Massa and then Perez under braking for Les Combes.

Perez, Massa, Raikkonen and Verstappen almost tripped over each other as the quartet encountered Vettel's limping Ferrari, but eventually finished in order.

As good as Kvyat's moves were, the pass of the day arguably went to Verstappen after an extraordinary move around the outside of Ericsson at Blanchimont early on. The Dutchman was in feisty mood, and almost grabbed seventh late on - he out-braked Raikkonen at Les Combes, but was then caught out by Massa in front, causing him to almost spin and eventually surrender the position back to the Ferrari.

Bottas took a distant ninth in a race when Williams somehow contrived to fit three soft Pirelli tyres and one medium to his FW37 early on, earning him a drive-through penalty.

After a race-long fight, Ericsson led home Sauber team mate Felipe Nasr, as they comfortably outdistanced the uncompetitive McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Down at Marussia, Roberto Merhi beat team mate Will Stevens for the final positions, 15th and 16th.

There were two early retirements: Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had power issues on the grid, prompting a second formation lap, while Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus came to a halt on just his second tour of Spa. Carlos Sainz also had technical issues en route to the grid and made a delayed start from the pit lane. Two laps down, he ultimately pulled his Toro Rosso into the garage to retire on lap 36.

Even with Maldonado's retirement while running seventh, it was a hugely important afternoon for Lotus: Grosjean's podium lifted them above Force India and into fifth in the constructors' standings, 50 points to 49. Mercedes lead the way on 426, ahead of Ferrari on 242, Williams on 161 and Red Bull on 108.

In the drivers’ table, Hamilton has 227 points to Rosberg’s 199 and Vettel’s 160.

Pos. Driver Country Team Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes 1:23:40.387 25
2 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes +2.058s 18
3 Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus +37.988s 15
4 Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Racing +45.692s 12
5 Sergio Perez MEX Force India +53.997s 10
6 Felipe Massa BRA Williams +55.283s 8
7 Kimi Räikkönen FIN Ferrari +55.703s 6
8 Max Verstappen NED Toro Rosso +56.076s 4
9 Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams +61.040s 2
10 Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber +91.234s 1
11 Felipe Nasr BRA Sauber +102.311s 0
12 Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari DNF 0
13 Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren +1 lap 0
14 Jenson Button GBR McLaren +1 lap 0
15 Roberto Merhi ESP Marussia +1 lap 0
16 Will Stevens GBR Marussia +1 lap 0
NC Carlos Sainz ESP Toro Rosso DNF 0
NC Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull Racing DNF 0
NC Pastor Maldonado VEN Lotus DNF 0
NC Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India DNS 0

Fastest Lap - Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 52.416s (lap 34)
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