F1 2014 Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton quickest at Spa

F1 racer Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage at Spa ahead of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture:

F1 racer Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage at Spa ahead of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz] - Credit: Mercedes-Benz

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton was fastest in practice ahead of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

Lewis Hamilton on track at Spa ahead of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton on track at Spa ahead of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz] - Credit: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes AMG Petronas began the Belgian Grand Prix weekend at the top of the timesheets today (Friday).

Nico Rosberg set the pace in the first practice session in Belgium and Hertfordshire-born racer Hamilton topped the second at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton, the 2008 F1 world champion, ended the day fastest overall, posting a best time of 1m 49.189s on the soft tyres during the second session.

World championship leader Rosberg’s best lap of 1m 49.793s put him second fastest to complete a Silver Arrows one-two in both sessions.

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After the sport’s summer break, Hamilton said: “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.

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“It stayed dry throughout both sessions but the forecast is wet for tomorrow [Saturday], so it was important to maximise track time as this may be our last dry running before the race.”

Ahead of Saturday’s lunchtime qualifying session, Hamilton added: “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!”

After finishing second fastest in practice, Mercedes driver Rosberg is looking ahead to Saturday’s qualifying session.

“As normal, it will be a long night analysing everything that we learned today to really nail it tomorrow,” said Rosberg.

“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.”

Despite dominating practice, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport chief Toto Wolff admits there is still work to do ahead of qualifying.

Wolff said: “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.”

Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe said: “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.”

The team completed 103 laps today – equivalent to more than two race distances at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

A trouble-free day’s running allowed the team to assess both tyre compounds, running the medium compound Pirelli tyres in the first session, and then the medium and soft in the second.

Qualifying for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix is due to start at 1pm on Saturday.

* For more Formula 1 news, visit here.

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