F1 2015 Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton beaten by Rosberg in Spa practice

PUBLISHED: 16:58 21 August 2015 | UPDATED: 17:04 21 August 2015

Lewis Hamilton on track at Spa ahead of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton on track at Spa ahead of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

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Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was beaten by Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg on a dramatic opening day of the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

Rosberg topped the timesheets in both Friday’s practice sessions at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, with Hamilton second in each.

The morning session saw Rosberg confined to the garage during early running with an engine problem.

But he recovered to take top spot with a lap of 1m 51.082s, with Silver Arrows colleague Hamilton posting 1m 51.324s for P2.

A rear tyre failure then ruled Rosberg out of the final third of running in the afternoon session.

Belgium facts & stats: The car

* Fuel consumption 3.35kg per lap, which is high

* Full throttle: 70%

* Brake wear: Low. There are only nine braking events around the lap

* Gear changes: 48 per lap/2112 per race

Rosberg said: “In the second session it was quite a shocking moment for me when my rear tyre failed.

“When you are going as fast as 300km/h and something goes wrong, that’s a horrible feeling.

“I thought I would end up in the wall and, to be honest, it was pure luck that I didn’t.

“We now need to investigate with Pirelli what happened.”

Despite the problem, Nico’s earlier lap time of 1m 49.385s was the fastest of the day, with Hamilton’s best a 1m 49.687s.

Ahead of Saturday’s all-important qualifying session, Hamilton said: “Today [Friday] was generally a good day – no problems with my car, great weather and a lot of fun out on track.

“It’s not often it stays dry here and that makes it even more enjoyable with the way the track flows through great corners like Eau Rouge.

“It was great to be back out there. The car felt good and it felt very natural to be straight back to business which is a positive sign.”

Belgium facts & stats: The race

* Start time: 14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)

* Race distance: 44 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance/33 laps)

* 2014 winner: Daniel Ricciardo

* 2014 pole position: Nico Rosberg 2m05.591s 200.766km/h (wet)

* 2014 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg 1m50.511s 228.162km/h

* Safety Car likelihood: Chances of a Safety Car High. There’s an 80 per cent chance that the Safety Car will appear in Sunday’s race - that’s largely due to accidents at Spa occurring at high-speed

* Don’t put the kettle on: The start, when new FIA rules mean there will be more input from the drivers; and laps 13 and 28. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy and, changeable weather aside, the same looks likely in 2015

* Weather forecast: Changeable. Spa-Francorchamps is located in the Ardennes Mountains, which have a notoriously fickle microclimate.

As for his main rivals, Hamilton said: “Nico is very quick so I have some work to do tonight to see where I can find some time.

“Ferrari and Red Bull also look closer here than they have at past weekends, so it’ll be a close run thing and we’ll need to be up for the fight.

“What happened towards the end of P2 with Nico obviously wasn’t good but luckily he’s unhurt and of course the team will be looking into it with Pirelli.

“I have no concerns, though.

Belgium facts & stats: The track

* First race: 1950

* Circuit length: 7.004km/4.352 miles

* Run to Turn One: 265 metres

* Longest straight: 2.015km, from La Source to Turn 5, Les Combes

* Top speed: 322km/h on the approach to Turn 5

* DRS zones: Two – on the approach to Turn 1 and, again, on the approach to Turn 5

* Key corner: Turn 10, a 180-degree double-apex left-hander. The entry is fast (294km/h) and blind, and the drivers need to be totally committed in order to be fast

* Pitlane length: 390 metres, which is quite long. The time loss isn’t that great because the cars staying on-track have to negotiate the La Source Hairpin

* Major changes for 2015: None.

“You have to have trust in the car and in the tyres to go out there and push, so it’s not something you think about.”

Both Mercedes cars ran the Prime (medium) tyre in P1, and then the Prime and Option (soft) compound in second practice.

The team will work with Pirelli to determine the cause of Rosberg’s tyre failure this evening

Paddy Lowe, the team’s executive director, said: “Today started reasonably well, with P1 running more or less to plan save a small engine problem for Nico, which the team turned around very quickly.

“We tested a few different items before moving on to a standard P2 programme of Prime and Option runs.

“This ran smoothly until the long run on Options, when a tyre failure for Nico brought out the red flags in the final third of the session.

“With one car ruled out of running, we decided not to continue the regular programme with Lewis until we had understood the problem.

“We’ll be working hard with Pirelli this evening to understand what happened and how we can ensure that we’re operating safely for the rest of the weekend.”

Lowe added: “Overall, though, both drivers were happy with the balance of the car.

“It’s a tough lap to get right, as the ideal downforce levels required vary at different sectors around the track, so our pace was encouraging.

“We will be keeping a close eye on our competitors as always, though.

“Ferrari and Red Bull in particular look strong this weekend, so we’ll need to have good outright pace and the ability to defend at the end of the long straights to come out on top.”


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