Spa-Francorchamps – Both Prancing Horse drivers had good reason to be disappointed at the outcome of qualifying. In the case of Fernando, despite his two world championship crowns, he has never won a Formula 1 race in Belgium and was therefore hoping to do better this year and for Felipe, the opposite is true, as the Brazilian has often shone in the Ardennes, even winning once and so he could have aspired to another good performance.
They will thus start the Belgian Grand Prix, the eleventh race of the year, alongside one another on row 5.
From Friday morning onwards, the F138 had looked more competitive than it had done immediately prior to the summer break and in fact, right up to the start of Q3, there was every reason to be optimistic about grid positions for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Updates the team have been working on, particularly relating to the aero package of the car, seemed to have cut the performance gap to those who were the front runners leading up to the summer break.
The gaps in free practice were smaller than before and gave cause for optimism. However, having got through the first two sections of qualifying with relative ease, Q3 was a different matter. A damp Q1 was followed by a dry Q2, but then, as if an unseen hand was directing the show, trying to add to the spectacle, some clouds reappeared with their cargo of rain, before yet again leaving the stage for the track to start drying.
This turned the session into a case of last person to cross the line takes the pole. Fernando and Felipe took the chequered flag when the track was still quite wet, but as it improved yet again, those who came across the stripe later finished ahead of them.
At the top of the time sheet, Lewis Hamilton timed everything to perfection in the Mercedes to secure his fourth consecutive pole position, knocking first Mark Webber and then the other Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel off the top spot. The German starts alongside the Englishman, while the Australian starts on the inside of the second row, with the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg alongside him in fourth spot.
What can the Ferrari duo expect tomorrow? Much will depend on the weather, but if one assumes that some of the cars ahead of them on the grid do not have quite the pace of the F138 in “normal” conditions, then that fact combined with Fernando and Felipe’s usual aggressive approach to race starts, could see them move up the order to secure a good result, come the end of the 44 laps.
Fernando Alonso (Position 9th - Best Time on Q3: 2:03.482): “When you end up ninth and tenth, clearly something has gone wrong and only analysing the data will be able to tell you what exactly, especially as the car was more competitive than in recent races. That’s partly down to the updates introduced here, which we had been working on since mid-July, when it was clear we had problems.
Bad luck definitely played its part, because if the cloud that appeared in Q3 had not moved just before the end of the session, then maybe those who were last at that time would not have improved. In the final part, I spun on my first lap, a mistake which definitely cost me, even if by my next lap at the same point, at Turn 14, I had already made up three seconds.
I feel reasonably confident for the race, especially as the variable weather conditions mean anything can happen and it’s not a given that one finishes where one starts. Of course, we must make up a lot of places, but at least we have the knowledge that we have closed the gap to the favourites and that we can be competitive in the dry. We saw that in Q2 and in the mixed conditions in Q1. Only the rain is the big question mark, because so far this weekend, we have never run on a track that is wet for its entire length”.
Felipe Massa (Position 10th - Best Time on Q3: 2:04.059): “I am very disappointed with the result of this qualifying, even if I am well aware how difficult it is to make the right decision at the right time when the weather is very changeable. On my first run in Q3, I went out on the Mediums and, at the moment it began to rain, I had two options: return to the pits to refuel and fit a new set of intermediates, or try and only change tyres.
I went for the second of these choices, hoping to benefit from the track being at its best, knowing I would only have one lap left to try and do a good time. Unfortunately, this choice did not pay off, because just then the rain eased off and the other cars encountered better track conditions at the end of the session.
A real shame, as the car’s been very competitive all weekend, but definitely today, we were a bit out of luck. Even if we are not starting from a good position tomorrow, the race is long and anything can happen. My pace is good and I hope to pull off some nice passing moves to bring home a good number of points”.
Pat Fry: “The result of this qualifying is certainly no reward for the efforts of the team and drivers, but rather it leaves a great sense of regret, especially due to the fact that today, everything was in place for us to aim for a front row slot. Yesterday’s and today’s practice produced encouraging signs; the car was quick in all conditions and on all the compounds we used, proving to be very competitive.
An analysis of the data overlaying Fernando’s and Felipe’s performance had allowed us to find the right aerodynamic compromise for this track, both in the dry and the wet and for that reason, we were aspiring to a result we didn’t get, which was also partly down to bad luck. Now however, we must only turn the page and get ready to tackle a long and demanding race, when once again the weather will play a big part”.