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Alonso fastest on a rainy day at Spa
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Alonso fastest on a rainy day at Spa
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Aug 2010   |  2:34 pm GMT  |  36 comments

Fernando Alonso set the fastest time today in practice for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Alonso set the pace in Spa (Darren Heath)


Most of the day the weather was atrocious with heavy rain causing the GP2 and Formula BMW practice sessions stopped due to dangerous levels of water on the track. The morning session was particularly wet.

In the afternoon drivers were able to fit intermediate tyres, which seemed to be very fast on the first lap but then suffered quite significant graining and drop off in performance. They ended the session on slick tyres.

The second session was red flagged towards the end, under very unusual circumstances with race control advising that there “may be spectators in a dangerous area”. It left very little time and the final three minute dash meant that everyone treated it like a single lap qualifying run on new tyres with the track at its best. Alonso forced his way to the front of the queue to go out for that lap and as a result was best placed to capitalise. Adrian Sutil was second and Lewis Hamilton third.

Earlier in the session, Michael Schumacher had a huge moment, but managed to control the car, while Timo Glock wasn’t so lucky. He crashed early in the second session, losing the back end of the car after touching a white painted line on the way into Turn 9. Tonio Liuzzi also went off track, lightly brushing the barriers in his Force India, but was able to return to the pits and fit a new front wing.

Ferrari and Renault both had important new parts to evaluate today. Ferrari has a new diffuser this weekend among other aerodynamic upgrades, while Renault is debuting its drag reducing F Duct rear wing. This circuit is one of the most advantageous for F Ducts on the calendar, with the conflicting demands of high downforce in the middle sector, and in contrast two long straights. Kubica went through the speed trap at 321 km/h at the same time as setting the fastest middle sector time at that showing that it seemed to be working well. The Renault was fastest through the speed trap in Montreal, but the advantage here of the F Duct is that they are able to have more downforce for the corners, while still having plenty of straight line speed.

Jaime Alguersuari was the first to put on the slick tyres and went fastest on his second lap, by three seconds. Button tried the soft tyre and he too set a time on the second lap which was two seconds faster than his first while his third lap was a further second and a half faster. It showed how long it takes for the slick tyres to come in and if this drying track situation were repeated in qualifying or the race, then being the first onto slicks would be absolutely crucial. There was no doubt that the soft tyre was faster and warmed up more quickly than the hard tyre on a drying track.

The McLaren looked the most sure footed of the title contenders in the damp conditions, before the track had fully dried out. The Force India car looked pretty good in those conditions too in Adrian Sutil’s hands.

Sebastian Vettel had some brake problems which cost him time, while championship leader Mark Webber had a slow lap while a potential problem with the engine was checked out.

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, Spa Francorchamps. Free Practice

1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m49.032s 25
2. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m49.157s +0.125 17
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.248s +0.216 14
4. Robert Kubica Renault 1m49.282s +0.250 20
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m49.588s +0.556 23
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m49.689s +0.657 19
7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.755s +0.723 20
8. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.081s +1.049 27
9. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m50.128s +1.096 22
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.200s +1.168 24
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m50.251s +1.219 24
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m50.341s +1.309 23
13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.382s +1.350 21
14. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m50.682s +1.650 25
15. Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1m50.831s +1.799 20
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1m51.520s +2.488 17
17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m51.523s +2.491 25
18. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m51.636s +2.604 19
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1m53.480s +4.448 15
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1m53.639s +4.607 21
21. Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1m54.325s +5.293 17
22. Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1m55.751s +6.719 24
23. Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1m56.039s +7.007 21
24. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2m03.179s +14.147 3

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36 Comments
  1. Calum says:

    Hi James – you got any analysis coming up on the new flexible floot tests (and their potential impact) that the FIA will be introducing at Monza?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes I’m looking into it here in Spa

  2. James Hunt says:

    Perhaps a damp race could put Jenson Button back into title contention again.

    He has been over looked by all bookmakers because Hamilton has been faster than him for most of the times this year.

    However his two victories this season in variable weather condtions has proven he is the best driver under that cicurmstance.

    For sure everyone will make him the reference when it comes to tyre decisions during the race!

  3. JohnBt says:

    Wow, final lap was qualifying mode and pit lane was like sixteen coaches long. Quite hilarious.

    Can feel the excitement coming on raceday as Spa has always be a thriller for decades.

    Red Bull didn’t look threatening but one can never judge until quali.

  4. Peter says:

    James I am really curious about something. The Red Bull is supposed to have much better levels of downforce than the rest of the field, but how come they weren’t blitzing the field in the wet conditions (like in China) where maximising downforce is important?

    1. Peter says:

      Just to clarify – they weren’t blitzing the field in the wet in this Belgium practice AND in the Chinese GP earlier this year. Why is this so?

  5. AP says:

    Watch out for the red cars, Alonso in particular. He is in the hunt and with his experience and killer instinct he will capitalize on any possibilities to get in front. Good for Sutil. I hope FI would have decent race like last year. I f gets in the top 4-5 along with Kubica, that will mix the tings up front. I can’t wait till Saturday to see what RBR and Macca will have in their sleeves.

  6. Marc says:

    If Alonso can keep the momentum it would be terrific. Ferrari were the ones to be beat at the beginning of the season and if they can come back strongly it would simply be fantastic for the championship. The calls for retrieving their points from the German GP are completely unfounded I believe, since Ferrari were the only team to have just one driver in a position to compete for the title. Consider too that Todt was at the origin of all this controversy over team orders, since the Austrian GP. Now he’s head of the FIA. This odd ambiguity should turn Sept 8th into a re-think of the ban and not further punishment for Ferrari, probably the only team to speak out what other teams think deep down.

    1. Galapago555 says:

      “probably the only team to speak out what other teams think deep down.”
      Actually, the team that simply does the same as all the others: “Jenson, you have to save fuelfuel is critical…”
      Can’t agree more.

      1. SKWD says:

        Err, as opposed to, for instance, Jenson’s fuel actually being critical, as seems in fact to have been the case :)

      2. Galapago555 says:

        Yep, curiously Jenson’s fuel started to be critical just after he overtook Lewis… funny, isn’t it? ;-)

      3. SKWD says:

        @ Galapago555 Well, both drivers were told to save fuel before the overtake. Both drivers were told to save fuel EVEN MORE after the overtake :)

        That doesn’t make it a cut-and-dry case either way, if you ask me :)

      4. Galapago555 says:

        @SKWD, it seems that we have different appreciations aboout that race. In my opinion – and I may be wrong, obviously – team orders were issued just to ensure the best outcome of the race for the McLarens. The orders were simple: do not try to overtake your team mate again. And I can see no difference between this situation and the Ferraris’ one at the Hockenheimring.

        And, please, do not tell me that it is different just because in the case of the McLarens they were told not to change positions, opposite to the Ferrari team telling Felipe to yield to Fernando. I can not see why we should consider this a relevant difference.

        Now I will cross my fingers again and keep them crossed just for an extremely wet Sunday, and a magnificient show… ;-)

      5. SKWD says:

        @Galapago555 Well, we’ll never really know, will we. We do know that the McLarens have been running very tightly on fuel, to the extent of Hamilton failing to get back to the pits. We also know that both McLarens were told to conserve fuel at the same time, and it seems reasonably self-evident (even to me, a Button fan) that JB would not have been able to overtake without that instruction.

        So, no, I don’t see this as a team orders situation at all; sorry!

  7. Galapago555 says:

    James, any further info on Mark’s problems with his car’s engine? Could it have any consequence on his grid position (I mean, any penalty, like in the case hi changes the gearbox)?

    If so, let’s think that Schummie makes the pole on Saturday (I know it is almost impossible, but who knows?, and Mark makes P2… do you know how both penalties were to be hanled? I’ve been discussing this point whith some friends and no one seems to know the answer…

    1. Richard Craig says:

      Not sure if I am right, but wouldn’t

      1) Schumi gets demoted ten places to 11th
      2) Webber gets promoted (briefly) to 1st, then gets docked 5 places (for gearbox) relegating him to 6th

      If anyone else wants to beat that, I am all ears! ;-)

      1. Stewart says:

        You’re correct. Penalties are applied in the order in which the infractions were committed.

    2. Galapago555 says:

      Sorry, I mean Schummie on pole and the driver on P6 – let’s say Mark or anyone else – getting a 5 position penalty. The first to receive his penalty will finish on 12th, and the second one, on 11th. Hilarious, isn’t it? Is there any regulation about this?

    3. DSR says:

      I don’t understand the confusion. Apply the penalties and shift everyone up, as per normal.

      3rd place starts from pole. Mark starts from 6th, behind the 7th qualifier. Schumacher starts 11th.

      1. Wally says:

        Today was FRIDAY FREE PRACTICE ! , red bull or anyone else could have stuck a 1988 turbo charged engine in their cars and the stewards still would`nt be interested in it, none of their buisness …Yet from tomorrow it will be.
        The engine all the teams were running today were almost certainly engines that have been used earlier in the season that are past or nearly past their sell by date.
        Nothing to see here — please move along.

  8. Kevin B says:

    Is there any comment on whether the red bull and Ferrari front wings looked stiffer in practice? I could not tell when watching the TV

    1. James Allen says:

      They are different because the downforce level is different. It’s more like Montreal levels, fewer elements in the wing. That said there are some composites people here from Red Bull who don’t normally attend, so they are obviously taking great care with these new, harsher tests.

    2. SPIDERman says:

      I THINK RED BULL HAVE actually used a much stiffer wing as i did not see any flexing today and the ride height seems similar to mclarens…but feraris seems still lower than the rest

      http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/86162

  9. AlexD says:

    I personally think that it would be ideal for Ferrari to win maximum points – this way the Championship is going to be a lot more exciting in the next 6 races.

    Overall, Red Bull should be losing ground and both McLarena and Ferrari gaining…in reality it is not going to be the case, but…:-)

    In 2007 i had zero hopes that Ferrari can win and Kimi won, maybe this year another miracle is going to happen.

  10. Johnny Carwash says:

    I still don’t understand why the second session had been red flagged. I gather that there ‘May be fans in a dangerous situation’, or similar but does anyone know what corner this was at?

    Otherwise, I hope the changeable weather continues as were in for a great race!

    Mclaren 1-2 on the cards?

    1. Kenny says:

      Apparently it was some children climbing the fences around Rivage. Obviously left before Charlie Whiting got there.

    2. Faisal says:

      Some kids were climbing the fence at turn 8

      1. Jon says:

        There was a gate open atop of the hill just before Rivage, we watched the Friday morning practice from there (obviously wasn’t the right thing to do, but it was a bloody good view).

  11. F1 Novice says:

    Changeable weather on Sunday would make for an exciting race – the Renault’s F-Duct seemed to be working well

  12. Kenny says:

    I think Massa has a little bit more pace here and isn’t the half a second off Alonso as it appears. He did have that moment on the exit of Malmedy and it was a fairly large one, but I’m not too sure if he’s quite close enough to really push Alonso, but we’re going to have to wait and see due to the varying conditions.
    I was also very surprised to see that Renault’s “F-duct” was working straight out the box. Reminded me pretty much of Williams in Silverstone with their blown diffuser.
    There was something peculiar with Schumacher in practice because in FP1 it appeared he was using the “F-duct” on his car (even though the paddock word was their “F-duct” is “passive” of sorts) because his clothing had a pad and then in FP2 the pad wasn’t there anymore, but on the straight running down to Eau Rouge-Radillon he appeared to be changing something and it wasn’t the brake bias as Anthony Davidson pointed out. And then he fiddled with it again after exitting Eau Rouge-Radillon and it appeared as if he was turning something on and off. Reckon you could search into this James and put it into the technical details?
    Red Bull were a bit hampered by a couple of issues, but I believe come tomorrow we’ll see them right on the pace.
    Alonso certainly looks like a man on a mission and it’s going to take some stopping him.

  13. Flymo says:

    I notice Vettel has a new chassis (says no. 5 on the Red Bull website – previously he was in no. 2). Any word on the reason for that?

    1. Aussie Fan says:

      Maybe he got spooked & felt the car had developed a “chassis fault” because Mark beat him twice in a hand me down car :-)

  14. Flintster says:

    The rules this weekend are very simple. Ferrar/Alonso need to win if they are to win the championship! Even more so if there are any silly decisions made before Monza like removing Ferrari’s points from Germany.

  15. smellyden says:

    James,

    You have mentioned before that FOM have been trialing 3D pictures. Is it here at Spa? Going through Eau Rouge in 3D from the front wing must be amazing!

  16. Baart says:

    James, can you tell us what kind of information are important in Training days and Qualifikations ? I mean what kind of informations I should search or compare from TV-spectator point of view ?
    F.e. Pat Symonds told once, that in Training 3 drivers have their cars like in race condition (fuel and tires) Do you have your path ?

  17. DSR says:

    Actually, no, I’m wrong – but I think you mean if the 5 grid penalty goes to 7th place, not 6th. It doesn’t affect the order of Schumacher and ’7th-plus-5′, but it does change whether 12th place starts ahead of both (11,1,7,12,13) or behind both (11,12,1,7,13). Interesting.

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