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ewis Hamilton delivered another supreme qualifying performance to the claim top spot start for the Belgian Grand Prix, his tenth pole position of the season, beating Mercedes teammate and main title rival Nico Rosberg by half a second.
The Mercedes pair were in another zone altogether, well over a second quicker on a flying lap than their rivals on the soft yellow band Pirelli tyres, and about a second to the good using the harder white band tyres.
Hamilton said, “I am really happy today with the performance of the car and team. They have been doing a fantastic job and the car has been feeling great and it is a circuit where if you can get the right balance it is one of the most fun to drive. It’s a long race and a long run to Turn Five but I am just happy to be here today.”
The session was dominated by Mercedes-powered cars with Valtteri Bottas taking third place for Williams and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean finishing fourth ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.
After heading the weekend’s practice sessions, Q1 saw the Mercedes works team display its superiority once more, with Hamilton and Rosberg in the end making it through to Q2 comfortably in P1 and P2 respectively.
While their rivals all migrated to the soft tyre as the session progressed the Mercedes duo stuck with the medium compound tyre. There was a moment as they slipped down the order late in the session when it looked like they might regret the choice of tyre but Hamilton and Rosberg dug deep and the champion set a time a time of 1:48.908 to claim top spot, two hundredths of a second clear of Rosberg.
At the other end of the order the man in most trouble as the clock ran down was Max Verstappen. Early in his final run the Toro Rosso driver, then in P16, reported that something was wrong with his car and that he was down on power.
However, despite the handicap the Dutch teenager put in am excellent lap to haul himself to P15 and safety as the final times came in. His team-mate, Carlos Sainz, vaulted to P5 in the final moments.
The drivers to lose out were Sauber’s Felipe Nasr in P16, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, with Button finishing ahead of his team-mate in P1, and the Manors of Robert Merhi and Will Stevens, with the British driver getting the upper hand over his team-mate.
Q2 began with the Mercedes drivers quickly taking to the circuit, this time on soft tyres. Hamilton was soon informed that there was no telemetry coming from his car but it didn’t hamper the Briton’s swift progress to the top of the timesheet with a time of 1:48.024.
That was swiftly beaten by Rosberg’s lap of 1:47.955 but then the action was briefly halted when Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari ground to a halt at Turn 14, with the Finn succinctly reporting that “something’s broken”. That something was later explained away by Ferrari as a terminal drop in oil pressure.
The red flags for Räikkönen came with eight minutes left on the clock and with half the remaining field, including Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and both Red Bull drivers, yet to set a time.
With not enough time left for two runs, it spelled a frantic dash towards safety in the final few minutes for most, though the Mercedes drivers sat tight and Max Verstappen bowed out. The Dutch driver will also take a 10-place grid drop tomorrow for an engine change.
And at the end of the segment the men to miss the cut were Nico Hulkenberg, who despite Force India’s good pace this weekend so far lost out to Sainz by just five hundredths of a second.
Behind the German in P11 was Daniil Kvyat, the Russian also a surprise faller at this stage given Red Bull’s good pace across the earlier practice sessions. Marcus Ericsson finished in P13 ahead of Räikkönen and Verstappen.
At the top Rosberg held on to P1 ahead of Hamilton, with Vettel third. Force India’s Sergio Perez was fourth ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa, while Lotus made a good impression with Pastor Maldonado sixth ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean. Eighth place in Q2 went to Ricciardo, with Valtteri Bottas ninth in the second Williams ahead of Sainz.
Q3 this season has all been about Hamilton seizing the initiative with his first run and once again the Briton set a blistering pace on his opening run to claim P1 with a lap of 1:47.449, more than four tenths clear of Rosberg’s time.
Behind them, Williams suddenly surged forward, with Bottas taking a provisional P3 immediately ahead of Massa, while Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Vettel.
And Hamilton found even more pace in the final run, powering to a final time of 1:47.197. Rosberg also improved, but the German was almost three tenths slower than the champion in the middle sector and ended the session with a time of 1:47.655, again four tenths adrift of his team-mate.
Rosberg summed up, “For sure I’m disappointed. I lost it a bit this morning in free practice but then I got the balance back for qualifying but Lewis was too quick in the end and found quite a lot extra that I didn’t have in my pocket.”
Behind them Bottas held firm in third but Massa faded to be replaced by Grosjean, who finished ahead of Perez. Ricciardo took sixth ahead of Massa and Maldonado, while Vettel was a surprise ninth place ahead of Sainz.
Bottas told media after qualifying, “It is good to be back in the top three in qualifying. We knew after practice that there was so much more we could do if we put everything together. We got the balance finely tuned for qualifying and the car felt really good.”
Grosjean though will drop to ninth place for the start as he is set to take a five-place grid penalty tomorrow due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
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Another season ahead, will it be better than the last? I'm certainly hoping there will be less politics involved but that's just wishful thinking! Perhaps I will post less on such issues moving forwa

Bernie's really damaging the sport. He's so far behind the times it's impossible to listen to anything he has to say. Just looking at the way other sports leagues have grown over the past 20 years com

I disagree Massa only had one line to of the pits Hulkenburg saw him and could have avoided the contact and still passed Massa as he was on cold tyres. Good race though



Nico Rosberg’s high-speed blowout in Belgian Grand Prix practice was likely caused by an external cut to the tyre and any structural problem can be ruled out, Formula One supplier Pirelli said on Saturday.
“We have conducted a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened with Nico’s tyre,” said Pirelli motorsport head Paul Hembery.
“This investigation now excludes any structural integrity issues. Based on the information and data available an external source of damage is the conclusion made.”
Pirelli said they had checked tyres used by other teams as well as Mercedes and also found nothing of any concern.
The Italian company said video footage had showed a tyre problem on the German’s car “consistent with an external cut into the tyre structure”.
Rosberg was fastest in Friday practice but suffered the explosive blowout in the afternoon session as he approached Blanchimont at full throttle.
“That was definitely not fun,” he told reporters after escaping unscathed from the heartstopping incident in which the right rear tyre shredded in seconds.
“Luckily I did not hit the wall. I didn’t feel anything before, there was no warning. There will be a big analysis. I was feeling quick before then, comfortable.”
Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe told reporters afterwards that “there seemed to be some bits of tyre structure coming out up to a minute before the actual terminal failure of the tyre.”
The tyres were discussed by drivers in a meeting with FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting on Friday evening, with reports suggesting Rosberg’s world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton had raised safety concerns.
Whiting reportedly pointed out that Pirelli, whose contract runs out at the end of 2016, had not experienced any structural failures since a spate in 2013 forced changes to the tyre construction.
High-speed Spa is the longest and one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar.
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Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel arrived on a high for the Belgian Grand Prix, having won in Hungary before the summer break and hopes were that the Maranello outfit would continue the momentum and challenge Mercedes as the second half of the season got underway.
Despite running third in free practice on Saturday morning, the afternoon qualifying was a huge disappointemnt as vettel made a mistake when it mattered and ended the session ninth fastest, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen was forced to park his car with a technical issue during Q2.
“The last race [Hungary] does not matter now, but it’s always disappointing when you consider I had a good feeling throughout,” admitted Vettel after qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps.
“Probably the worst lap, or the worst part for us was the last one [in Q3]. We only had one set of tyres due to the red flag earlier [prompted by Raikkonen’s stoppage], but still, I was fine until the last corner where I lost too much time.”
“I went in a bit too deep, had a very poor exit and lost quite a lot of time, two tenths, not enough to go P3, but enough to be higher than P9.”
“It was a costly mistake and I’m not happy with myself because it was very tight from P3 onwards. We were at the right end of it in Q2, but at the wrong end in Q3.”
Despite the below par showing Ferrari are arguably still best of the rest behind the Silver Arrows duo, as the four times world champion acknowledged, “We have made impressive progress on our side. Our straight line speed is good, and that makes me fairly confident for the race as this is a place where you can overtake.”
“I feel we’re quicker than the cars in front, so we’ll see how it pans out. Surely the target for both of us is to make progress. There’s a lot to be done, it’s a long race, the starting and first turn will be interesting and there could be some rain at some point.”
“There’s nothing wrong so we’re expecting a progress,” concluded Vettel who lies third in the championship standings.
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Given the double power unit change taken by both our drivers (which resulted in a STUPID 55-place grid penalty for Fernando Alonso and a 50-place penalty for Jenson Button), this afternoon’s qualifying session was always going to be something of a foregone conclusion.
Even so, Jenson was proud of his qualifying lap, despite the fact that his grid position was not fully representative of his efforts. His lap-time of 1m50.978s was 17th-fastest, but his penalties will relegate him to 19th.
After sitting out the morning’s FP3 session with an exhaust problem, Fernando faced a steep learning curve to fettle his car for qualifying. Like Jenson, he ran single timed laps on the Prime and the Option, setting a best of 1m51.420s. He qualified 18th but will start 20th owing to penalties.
Fernando Alonso: “We knew this would be a difficult weekend. Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar, with very long straights, and we know we have a lack of straight-line speed, so we strategically decided to take some penalties this weekend. We missed the long run in yesterday’s practice due to the red flags and some telemetry issues, and we sat out FP3 this morning because of an exhaust issue, so we’re short on laps this weekend. So hopefully we can finish the race tomorrow and learn a little bit more about the car. In order to really enjoy the race, we’ll need something exciting to happen – like some rain. A dry race will make life difficult for us.”
Jenson Button: “I felt my lap today was equal to the pole position lap I did here three years ago – I really enjoyed driving the car this afternoon. This morning I’d been struggling with the rear end at the corner entries, but we transformed the car for qualifying. Nevertheless, when you cross the line at the end of the lap and think you’ve done enough to be a bit higher up, it’s difficult to hear that you’re still a second off the guy ahead. There’s a lot of work needed to close that gap. We always knew this circuit was going to be a tough one for us. It won’t be easy to make up any ground in the race tomorrow, and we’ve got a long way to go before we’re competitive, but at least the feeling in the car is good.”
Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda: “Jenson and Fernando, world champions both, carved millimetre-perfect qualifying laps here at Spa-Francorchamps today. Even so, despite that, so skeletal were their chances of recording good lap-times on a circuit so ill-suited to our car’s characteristics, that they could bag only 17th and 18th grid positions respectively. McLaren has won the Belgian Grand Prix 14 times in its illustrious history, most recently three years ago, courtesy of Jenson, who triumphed imperiously from pole position on that balmy September day. So, okay, I grant you, it’s hard for us to have to compare our performance here today with our rather more glorious past achievements, but our attitude is always to try to turn negatives into positives. So the historical contrast merely drives us on to work ever harder, with Honda, to bridge the performance gap between us and our competitors. Nonetheless, despite the fact that starting from the back of the grid can sometimes trigger hairy entanglements with neighbouring backmarkers, both Jenson and Fernando will be doing their utmost to make good progress through the field if at all possible. Having said that, that will be a tall order for them if the track remains dry. So, if it starts to rain at around lunchtime tomorrow, you won’t hear any complaints from us!”
Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport: “Another disappointing day, during which the updates have not been reflected in the results. In FP3, the team had planned to reduce the downforce of the car to resolve the issues of yesterday. Unfortunately, we encountered an exhaust issue on Fernando’s car, which consequently stalled the set-up changes to both cars. As usual, I’m thankful for the great teamwork in the garage to get Fernando’s car ready and back out on track for qualifying. We’ll start the race from the back of the grid, and we’ll hope to gain some positives by the end of the day.”
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Williams drivers and team report from qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Qualifying Notes

  • Valtteri qualified third and Felipe seventh for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix.
  • After making it through the first two sessions comfortably, Q3 ended with just 0.148s covering third to seventh.
  • A mistake on the final corner cost Felipe time on his final lap.

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: “We chipped away at the session and came to the fore when it really mattered. It wasn’t the cleanest session for Felipe as we had to re-programme the car at the start of Q1 which delayed him getting on track, but he recovered well. Valtteri drove a very strong lap to get himself into third. Looking at our championship rivals we have had a great qualifying. Both drivers have done really well, we now need to convert this into some good points tomorrow.”

Valtteri Bottas: “I am very pleased with the result and it’s good to be back in the top three. The team did everything right, it was up to me to put it all together. Behind me it was very tight so to be on top of that pack is great. P3 is a good place to start tomorrow, the race pace looks on par with quite a few of the teams around us, so it will be a fight, but one I am really looking forward to.”

Felipe Massa: “I lost a bit of time in the final sector and looking at the result it cost me a few positions, it was that close. It is frustrating but it is a long race and the circuit can hold so many surprises, one being the weather! We need to make sure we have a good start and gain as many positions as possible and then continue to build from there.”

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The result in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix was not as expected for the Sauber F1 Team. Marcus Ericsson made it into Q2 and will start the race from P13, while Felipe Nasr qualified in P16.

Marcus Ericsson

  • Qualifying: 13th in Q2 (1:49.586 min / soft tyres)
  • 3rd practice: 15th (1:51.054 min / soft tyres / 20 laps)

“First of all I want to thank the team for its great effort in putting the car together over night. The result from qualifying is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, it is positive we made some progress this weekend in comparison to the last couple of rounds. FP3 was not as satisfying as we expected after the strong Friday. We made some changes for qualifying and went in the right direction, but in the end it was not enough to put us where we wanted to be. Starting from P13, we still have a good chance to score points.”

Felipe Nasr

  • Qualifying: 16th in Q1 (1:49.952 min / soft tyres)
  • 3rd practice: 14th (1:50.690 min / soft tyres / 17 laps)

“A disappointing qualifying for me. I am surprised I was not able to make it into Q2, which was possible today. The first run in qualifying felt good, but then on the second I didn’t have enough grip. We need to analyse and understand what happened. We are in Spa so anything can happen tomorrow, as this track also offers good spots to overtake. I am confident I can move up some positions tomorrow.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: “We tried out different things on the car side during Q1 and Q2, and we went in the right direction. Unfortunately Felipe could not make it into Q2, whereas Marcus had a decent qualifying. Now we have to concentrate on the race, because the chances to score points are there.”

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Sahara Force India delivered a strong qualifying performance in Spa-Francorchamps today with Sergio Perez setting the fifth fastest time ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in P11. Sergio is expected to start from fourth following a grid penalty for Romain Grosjean.
P5. Sergio Perez, VJM08-02: “It’s been a really good day and I am very satisfied with my lap in Q3. We were able to improve the car balance from yesterday and this gave me a whole lot of confidence – probably the most I have had this season. The car was much more predictable and this allowed me to push more in every corner. I showed very good pace in each of the three qualifying sessions and I am really looking forward to the race tomorrow. I see no reason why we cannot fight for the podium. The performance today also gives me a lot of optimism for the remainder of the season. The team is doing an amazing job and I am happy I was able to back it up with a good performance behind the wheel. I have been working hard with my engineers to get on top of the updated car and I expect to do this weekend after weekend.”
P11. Nico Hülkenberg VJM08-01: “I’m not that happy today because we had the potential to be well inside the top ten. On my final lap in Q2 I made a small mistake going into turn one – I just locked the tyres and missed the apex. On top of that we had a small issue with the turbo, which cost us some speed and time down the straights. So I just missed out on making Q3. However, the weekend is not lost and I’m sure we can have a strong race from P11. The car has been performing very well this weekend; we’ve looked competitive and I will be attacking in the race to try and move forward.”
Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director: “It has been very satisfying to see the updated VJM08 looking so competitive here at Spa and Sergio delivered a fantastic performance today. Starting from the second row gives us every chance to score some good points tomorrow and even challenge for the podium. I’m sure Nico would have been up there too had he managed a clean lap, but I expect him to move up the order in the race. It’s important that we convert the performance today into a strong result tomorrow.”
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Lotus F1 Team enjoyed their best qualifying session of 2015, with Romain Grosjean fourth fastest and Pastor Maldonado eighth at an uncharacteristically hot Spa-Francorchamps.

Both drivers sailed through the first two qualifying sessions to the final top ten, with Romain then putting in the better lap.

The joy of his fast lap is tempered slightly by a five place penalty on tomorrow’s grid after his gearbox was replaced following a power outage at the end of yesterday’s FP2. Romain will start from P9 and Pastor from P7.

Romain Grosjean,

  • Q: P4, Starts P9, 1:48.561
  • FP3: P16, 1:51.187

“Today’s result is more than we had expected! I gave everything that I had in the car for that last lap, I pushed hard from the beginning to the end. Being P4 is a really good effort. It is just so fast here. Going through Eau Rouge at 300kph, it feels like being a kid at Christmas. Every time you drive through it you have a smile on your face, it is so nice driving on this circuit. We will start from P9 tomorrow with the grid penalty and we will see what we can achieve from there. We have been better in race pace than qualifying pace so with a good set-up and hopefully some nice overtaking manoeuvres we can score some good points on Sunday. ”

Pastor Maldonado

  • Q: P8, Starts P7 1:48.754
  • FP3: P12, 1:50.585

“At the start of the weekend we didn’t have the best pace so the team has done a really fantastic job to get on top of the car and give me and Romain something really strong to use for qualifying, which is thanks to everyone’s hard work. I think we will be competitive tomorrow and with the right strategy we should be able to achieve something pretty good.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director: “We’re very happy with today’s performance. It was a good performance and what we wanted. There is a downside with Romain’s gearbox penalty which means we won’t enjoy the full fruits of his fast lap, but we’re well-placed with both cars for tomorrow’s race. The practice sessions we’ve had here have been somewhat interrupted so we don’t have as much long-run data as we would otherwise. We undertook some race work in FP3 this morning where we were pleased to see that the changes we’d made overnight had improved our rear stability and improved our degradation. Our expectation is for a strong race with both cars scoring well.”

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Ferrari is reportedly considering terminating its young driver programme.
Citing Italian sources, the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat claims that new team president Sergio Marchionne, notorious for his strict economising, is no fan of the so-called ‘driver academy’.
Founded in 2009, and based on the earlier grooming of Felipe Massa, the first Ferrari Driver Academy member Jules Bianchi died last month after a 2014 Suzuka crash.
The current members are Antonio Fuoco, Raffaele Marciello, Lance Stroll and the Chinese Guan Yu Zhou.
Ilta Sanomat reported that Marchionne and team boss Maurizio Arrivabene “believe that the money would be better spent on car development”.
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Red Bull drivers and team report from qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Daniel Ricciardo

  • Position: 6*, (3rd Practice – 6, 1:49.930)

“It’s pretty cool that everyone is so close and I am pretty happy with the lap. I don’t think I left anything on the table and it’s good to be in the mix. Grosjean has got a penalty so that will push me up to fifth and that’s where I started from last year – not that I’m superstitious or anything, but you can always hope! Sector two is fun for us and we can push really hard there. We bleed some time in sectors one and three but the chassis feels good which is really positive for the team. Fingers crossed we have some good battles on our hands for the race tomorrow, the honey badger will try and find some honey in the forest here and go after it!”

Daniil Kvyat

  • Position: 12, (3rd Practice – 7, 1:49.980)

“I did my best but I missed out on Q3 by one tenth and a half which is disappointing. We will make the most of our strategy, and the tyres we have available, for the race tomorrow. This track allows for overtaking and we will try to make up some places during the race. We’ll do our best to make it work.”

Christian Horner: “Daniel will start from P5 for the race because of Grosjean’s penalty and his P6 qualifying is the best we could have hoped for. Dany was unlucky to miss the cut off for Q3 by just over one and a half tenths. The chassis is competitive, particularly in sector two, which is good. This is a track on which the drivers can certainly overtake and hopefully with some unpredictable weather, we can move forward from those grid positions tomorrow.”

*Daniel will start the race from P5 due to penalty for car number 8

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Toro Rosso drivers and team report from qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship, at Spa-Francorchamps.

Carlos Sainz

  • Third Practice Session – Best lap: 1:50.552, pos. 11th, 20 laps
  • Qualifying – Best lap: (Q1) 1:49.109, (Q2) 1:49.065, (Q3) 1:49.771, pos. 10th

“I’m enjoying this track so much! I’ve been waiting all weekend for the qualifying session, because in free practice you always carry more fuel and the car doesn’t feel as fast… But I knew that once we got to qualifying I’d really feel the speed and that’s just what happened out there today. I’m really pleased with getting through to Q3. Even though my last run could have been a little bit better, it was a good result for us today. It was a surprise because on paper it looked something very difficult to achieve. It’s not the track that suits us the most so tomorrow’s race will be difficult, but we are going to push as hard as we can, make the most out of any mistakes the others do and hopefully finish within the top ten. I must say I think this is one of the best qualifying sessions I’ve had this year, even though now it’s time to forget this and look ahead to tomorrow’s race, as that’s when the points are given.”

Max Verstappen

  • Third Practice Session – Best lap: 1:50.599, pos. 13th, 21 laps
  • Qualifying – Best lap: (Q1) 1:49.831, (Q2) DNF, pos. 15th but he will get a ten-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race

“It wasn’t the best of starts to my qualifying session, as I had a power issue in Q1 which didn’t let me focus on my lap, even though I managed to get through to Q2. But, to say the truth, we planned a qualifying session like this, stopping in Q2, as there was no point in trying to fight for Q3 because of my 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race. By doing this we’ve also saved some tyres and hopefully we can fight for points… I know it’s not going to be easy, but to be racing in front of my home crowd will surely give me that extra boost I need. I’m confident and looking forward to the race. In this morning’s final practice session I could see that our long-run pace was quite good, so I’m hoping tomorrow will be the same. It’s not being the easiest of race weekends, but the car feels good so I’m happy about that and at this track anything is possible. There will definitely be some hard fights, but we will aim to finish in the points, that would be a really good result for us here in Spa.”

Jody Egginton (Head of Vehicle Performance): “A good qualifying for Carlos today. He optimised his laps and performed tidy runs. In Q3 I’d say there was a bit more available and we felt that we could’ve gained a few more tenths… But to get into the Q3 here in Spa is a great achievement. Regarding Max, his qualifying strategy was based around optimising his race and maintaining tyre sets. We had a small electrical engine related issue in Q1 which we resolved during the session and we now look forward to the race tomorrow – it will be a challenge to finish in the points but we are ready for the fight.”

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Rosberg's hopes are 'still high'


Although disappointed to have missed out on pole position again, Nico Rosberg believes there will be "a lot more opportunities" to beat Lewis Hamilton to victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Rosberg was once again overshadowed by Hamilton in qualifying as the Brit beat him by almost half a second in qualifying to take his 10th pole position of the season, and with it the 2015 Pole Position Trophy.
"For sure disappointed. I lost it a bit this morning in free practice; we went the wrong way," the German said. "Then it came back really nicely though and I had a good balance in qualifying, so I was happy with that, a good team effort, so thanks for that to get my balance back so I could push well.
"Yeah, just Lewis too quick in the end. Just found that little bit, or quite a lot extra, which I didn’t have in my pocket. That’s it, so of course disappointing."
Of course the new start procedures come into effect at Sunday's race and drivers will now be in charge of the clutch bite point once they leave the garage while they will also only receive “critical” information from the pitwall.
Rosberg says he will have a proper go come race day.
"But then again, with the new starts situation, where we're having to do everything ourselves now, there’s a lot more opportunities tomorrow, even at the start," he said.
"And the run down to turn five: you know here it’s possible to overtake, we’ve seen that many, many times, so my hopes are for sure still high."
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Grosjean gets gearbox penalty


Romain Grosjean's mood was slightly dampened after qualifying at the Belgian GP as he has been handed a grid penalty for a gearbox change.
The Lotus driver produced his and the team's best qualifying display of the 2015 season as he was fourth fastest behind the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
However, he will drop five place on the grid as the Lotus squad changed the E23's gearbox, which was damaged after his car suffered a loss of power at the end of FP2 on Friday.
The second Lotus of Pastor Maldonado was eighth fastest in qualifying, but will move up to P7 as a result of Grosjean's penalty.
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Belgian F1 GP: Grosjean, Maldonado defend Lotus amid troubles


Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado say Lotus's Belgian Grand Prix qualifying performance proves the Enstone Formula 1 team's strength amid its uncertain future and legal battles.
Grosjean conjured a surprise fourth place in Spa F1 qualifying, though he will lose five places to a gearbox-change penalty, with Maldonado eighth.
AUTOSPORT understands Renault is close to completing a buyout of Lotus, while a legal battle with former reserve driver Charles Pic means the cars could be impounded in Belgium.
"It shows how strong the group of people who are here is," said Grosjean of the Spa result.
"I've said since day one that with this car the baseline was really good and with some development it could be a very good car.
"It shows we know how to produce a really good car, a podium finisher or maybe a winning car.
"Yes, we haven't had much development this year. Imagine five tenths [of a second] development on the car and it would be very close to Mercedes here, which is quite nice."
Like Grosjean, Maldonado feels the qualifying performance amid the off-track distractions speaks volumes about Lotus as a team.
"It's clear there are some problems, but they are not covering us as a race team," said Maldonado.
"Every time we have a problem we work and we solve it. There is a very strong and united team here which is great.
"We've show the potential even in the past in difficult times. We need to carry on like this, optimistic and together."
Grosjean's qualifying result was his best since he started third for the 2013 United States GP.
"Initially we thought qualifying P11 and saving another set of tyres, and with the grid penalty starting 16th, would be good," he said.
"Then Q2 went pretty well, and in Q3 it was a case of just give it everything and it went well.
"I think we are surprised, but it shows we have been working in a good direction.
"It was just good to have a car that stuck to the track and you could push it to the limit.
"It reminded me of some of the good old times."
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FIA removes new kerbs at Spa's Eau Rouge


The FIA has removed the 'sausage' kerbs added to the run-off at Spa's Eau Rouge corner after the first day of Formula 1's Belgian Grand Prix weekend.
The kerb had been placed at the top of the Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex, at what is labelled Turn 4, to prevent drivers cutting the corner in that section.
Although Friday's F1 and GP2 sessions passed without incident, both Jann Mardenborough and Adderly Fong's cars became airborne there after running wide during GP3 practice.
Lotus F1 development driver Fong told AUTOSPORT he had expressed his concern after the FIA came to inspect his Koiranen-run car's damaged monocoque.
"They came over to look at the car because we had some big damage on the monocoque," he said.
"I do think it compromises safety and should be done in another way.
"Sometimes if you have a moment at Eau Rouge, you get a snap and that's your run-off.
"Having a speed bump there I understand for track limits but I think track limits should be policed in another way, because I think that kerb in that place compromises safety.
"It was painful on the landing because I landed right on the second kerb, and it was enough to break the monocoque."
Carlin driver Mardenborough said his incident "wasn't very pleasant".
"You shouldn't really be out there anyway but needless to say if you are out there there's not much you can do, it's out of your control at that point, you're going to go airborne anyway," he added.
The change to the kerb - along with the removal of a bump behind the kerb at the exit of La Source - was agreed after discussion in the F1 drivers' meeting on Friday.
An FIA statement said track limits would still be monitored, but that "a report will only be made to the stewards if a driver has exceeded the track limits (principally but not limited to the areas behind the kerbs in Turns 4 [Eau Rouge] and 15 [stavelot]), and is suspected of gaining an advantage."
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was one of the only F1 racers to criticise the kerbs.
"It's not a kerb I would have put there," he said.
"I don't like it and find it quite dangerous.
"So far you just know it's there but it's completely blind, that's the tricky part.
"You've got to avoid it as much as you can."
But his team-mate Pastor Maldonado had been in favour of the change.
"Last year I remember it was a bit easier to cut the second apex. It's a good move for everyone," he said.
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Another Silver Arrows 1-2 snoozefest. It was really expected though, considering Spa is probably the track most obviously suited to the Mercs' strengths. But I was really hoping Vettel would hold on for P3... what a crappy time for a tire to go kerplooee. But at least both Ferraris finished the race this time. I guess there's always that. LOL

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I was surprised they were pushing the tires for as long as they did

It was a gamble but a 1 stop strategy was the only chance Ferrari had at a podium and I believe the right call..

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I was surprised they were pushing the tires for as long as they did

It was worth a shot, if it did work, would have been a great result. :)

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Great finish for Lotus!

I'm so pleased for Romain Grosjean, he's a great driver been far too long between podiums. The team needed that result.

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Lewis Hamilton delivered a faultless lights to flag display to claim victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, the 39th of his career and his sixth of the season and as a result he now leads Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 28 points in the world championship standings.
Hamilton managed a reasonable start from pole but teammate Rosberg, second on the grid, was sluggish off the line and thereafter was destined to chase all afternoon which he did so gamely, but by his own admission simply had no answer to the world champion who managed proceedings from a position of control – clearly a case of the very best F1 car in the hands of the best F1 driver delivering while raising the bar.
Hamilton said on the podium, “We have had such a great crowd here this weekend. The whole circuit has been packed out with the fans. Incredible job done by the team throughout the weekend. Today was a dream and the car was fantastic all weekend. When I saw one of the tyres blow off one of the others cars I was being very cautious but I felt 100% all weekend.”
Rosberg summed up his sentiments, “I messed up the start. Lewis did a great job and deserved the win. I tried to challenge him but not enough. I am rushing off after this because we are expecting our first child any moment. An exciting time and I look forward to next week.”
Surprise of the weekend was undoubtedly the performance of the beleaguered Lotus team and repaying the hard work, under great duress at Enstone, was Romain Grosjean delivering a one of his strongest showings in memory to claim third place.
Beaming from ear to ear the Frenchman got a huge cheer as he was interviewed on the podium, “The guys have been working hard to give us the car to be where are today. Being here today is special for us, it has the prize of a race win.”
The start of the race was aborted as Nico Hulkenberg had a problem. On the first formation lap the German reported that he had no power and he was initially told by his engineer to return to the pit lane.
However, as he cruised towards the end of the lap he was then told the boost was coming back to his power unit and he should take the start. He formed up on the grid but was soon waving his hands to indicate the problems had persisted.
A second formation lap was ordered and Hulkenberg this time made his way to the pit lane. He was joined there by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who also reported a loss of power.
When the start finally took place Rosberg was the big loser. Second on the grid behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton, he made a poor start and was swamped as the cars powered away he dropped to fifth place.
Hamilton, meanwhile, made a solid getaway to take the lead while Force India’s Sergio Perez and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo made excellent starts to slot into second and third respectively ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
Rosberg managed to get past Bottas at the Bus Stop to reclaim fourth place. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was a decent sixth up from eighth, with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado seventh.
The Venezuelan would not remain there for long, however. On lap two he reported that had “lost the engine” and he joined Hulkenberg in retirement. Sainz, though, had managed to get away, although he was two laps down on the pack.
Kimi Räikkönen was on a charge and in the first few laps made his way forward to 12th place from 16th on the grid.
At the front Hamilton was already building a lead and by lap five he was 2.6s ahead of Perez, with Ricciardo a further second back. Rosberg was already six seconds adrift of his title rival.
Ricciardo was the first to pit, on lap eight, and in a 2.4 seconds stop the Red Bull driver shed his starting soft tyres and taking on medium compound Pirelli tyres.
Force India responded by pitting Perez on the next lap, for a second set of soft tyres, but Ricciardo made the undercut work and passed Perez as the Mexican was stationary in the pit lane.
The pit stops for both meant Rosberg swept through to second and began to utilise his Mercedes’ power to build a gap that might allow him to pass Ricciardo and Perez when he made his stop.
Williams erred during the stops, however. The team brought Bottas in but somehow managed to fit medium tyres on three corners but a soft compound tyre on the front-right side. He was soon under investigation for the mistake and he was handed a drive-through penalty.
When the first stops were complete Hamilton was still out in front on lap 16. Second now was Rosberg, who had emerged from his stop ahead of Perez, who had used his soft tyre pace to re-pass Ricciardo.
Grosjean was now fifth, with Vettel in sixth place ahead of Kvyat and Massa. Räikönnen moved to ninth as Bottas served his penalty and Verstappen was 10th.
Grosjean passed Ricciardo for fourth on lap 18 and the Frenchman began to close on Perez, who was now almost 13 seconds behind Rosberg, who was 3.4 seconds adrift of Hamilton.
Grosjean came up on the back of Perez’s Force India on lap 20 and under DRS swept past the Mexican along the Kemmel Straight to stake a claim to a podium place.
Ricciardo’s race was drawing to an end, however. The Australian’s sector times plummeted and on lap 21 his RB11 ground to a halt on the inside on the pit straight just after the exit of the Bus Stop.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed and the failure promoted Vettel to fourth ahead of Kvyat. A number of drivers chose to pit under the VSC, including Grosjean, Massa, Räikönnen, Perez and Verstappen.
The front three of Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel elected to stay out, however, and on the restart Hamilton lost time to Rosberg with the gap closing to just 2.6s, with Vettel in third.
The leader was also heading towards backmarkers. Grosjean was fourth ahead of Kvyat who would need another stop, while Perez was now sixth ahead of Massa, Räikönnen, Verstappen and Bottas.
Hamilton quickly responded to the threat from Rosberg and over the next handful of laps he powered away from his team-mate, carving out a 4.8s gap by lap 27.
Kvyat made his final stop from fifth place on lap 27 and took on a set of soft tyre, with which he hoped to attack in the final laps. He emerged behind Bottas but was soon past the Finn. Grosjean, meanwhile, was closing on Vettel, cutting the Ferrari man’s advantage to 3.5s in lap 28.
Hamilton made his final stop on lap 31, taking on a set of soft tyres in a 2.9s stop. He was followed a lap later by Rosberg, who also took on soft tyres and rejoined in second place, though he was now seven seconds behind his team-mate.
The question was what would Vettel do? The Ferrari driver was 3.7s ahead of Grosjean but had only made one pit stop, on lap 15, for medium tyres. His race engineer came on the radio and told the German that from the data going to the end looked possible and Vettel settled in for a final 14 laps of careful tyre management.
On lap 34 Perez was now fifth, just 0.7s ahead of Massa who was 1.3s clear of Räikönnen. Kvyat was now eighth ahead of Bottas and Verstappen.
Three laps from the flag Kvyat, who had been battling hard with Massa, eventually got past the Brazilian. As Massa was forced to defend he lost the DRS tow from Perez ahead and as he did so, Kvyat reeled the Williams in and the passed Massa with a brave late-braking move into Les Combes.
The Russian set off after Perez and on lap 41 passed the Mexican under DRS on the Kemmel straight to steal fifth.
It soon became fourth as Vettel’s hopes of a podium exploded on lap 42. With Grosjean close behind Vettel was pushing hard but as he crested the hill at Raidillon his aged right-rear tyre let failed, leaving the Lotus driver to power past into third.
At the front Hamilton took the flag with two seconds to spare over Rosberg. Grosjean took his first podium finish since the US Grand Prix of 2013 with third place. Kvyat was an excellent fourth ahead of Perez and Massa. Räikönnen was seventh ahead of Verstappen and Bottas and the final point on offer was claimed by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.
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Lewis Hamilton began thew second half of the 2015 season in the best way possible by powering to a commanding Belgian Grand Prix victory and with it notching up his 39th Formula 1 victory, his sixth of the season and as a result he now tops the world championship standings by 28 points. He spoke after his afternoon of graft at Spa-Francorchamps.
Your 39th grand prix victory, your 80th time on the podium – equalling your great hero Ayrton Senna – a pretty good day at the office?
Lewis Hamilton: We’ve had such a great crowd here this weekend. It’s been incredible, the whole circuit just packed out with all you fans, so thank you all for coming. And for me, just an amazing weekend again. Incredible job done by the team throughout the pit stops, throughout the whole weekend, the guys back at the factory… You know, today was a dream. The whole weekend the car was fantastic, so thank you guys.
It seemed to me that the only real concern you had after the start was after the Virtual Safety Car and Nico was able to get that gap down to just a few seconds. Any other concerns during the race?
LH: No. Nico had obviously good pace but I was able to answer most of the time, so I was fairly relaxed at the front. The car was feeling great and it was really about looking after the tyres, particularly at the end when I saw that one of the tyres had blown on another cars I was being very cautious, so in the last two laps Nico was allowed to close the gap. No, I felt in control all the way and as I said a lot of good assistance from the team, so I felt like 100 per cent all weekend.
As you recognise the fans down there, just a closing question from us. As you look into the second half of the season, it’s still very close with your team-mate, but do you start to feel now that you’re getting your hands closer to another world title?
LH: It definitely way too early for that. But as I said coming into this weekend, you want to get those pole positions and translate them into wins and hopefully today is the beginning of that, so I’m looking forward to the next races, I hope to see many of these fans at some of the other races coming up.
Mercedes’ seventh one-two finish of the season, 2015, you just said on the podium there you were under control. Obviously a great start but obviously Nico was closing at various phases before the virtual safety car. Did the virtual safety car, also the cloud cover coming over, just help you to bed in those medium tyres because after that initial spurt from Nico in the first lap or two after the virtual safety car, you were able to just stretch away from him. Maybe you could just tell us about that phase of the grand prix and his challenge at that point?
LH: It was really just about utilising the tyres, not having to push. I didn’t really push very hard on the out-laps, took it quite easy for the first three or four laps in which there was areas where Nico would be closing. And then I started to push after that – but I was really never in a position where I was nervous or anything. I had great pace in the car, the balance felt fantastic. It actually was getting better throughout the race. There was no real need to push any more than I was already. I had a comfortable gap and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it’s won by a tenth or won by ten seconds. So, at the end I saw that there was a blow-up so I was being very cautious with my tyres. I’d done pretty well up until then so I was just going to make sure I bought it home.
You said on Thursday this wasn’t one of your favourites. Is it moving into becoming one of them again now?
LH: I didn’t mean that it wasn’t one of my favourites. Monaco of course is definitely a favourite but this is a great circuit. It’s incredibly challenging. The weather’s been great this weekend so for sure when the weather’s as good as it is today it really does make it a great weekend. Incredible turnout from all the fans, which is really good to see. A lot of British flags, which I really appreciate but the track is really fun to drive. It’s a historic circuit. Eau Rouge. You can never get tired of driving through Eau Rouge. So it’ll always be a special circuit, for sure.
Nico Rosberg mentioned that he might have been caught out by the second formation lap. I think you had a similar drama in Budapest. Did the experience from Budapest help you to overcome that?
LH: I don’t think so. I think, of course we were wary of it but going into the weekend we knew that that may be a scenario and we prepared for it. So, when it came to doing the start, I was very much prepared for it. The engineers prepared me for that potential restart, so, yeah, maybe it was a small benefit. I’m happy. My start was really good.
After qualifying you said one of your concerns about starting first was that someone might get by you going up the hill and Perez actually got ahead of you; the timing screens showed that at the end of sector one. How did you get back in there and take the lead again?
LH: It was very similar to last year, actually. I think Sebastian had slipstreamed me and was pretty much past but by having the inside line and braking later, I was able to hold the position and that’s really what I did with Perez. He braked earlier than me and I outbraked him and managed to get back in the lead after he just took it for a second but he was very fair which was good of him.
You said that it’s too early to speak about clinching the World Championship trophy, but yesterday, with your pole position, you already secured the pole trophy. Does that mean anything to you?
LH: The pole trophy is not particularly exciting but getting poles is definitely a great thing. Naturally winning the World Championship is the goal. I would give up everything else, all the poles, the pole position trophy for the – yeah, you can have it, no problem – for the World Championship so that’s really the goal but I’m really happy with how the qualifying has gone this year. It’s been a huge step for me and today the plan was to try and convert that pole position and the speed that I had in qualifying into the race. I feel like I did that and I’m sure that there will be areas to improve on which I will continue to try and work on.
In the final part of the last year you started to win a lot of races. Do you feel the same sensations as last year?
LH: At the moment, it’s a lot different to last year, obviously at this point. Last year I came away from here… it was a very difficult time but after that, no great pace and great results, so for sure that’s the goal, to continue that from here so this has already been a much much better year than last year and the plan is to try and continue with that. I still feel there’s improvements to be made, particularly in the race so that’s what I will continue to do but I’ll definitely take today’s result.
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Time is running out for Nico Rosberg to find a way to beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton if he wants to challenge for the 2015 title and although he gave it his best shot at the Belgian Grand Prix, after fluffing his lines at the start, he nevertheless had to settle for second place yet again, this time at Spa-Francorchamps. He spoke after the race.
It seemed it all went away from you at the start. You were able to come back at Lewis later in the race, but just talk us through what went wrong there?
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, I just completely messed up the start, so that was very annoying. I fought my way through. I gave it absolutely everything, I mean we were both on the edge all the way through. The car has been amazing, so I’m really thankful to the team again for giving us such a car. It’s awesome to drive it. And Lewis did a great job, so deserved to win. I tried to give it everything but not enough.
Well, you certainly kept him honest. We know that you have a big event coming up in the coming few days, so you’ll not be wanting to spend too much time on the interviews. Your lovely wife is expecting your first child, so you’re rushing off after this?
NR: Yeah, I’m rushing off very, very quickly yes, because we’re expecting our first child any moment, so a very exciting time, looking forward to that, probably next week, let’s see.
Obviously a terrific recovery after a poor getaway. Some good strategy as well that got you up into second place around the first pitstops – but tell us, from your perspective, about the way that gap seemed to come down and then just rose again.
NR: Yeah, the start was really bad so I need to practice that a bit more I think, and then after that I just benefited from the fact they weren’t racing me, in front of me. They were just racing all the people behind, so they just pitted, I suppose, because I wasn’t their opponent. They assumed I was too quick anyway – rightly so – and then, yeah, I had a clear path in front, chased down Lewis. I was always coming closer except for this one phase in the second stint, towards the end where Lewis pulled away. So that definitely cost me a bit. Then on the Option felt great again. I was qualifying lap every lap trying to hunt Lewis down but he did a great job and it wasn’t enough.
Talk us through that start. Was that a direct consequence of the new clutch rules?
NR: It was more a consequence of… well, yes, for sure but mostly also because we did another formation lap and that always puts more temperature in everything and then things change. But eventually it’s my job to do it well and I didn’t’ do a good job.
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Romain Grosjean clearly delights in finishing on the podium as he demonstrated with a leap into the arms of the Lotus crew in parc ferme and then the ever present broad grin as he celebrated his third place in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix – his first podium since the 2013 United States Grand Prix. He spoke after his afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps.
Your 10th podium. This circuit saw one of the low points in your career I guess when you got a one-race ban, but focusing on this high today: fantastic and very timely for the Lotus team.
Romain Grosjean: It has been an incredible weekend for us. A great qualifying yesterday, unfortunately we had the grid penalty, and a good race. I still can’t believe that we are on the podium. Those guys have been working hard to give us that car to be able to be here today. Of course going into turn one, every time I take a start in Spa, I will remember 2012 but I think it made me stronger and indeed allowed me to be 10 times on the podium. Being here today is kind of special I think, it has the feel of a race win.
It has been 31 races since we last had you here, Austin 2013 when you had that big Stetson on as I recall. Lots of great overtakes today, I want you to pick out a few of your favourites. I know you were building to a pass on Vettel at the end when he had the tyre go. Obviously he changed his strategy. What were your thoughts around that final period of the grand prix? What was going through your head?
RG: I was really closing the gap on Seb. It’s very unfortunate he had that puncture and it was a bit of a scary moment just being behind. I think we got everything we could get today, starting from P4 on the grid I’m sure we would have had a much easier race but it was really good fun. All the overtaking into Turn Five, I was really taking it as hard as I could on brake. Probably one of my best races ever. I remember Austin, a long time ago, but I still remember I was a bit drunk at the press conference! A little bit too much champagne on the podium with Seb. It has been up and down here for me. Of course Spa 2012 with Lewis was a bit of a tough time but on the other side it’s helped me because who I am today and being able to be on the podium with how we are during the weekend shows how strong our guys, and how strong we’re capable of building a car and be there. It was a great race, I enjoyed every minute and if we can do it again, let’s go.
Was it your call to pit during the virtual safety car and can you explain how do you gain the speed this weekend with your car?
RG: I unfortunately cannot explain the gain of speed – but the call on the safety car, I went through Eau Rouge on that lap and they just told me on the radio “safety car window is open” and I did finish the lap and ‘safety car’ came up on the steering wheel and we pitted as planned. We needed to fit the prime tyre for the end of the race. I think then I lost a positon to Seb, they stayed on the one-stop strategy which was quite aggressive and we didn’t think we’d be able to do it. I knew the safety car window was open, and if the safety car, the virtual safety car, was lasting long enough for me to rejoin the pit or get in the pit before it ended, it was the strategy for me to stop, yeah.
We know there are some issues in the team in this period. I would like to know how tough is it to deal with this situation and try to be focused only on the race.
RG: I think engineers, driver, mechanics, we are focusing more on the racing side and I’m probably not aware of everything going around but I didn’t want to neither, I think. I’m here to race as hard as I can, to give it 100 per cent all of the time. I think driving around Spa, every time you go through Eau Rouge and Pouhon, Turn 10-11, it’s a special feeling and I think you just enjoy it. I don’t really care about what’s going around. The only thing I want is to do my best to give the guys who are really working hard a good reward.
Since a moment the future of Lotus was unknown and last days we’ve heard a lot about the potential comeback of Renault. So, did it give you motivation to step up on the podium?
RG: No. I think, as a racing driver in general, every time we start a race the idea is to try to win it. You know what you have in your hands and you know that sometimes it is not possible but as long as you do everything with 100 per cent of your performance you can fly home in the evening being proud of what you did. That’s what I want to achieve. Sometimes there’s been times in the past year where you score one point or two points and it has been an incredible performance, probably you can’t see it on TV because it’s hidden by the fact that the car is not as good – but every time I just in the car it’s to give my best. It’s cost me a little bit in the past but putting things in the right order makes it good today.
You’re a father… does becoming a father have an effect on your performance and what advice would you like to offer to Nico [Rosberg] and his wife?
RG: Sleep as much as you can while the baby’s not here! It’s going to get bad! I think it helps your life in general. You don’t do things for yourself anymore, you do them for them. They are everything for you. And it’s your blood that goes through their body. When you have a tough weekend – or a tough day – you call them, you Skype then in the evening, you see the face of your son, or your sons, and you just laugh. It probably helps to relax your mind in the evening, to think about something else and come fresh in the morning. Once the helmet is on, visor closed, going flat out through Eau Rouge. If you think about your family, you’re not going to stay flat out. We’re racing drivers, we love doing what we do. We know it’s dangerous – we had a good example recently. But, it certainly changes your life. And, to be fair, I’ve never been a world champion, never won a grand prix but the feeling and the emotion I had on the birth of my two sons, has been far better than everything else I’ve known in the world. I wish Nico the same thing. He’ll probably tell us in Monza how it is.
You said that the big crash you had here in 2012 made you stronger. Can you explain in what ways: racecraft, mentally, other things?
RG: Well, I think it’s no secret that since that day I’ve been working with a psychologist specialising in sport and top athletes. There’s a lot of people in the sporting world, especially in the Olympic Games or in professional rugby or football teams, that are working with psychologists and they succeed in overcoming their problems, to understand. Being a father is not always easy either, so sometimes we can speak about fatherhood, about being an husband, being a racing driver, having problems at the start, what was the key, what was the problem? Was I focusing on the right way, the wrong way? All of that work, which has not always been nice and easy – you know, you can have a bad night after a good session – but help you to understand things and to be able to pull out some performances as we did today.
As Monza is similar to Spa, can you expect the same result in two weeks?
RG: I think Monza is a big difference in a way that there are special aero packages for Monza and it’s one race out of 19 where it’s always difficult to know exactly what’s going to be there. I’m sure in term of pole everything is going to be under control. Hopefully is working as well as it is today but I think right now I’m just thinking about having a good drink tonight!
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