Rosberg on top as Maldonado crash interrupts session

2015 Belgian Grand Prix first practice

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Nico Rosberg was quickest as Formula One returned to action at Spa-Francorchamps but the first practice session was disrupted by a crash for Pastor Maldonado.

The Lotus driver lost control of his car at the exit of Les Combes, and although he briefly seemed to have caught the car his right-wheel wheel clipped the barrier, tipping the nose in and causing significant damage. The session was red-flagged while his car was recovered.

Rosberg was the first driver back out onto the track having missed some of the early running while his team investigated a suspected power unit problem. He ended up almost half-a-second up on the quickest time from the same session last year, which he also headed.

Team mate Lewis Hamilton completed the usual Mercedes one-two, but their rivals were not far behind around the long Spa-Francorchamps lap.

Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull got within three-tenths of a second of Rosberg’s time and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was just a tenth of a second further behind.

The Toro Rosso pair were well inside the top ten as well, with Max Verstappen covering the most laps of any driver. Sergio Perez was ninth for Force India, despite complaining about wheelspin, and Valtteri Bottas completed the top ten.

McLaren, running their upgraded engines for the first time, had a low-key session which ended with Jenson Button reporting a lack of power from his ERS. Marcus Ericsson also suffered a power loss in his Sauber, which is using its upgraded Ferrari hardware for the first time.

Pos. No. Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’51.082 19
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’51.324 0.242 24
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’51.373 0.291 18
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’51.478 0.396 23
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’51.866 0.784 21
6 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault 1’51.960 0.878 18
7 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1’52.158 1.076 27
8 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso-Renault 1’52.421 1.339 26
9 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’52.423 1.341 20
10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’52.511 1.429 19
11 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1’52.539 1.457 15
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’52.614 1.532 20
13 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1’52.640 1.558 16
14 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’52.653 1.571 22
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1’53.426 2.344 16
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1’53.502 2.420 15
17 30 Jolyon Palmer Lotus-Mercedes 1’53.799 2.717 23
18 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1’54.225 3.143 14
19 28 Will Stevens Manor-Ferrari 1’55.501 4.419 16
20 98 Roberto Merhi Manor-Ferrari 1’56.086 5.004 17

First practice visual gaps

Nico Rosberg – 1’51.082

+0.242 Lewis Hamilton – 1’51.324

+0.291 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’51.373

+0.396 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’51.478

+0.784 Sebastian Vettel – 1’51.866

+0.878 Daniil Kvyat – 1’51.960

+1.076 Max Verstappen – 1’52.158

+1.339 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’52.421

+1.341 Sergio Perez – 1’52.423

+1.429 Valtteri Bottas – 1’52.511

+1.457 Pastor Maldonado – 1’52.539

+1.532 Nico Hulkenberg – 1’52.614

+1.558 Felipe Nasr – 1’52.640

+1.571 Felipe Massa – 1’52.653

+2.344 Marcus Ericsson – 1’53.426

+2.420 Fernando Alonso – 1’53.502

+2.717 Jolyon Palmer – 1’53.799

+3.143 Jenson Button – 1’54.225

+4.419 Will Stevens – 1’55.501

+5.004 Roberto Merhi – 1’56.086

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Rosberg on top as Maldonado crash interrupts session”

  1. Very interesting Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and probably Williams too so close. How real who knows though… But I bet Raikkonen will be faster than Vettel.

    1. I think Red Bull will fall back as the weekend progresses. Williams will be up there by Qualifying. Ferrari should be playing around there somewhere. Ros just needs to keep his nose away from Hams back end and it will be a clean race.

      1. Rosberg might just take the pole who knows….

    2. I’ll take you up on that bet :)

      1. Let’s bet on it…. Whoever comes on top gets a huge box full of ice-cream.
        I guess that’s what they are doing in the Ferrari garage:

        1. No, that’s just for the cooling of the Ferrari engine. :P

  2. Maldonado needs a ban of some sort. This is a sport for professional racing drivers, but he is driving like a child. He belongs in a demolition derby, not F1.

    1. It’s not as if he took out anyone but himself this time.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          21st August 2015, 11:04

          This is my first time seeing this lol, brilliant.

        2. I fell off my chair laughing.

        3. nice one !

          1. Pastor’s site makes me laugh everytime I see it. Mclaren’s site is just plain depressing

        4. Brilliant! Thanks!!

  3. ColdFly F1 (@)
    21st August 2015, 10:42

    McLarens are still a bit further away than I expected – probably should have said ‘hoped’!

    1. Gotta hope the first session was benchmarking & measuring @coldfly, then they’ll turn on the extra power this afternoon. Not too unlikely I feel.

      1. I believe they’re using another new engine for FP2, so maybe hammer time would come in FP3 or Quali.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      21st August 2015, 13:14

      Well I suppose at least neither have broken down. Yet.

  4. The time that surprises me the most is Ericsson, over 1 sec behind his teammate. I’m not sure if he had issues, however, seems odd.

    1. @dragoll

      Marcus Ericsson also suffered a power loss in his Sauber, which is using its upgraded Ferrari hardware for the first time.

      1. Well Honda came good on their promise to catch up with the Ferrari engine – unfortunately it was with a powered down one in the back of the mostly-aerodynamically-unchanged-from-Melbourne Sauber.

        1. There’s still hope. This session it looks like Sauber caught up with Ferrari :P

    1. Definitely for the caption competition! @keithcollantine

      1. Lol…Seb weighs down Kimi with ice cream and opts not to give him a case of Nestlé Quick.

    2. LOL
      Is he playing mind games? Trying to get the upper hand this weekend.
      Kimi’s favorite things:
      1. Icecream
      2. Spa

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        21st August 2015, 13:14

        3. Being left alone.

  5. Brundle makes a thoroughly interesting point: just how much of the reported $30,000,000+ subsidy from PDVSA is being incinerated by points losses, car repairs and damage to the team’s public image? Could in fact a solid, backed driver like Nasr or Perez be a net gain for Lotus?

    What is ridiculous about Maldonado is that he is a Grand Prix winner and a GP2 champion. He could have been a FR3.5 series champion in 2006 too had he not suffered a technical disqualification at Misano. He can do it – when the planets align he is a great racing driver. However between those rare bouts of excellence he is erratic, bemusing, frustrating, and seemingly plainly slow-witted. This is his fifth year in F1 – if he was going to outgrow his maddening tendencies, he would have done so by now, and for me, the joke is growing tiresome. The Venezuelan government would be best advised to spend that almighty pile of money on the Venezuelan people and not on helping one of their countrymen to humiliate himself on the public stage.

    In many ways Maldonado has been a sporting experiment – what happens if you give plenty of experience to a racing driver who isn’t cut out to be racing at this level? Answer: he does not improve, and become eternally immortalized as F1’s favourite comic strip character.

    1. He seems to be tangible evidence that the old adage ‘you can teach someone fast to stop crashing’ doesn’t always hold true.

      1. In the meantime as long as he doesn’t crash out this weekend, this is the hundredth race in a row for Sebastian “crash kid” Vettel without a DNF caused by crash. Longest streak ever.

        1. Longest streak ever? Im not saying your wrong… BUT…. how do you know this? Have you looked through every race result of ever driver in F1 history? Cause a lot of results will just read DNF and you wont know why that was unless you watched it or have sources to confirm it. Like I say… Im not saying youre incorrect… its just it seems unlikely you could’ve checked?

          1. Yep. Checked it. It’s not as hard as you imagine, since the number is pretty big – 100! There are only so much (64) drivers to participate in 100+ races. I didn’t even bother checking if they participated in all races consecutively, because in any case there was no one with 99 races on the trot without a DNF caused by collision. Knock on wood!

      2. Pastor ain’t that fast. So I guess that statement still holds true

        1. But he actually is quick, that’s the crying shame of it. Not Hamilton/Alonso/Vettel quick but still, there is a good racing driver in there somewhere. In Spain 2012 when he won he was exceptional all weekend.

          1. Spain 2012, the car and the tyres were in perfect alignment with the track surface and temperature, Pastor won the Pirelli lucky dip that day.

          2. Hamiltons disqualification in qualifying also helped massively towards that win.

          3. While Maldonado was qualifying on pole (and yes I know Lewis had his time deleted if you want to get technical about it) his teammate didn’t even get out of Q1. I know Pastor was lucky that Lewis was disqualified from qualifying but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he drove very well all weekend.

      3. @debaser91 Yes, he is unfortunate proof that in the midfield of a modern F1 grid a consistent, reliable driver is a lot better than a sporadically fast, spectacular driver.

        1. Unfortunate proof? Really?

          1. Yes, it’s unfortunate as it’s more inspiring to see a midfield driver do something special, like win the odd race or get the odd podium, than simply bring the car home where the car belongs without ever doing that. In my opinion of course.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      21st August 2015, 13:17

      That’s the thing – he’s quick because he’s always pushing it 110%. Unfortunately that’s 10% more than he’s really capable of so it leads to mistakes and crashes.

      1. @petebaldwin But it wasn’t 10% more than he was capable of Spain in 2012 – he didn’t make a single error all weekend. Nor was it 10% more than the FW34 could manage when he put it on the front row at Singapore the same year.

        You sense it is psychological – he can do it, but simply can never find the 2012-esque rhythm in the car to resist the errors he is clearly so prone to. That, however, does not explain the bouts of lunacy he is prone to – seemingly deliberate contact with other drivers and spins whilst he isn’t concentrating.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          21st August 2015, 15:11

          @countrygent – I’m not saying he isn’t capable of it – just that it’s a stretch.

          Ok I suppose I could explain it like this. If you watch most drivers’ fastest lap in a GP compared to their quali lap, you’ll always see drivers pushing that little bit harder in quali. They get a bit closer to the walls, use a bit more curb on the exit, perhaps have a few small lockups….

          That’s the extra 10% I was talking about. It works for a quali lap but when you are trying to overtake someone, you have to give them enough room. Some drivers leave perhaps a car width plus 150mm whereas Maldonado won’t give that extra allowance. This leaves no room at all for error from either driver. It’s usually at this point that Maldonado stamps on the throttle and the back end steps out….

          1. @petebaldwin But that’s the confusing thing: when Pastor is in the zone he makes it look as easy as anyone. He won the GP2 fairly comfortably despite competition from Perez and Bianchi in 2010, and in Spain, he was serene. Pole position, clean start, undercut, track position, win. It was a more composed and controlled performance than any of Ricciardo’s boldly grasped victories last year.

            Strangely, he has looked to be strangling for cerebral and talent capacity when scrapping over the more meager positions. You wonder whether he mentally resigns himself to another disappointing Grand Prix and loses his focus. That said, that is not to say he didn’t squander good results in 2012, such as the podium he lost when he pitched Hamilton into the Valencian barriers. Whilst we can try to understand Maldonado in armchair psychology terms, I think the central factor is probably car.

            Pastor is easily the grid’s least adept at tackling oversteer. If his hopeful flailing at the wheel fails to overcorrect a side and pitch it the opposite direction, it will certainly not aid the rear axle in its search for grip. It is a shame then, that his style, even when he is in control, naturally puts so much strain on the rear axle. Maldonado needs a nailed down rear axle to perform. Unfortunately, even that can’t save the battered and bruised #13 E23 from Pastor when he loses focus.

    3. eternally immortalized as F1’s favourite comic strip character.

      There is something about Maldonado that makes him laughable. Whether it’s his attitude, intellect, facial expressions… I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that he never disappoints with his ridiculous driving and amateurish crashes.

      Other than a handful of races in his 5 year f1 career, he has been the laughing stock of the f1 paddock both on and off the race track. As undeserving as he is of an F1 seat, I think I might miss a one of a kind character like him in the paddock. Everyone needs a good laugh in stressful situations, and there is no one with a more natural ability than Pastor.

      1. I suppose @todfod my point is the joke is growing old on me. A comedy character is fine for a season or two, but enough is enough. What is his long term impact? He could inflict lasting damage on the public image of an already struggling Lotus Team. He will, he is, denying young drivers who have earned a shot in an F1 car their rightful place (Ocon had to leave Lotus’ Junior Team because of the static future prognosis). He is diluting the driving standards of F1.

        This is difficult for me to say, because I actually know the guy really quite well. Through my job I get to spend a privileged amount of time in the paddock, and as MartyB says, he genuinely is a lovely guy. He looks like a villain, his English is not the best, but the guy is simply a gentle, genuine chap. But not everyone is cut out to be an F1 driver, and Pastor, you don’t appear to be. Cake shop? Librarian? PDVSA ambassador?

        1. The one thing i have to give him is that he handled the Lotus problems last year(and seeing Williams fly after he just left) quite calmly.
          Didn’t expect that after his reaction against Williams in the USGP just before he left.
          Gronjean was a lot more annoyed and furious about the bad situation last year.

    4. But you can’t accuse him of not trying.

      1. @hohum Nope, I certainly can’t. I guess that is the arch crime in F1. Are you listening Kimi…

    5. You never know – Andrea DeCesaris (deCrasheris) was a mess in the early part of his career, then settled down and was at times blazingly fast (Spa 1983). But then there are guys like Jos Verstappen, who found every gravel trap at every circuit, and Maldonado may be one of those.

  6. I wish we knew the speed-trap figures, have Renault found some extra power or was DanR blitzing it with no fuel and soft tyres ?

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