Formula 1 is back, and with it Richland F1’s long-fabled qualifying analysis. Saturday’s session had just about everything you could ever want under the current format; a splash of rain, a touch of drama, a broken down Sauber, and a heroic performance from a backmarker. Dan Paddock runs you through the talking points from qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Rosberg takes pole number 7 as Hamilton can only watch on in envy
After the Spanish Grand Prix, way back in May, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the 2014 world championship had already been decided. Lewis Hamilton had just strolled to a fourth consecutive win, and some would have you believe that Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team-mate, was finished, mentally broken from a series of defeats to his former karting friend, turned title rival.
Fast forward to the Belgian Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton has won just once since then. Rosberg, condemned to defeat in Spain, sits pretty at the top of the drivers’ championship with 202 points, to his team-mate’s scant 191.
Ask anyone and they would tell you that Hamilton is the fast one in the team. As much as I hate the stale comparison, the Senna to Rosberg’s Prost. If that is the case then how can Lewis Hamilton reasonably justify the fact that since the Spanish Grand Prix he has failed to just once out qualify his team-mate, while in that same period Rosberg has secured six poles?
With Hamilton desperate to add to his tally of four wins for the year, and Rosberg keen to get even after his team-mate’s refusal to adhere to team orders in Hungary, we could be in for one almighty battle out front between the two Mercedes boys, a site we’ve been starved of since the British Grand Prix back in early July. It should be quite the spectacle. Here is hoping they keep it tidy before resorting to a tale of tit-for-tat via team radio.
Fernando Alonso drives out of his skin, and not for the first time in 2014
Reports circulated late on Saturday that Ferrari had taken up its options on both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. If the news is true, you have to almost feel for the Spaniard, effectively condemned to a sixth year of bitter disappointment at the Scuderia in 2015.
Alonso’s drive to four on the grid on Saturday was a fitting example of his five year stint with Ferrari. Excellent, committed, but all somewhat in vain. Fernando Alonso was/is the driver of his generation. The man who stepped out of the shadow of Schumacher to breath life into a stale sport. But the story was never meant to end like this, wasting away his twilight years in a Ferrari organisation that seems intent on tearing itself apart.
If he can match, or even better his result in Hungary, Alonso will mark it down as a success, but in reality it is a crying shame to see the Spaniard race without a realistic prospect of victory, something that has evaded him now for well over a year.
Wet weather hampers Williams, but Bottas promises rally come race day
2.5 seconds separated Valtteri Bottas, the top Williams in qualifying, from pole man Nico Rosberg. It is a frightening prospect that the current form man of Formula 1, Bottas, in what is the third best car on the grid, could be that far adrift of the current championship leader in the Mercedes.
However, Bottas, who will start sixth, is intent that Williams can chase the Mercedes cars come Sunday, as long as it stays dry. Here’s hoping so, because otherwise it might be a lonely battle out front between the two men in silver. All things being well that third place bottle of Mumm champagne should have Bottas name on it come Sunday.
Amidst all the mud slinging at Marussia, Jules Bianchi delivers a smile
Despite a weekend of turmoil at Marussia, Jules Bianchi was an air of cool as I sat down to talk to him in the team’s hospitality unit on Saturday afternoon. For the third time this year he had just hauled the Marussia car into Q2. It all appears effortless. Lets just be frank, the Marussia is the second slowest car on the grid. It should not be able to out qualify a Lotus on raw pace alone, regardless if the driver of said Lotus is the much-maligned Pastor Maldonado.
Again, Bianchi has made the F1 fraternity sit up and take note. He is Marussia’s talisman, but it would be a crime if come Australia next season he is still hamstrung by a lack of competitive equipment, no slight to the excellent work Marussia have down this year. The boy oozes pure class, and needs a seat fitting of his huge potential sooner rather than later.
A solid drive on Sunday with plenty of TV time won’t do his chances of a jump into the big-league any harm, nor the coffers of the plucky Marussia team.
Lotterer embarrasses Ericsson in the battle for the wooden spoon
Andre Lotterer is 32-years-old and before this Friday he last tested Formula 1 machinery in 2002, at a test session at Monza with the Jaguar team. A shock choice to replace Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham in Spa, Lotterer has gone on to impress, matching his temporary team-mate Marcus Ericsson on Friday before out qualifying the Swede in the rain come Saturday, despite having never driven the car in the rain, or for that matter, at all before Friday.
Lotterer is a three-time Le Mans winner, so anyone with half an understanding of just quite how special that really is knew he would perform, those less well versed in the German’s exploits with Audi though must surely be impressed.
Before he made his first foray on track on Friday some people questioned why he had come back to F1 after such a long time away. Beat Ericsson come Sunday, and those same people will be asking why he was ever allowed to slip through the cracks in the first place.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic