Belgian Grand Prix 2014: Nico Rosberg starts on pole ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton

British driver tries to stay positive after brake ‘glazing’ costs him pole

Spa-Francorchamps

Only six of the last 14 men who have sat on pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix have gone on to win the race, odds that Lewis Hamilton was doubtless pondering ahead of this race.

As usual, the Englishman was locked in a fight for supremacy with his Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg, and as has been the case for the last four races, the German prevailed, albeit by tenths of a second.

Rosberg was fastest in the first qualifying session, Hamilton the second. But in the one that really mattered, Rosberg’s first lap of 2min 05.591sec did the job, earning him his seventh pole position of the season, his fourth in succession, and his first at this most challenging track. And again Hamilton struggled in a season already dogged by mishaps and bad luck.

This time his left front brake disc glazed, something that occurs when the brake temperatures are sub- optimal, creating a glaze over the disc and pads that prevents the brake from working properly. That made Hamilton’s car pull to the right, because the right-front disc was still working as it should. ‘P2 is the best place to start here, so it might be a blessing in disguise,’ said Hamilton ‘P2 is the best place to start here, so it might be a blessing in disguise,’ said Hamilton

“There was nothing I could do to get rid of it,” Hamilton said. “This is a circuit where you need confidence in the brakes, and in Q3 there were a couple of times where I was going straight on everywhere. While I was trying to clear the problem I was overheating the rear brakes, so I had to bring my braking points a little further back and as a result I was losing massive amounts of time.”

But he said he was far from disappointed with second place on the grid as a result of his best lap of 2min 05.819sec, since it was his best qualifying performance since Canada.

“The team will scrub the glazing off tonight so it shouldn’t be a problem tomorrow. And P2 is the best place to start here because I’ll get a good slipstream behind Nico up the hill after Eau Rouge, so who knows, it might be a blessing in disguise.”

Rosberg praised the performance of a car so dominant that Mercedes’ closest challenger, a rejuvenated  Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull, was two seconds off their pace. “It was amazing to see how quick our car is,” said Rosberg. “It’s awesome to be on pole on one of the most special tracks. It wasn’t quite as difficult out there today as on other occasions, which made it a little easier, so I’m really, really happy. We fine-tuned our car all through quallie and got there in the end, and it felt comfortable.”

Vettel, however, hopes Red Bull have an ace up their sleeve after they gambled with the set-up of his and Daniel Ricciardo’s cars yesterday.

“We knew that running low downforce would make it even trickier if it was wet, but the reasoning was simple,” he explained. “We are quite a long way off the Mercedes on the straights, so if we took some wing off today we have a better chance of staying with them if it’s dry, as  expected tomorrow.”

Everybody loves coming to Spa-Francorchamps, generally regarded as the best track in Formula One, and this year there have been some  entertaining distractions. The driver-switching at Marussia had kept people alert on Friday morning as Max Chilton was replaced for the weekend by American rookie and reserve driver Alex Rossi after  alleged non-payment of his driving fees. Then, after Chilton had allegedly paid up, the Englishman was back on duty.

That was followed by the inimitable Jacques Villeneuve, the world champion in 1997, expressing trenchant views on the wisdom of Toro Rosso signing 16 year-old Max Verstappen to replace Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in 2015, by which time the Dutchman will have turned 17. The son of Nineties F1 racer Jos Verstappen dealt with that quite adroitly, suggesting that he is already partway towards the maturity and nous he will need.

But those episodes were merely sideshows, and the rain that inevitably came for both the final practice session yesterday morning, and  before the start of qualifying in the afternoon, created the backdrop for what really matters: brilliant displays of high-speed driving in extremely tricky conditions.

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