Spa washout is frustrating for all
Today was a frustrating day to be an F1 fan. And perhaps no less frustrating to be an F1 driver or team owner.
After a five-week wait for the second half of the season to begin the teams showed up at Spa and were greeted by steady rain which lasted over five hours.
Understandably reluctant to risk their multi-million pound machines in dodgy conditions for little gain, the drivers spent most of the first practice session in the comfort of their garages.
When they did venture out, they found a circuit so wet it took them well over two minutes to complete a lap.
The second session was even worse. Not a single driver took to the track in the first half and no-one did any representative times.
With Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s race forecast to be dry there was little incentive for drivers to do all but the most perfunctory running. Lewis Hamilton’s mobile phone saw more action than his MP4-27 as he used the downtime to Tweet his near-million followers.
His McLaren sported an unusual and eye-catching new piece of bodywork on its sidepod, clearly designed to improve the airflow across the car. But teams need dry weather to test developments like these as the cars cannot be run to their full potential in wet conditions.
The same goes for their rivals: Ferrari completed just 11 laps all day. Red Bull’s Mark Webber didn’t even leave the pits in the seconds session. Lotus arrived at the track intending to do more work on their much-vaunted Double DRS but were thwarted by the weather.
All this means that when it comes to qualifying and the race the teams will have less data to work with. And that means we could be in for some surprises on the grid and on race day.
Alonso: ‘Only a points advantage’
On Thursday championship leader Fernando Alonso described his situation, as the second half of the season begins, as follows: “We have the points advantage but we have a performance disadvantage”
He leads the title race by 40 points but Alonso believes the likes of McLaren and Red Bull are quicker: “In terms of performance, out of the contenders or the guys at the front, we are clearly the slowest.”
In Alonso’s hands, the Ferrari has been very competitive in wet conditions. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the weekend is expected to be dry.
Alonso was unable to compete for pole position in the dry qualifying session in Hungary: “The difference from pole position in the last race was eight tenths of a second, which is a little bit too much,” he said. “We need to improve that situation.”
He has the fourth-shortest odds of taking pole at Spa at 8.0, the same as Kimi Raikkonen. Sebastian Vettel (3.0), Lewis Hamilton (3.25) and Romain Grosjean (7.0) are all on shorter odds.
Alonso’s team mate Felipe Massa, who’s enduring a rotten season, is on 75.0.
Massa has been second best to Alonso almost from the moment the two-times champion joined him at Ferrari in 2010. But, surprisingly, Massa has out-qualified him on both their visits to Spa as team mates. The odds on him doing so again on Saturday are 5.8.
It would be a surprise if he did. But situation such as those we’ve had this weekend, when rain keeps the teams from doing much preparation, are exactly the kind of circumstances where surprises can happen.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic