Caterham and Marussia shine through Belgian rain

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Although qualifying fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth may not be a great achievement for the majority of teams in Formula One, Caterham and Marussia are celebrating after a gamble on strategy paid off handsomely during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix today.

With rain falling at the beginning of Q1, the initial times were set on intermediate tires before conditions began to improve. However, with surface water still making driving difficult, the majority of drivers opted to remain on intermediate tires. With nothing to lose though, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton all went out on dry tires and carefully began to put in some lap times. Initially, the move appeared to have backfired as van der Garde went three seconds slower on his first lap. However, when the checkered flag fell, the Dutch driver put in a stunning lap to finish third-fastest and get into Q2 for the second time in his Formula One career, having previously achieved the feat amid changeable conditions in Monaco.

Marussia’s decision also paid off as Bianchi finished a comfortable eleventh and Max Chilton squeezed into Q2 for the first time in his career by finishing sixteenth. Daniel Ricciardo had been on a lap and was hoping to demote the Marussia into the dropzone, but he could not improve and instead opted to pit, finishing nineteenth behind his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez were the other casualties of Q1 along with Charles Pic, but the French driver was called onto the weighbridge after his first run and could not set a better lap time.

One of Spa-Francorchamps’ greatest qualities is the dramatic change in weather conditions that – as well as helping Hamilton on his way to pole position – have allowed Caterham and Marussia to impress greatly today. Both teams will be banking on similar conditions tomorrow so that they can make full use of their good grid slots.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.