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.

Di Resta to make shock F1 return in Hungary, replacing unwell Massa

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Paul di Resta will make a shock return to Formula 1 race action this weekend in Hungary, replacing Felipe Massa at Williams after the Brazilian was taken unwell.

Massa first showed signs of illness on Friday, visiting the local hospital in Budapest as a precaution before being given the go-ahead to take part in practice on Saturday morning.

Massa completed just 12 laps before coming into the garage and stopping, with doctors then reviewing him a second time and ruling him out.

This means di Resta, who has not started an F1 race in over three years and has never driven Williams’ 2017 car, will make a surprise return in qualifying and the race.

“After feeling unwell during practice in Budapest on Friday and Saturday, Felipe Massa will not drive for the remainder of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend,” a statement from Williams reads.

“Felipe visited the medical centre and the MH EK Honvedkorhaz hospital for precautionary tests on Friday, after feeling unwell and dizzy during FP2.

“He was cleared to take part in Saturday’s practice session by the FIA medical delegate, but he felt unwell again during FP3 and has made the decision to withdraw from the weekend.

“Williams supports Felipe’s decision and the team will work with him to ensure he makes a full recovery, with a view to return to the race track for the Belgian Grand Prix.

“Following this decision, the team’s Reserve Driver Paul di Resta will drive alongside Lance Stroll for the remainder of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.”

More to follow.

Vasseur: ‘Good choice’ for Sauber to extend Ferrari F1 partnership

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Sauber Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur has explained the decision to cancel a planned technical partnership with Honda for 2018 and extend its long-running agreement with Ferrari.

Sauber has enjoyed an engine supply from Ferrari since 2010, but announced in April that it would be linking up with Honda for 2018 as part of an extensive technical partnership.

The deal hit the rocks following the departure of long-standing CEO and team boss Monisha Kaltenborn, with Sauber’s owners uneasy about teaming up with Honda given its public F1 struggles.

Ex-Renault F1 chief Vasseur was brought in to replace Kaltenborn, and moved to cancel the deal with Honda and secure a new agreement with Ferrari, as announced on Friday.

“Sauber and Honda signed a memorandum of understanding a couple of weeks ago but things move forward quite fast in our world,” Vasseur said.

“I think that the situation was a bit unclear also regarding the collaboration between McLaren and Honda and on our side the engine supplier had to find a solution for the gearbox. We had a deal with McLaren and the situation was a bit more complicated.

“On the other end, the collaboration with Ferrari is based on a long-term relationship and we had the opportunity to discuss with Ferrari to get the new-spec engine and I think it was a good choice and we found a mutual agreement with Honda to stop the collaboration.”

Vasseur believes the decision will help Sauber’s long-term growth, with the team currently lagging behind at the rear of the field following a period of uncertainty.

“The short term, that will be difficult to achieve something. It’s a long-term project for sure,” Vasseur said.

“But I think the basics are there. The facility is impressive compared to the other teams. I think we are in a good move. The wind tunnel is a good one and the team, I think that Sauber is still in F1 an iconic name and there is a real team spirit, quite comparable to the team spirit I had last year at Enstone.

“Everybody is really dedicated, pushy, and now that the financial structure is stabilized I think we can have some hope for the future.”

Vettel quickest as Ferrari pulls clear in final Hungary F1 practice

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Sebastian Vettel headed up a Ferrari one-two in final Formula 1 practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday morning, the Italian marque pulling clear of rivals Red Bull and Mercedes at the Hungaroring.

After seeing Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo lead both of Friday’s practice sessions, Vettel was able to vault to the front of the pack with an unofficial lap record, laying down an ominous pace heading into qualifying.

Vettel posted a fastest lap time of 1:17.017 to finish almost half a second clear of the pack, leading home Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the head of the timesheets.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton tried in vain to try and match Ferrari’s headline pace, lagging to third and fifth respectively.

While Bottas was able to finish nine-tenths of a second off Vettel’s time, Hamilton was 1.4 seconds back, the pair being split by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Friday pace-setter Ricciardo had a session to forget as he suffered a gearbox issue, forcing him to park up at the side of the track with just seven laps on the board, his time nevertheless good enough for P8.

Stoffel Vandoorne continued McLaren’s good weekend by finishing sixth-fastest, with teammate Fernando Alonso ninth overall. Renault also got both of its cars into the top 10 as Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer finished seventh and 10th respectively.

Felipe Massa was forced to halt his running halfway through the session after being taken unwell again, putting his participation in the remainder of the race weekend in doubt.

Williams has Paul di Resta on standby as its reserve driver should Massa be declared unfit.

Massa cleared for Hungary FP3 despite Friday hospital visit

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Felipe Massa received late clearance to take part in Saturday’s final Formula 1 practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix after a visit to hospital on Friday.

Massa was taken to the local hospital in Budapest following second practice at the Hungaroring after feeling unwell, putting his participation in the rest of the weekend for Williams in doubt.

The Brazilian was ultimately cleared by the FIA medical delegate, allowing him to take part in FP3 on Saturday morning, but he will be subject to another check-up ahead of qualifying.