Sebastian Vettel continued his good practice form at the Belgian Grand Prix by finishing fastest in the final session ahead of qualifying later today at Spa-Francorchamps.
The German driver finished ahead of Fernando Alonso and teammate Mark Webber at the top of the timesheets, laying down an impressive pace that suggests Mercedes’ comments about the pace of the Red Bull are entirely correct.
With clouds hanging over the circuit, rain appeared to be on the horizon. However, the session began in dry conditions with Valtteri Bottas setting the first benchmark time of 1:49.806 for Williams ahead of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen soon displaced his compatriot at the top of the timesheets whilst Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta both had near-misses with the wall at turn nine, and Lewis Hamilton sent his Mercedes into a spin at the Bus Stop chicane.
Jean-Eric Vergne sent out a reminder of his ability by moving into P1 on fresh tires at the half-way stage of the session, with Toro Rosso continuing their good form from Friday’s practice sessions. The front runners soon switched to fuel simulation runs, but Sebastian Vettel moved up into P2 as he looked to find the optimum pace of the Red Bull on the hard tire before the track fell silent as the teams prepared for one final qualifying simulation at the end of the session.
Adrian Sutil was the first driver to emerge on the medium tire, going fastest with his first flying lap despite a lock-up at La Source. The Force India was quickly beaten by both Ferrari drivers and Nico Rosberg, and Esteban Gutierrez gave Sauber something to shout about by going third-fastest with five minutes remaining. 2010 pole-sitter Mark Webber was late to emerge, but he immediately moved up into second place, and his example was duly followed by Vettel who displaced Alonso by one-tenth of a second.
The result suggests that Red Bull are once again set to be leading the race for pole position later today with Ferrari in close company. Interesting, Mercedes, who have claimed the last three pole positions, seemed to struggle in the low temperatures. However, as Hamilton proved in Hungary, the practice results are far from conclusive.
Qualifying begins at 8am ET live on NBC Sports Live Extra.
Yamaha Tech3 has confirmed that rising German talent Jonas Folger will make his MotoGP debut with the team in 2017, stepping up from Moto2.
Folger, 22, finished sixth in last year’s Moto2 riders’ championship, and already has one pole position and two podiums to his name after four races in 2016.
The Kalex rider will make the jump up to MotoGP for 2017, joining the Yamaha satellite team on a one-year deal with an option for a second.
“I am super excited about the news and I still can’t believe this is happening,” Folger said.
“I have been racing for years in the motorcycling world championship and to make the move up to the premier class is a dream come true plus I’d like to thank all my sponsors that have stuck by me all these years.
“Furthermore, it’s an honor to make this step with Yamaha, Hervé Poncharal and Tech3 team who have such a long and deep history in the paddock. I will try my absolute best to repay the faith the team has put in me, and I’m really looking forward to the new adventure.
“However, I will remain completely focused for the rest of the year in the intermediate class but I can’t wait for Valencia where I will sample the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time.”
Folger will get his first taste of the Tech3-run Yamaha bike at the traditional end of season MotoGP test in Spain this November.
Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has called on his fans to trust and respect the Mercedes team amid unfounded allegations of sabotage in the past two races.
Hamilton suffered an issue on his power unit in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian Grands Prix, helping teammate Nico Rosberg on his way to a streak of four successive victories to start the season.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff responded to claims on social media that the team was deliberately hindering Hamilton’s efforts by calling the accusers “lunatics”, before Mercedes itself wrote an open letter to its fans in response to the claims.
Hamilton has now issued a message of his own via his Facebook page on Friday:
I want you to know how grateful I am for all of your support. I’d like to ask that you please trust in my team, as I do. This is my family. These guys have been the greatest, hardest working people for me, and that is why I am now 3x World Champion.
Please don’t put any more thought into my team doing anything unjust towards me, and understand that it would be in no ones best interest for that to be the case. We’ve had the best 3 years together, and whilst it’s not going to plan right now, all will unfold in its own time.
I trust these guys 1000% and my mechanics are incredible, the best in the business. I respect them so please do the same. They are the guys that are going to make winning this championship possible.
Thank you once again.
Hamilton will bid to end Rosberg’s winning streak and get back into the title hunt when F1 arrives in Europe next weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix.
2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button questioned Red Bull’s decision to drop Daniil Kvyat for Max Verstappen as of the Spanish Grand Prix, saying the team has “short memories”.
Red Bull announced on Thursday that Kvyat would be returning to Toro Rosso, its B-team, as of the next race in Barcelona, with Verstappen moving in the opposite direction.
The decision sparked mixed reactions on social media, with many pointing out that Kvyat had been on the podium just three weeks ago in China.
Button made the exact same point in a couple of tweets sent from his Twitter account on Thursday.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have confirmed Friday that the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will have a sellout crowd, with confirmation all reserved seats have been sold.
“Every Indianapolis 500 is special, but the buzz surrounding the 100th Running has been building for nearly a year, ever since the checkered flag fell on the 99th,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “Our fans are the best in sports and their incredible support of this year’s race will make it a truly historic day for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”
Further information is linked here, via the IMS website.