Belgian GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

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After three weeks away, Formula 1 has certainly return with a bang in Belgium this weekend – and it’s only Friday. We’ve had drivers in, drivers out, new noses, Le Mans winners, PR statements… you name it, it’s been here.

However, one thing has remained constant: Mercedes’ domination of the 2014 season. Once again during practice at Spa today, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg completed a pair of one-twos with relative ease, sharing top spot in the sessions.

We do have an interesting battle forming behind, though. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished as the best of the rest in both sessions, but with the Mercedes-powered cars excelling through the Ardennes forest, the Spaniard has a tough challenge ahead of him.

Alexander Rossi enjoyed his second FP1 outing of the season, but his weekend will go no further after Marussia reneged on its plans to replace Max Chilton with the American. The Briton appears to have resolved his contractual issues just in the nick of time.

Here’s the full round-up from the Spa-Francorchamps paddock on Friday.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

SESSION REPORTS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Today started in very disappointing fashion when news broke that Alexander Rossi would not be ending America’s seven-year wait for an F1 start when Marussia confirmed that Max Chilton would indeed be racing after all. It seems that his “contractual issues” had been resolved – or, perhaps more likely, a few legal threats were made.

As much of a shame as it is for Rossi, it did not see him lose anything heading into the weekend. The plan was for him to run in only FP1 anyway, and he did well, finishing clear of both Caterham drivers in his first time in the car.

According to Chilton, Rossi did not find out that he had been ‘dropped’ until he got out of the car at the end of FP1.

“I passed on my best wishes to Alex this morning when he got into the car and unfortunately he found out when he got out but he’s still our reserve driver and we’re still in a good friendship,” the Briton said.

All in all, it has been a bit of a disastrous exercise for Marussia and Chilton, but they will be hoping to put this behind them to focus on the rest of the race weekend.

On track, it was business as usual for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated proceedings. The Silver Arrows may be wary, but the team once again appears to be out of reach for the chasing pack.

Fernando Alonso will be pleased with his efforts, although the challenge from Williams may prove to be too great for the Spaniard. Nevertheless, a top five finish here would be a very good result for both the driver and the team.

Also we must give a big pat on the back to Caterham’s Andre Lotterer. In his first time in the car, he outpaced full-time driver Marcus Ericsson, and will be hoping to secure a good qualifying result tomorrow.

Spa always produces a thrilling weekend, and this year is no different. Be sure to join us for qualifying tomorrow, live on CNBC from 8am ET.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”