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
- Just before FP1, news came through that Marussia had reinstated Max Chilton to race this weekend, denying Alexander Rossi his F1 debut.
- Nico Rosberg has moved on from the team orders debacle in Hungary.
- VIDEO: Watch Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
- Will Buxton brings you the latest edition of Paddock Pass at Spa.
- Sebastian Vettel was sidelined in FP2 by an engine failure.
- Andre Lotterer enjoyed a successful first day behind the wheel of the Caterham.
- Pastor Maldonado crashed hard during FP2, but walked away unharmed.
- Romain Grosjean does not think that Lotus can fight for points in Belgium.
- Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had contrasting views on Mercedes’ Friday running.
- However, it was a very good day for the Mercedes-powered teams at Spa.
- Max Verstappen is set to take part in three Friday practice sessions towards the end of the season.
- However, in this feature, we look at whether he is simply too young to be in Formula 1.
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.