F1 might have enjoyed a three-week break for summer, but at the front of the grid, not much appears to have changed as Mercedes once again dominated in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix today.
The Silver Arrows secured one-twos in both sessions on Friday at Spa, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg each enjoying one session at the top of the timesheets. In Hamilton’s eyes, it was a very good day of running.
“It’s great to be back in the car and it was feeling good out there today,” the Briton said. “The morning wasn’t as strong, but it definitely improved in the afternoon. As always, we still have work to do tonight, but overall today was okay.
“It stayed dry throughout both sessions but the forecast is wet for tomorrow, so it was important to maximize track time as this may be our last dry running before the race. We’ve seen rain so often here in the past and that can really mix things up, particularly when it’s wet in places and dry in others.”
However, Rosberg was more wary, believing that the chasing pack may have closed on Mercedes for this weekend’s race.
“It looks like we have the quickest car again, but it’s a bit different here than at some other tracks,” Rosberg said. “It seems that some of the other teams are closer and we need to work a bit on our speed down the straights.
“As normal, it will be a long night analyzing everything that we learned today to really nail it tomorrow.
Mercedes will be hoping to secure its seventh one-two finish of the season this weekend, and it looks set to do so given that the high-speed nature of the circuit will suit the strengths of the W05 car.
However, the intra-team battle is set to rage on following the team orders debate at the last race in Hungary, as both Hamilton and Rosberg vie for the 2014 drivers’ championship.
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.