Nico Rosberg continued his strong start to the Belgian Grand Prix weekend by topping the second free practice session at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Friday afternoon.
The German driver managed to edge out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second to secure P1, but saw his session come to an early end following a frightening rear tire failure with 25 minutes remaining.
Coming towards the high-speed Blanchimont corner in the final sector of the circuit, Rosberg lost control when the right-rear tire on his Mercedes W06 Hybrid car appeared to delaminate, causing the car to spin.
Although Rosberg did not hit the wall, enough damage was done to his car to bring his session to an end, whilst the debris strewn across the track warranted a red flag period.
The most pressing concern at the end of the session was the cause of the failure, which remains unclear. Rosberg’s tires will be taken away for analysis by Pirelli. Replays of the incident showed that it had sustained damage earlier in the lap, and ultimately failed when he entered a high-speed corner.
Hamilton once again struggled to match Rosberg’s pace, finishing second by three-tenths of a second. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat slotted into third and fourth place respectively, continuing Red Bull’s strong start to the weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg finished fifth and sixth respectively, posting an identical time of 1:50.461, whilst Romain Grosjean fell just two-hundredths of a second short in P7.
Running with the 2015 Ferrari engine for the first time this weekend, Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr ran strongly in FP2 to finish eighth and ninth. Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten for Ferrari.
Although Rosberg once again enjoyed an edge over Hamilton, Mercedes will be keen to get some answers later today to establish what the cause of his accident was.
With ten minutes remaining, Marcus Ericsson brought out a second red flag after going off at Pouhons and hitting the wall hard. However, this was due to driver error and unrelated to Rosberg’s tire failure.
The drivers will take to the track for the final free practice session on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying, with the latter being shown live on CNBC from 8am ET.