F1 Power Rankings: Belgian Grand Prix

After four weeks off, Formula One is back for the second half of the season and the run for the Championship. It might be a two-horse (or is it two-arrow) race for the World Drivers’ Championship but it might still be a knockdown, drag out brawl for the title so long as the two drivers are on even footing with equipment.

First up is the Belgian Grand Prix at the historic Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. All the drivers claim to love it but only one will truly be happy on Sunday. Who will that be?

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2014#1 Lewis Hamilton
For Lewis, the focus is on closing the 11 point gap to the championship lead: “I can’t wait to get back in the car and back into the battle for the Championship. I had some difficult weekends in the first part of the season, but then a bit of good fortune at the last race in Budapest kept me from damaging my car on the wall during that first lap, so hopefully that was a sign that my fortunes are changing at just the right time. There were so many positives to take from the opening eleven races, but both myself and the team always want more and know we are capable of more. The aim is to put the more difficult times of some of the previous weekends behind us and to recreate the best moments at every race from now on.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2014#2 Nico Rosberg
Lewis’s teammate is thinking the exact same thing though. Hopefully this two-horse race remains exciting until the end: “Although we have had a great start with plenty of good results, that race showed that the other teams are never too far away. In Formula One you just can’t afford to give away any advantage and I know that both the team and myself will be working harder than ever to keep improving and maintain our position right to the very end. On top of that, the battle with Lewis has been so close all season – and it could well stay that way right up to the final race – so every last point will be crucial in that contest too.”

#3 Daniel Ricciardo
Danny Boy says that it’s not Eau Rouge that’s the action spot for F1 cars now but Pouhon which is at the end of my worst stretch of corners on this circuit. From Bruxelles through Pouhon, I can never nail all three turns in a single lap: “F1 has changed over the years and whereas Eau Rouge and Blanchimont were once the stand-out sections, now it’s probably the Pouhon downhill left-hander at Turns 10 and 11. That’s seriously, seriously fast – and probably a good place to watch the race from for anyone prepared for a bit of a hike through the Ardennes.”

f1-valtteri-helmet-helmet-2014#4 Valtteri Bottas
#BO77AS seems very likely to do well this weekend given the car he’s driving: “The elevation changes and high speed corners make it a real pleasure to drive, especially in an F1 car. Because of the long straights and variable weather conditions races can be very interesting for the driver and for the fans. To be competitive in Spa you need a car with efficient aerodynamics, so we expect to be strong and are aiming for a good result.”

#5 Fernando Alonso

#6 Sebastian Vettel
Old Four-Time gives you the generic PR quotage of the week: “The Belgian circuit offers all possible turns and manoeuvres: ultra-fast, medium-speed, heavy braking and fast straights. The height difference is so great that you always have the feeling of riding a roller coaster – especially in Eau Rouge. The weather can also be very unpredictable and a challenge for drivers and teams, it should never be underestimated: within minutes it can change from heavy rain to sunshine. As well as that, the safety car often comes out at Spa.”

#7 Nico Hulkenberg
The Hulk missed out on the points for the first time this season in the last race. That hasn’t dampened his hopes for the back-half of the year: “There’s a lot at stake, but the team is up for the fight. We made the most of our opportunities in the first part of the season and we need to do the same in the final eight races. I expect a close battle in the championship until the end of the season so we need to be consistently picking up good points.”

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2014#8 Felipe Massa
Phil falls into the generic PR quotage trap this week. It was a bad week for Williams quotes: “I love Spa, it’s one of my favourite tracks because of the long straights and high speed corners, and it’s a track we all look forward to racing at. The long straights should suit our car and we can kick the second half of the season off with some success.”

#9 Sergio Perez
Fun fact that you don’t care about: Every Force India pre-race quotage press release starts with Vijay Mallya. Who cares what he has to say? Anyway, here’s Checo: “I’ve never scored points at Spa, so that’s my first target. We also need to put the disappointment of Hungary behind us. Spa is a power track and I think we can perform well there. You also have to expect wet weather at some point so it could be quite unpredictable.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2014#10 Jenson Button
Jenson just wants to go fast. Monza does that pretty well too: “There’s no better place to resume the season than at Spa-Francorchamps. It’s one of the best circuits in the world, and it’s a place where driving a Formula 1 car always feels incredible. As ever, I’m really looking forward to driving out of the pits for the first time on Friday morning, and just throwing the car into some of the greatest corners in motorsport.”

f1-kevin-magnussen-helmet-2014#11 Kevin Magnussen
Jan’s boy looks to continue McLaren’s European season resurgence through the end of the year: “I think the second half of this season will be incredibly important for us. We need to use these next eight races to assert ourselves, pushing our development strategy to the fore in order to first consolidate and then improve our positions in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. As a team, I know we are up for the challenge.”

#12 Kimi Raikkonen

#13 Jean-Eric Vergne

#14 Daniil Kvyat

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2014#15 Romain Grosjean
Grosjean readily admits that this has been a terrible season for the team. I’m sure that he’s hoping another offer comes along fast: “Since Monaco we have had a succession of really hard races where for many reasons we have not been in the position to claim any points. For Spa I am hoping that there will be some improvements so we can show the potential which has been seen on a few occasions, like at Barcelona. We have to reverse the problems that have held us back and I believe that if we get that then we can post more points on the board.”

#16 Adrian Sutil
Adrian has a warning for this weekend’s trip to Spa. Just don’t let Jacques Villeneuve hear it. He’d take it as a challenge: ” Regarding the set-up, there are two variations: Either you are fast in sector two and relatively slow on the straights or vice versa. Both set-ups can result in the same lap time. I would rather tend to go more for top speed. Eau Rouge is one of my favourite corners, and this year it will be difficult to go flat out due to less downforce.”

f1-pastor-maldonado-helmet-2014#17 Pastor Maldonado
Pastor has high hopes for the rest of the season. My hope for him is that he keeps his competitors’ cars in one piece: “It would be difficult to give a clear aim other than improvement and fighting for points every race. We have seen flashes of big promise from the E22. If everything is running right and the team continues to push then we can get more points for sure. As a team we will stay together with a clear mission to achieve the maximum. That way we will come back stronger and become a force in 2015. But first we are hungrier than ever to get back in to the mix for points again in 2014.”

#18 Esteban Gutierrez
Steve slags off the Ferrari engine. Could be worse. He could be driving a Renault: “In comparison to other circuits, the track is quite long with some interesting corners and long straights. It is one of those tracks which is like an adventure, it goes up and downhill. One of my favourite corners is Pouhon which is very nice. As the straights are quite long, engine power is crucial, which could be a challenge for us.”

#19 Jules Bianchi

#20 Max Chilton

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2014#21 Marcus Ericsson
New parts and a new something else awaits Ericsson in Belgium: “We haven’t had new parts on the car for quite a while, so to be coming to a track like Spa with a package that gives us a chance to take a step forward, that’s a good feeling, but we’re taking nothing for granted. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get the most out of that parts but everyone is prepared for that and if we achieve what we’re setting out to, and have good reliability, it could be a really good weekend for us.”

#22 Andre Lotterer
Wait, what? Kamui Kobayashi is out and Audi LMP1 driver Lotterer is drafted in by Caterham so that the team can try to catch Marussia and Sauber in the hunt for 10th in the Constructors’ Championship. For the moment, this appears to be a one-time event. Lotterer is an Audi LMP1 factory driver and I can’t see either he or Audi benefiting from this being a lengthier arrangement. And because Lotterer is just being parachuted in for one weekend only, I can’t see this being of any benefit to Caterham unless the rain is so bad that most of the race is under red flag and safety car.

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