Belgian GP: Bitter disappointment for Mercedes at Spa-Francorchamps
By Berthold Bouman
Not much to celebrate for Michael Schumacher at Spa-Francorchamps today during qualifying for the Belgian GP, Schumacher’s 300th Grand Prix. The German seven-times World Champion had to be satisfied with 13th place today, while he 21 years ago in 1991 left from seventh place on the grid in a Jordan, a ride paid for by Mercedes.
No rain today at Spa, so that cannot be an excuse for his poor performance, Schumacher lapped the Ardennes circuit in 1m49.081s in the second qualifying session, 1.427s slower than the fastest time in Q2 set by McLaren’s Jenson Button.
“Well, what a pity today,” said Schumacher. “I am really sorry for my fans but I am afraid I have to say that I got pretty much everything that we could from today. The car was not quick enough, and especially in the mid-sector we were too slow,” he further commented. But he will do better tomorrow, “We now have to take it as it is and try to do the best we can in the race tomorrow. We will have further steps coming soon, so we will go on fighting.”
Mercedes Motorsport boss Norbert Haug confirmed what Schumacher said, “Michael got everything out of the car that was possible today. It did not help us that the rain yesterday meant that no preparation for today was possible but of course that applies to everybody.”
Things were even worse for his compatriot Nico Rosberg, who had to replace his gearbox after this morning’s final free practice session and thus also incurred a five-place grid penalty, he qualified in 18th place and will leave from 23rd place on the grid tomorrow, just ahead of Narain Karthikeyan in the HRT.
Rosberg only completed five slow laps this morning before his gearbox broke down and therefore had limited running time, also both sessions on Friday were hampered by heavy rain and the German in fact only has 15 laps in the dry behind his belt ahead of tomorrow’s race.
Obviously very disappointed Rosberg commented, “This weekend isn’t really running to plan so far. Starting from the back of the grid tomorrow is really disappointing, although I had no chance to prepare my car due to the gearbox problem this morning.”
And he added, “So it took a bit of a time to find the right set-up in qualifying and it didn’t work out well at the end. I hope I can gain some positions in the race but I’m not overly optimistic as our car is not one of the quickest on this track. I will definitely push hard.”
Team Principal Ross Braw admitted the Pirelli tyres had again caused problems for the Mercedes team, “It’s been a disappointing day all round for us. Qualifying was tough, and it proved pretty tricky to get the tyres in the right operating window.”
About the problems Rosberg encountered he said, “In fairness to Nico, he didn’t have much of a chance as he missed most of P3 this morning, the only opportunity to have had some time on a dry track.”
Mercedes is currently fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, while Rosberg and Schumacher are sixth and 12th in the Drivers’ Championship.