Nico Rosberg: “Sunday is the Day that Counts”

by Paul Hensby

For the eleventh time in twelve races this season, the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team took pole position with Nico Rosberg leading a front-row lock out for the team ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The team were in a class of their own all afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps, and ended the third part of qualifying with a gap of over two seconds to the rest of the field.

Rosberg took his fourth consecutive pole position, and the seventh overall of the season, and was happy with his day on track. He admitted his surprise at the gap the Mercedes team have to the rest of the field, but felt the track was not as tricky to drive because the conditions were stable throughout the qualifying session. He admitted that qualifying is only the start of the job in hand, and that after losing the chance of victory last time out in Hungary due to the untimely introduction of the safety car, the race on Sunday is all that matters to the German.

“It’s fantastic to start from pole here at Spa,” said Rosberg. “It’s never easy here in these conditions, which make the track even more challenging. But today was very stable with intermediate conditions throughout, so not as tough as in previous years.

“It was a great qualifying performance today and I have to thank the team for their great work. My engineers helped me to find the right set-up with all the opportunities to change something during a session. The car went better and better at the end, so I’m very happy and also a bit surprised that the gap was so big to the other teams.

“Having said that, I hope to have a good start and a clear race tomorrow because, like we have seen in Budapest, Sunday is the day that counts. But I’m quite confident as we have a fantastic car. I’m looking forward to the race.”

Team-mate Hamilton was disappointed to finish second best to his team-mate once more, but was generally happy with his performance throughout the wet qualifying session. He looked back at last years Spa race when, starting from pole position, he lost the lead to Sebastian Vettel down the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap after the Red Bull Racing driver started from second place.

“I was a bit nervous going into qualifying – wondering if everything would come together after the troubles I’ve had during recent weekends,” admitted Hamilton. “But it’s great to see that all the hard work the team has put in is paying off. This circuit is a big challenge in the wet. It’s probably more fun in the dry, when you’re right on the edge of performance, but the conditions were pretty stable so it wasn’t too bad.

“This is a circuit where you need confidence on the brakes but unfortunately, on my Q3 run, I had a glazed front left brake which made the car pull to the side. When it does that, it’s really hard to recover and get the temperature into the brake, so it meant I kept losing a bit of braking power on my final laps. I’m not too disappointed, though.

“Last year I was on pole, then Seb came flying past me down the Kemmel Straight, so I think P2 could be the best place to be. It may just be a blessing in disguise with the grid slot.”

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff was full of praise for his two drivers, and was buoyant by seeing them both qualify on the front row of the grid for the first time since Montreal in June. The admits the two-second gap to the rest of the field is unrepresentative due to the weather conditions, but is hoping to see the team return to winning ways on Sunday.

“Sometimes in these wet conditions, you just hit the sweet spot with both the car set-up and the tyres – and that’s definitely what happened for us today, with a car that was the class of the field on the intermediates,” said Wolff. “But you then need two fantastic drivers to deliver and it’s very encouraging to see both cars on the front row for the first time since Canada.

“However, the performance gaps we saw today were not normal and we are taking nothing for granted. Our rivals will be dangerous in the race if it’s dry, and we will be working hard tonight to make sure we find the right strategy for both drivers to fight for the win tomorrow.”

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