Mercedes hoping for Safety Car
Silver Arrow struggle again in qualifying
By Mike Wise at Spa. Last Updated: 02/09/12 10:53am
Mercedes reckon their best bet of salvaging a result in the Belgian Grand Prix lies in a Safety Car intervention.
The Brackley-based team struggled once again during Saturday's qualifying session, with Michael Schumacher lining up 13th and team-mate Nico Rosberg way down in 23rd place after a gearbox change.
Although Mercedes had anticipated another tough weekend, Team Principal Ross Brawn admitted qualifying had been worse than they had expected.
Brawn said the colder-than-expected conditions played their part, with the W03 chassis unable to generate sufficient heat in its tyres.
"We certainly weren't pleased with today," he said. "We struggled somewhat to get the tyres into their working range properly, front and rear together.
"I think Michael did a reasonable job with what we had but as I say we struggled to get the most out of the tyres.
"It seems as though whenever we have any extreme conditions, either very cold or very hot, we find it more difficult with the car. And today was pretty cold.
"It's just getting everything together at the same time. You can see how influential the tyres were in terms of the qualifying grid we've got, which is a little unusual. But that's because some drivers and cars managed to get the whole thing together."
Besides a Safety Car intervention, Brawn also hopes Mercedes' race might be boosted by their tyre problems being lessened in the 44-lap race.
"It's always eventful racing here and last year we had a Safety Car that came out at a very opportune time for us, so we'll be looking to take the benefit if we can of any of those events," he said.
"And I think how you're able to use the tyres over a longer run will obviously be very important. I think what drivers have been able to do in qualifying won't necessarily translate into what can be done in the race. Because a race has more consistent conditions and tyre temperatures can build up.
"I think we're optimistic about tomorrow. Michael's obviously got a history of being able to have good races in these circumstances, particularly here, and we're optimistic that he will do the same tomorrow.
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"Nico needs a bit more time with the car around the track here but after a few laps of the race I'm sure he'll settle in and will be looking to take advantage of any situations that develop."
Rosberg was thrown in at the deep end in qualifying after pulling off the track during the opening minutes of Saturday's final practice following a gearbox failure.
Having already missed out on dry-weather running owing to the heavy rain that fell on Friday, the 27-year-old was subsequently knocked out in Q1.
"I didn't expect the weekend to be as difficult as it's been until now. So it is definitely a surprise," Rosberg said.
"In general, the whole weekend up to now has been difficult: with the rain yesterday; with the gearbox problem this morning, meaning that I didn't get to do more than two laps with high fuel.
"Then going straight into qualifying and having to find my way in qualifying with the set-up...I knew it was going to be very challenging. In the end, my lap was okay; it just wasn't possible to do better than that today."
Aided by a Safety Car, Schumacher came from the back of the grid to finish fifth in Belgium 12 months ago but the seven-times World Champion preferred to look forward rather than back.
"Probably after Monza, we will see our car improved. So far we haven't really done much because it's progress that will come in time - and that will happen after Monza," he said.
"In the meantime we have to live with what we have. This and the race before didn't really suit our car at all. Others have gone forward; we've stood still."