Failing to get any further than Q1 is disappointing, but getting stuck in the bottom part of the grid when the car and drivers show so much promise is a bitter pill to swallow. The last time Vergne failed to get into Q2 was at the second race of the season in Malaysia, while it has never happened to Ricciardo this year. Our French driver has looked particularly on form this weekend in free practice and, with Daniel’s car set-up improved overnight, it’s fair to say that Row 3 of the grid might well have been beckoning the Toro Rossos at Spa. Instead, Jean-Eric will start on the outside of Row 9 and Daniel is one place behind him on the inside of the tenth and penultimate row, in eighteenth and nineteenth places respectively.
Why did it go wrong? Without filling up several screens of website, the simple answer is that our tyre strategy in the changeable conditions was too conservative and the timing didn’t work out that well as we were on track rather too early for our second runs on the Intermediate tyres. This meant that by the time the track conditions were at their best, the same could not be said for our tyres.
The teams that traditionally start from the back of the grid gambled and fitted slick tyres and some of them actually reaped the benefit by getting into Q2. They were understandably delighted, but given their usual performance, they had nothing to lose with this gamble. Should we have done the same? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it’s hard to tell.
Putting the weather forecast to one side, the situation for tomorrow’s race is that, having underperformed this afternoon, we will start behind cars that are considerably slower than us, so an aggressive strategy will be needed to see us pass as many of them as possible as quickly as possible to try and close on those in the points positions, because a top ten finish is definitely not out of the question. As for the weather, there are no certainties at Spa, so let’s wait and see.
Lewis Hamilton timed his final run perfectly to take pole for Mercedes and he will have championship leader Sebastian Vettel alongside him in the Red Bull on the front row. The second row features their respective team-mates, Mark Webber third and Nico Rosberg fourth. Until the track began to dry in the very last minutes of Q3, it looked like Paul di Resta was heading for a sensational pole, but in the end, the Scottish Force India driver had to settle for fifth and he has Jenson Button alongside him in the McLaren.