SPA, Belgian, August 22nd, 2013 (F1plus/G. Keilloh).- After a low-key performance in Friday Free Practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg was pessimistic that the Mercedes can repeat its strong pace in qualifying and the race seen in recent rounds.
The Mercedes team has dominated qualifying sessions in 2013, claiming pole position on seven occasions out of 10, and increasingly the cars have been impressing with their pace on race day too, with many reckoning that the team is now the fastest of all.
In many of these cases, such strong performance when it mattered followed from underwhelming headline times in practice sessions.
In the one fully dry practice session today the Mercedes again did not trouble the top of the timesheets, with Rosberg ending up with a best time only good for ninth quickest and Lewis Hamilton even further back in twelfth.
While Rosberg confirmed that the team was today concentrating on longer runs rather than on one-lap pace, he also played down the team’s chances of being stronger when it really mattered.
When asked if this weekend was to be another case of Mercedes doing better in qualifying and the race, Rosberg said: “Unfortunately I don’t think this weekend is like that, it’s looking a bit more difficult for us here than expected. Especially Red Bull they’re looking very very strong, so I think it’s going to be very difficult to beat them at the moment.”
When asked why this was Rosberg suggested that it could be a matter of Spa’s unusual track characteristics: “It’s a completely different track (from the previous rounds) and completely different car configuration here, so that can always mix things up.”
When compared with the Mercedes car of twelve months ago, even with the disappointing performance today Rosberg stated that the improvement since then remains stark: “Our car is so much quicker than last year…for us last year we were nowhere and now we have a decent car, the differences in the corners is just incredible.”
Upon being told that sixth was his best finish at Spa in F1, Rosberg said: ‘It should be possible to beat sixth place but at the moment I can’t be as optimistic as I thought’.
Rosberg did note however that today’s pace is likely only to be applicable to qualifying, as he expects the race to be run in wet weather: “It should be raining on Sunday, that’s the expectation, therefore today is only really representative for Saturday.”