Nico Rosberg say he is 'one step ahead' of Lewis Hamilton

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Spa-Francorchamps
Belgian GP practice: Nico Rosberg suffers dramatic tyre failure
Belgian Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Spa-Francorchamps Dates: 21-23 August
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Red Button, BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg said he felt in better shape than team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the Belgian Grand Prix despite a major tyre failure.

Rosberg set the pace in both Friday practice sessions and said Hamilton was not happy with his car.

The German said he was "one step ahead of Lewis at the moment".

"It is going well for now, I am feeling comfortable," added Rosberg, who is 21 points behind Britain's Hamilton in the drivers' championship.

Belgian GP FP2 highlights: Nico Rosberg fastest despite tyre failure

"It also means tonight he is more likely to take over my set-up because he is a bit unsure what is going on, that is usually the tendency. That is always better."

However, Rosberg admitted that he had suffered "a bit of a dent of confidence" following a dramatic tyre failure at 190mph during the second practice session - ahead of qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday, live across the BBC.

He said the incident was "quite a shock" and added that the fact he had not crashed "wasn't down to my skill. It was just luck that I stayed out of the wall".

The incident happened at one of the fastest sections of Spa - one of F1's most demanding and unpredictable circuits - heading towards the flat-out Blanchimont left-hander.

Nico Rosberg's car
Rosberg said it was luck, not skill that he avoided a collision in the aftermath of the tyre failure

Mercedes executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe said: "It was a very unusual situation where there seemed to be some bits of the tyre structure coming out up to a minute before the terminal failure of the tyre.

"It's not something I've seen before. Pirelli have taken the tyre away to analyse. We are double checking the car as well and it's something we'll keep working on this evening."

Hamilton said: "The car was feeling good. Nico was quick but otherwise I really enjoyed the day. I'll try to find the time and keep pushing.

"Red Bull are looking closer this weekend than they have for a while, so it should be close."

Meanwhile, rookie Max Verstappen is set for a 10-place grid penalty in Sunday's race after his Toro Rosso team changed their Renault engine.

The Dutchman has exceeded his allocation of four engines this year, and is now on to his sixth.

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'Spa-Francorchamps is like a dream'

Where better to blow away the cobwebs of Formula 1's summer break than arguably the greatest motor racing circuit in the world?

Cascading through Belgium's Ardennes mountains, Spa-Francorchamps encapsulates in one ecstatic 4.3-mile ribbon of asphalt why Formula 1 drivers love what they do. "It is like a dream," says Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. "It is a circuit with a soul."

Fast, sweeping, demanding, dangerous, scenic, carved out of what were once real roads over real contours, it is the very essence of the sport that celebrates it.

Eau Rouge, the exhilarating, flat-out left-right-left, down-up-over-a-crest, stomach-in-mouth swerves at the start of the lap, defines the place.

And the rest of the lap unfolds in a series of demanding sweepers, up-and-down valleys, with the unpredictable weather sometimes changing by the minute.

It is an unmissable experience, for competitors and viewers alike.

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