Spa, Belgium (SportsNetwork.com) - After taking a three-week "summer vacation," Formula One begins the second half of its season with this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg enters round 12 of the 19-grand prix season with just an 11-point lead over his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who won the most recent grand prix on July 27 in Hungary, is third in the world championship standings, a distant 71 points behind.
Rosberg posted the fastest lap during the opening practice session for the Belgian GP on Friday, while Hamilton led the way in the second practice. Hamilton's lap in 1 minute, 49.189 seconds, set in P2, was the fastest overall for the day.
The final practice session is scheduled for Saturday, shortly before qualifying. Weather will likely be a factor, with a 70 percent chance of rain in the forecast.
"It's great to be back in the car, and it was feeling good out there today," Hamilton said. "The morning wasn't as strong, but it definitely improved in the afternoon. It stayed dry throughout both sessions, but the forecast is wet for tomorrow, so it was important to maximize track time, as this may be our last dry running before the race."
In P1, Rosberg's best lap around the 4.352-mile (7.004-kilometer), 19-turn Spa-Francorchamps Circuit was clocked in 1:51.577. Hamilton was only 0.01 seconds behind him in that session. But the gap between first-place Hamilton and second-place Rosberg in P2 was considerably larger, 0.6 seconds.
"The interesting challenge for this weekend is to find the right compromise between being quick over one lap and over a long distance in the race, especially if it's wet tomorrow, with the predictions currently saying we will have mixed conditions," Rosberg said.
Hamilton has won the most grand prix this season with five, followed by Rosberg with four and Ricciardo two. They are the only drivers with victories in 2014. Ricciardo's maiden win in F1 occurred in the June 8 Canadian Grand Prix. He is in his first season with Red Bull after spending the past two years with Toro Rosso.
"It was really nice to get a couple of wins in the first 11 races, so the confidence and motivation for myself and the team is really high," Ricciardo said.
Ricciardo's teammate, Sebastian Vettel, the four-time defending F1 world champion, has finished no better than third this season and is sixth in the point standings (-114). Vettel won each of the last nine races in 2013, a streak that began in Belgium.
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, Aug. 24. Race: Belgian Grand Prix. Site: Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Track: 4.352-mile (7.004-kilometer), 19-turn road course. Start Time: 8 a.m. ET. Laps: 44. Miles: 191.488 (308.052 km). 2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Television: NBC Sports Network.