Ex-F1 champ Villeneuve slams Toro-Rosso for hiring Verstappen

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Rookie: Max Verstappen will race in F1 for Toro-Rosso from the 2015 season.

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve on Friday criticised the Red Bull-Toro Rosso recruitment of 16-year-old Dutch racer Max Verstappen and said that it proved F1's superlicence system is flawed.

The 1997 champion said that it proves the current licence system is "meaningless" and suggested it is "the worst thing ever for Formula One."

Canadian Villeneuve said: "Getting a superlicense should be meaningful, not just doing three hundred kilometres and it being fine.

"There is something that is flawed there. Basically, it's like getting all the presents without deserving anything.

"But there is this thing of 'the younger, the better'. What's the next step? A team who will sign someone at 15 just to get the image out of it?"

In an interview with Autosport.com, he added: "It is the wrong way round. Caesar and Napoleon were good from the beginning but it takes time before you become an emperor.

"You build it. It does not mean that you are more talented, it doesn't mean that you are faster but you build, it's something you learn and you become a man also.

"He is still a boy so it is very risky. You don't take a 16-year-old, who hasn't even been to university, in the best hospital as a doctor even if he is very good and very intelligent.

"You need to pay dues; you need to deserve it because that is only how you will become a man.

"It is the worst thing ever for Formula One because it will have two effects," he added. "It will either destroy him [Verstappen] or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless.

"What will F1 be? It will be nothing. It doesn't do any good for anyone."

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Hamilton tops Rosberg in second Belgian GP practice

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On top: Hamilton was lightning quick around the Spa circuit during second practice.

Lewis Hamilton topped the times ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Friday's twice red-flagged second free practice session ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

The 29-year-old Briton, who was second behind Rosberg in the morning session, clocked a best lap of one minute and 49.189 to finish clear at the top of the times on a typically incident-filled day at the old Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes.

Rosberg was six-tenths of a second slower than Hamilton to finish second ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button of McLaren on a rare dry day at the track.

Valtteri Bottas was sixth for Williams ahead of Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Australian Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, Danish rookie Jan Magnussen in the second McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg for Ford India.

The session began under a heavy black cloud and produced two major 'red flag' accidents, but nobody without anyone being injured.

The first came when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado lost control of his Lotus car in the approach to Pouhon and hit the barriers heavily. He was quickly in communication with the team via radio to say he was unhurt, but his car was seriously damaged and he was out for the rest of the session.

The second red flag came when Mexican Esteban Gutierrez spun off at Blanchimont in his Sauber.

"Can you get back to the garage?" the team asked him. "It is the gear box…Something break completely," he replied.

In the intervening periods of on-track action, Alonso clocked 1:51.693 to go top before Hamilton, who was second behind Rosberg in the morning practice session, regained the ascendancy by taking half a second out of the Spaniard's best time.

Ricciardo, Red Bull's sole representative in second practice as four-time champion Sebastian Vettel waited for an engine change, also ran off the circuit without causing any damage.

With 40 minutes to go, all the leading drivers switched to softer tyres and Hamilton stayed on top while Frenchman Romain Grosjean reported that his Lotus was "all over the place" and difficult to drive.

Rosberg then swept to the top of the time-screens with a lap in 1:49.793, but was swiftly replaced as Hamilton responded in 1:49.189, the way it stayed until the flag.

Earlier, Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff gave an insight into how the team had rebuilt rapport after their discord in Budapest. He said the situation, after Hamilton had ignored team requests to allow Rosberg to pass him, had "needed a little bit of mediating, management, caressing, hard words…"

He added: "You cannot expect it to run super-smoothly. You don't expect when your team-mate has one more stop to do that you make his life difficult. On the other hand you cannot ruin one's race by expecting him to lose a couple of hundred metres.

"It was a matter of the words used not the principle. We probably shouldn't have said to Nico that Lewis was going to let him through, we should have said he won't make your life difficult."

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Rosberg edges Hamilton in opening Belgian GP practice

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Leading the way: Rosberg during opening practice at the Belgian Grand Prix.

World championship leader Nico Rosberg topped the times just ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and nearest rival Lewis Hamilton in Friday's opening free practice for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 11 points in the title race, clocked a best lap of one minute and 51.577 seconds around the spectacular and sprawling 7.004-km circuit set in the Belgian Ardennes.

This gave him an advantage of just 0.097 seconds and confirmed the ferocity of the close contest between the two as they rejoin battle a month after their controversial disagreement at the Hungarian Grand Prix where Hamilton ignored team instructions to allow Rosberg to pass him.

This was the pair's fifth consecutive one-two domination of opening practice.

– INFOGRAPHIC: F1 teammates head-to-head stats for the 2014 season so far

Two time former champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was third fastest ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen, who has won four times in Belgium, in the second Ferrari.

Sergio Perez was sixth for Force India ahead of Danish rookie Jan Magnussen in the second McLaren, Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, winner in Hungary, in the leading Red Bull.

Finn Valtteri Bottas was 10th for Williams with four time world champion Sebastian Vettel 11th in the second Red Bull.

The morning's practice took place in dry if cold conditions at the majestic old circuit which was first used for racing in 1922, when much of it consisted of public roads.

It remains one of the fastest circuits in use on the F1 calendar and still includes three of the most challenging corners – in Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont.

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