ON A ROLL: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg topped the second practice sheets again despite a tyre blow-out in Belgium. Image: AP / Andy Wong
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium - Nico Rosberg walked away unhurt after a spectacular high speed tyre blow-out during Friday's second free practice session, in which he clocked the fastest lap, ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old German lost control of his Mercedes when the right rear Pirelli tyre exploded at around 320km/h at the Blanchimont corner.
"That was definitely not fun," said Rosberg whose wife Vivian is expecting their first child at any time, "I think a tyre broke at the rear, but I am not sure. Let's wait and see, but it was at the maximum speed on the lap. So that is not good.
"There was no debris on the track... I had this happen once before in testing..."
The session was red flagged and suspended briefly while the car and debris were cleared from the spectacular and majestic, but challenging, circuit in the Ardennes forests.
On resumption, Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Sauber car and crashed heavily at the downhill Pouhon corner, a collision that produced the red flags again for a third time in the day.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado had set the pattern during opening practice in the morning when he hit the barriers at Malmedy. He also, like Ericsson, was unhurt.
Rosberg's incident resulted in his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton staying in his car in the pits while the team analysed the cause of Rosberg's tyre failure.
In both of the afternoon accidents, the drivers were saved from more serious damage and possible injuries by the big run-off areas built into the circuit.
Hamilton was unable to improve his time and finished the session second fastest behind Rosberg, as he had been in the morning, when both the Red Bull and Ferrari teams produced improved speed to threaten the champion team's supremacy.
The incidents highlighted again the dangers that remain prevalent at one of the classic 'traditional' long and high speed F1 tracks where in 2014 Hamilton and Rosberg's tense intra-team rivalry turned acrimonious and resulted in a collision during the race.
Defending world champion Hamilton finally did one more lap on the medium tyres before the end of the session when he finished three-tenths adrift of Rosberg's best lap in 1min49.385 seconds.
Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest, seven-tenths behind, ahead of his Red Bull team mate Daniil Kvyat, who was a full second adrift of the fastest time.
Kimi Raikkonen, who signed a new contract with Ferrari for 2016 on Wednesday (August 21), was fifth quickest ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India and Lotus' Romain Grosjean.
Brazilian Felipe Masr was ninth in the second Sauber ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.
The struggling McLaren team endured another torrid day.
Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, was down in 17th and two-time champion Fernando Alonso one place behind him in 18th, ahead only of the Manor Marussia team.
The McLarens, with new power units fitted, are expected to start Sunday's race from the back of the grid after being penalised.
2015 Belgian GP 2nd practice results
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min49.385
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min49.687
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1min50.136
4. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull - Renault 1min50.399
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min50.461
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1:50.461
7. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Mercedes 1:50.489
8. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber - Ferrari 1:50.709
9. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber - Ferrari 1:50.928
10. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1:50.940
11. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1:50.971
12. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso - Renault 1:51.037
13. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso - Renault 1:51.117
14. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1:51.250
15. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Mercedes 1:51.317
16. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1:51.588
17. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:51.854
18. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1:52.570
19. Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1:54.065
20. Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia - Ferrari 1:54.253