Birthday boy Valtteri Bottas gifted himself the fastest lap in the opening practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix, the Finn edging Lewis Hamilton by just 0.069s.
The Mercedes pair was followed close behind by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll completed the top five.
The morning session delivered anything but an impressive start to Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel lingering in the second tier of the midfield, although it appeared to be a an uneventful FP1 for the Italian outfit.
Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Results
Friday morning’s cool 15 degrees C temperatures were in stark contrast to the blaze endured by the teams at Barcelona two weeks ago, but few would complain about the drop.
Spa and rain are often paired together but forecasts called for a dry environment until Sunday.
A string of cars headed out for the de rigueur installation laps, with a few sporting the odd aero fence, or cheese gratter.
The first man to top the time sheet was appropriately Charles Leclerc, last year’s Belgian Grand Prix winner. But its unlikely to be a victorious weekend for the Monegasque given Ferrari’s depressed form.
Exploratory laps remained the norm in the first twenty minutes, but progressively the session got going with Verstappen and then Hamilton leading the field, with the latter running on the medium compound.
Just before the clock hit the 60-minute mark, McLaren’s Lando Norris popped to the top of the screens, with 1m45.274s on the softs, but the Briton was almost immediately overhauled by his teammate Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon who lowered the benchmark to 1m45.075s.
However, birthday boy Bottas – equipped with the soft rubber – shaved almost half a second over Albon’s best, with Hamilton following suit.
The Mercedes pair pulled along its Racing Point counterparts, with Perez and Stroll lining up close behind in 3rd and 4th, at least until Verstappen split the to teams with a flyer on the softs.
Meanwhile, well down the order, Ferrari’s chargers lingered in P13 and P14, confirming the Scuderia’s massive under-performance.
Teams entered the session’s last 15 minutes putting the final touches to their run plans, although a front-left puncture forced Bottas to put an early end to his morning early, the Finn complaining that it was his second puncture this week having suffered a flat on his road car!
The positions remained unchanged, with Mercedes asserting its authority from Red Bull and Racing Point.
Alex Albon clocked in sixth, followed by a tight-knit blend of Renault and McLaren drivers with Ocon, Sainz, Ricciardo and Norris.
AlphaTauri’s Kvyat and Gasly ended the session outside of the top ten, edging Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Vettel.
Williams ceded its position at the tail end of the field to both Haas drivers and to Alfa’s Antonio Giovinazzi who all failed to set a time in FP1.
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