Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fastest by six-tenths of a second over his teammate Sebastian Vettel in the second practice ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. The Monacan set his time early on showing that Ferrari has a clear pace advantage early on.
Vettel was the first to set a time on the soft tyres s 44.753, Leclerc then responded with a lap six tenths faster. The Germans response started with a slow second lap, and in particular first sector, which left Vettel unable to improve.
Mercedes Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were the closest challengers to Ferrari, ending up third and fourth respectively with just 0.046s separating them. But they were faster in the middle sector where Ferrari struggle to get the pace down, despite the engine upgrade.
That left the Finn third ahead of Hamilton, the reigning five times champion struggling with his pace in the final sector. Sergio Perez was an impressive fifth for Mercedes-powered Racing Point, although he ran into problems when the back of his car caught fire and he had to pull off the track.
It was not perfect for the top three teams lead drivers Vettel, Hamilton and Verstappen all made errors at the final chicane on their laps. Albon’s lap looked uncomfortable and while Leclerc also went into the Bus Stop chicane a little deep, he lost less time than the other top drivers.
The cars were showing wildly different performance, Ferrari had the edge by eight tenths in the first sector which is largely flat out, but Mercedes had the edge through the second and third sectors, which includes the vast majority of the corners at Spa-Francorchamps.
However, Mercedes clearly have more pace to find, as Bottas and Hamilton were only 0.1secs quicker than the Racing Point of Sergio Perez in fifth place.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was sixth, the team struggling to find the pace to challenge the front running teams and was eight tenths off Leclerc’s outright pace. After the session, he told reporters he was running with reduced power during Friday as the team preserve engine mileage.
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest of the midfield teams, the Finn was a further three tenths behind the Dutchman, but ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon rounded out the top ten
Knowing he has a grid penalty as the car has exceeded its engine allocation, the Anglo-Thai driver-focused more on race set-up with his career at the team.
Carlos Sainz was eleventh for McLaren ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman had gone sixth early on. However, was forced to abort his second run through Pouhon after going wide.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was thirteenth ahead of Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, with Lando Norris fifteenth the trio separated by just 0.049s. Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi was tenth on medium rubber but slipped down to sixteenth on softs.
Pierre Gasly was seventeenth on his Toro Rosso return, lapping 0.160s off Kvyat and at one stage complaining that he was hearing communications from outside the team over the radio. Kevin Magnussen was eighteenth after he abandoned his first attempt on softs and having to go again, ending up 2.276s off the pace.
George Russell won the intra-Williams battle at the back, lapping 0.444s quicker than Robert Kubica.