Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the first practice session for this weekends Belgian Grand Prix, going half a hundredth faster than his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Finn set a 44.493 on soft tyres which put him fastest, while Hamilton and Max Verstappen were both within a tenth.
Both Mercedes lead the early times, with Bottas’s final laps coming at the end of the session after suffering a puncher during a race run. He easily made it back to the pits before going to the soft tyre. The session proved rather straight forward, no red or yellow flags in the session which is unusual for Spa.
As expected Racing Point made a strong start to the weekend with Sergio Perez fourth a tenth off the pace, while Lance Stroll finishing a further two-tenths of a second behind. Spa has always been a strong track for the Silverstone based team.
The second Red Bull of Alex Albon was sixth, but the British-Thai driver was half a second behind Verstappen. Esteban Ocon was seventh fastest ahead of Carlos Sainz, who spilt the two Renaults, with Daniel Ricciardo ninth and Lando Norris tenth.
Norris was accused by Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly of blocking as they went through Stavelot. The Frenchman finishing twelfth, behind teammate Daniil Kvyat with both drivers setting their fastest times on the medium tyre.
Many of the teams were trying low profile wings given the speed advantage that gives around the four-mile Arden Forest.
Ferrari was always going to struggle with Spa’s long straights and flat out sections exposing the lack of straight-line speed of the Ferrari, a problem this season following engine rule clarifications over the winter. Charles Leclerc a second off the pace.
Ferrari power clearly not giving the performance needed for tracks of this nature which does bode well for Monza or Mugello, Kimi Raikkonen the highest placed Ferrari-powered car in thirteenth, a second and two tenths off the pace.
Ferrari power appeared to be routed to the bottom, with the only exception being the two Williams the last drivers to set a time Nicholas Latifi eight-hundredths faster than teammate George Russell.
Neither Haas’s or Antonio Giovinazzi managed to set a lap time. Both Haas’s suffering engine issues, Grosjean reported a loss of power on his car early in the session, with the team confirming it was set to change the Ferrari power unit as a result of the issue. Magnussen’s engine also had to be removed due to a similar problem.