Both Ferrari’s were fastest in both of today’s practice sessions for the Belgian Grand Prix. In FP1, Sebastian Vettel was fastest by a tenth over Max Verstappen and in FP2, it was Kimi Raikkonen who had the same margin over Lewis Hamilton.
Top Three closer than expected
This weekend we were expecting that Ferrari and Mercedes would hold a larger advantage over the Red Bull’s, however, it appears as the top three are performing at the same level. This is a surprise, we expected Mercedes and Ferrari to be slightly further ahead of Red Bull. But they look able to match each other.
But I would read that with caution, you need to expect when we get into Q3 and the top two turn the engine modes up that Red Bull will be slightly further behind. Red Bull know that to win and get a podium from the race, they may need luck.
Mercedes we have seen dominate this race since 2015, however, they know that Ferrari has the better pace this year. So they know tomorrow beating them in qualifying will be half the battle, and they don’t have Valtteri Bottas at the front.
It wasn’t easy for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo sat out much of FP1 with a technical issue but says the team did improve after setup changes. Saying “This afternoon we made lots of changes and went back and forth on set-up. We learnt quite a lot but I felt that maybe as we improved one thing we created a problem with something else. With the limited running we haven’t found the optimum balance yet and need to improve on both short and long runs.”
Hamilton said “It’s good to be back. The break is never really long enough, but there is a point when you start to miss driving, so I’m happy to be back in the car again. These are the fastest F1 cars we’ve ever had, and you really feel it at this track. You go almost flat through Pouhon – it’s crazy.
“The challenge is to find the right balance and thankfully I have a great team working on that. Coming into the weekend I heard that it was going to be raining all weekend.
Vettel said “Overall, I think it’s going the right way. Today it was a bit difficult to figure out where we are and I think we’ll have to wait for tomorrow to have a better idea. The new engine has done what it was supposed to do.”
“Today everything was working well. Now we’ll see about tomorrow: rain shouldn’t give us any more problems and, should we have wet conditions, it would be quite nice to have confirmation that we found the right things to do.”
Bottas hit most by engine changes
While Mercedes have shown good pace on track today, Valtteri Bottas will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid because of a new engine. The Finn reached his limit of permitted engines before the summer break, and will now join Nico Hulkenberg at the back of the grid.
Bottas has taken all six elements this weekend, while Hamilton has a new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Turbo Charger, MGU-H and MGU-K. Mercedes’ customer teams, the newly-named Racing Point Force India and Williams, have also fitted the new engine.
Both Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have taken new elements, Vettel has taken a new ICE, TC and MGU-H, while Raikkonen has the upgraded ICE.
Racing Point strong start
Force India have made a good start following the takeover by Lawrence Stroll during the summer break, the team were back in the top ten. Sergio Perez was seventh in both sessions, while Esteban Ocon was ninth in FP1.
We know the team have traditionally performed very well at Spa, the car does again appear to suit this circuit. The team has brought upgrades for this race and we know the Mercedes power unit should give them an extra boost too. They want a good run in until Abu Dhabi as they need points as their season starts here.
Its important to note the team are still using the working title Force India – Mercedes for now until next season.
Tomorrow’s qualifying I believe will favour Mercedes regardless of the weather should be the favourite again. However, we have said all season that they can’t take that for granted as we know Ferrari also have a strong power unit.
Eyes will be on Force India, can this investment help to move the team forward and Spa has traditionally been a very strong circuit for that team. Red Bull are a lot closer than we expected this weekend, with Bottas’s penalty they could be a threat.
- BELGIAN GP – Raikkonen keeps Ferrari on top in FP2 a tenth faster than Hamilton
- BELGIAN GP – Vettel edges out Verstappen in first practice going fastest by a tenth
- Prixview – Belgian Grand Prix