Notebook – Belgian Practice 2021

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Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen topped a practice session each ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. In FP1 Bottas set a 45.199 on the soft tyre going over a tenth ahead of Verstappen with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly was third going three and a half tenths behind the sister car. While in FP2, Verstappen was four-hundredths faster than Bottas, before he crashed his car on the exit of Le Combe.

 

Verstappen happy & Perez feeling good

Max Verstappen says he was “very happy” with the feeling of his Red Bull, despite his crash at the end of FP2. The Dutchman finished the session fastest by four-hundredths edging out Valtteri Bottas.

A mistake from Verstappen however brought to an early end with three minutes to go, after losing the rear of his Red Bull RB16B exiting Les Combes, causing him to hit the barrier on the left-hand side of the track. Asked what happened in the crash, Verstappen replied: “I don’t know, just lost the rear. A bit too much oversteer to correct and unfortunately, I hit the wall.”

Despite the late crash, Verstappen was generally left feeling very positive about Red Bull’s running on Friday at Spa, which has traditionally been one of its weaker tracks. Saying “It was good, I think the whole day, we were quite happy. Of course there are a few things to fine-tune from FP1 to FP2, and overall, [I’ve] been very happy. I think definitely a very positive start.”

Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez opted for different wing levels through Friday’s practice session as the team tried to evaluate the best set-up for Spa. He revealed he made no changes to his wing level through the day, and that he was “happy with what I have”.

Meanwhile his teammate Sergio Perez was nine-tenths behind in tenth but was pleased with how the car was feeling heading into the rest of the weekend. Saying, “The car is feeling good, I think we have good potential for the weekend. It’s going to be interesting just what happens with the weather tomorrow.”

“I look forward for it. I think we should be able to have a good qualifying session. We got plenty of information from today, and yeah, we just have to pick out the best bits for tomorrow, and make sure that we are able to have a strong quali.”

 

Hamilton encouraged but says bump has “ruined” Eau Rouge

Lewis Hamilton says track surface changes at Eau Rouge have “ruined” thanks to a new bump through the iconic corner. The seven-times champion believes that a new bump that had appeared at the bottom of Eau Rouge was making it an ordeal to run through there.

Speaking before a six-car W Series accident during qualifying through the section later in the afternoon. All drivers are okay and said it would issue a full update on the incident shortly.

A Tweet by W Series said, “All drivers involved in the incident are undergoing medical assessment and two of the drivers – Ayla Agren and Beitske Visser – have been transferred to hospital for further checks. More updates to follow.”

Hamilton said, “It’s a great, great circuit. It’s very bumpy now through Eau Rouge, something’s happening. They’ve kind of ruined it a little bit with whatever it is. I don’t know if they have got a new patch [of asphalt] there, but there’s a massive bump right at the compression point, which we’ve never had there before.”

The region was affected by torrential rain and flooding last month, which affected northern Europe and partially Belgium and Germany. With the circuit suffering damage to access roads and its digital safety infrastructure.

Reflecting on his track running where he finished third in FP2 after struggling to get the lap together in FP1, Hamilton key for the weekend was deciding on the right downforce levels, with teams juggling the different nature of Spa’s sectors, with the added complication of rain predicted for Sunday.

Saying, “We’re trying to navigate the best way we can. At least it was dry for P2, so we’ve got some laps in. But the car wasn’t quite underneath me today. So I’ve got to do some work tonight and try and figure that out.”

“I think that if it it’s guaranteed to rain, then you would want more downforce. But then if it doesn’t rain, and the weather man is wrong, or weather woman’s wrong, then you’re a sitting duck.”

 

Perez signs a one-year extension

Red Bull have announced that Sergio Perez will remain as Max Verstappen’s teammate next season after signing a new one year contract. Perez joined the team this year, but has had a up and down first half of the season, with the highlight being his victory in Baku,

The one-year extension will keep him at Red Bull for the big rule change coming into force next year, which F1 hopes will help level the playing field and shake up the competitive order.

The news means Pierre Gasly is all but certain to stay with Red Bull junior team AlphaTauri for another season. Red Bull boss Christian Horner praised Perez, for the instant impact he had on the team this year.

Horner said, “Checo is a highly respected Team member and his experience and race-craft are invaluable as we fight for the Constructors’ Championship. His integration into the wider team has been seamless and we have been impressed by his performances during the first half of the season which demonstrates what he’s capable of in our car.”

Perez added, “I’m really happy to be continuing with a great team like Red Bull into the new era of Formula One and it’s a great opportunity for me. Everyone starts from zero next year with the new regulations, so my only goal is to go all the way to the top with Red Bull.”

 

Eleven drivers on brink of engine penalties

Eleven of the twenty drivers have moved onto their final power units of the season ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, meaning the majority of them are set for grid penalties later in the season.

With F1 entering a triple-header that includes power tracks Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, the majority of teams have taken the opportunity to introduce fresh engines this time out. Five drivers had already moved on to their third and final power units of the season, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz and George Russell.

Meanwhile, for this weekend both Mercedes drivers, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, both McLarens, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Aston’s Lance Stroll, both Alpha Tauris and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, have all moved to their final power units of the season.

This however doesn’t mean they will face penalties as they will reuse older units later in the year at less power-sensitive circuits. Many teams also are comfortable with the mileage on their engines and can get through the remainder of the campaign with the three power units in their pool.

Red Bull have already appeared to accept they will need to take a fourth unit, thus incurring grid penalties, after both Verstappen and Perez lost engines in Silverstone and Budapest respectively. Speaking ahead of the weekend, Verstappen said he was not sure when Red Bull would opt to bring the fourth engine in to play.

 

Midfield

Ferrari appeared to make a step forward at this type of circuit early on in FP1 Charles Leclerc was six tenths off the pace and two tenths ahead of Carlos Sainz. While the team certainly have made progress, this weekend you need to believe is wasn’t a circuit they were expecting to be this strong.

However they couldn’t repeat that in FP2, after Leclerc crashed leaving him eighteenth while Sainz going eleventh fastest a second off the pace, but he was fastest of the Ferrari powered cars, going four hundredths ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.

That moved Alpine and Alpha Tauri best of the rest Fernando Alonso going fourth a hundredth faster than Pierre Gasly with teammate Esteban Ocon fifth. Gasly had gone third fastest in FP1 only three and a half tenths behind the sister car of Verstappen. This suggests there could be a close fight

 

Mugello set to replace Singapore as doubts remain over Istanbul

The Tuscan Grand Prix has emerged as the leading candidate to replace the Turkis Grand Prix, after the British government decided to keep the country on the red list. On Thursday, the government announced that the country would remain on the list until the next review on 16th September.

Meanwhile Mugello is being considered as a possible replacement, despite F1 previously stating that there would be no European races after the planned run of flyaway events begins with the Russian GP, 24 – 26 September.

The Mugello circuit made its debut last September, proving to be a popular choice with fans, teams and drivers. However, it would have to make sense commercially for all parties, and that could yet prove to be a stumbling block.

UK teams do not have an exemption for red zones and does not anticipate getting one, so the ruling would affect around a thousand travelling personnel from the seven UK-based teams, the F1 organisation, the FIA, Pirelli, Honda and the media.

The buffer plan was to use Suzuka as a way around the ten-day quarantine with teams remaining in the country for ten days, but now the race has been cancelled. Mexico and Brazil are also on the UK red zone list, while COVID has become a serious issue in Austin, creating potential issues for all three venues.

Also Italy has several countries on its red list creating a headache for Ferrari, Alpha Tauri and Pirelli. Its understood there will be more flexibility in terms of exemptions. Motorsport.com understands that one option is to run Russia as a stand-alone race, while moving Turkey by a week to October 10.

If Turkey comes off the list at that point in theory there would still be time to run Turkey without quarantine issues. It doesn’t then an alternative option is for UK-based personnel to avoid the quarantine by travelling from Turkey to the USA, where they would have a weekend off before the US GP on October 24.

With Mexico and Brazil remain on the red list, a race would take place in Doha the following weekend creating triple header. If Mexico or Brazil get cancelled or the Doha plan falls through the Sakhir race could be added, for the second time.

 

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Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.