Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes Lewis Hamilton both topped a practice session each during Friday’s practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Raikkonen was five tenths faster in FP1 than Hamilton, but the Brit outpaced the Finn during FP2, going two-tenths faster.
Mercedes look strong
While both Ferrari and Mercedes topped a session each looking a bit deeper into the lap times and the way the teams ran differently as always. Hamilton had a really good lap to get that close to Raikkonen in FP1 because he used hardest tyre compound to do his best lap.
As well if you look at Hamilton’s best three sectors during that session he could have gone fastest in that session. We know historically that A) Mercedes don’t normally show their real pace on a Friday, B) Spa is
In FP2, Hamilton was fastest out pacing Raikkonen by two-tenths. But, it was across all three of the tyre compounds he managed to have the slight edge.
Ferrari is in the hunt this weekend which is a little surprise for me, personally, I was expecting Mercedes to have the slight advantage over Ferrari as this is a power circuit. It’s only Friday, Ferrari will be encouraged that they are not far of the pace of the Mercedes and will look to use that to their advantage.
After practice, Sebastian Vettel said he was sure he could go faster and says that he had struggled for feeling on his shorter runs on Friday, but that he had not done as good a job as he could have.
“I’m not entirely happy. Overall, the car is OK. We just need to put it more together. It was a bit so-so, I didn’t find the rhythm, especially on the short run.”
“The long run was better. Overall, I think the car is there to do the job, to go fast, but we just need to get it right on all fronts. I need to do my job and then we should be fine.”
When it rains it pours
As ever at Spa, the weather will play a part I what happens and that limited teams during FP2. Hardly anyone went out in the second half of the session because around the time of qualifying and the race it is forecast to be dry.
However, this is Spa, the weather here is really difficult to forecast so you cannot rule out the rain. But, the teams would have worked on the basis that the weekend is forecast not have wanted to run.
Red Bull knew that going into this weekend they would be on the back foot because Spa is a power sensitive circuit. We know the Renault has struggled compared to Mercedes and Ferrari in the power stakes, but they were not far behind in FP2.
Red Bull had taken a gamble going into the weekend with them going for a low downforce setup, that was a bid to try and minimise the deficit. Yes, it did work partly with Daniel Ricciardo fastest of all in sectors one and three but forfeited more than a second and a half to the leading runners through the more technical second sector.
He said his RB13 felt like an “F3 car” in the middle sector, and that the gains he made on the straights were not worth sacrificing cornering speed for.
He told Motorsport.com “We tried a good top speed set-up but we lost too much time in the corners, the second time in particular. We didn’t gain enough in the corner to what we gained on the straights. It was good to try but we couldn’t do much more with what we have.”
Max Verstappen opted for a higher downforce set up, but that appeared as it didn’t minimise the straight line speed.
In FP1 it was Carlos Sainz leading the midfield from Esteban Ocon and in FP2 it was Nico Hulkenberg who lead the group. We have seen in recent races that midfield group has been tightly packed and I think that is something we will see for the rest of the season.
We did not see a lot from Williams, but that is to be expected as they were effectively running one car following Massa’s crash in FP1. The team are now on the back foot, they should have been looking to be in a strong place because of the Mercedes power unit.
Williams Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe said “It wasn’t the best Friday of the year. Unfortunately, Felipe lost the car in Turn Seven on his first timed-lap with fairly heavy damage to the left-hand side of the car”
“Including some damage to the chassis which we couldn’t repair. We’ve therefore changed his chassis and that will be re-scrutineered in the morning for him to run in FP3.”
Toro Rosso looks in a strong position as well, I think they could be fighting in the mix with Force India and Williams. While Haas appear as they may struggle this weekend.
McLaren – Renault
Renault has confirmed that talks about supplying McLaren for 2018 have taken place. McLaren is currently looking at options following another difficult season with Honda, Renault appears as if they are the only alternative to Honda for McLaren.
Speaking at the Belgian Grand Prix, Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul admitted that there had been discussions but suggested that a deal was not looking likely.
“The situation is we have a multi-year contract with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. So frankly we are open to discussions.”
“I can confirm there have been discussions with McLaren, but right now there is a restriction in the regulation if we wanted to supply more than three teams.” said Abiteboul.
Massa’s crashy return
Felipe Massa crashed in FP1 which ended his day less than fifteen minutes into the session at turn six. It looks as if he just went straight on at turn nine, across the gravel and straight into the barriers. He may have touched the kerb, but we don’t know.
It was a tiny mistake on his first flying lap which has cost him a whole days running because of the FW40 needing a chassis change following an inspection, but that has prompted questions about his fitness after pulling out of the last race.
He said “”I didn’t feel dizzy any more since the week after Hungary — for sure I didn’t crash because of that. I didn’t expect to have this problem in the first lap of the session.”
“I just lost the rear when I touched the inside curb in corner seven and I couldn’t really correct the car. The run-off area is so small here and I had a crash.”
“It was quite a big crash so the car was completely damaged and we had to change the chassis, and then the FIA didn’t let us go out because they need to check the car and they couldn’t do it”
Tomorrow’s qualifying looks as if it will be a fight between Mercedes and Ferrari. I expect that Mercedes will have the edge over Ferrari, as we know they turn the wick for FP3 and qualifying. But this is as Toto Wolff said during the summer break is no longer an advantage.
Red Bull will be in their own class but that does not mean that they will not give us a fight between themselves. They may have to be wary of Toro Rosso, but though I expect they will back off to help the senior team.