Formula 1

Hamilton crashes in Belgian GP final practice, Leclerc and Ferrari fastest

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Charles Leclerc - Formula 1 - 2019 Belgian GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Charles Leclerc headed another Free Practice 1-2 for Scuderia Ferrari at the Belgian Grand Prix, as Formula 1 rival Mercedes AMG Motorsport faces a challenge to repair Lewis Hamilton‘s car for qualifying.

Championship leader Hamilton lost control of his car under braking for the quick Fagnes chicane halfway through the 60-minute session, and the resulting damage to the left front corner may put his participation in Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session in doubt.

Television pictures showed that the Brit braked on the outside kerb and was powerless to keep the Mercedes out of the barrier and prompting a red flag period.

It adds to the team’s worries heading into the business end of the weekend at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, as Ferrari ended the session nearly half-a-second ahead of the fastest Mercedes.

Leclerc’s lap time of a 1:44.206 was 0.451 seconds faster than team-mate Sebastian Vettel‘s best effort, the gap a fairly similar one to Friday afternoon’s Free Practice 2 result.

The Ferrari drivers assumed control of the session early on and never relinquished it, Vettel eclipsing Leclerc in the opening stages of the session before the Monégasque roared back to the top of the standings after the end of the 15-minute red flag stoppage.

Hamilton ended the session in seventh, over a second adrift of Leclerc’s pace, leaving Valtteri Bottas to head the Mercedes charge.

Lewis Hamilton - Formula 1 - 2019 Belgian GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

The Finn, who recently extended his contract with Mercedes for the 2020 season, was only a further 0.046s behind Vettel.

Daniel Ricciardo showed promise for the Renault F1 Team in fourth place, the Australian the final man inside a second of Leclerc’s benchmark.

Red Bull Racing headliner Max Verstappen suffered another frustrating session in front of a largely partizan crowd, complaining about the performance of his car under braking with a low-downforce setup on his way to fifth – with Sergio Pérez in close company for the Racing Point F1 Team.

Red Bull made the decision to split Verstappen and new team-mate Alexander Albon‘s Free Practice 3 programmes, as Albon focussed on nailing his race configuration with a steeper rear wing – having been given a number of engine penalties in the hope that Spa’s layout can aid his recovery from the back of the grid.

Both Alfa Romeo Racing cars ended the session in the top 10, with Kimi Räikkönen ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the first half of the field for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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