Vettel And Ferrari Lay Down Marker In Opening Belgium Practice

by Craig Edwards
Sebastian Vettel - Belgian Grand Prix

Scuderia Ferrari returned from the summer break on a high as they topped the first session at the Belgian Grand Prix on Formula One’s return from four weeks off.

Sebastian Vettel, at the scene of his last victory beat his team-mate Charles Leclerc by two tenths of a second as the Scuderia look for their first victory of the season.

The two Red Bull Racing drivers were next with Max Verstappen, who had been fastest for a large part of Free Practice 1 in third with new team-mate Alexander Albon fourth.

The Thai driver, in his first outing with his new team was less than a tenth slower than Verstappen while the driver he replaced, Pierre Gasly, had a miserable return to Scuderia Toro Rosso as he ended the session in eighteenth place.

Valtteri Bottas had his Mercedes AMG Motorsport contract extension confirmed yesterday and set the fifth fastest lap time ahead of Lewis Hamilton who had a difficult session with issues with the new Mercedes power unit.

Lance Stroll lost a huge chunk of his engine cover during the session but was able to set the seventh fastest time in his Racing Point F1 Team with Daniel Ricciardo just behind him.

The second Racing Point of Sergio Pérez was ninth with Carlos Sainz Jr. in the McLaren F1 Team rounding out the top ten.

Verstappen was the first driver to return to action after the summer break as he was the first car to head out on to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit but it Bottas who was the first driver to set a lap but it was compromised by his team-mate. Hamilton slowed midway round the circuit as he lost power from the new engine and trundled round before his Mercedes found power again.

Robert Kubica and Daniil Kvyat both had an early spin at turn one before the virtual safety car was deployed after a huge part of Stroll’s engine cover came off the Racing Point car on the Kemmel straight.

At the top of the timing sheets, Verstappen set the pace ahead of his former team-mate Ricciardo before another former team-mate in Sainz went second.

Hamilton continued to have issues when he returned to the track as the team radioed him to say there was no telemetry and the championship leader was forced to return to the pits but did eventually make it back out on track and was able to get some running.

The Ferrari’s began to show their hand as Leclerc and then Vettel went to the top of the timing sheets after an hour of the session and they stayed there till the end as they aim to finally get that elusive victory in 2019 this weekend.

15Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari1.44.574
216Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari+0.214
333Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing+0.933
423Alexander AlbonTHAAston Martin Red Bull Racing+1.010
577Valtteri BottasFINMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport+1.308
644Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport+1.399
718Lance StrollCANSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team+1.624
83Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault F1 Team+1.852
911Sergio PérezMEXSportPesa Racing Point F1 Team+1.859
1055Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team+1.983
1127Nico HülkenbergGERRenault F1 Team+2.095
124Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+2.096
137Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing+2.450
148Romain GrosjeanFRARich Energy Haas F1 Team+2.602
1599Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing+2.759
1620Kevin MagnussenDENRich Energy Haas F1 Team+2.914
1726Daniil KvyatRUSRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+3.062
1810Pierre GaslyFRARed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+3.394
1940Nicholas LatifiCANROKiT Williams Racing+4.210
2088Robert KubicaPOLROKiT Williams Racing+4.392

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