Formula 1

Hamilton Edges Out Ocon to Top Final Spa Practice, Ferrari’s Struggles Continue

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Credit: LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton edged out Esteban Ocon to top the final free practice session at Spa-Francorchamps, while Scuderia Ferrari’s troubled continued as Sebastian Vettel ended slowest overall.

For much of the session, Valtteri Bottas was fastest for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, but the Finn dropped to fifth when the chequered flag fell after making mistakes on his final attempts.

This left team-mate Hamilton with an open goal as the reigning World Champion set a best time of 1:43.255, while for the second session in a row, the Renault DP World F1 Team set the second-best time. 

On Friday afternoon, it was Daniel Ricciardo who finished second fastest, but the Australian could only muster seventh fastest on Saturday morning as his team-mate Ocon moved up the order, the Frenchman setting the best first sector time in the process.

Heavy cloud cover and cool conditions greeted the drivers, with track temperatures a lowly nineteen degrees Celsius, and it was Kevin Magnussen who was first out on track when the session began as the Haas F1 Team aimed to make up for the lost time they suffered on Friday.  He was quickly followed out on track by McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean.

Haas missed all of Friday morning’s session as the team performed engine changes on both Magnussen and Grosjean’s car, and it was only in the final half hour of the afternoon session that both drivers were able to get on track.  Magnussen’s first quick lap was a 1:45.984, which was three-tenths faster than Grosjean’s first effort.

The Haas drivers ran a good number of laps without anyone else on track as they worked on improving their performance, and it was more than fifteen minutes before anyone else moved onto the track to start their preparations for the Qualifying session.  This wasn’t helped by a few spots of rain!

Norris was the first to get underneath Magnussen’s best time, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon then lowering the time even further to a 1:45.092.  Hamilton then set a 1:44.422 to hit top spot, although he was quickly disposed by team-mate Bottas, who set a 1:43.813.  Max Verstappen’s first lap was 0.083 seconds off Bottas as he slipped into second place.

It was the final ten minutes where the majority of the drivers set their best times, although the likes of Bottas and Verstappen were unable to set representative times as they either encountered traffic or made small mistakes.  Bottas ended 0.558 seconds behind team-mate Hamilton in fifth, while Friday pacesetter Verstappen was sixth, 0.641 seconds off the overall pace as Hamilton took top spot ahead of the impressive Ocon.

They were both behind Norris and Albon as they were able to finish third and fourth, with the latter having a rare moment to finish ahead of his team-mate.

Behind Ricciardo came the leading BWT Racing Point Formula One Team entry of Lance Stroll, with the Canadian ending eighth, two places ahead of team-mate Sergio Pérez, with the team-mates either side of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

The two Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda drivers finished just outside the top ten, with Pierre Gasly ahead of Daniil Kvyat, while Williams Racing’s Nicholas Latifi impressed to set the thirteenth fastest time.

Magnussen was the best placed Ferrari-powered driver in fourteenth for Haas, with the Dane just 0.003 seconds ahead of team-mate Grosjean.  The leading Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN entry was of Kimi Räikkönen in sixteenth, while the leading Ferrari was Charles Leclerc in SEVENTEENTH!

Ferrari endured a horrible Friday but were expected to improve on Saturday, but it wasn’t to be as both Leclerc and team-mate Vettel once again struggled for performance.  Neither driver appeared to have the grip or pace to challenge even for a place inside the top ten, and it would not be a surprise if one or both drivers struggle to escape Q1 on Saturday afternoon.

Vettel ended slowest overall, with George Russell moving off the bottom and into eighteenth fastest with his final flying lap, with Antonio Giovinazzi ending the session nineteenth.  The Italian has yet to escape Q1 in 2020 and after a positive Friday where he had hoped to have turned a corner, he may yet struggle to advance into Q2 later.

However, can anyone deny Hamilton a record-extending ninety-third career pole position when Qualifying takes place?

144Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:43.255
231Esteban OconFRARenault DP World F1 Team1:43.485+0.230
34Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:43.641+0.386
423Alexander AlbonTHAAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:43.731+0.476
577Valtteri BottasFINMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:43.813+0.558
633Max VerstappenNEDAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:43.896+0.641
73Daniel RicciardoAUSRenault DP World F1 Team1:43.973+0.718
818Lance StrollCANBWT Racing Point Formula One Team1:43.988+0.733
955Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPMcLaren F1 Team1:44.006+0.751
1011Sergio PérezMEXBWT Racing Point Formula One Team1:44.180+0.925
1110Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:44.508+1.253
1226Daniil KvyatRUSScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:44.543+1.288
136Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1:44.771+1.516
1420Kevin MagnussenDENHaas F1 Team1:44.841+1.586
158Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas F1 Team1:44.844+1.589
167Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN1:44.932+1.677
1716Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:45.147+1.892
1863George RussellGBRWilliams Racing1:45.157+1.902
1999Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN1:45.190+1.935
205Sebastian VettelGERScuderia Ferrari1:45.420+2.165
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