Formula 1

Valtteri Bottas Fastest in Opening Spa-Francorchamps Practice Session

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Credit: LAT Images

Valtteri Bottas ended fastest in the opening free practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday morning, although it was a straightforward session for championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton ended eighteenth and without a representative lap time after almost losing control of his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team machine approaching the final chicane as he attempted to pass Williams Racing’s Nicholas Latifi.

In a session that started with the track damp due to early morning rain, it was a slow start for many, with few drivers venturing out on anything but the intermediate tyre.  However, it was clear that conditions improved, and before long all twenty drivers were out on the dry tyres.

Hungarian Grand Prix winner Esteban Ocon topped the early times, but soon Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen hit the top, but the times continued to tumble as conditions around Spa-Francorchamps improved.

Bottas, fighting for his Mercedes future after a lacklustre opening eleven races, ended the session fastest overall with a time of 1:45.199, just 0.164 seconds clear of Verstappen, while Pierre Gasly ended an encouraging third for Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, just half a second down on the fastest time.

Scuderia Ferrari ended fourth and fifth, Charles Leclerc ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr., while the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez ended sixth, although again he was well down on the pace of team-mate Verstappen.  Leclerc had an off-track moment in the closing laps as further rain fell on parts of the track, meaning he was unable to improve on his best time.

Sebastian Vettel, who lost second place in the Hungarian Grand Prix after being disqualified, was seventh fastest for the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, with Lando Norris ending eighth for the McLaren F1 Team ahead of the Alpine F1 Team duo of Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

Lance Stroll put the second Aston Martin into eleventh, just ahead of the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, with Antonio Giovinazzi ending thirteenth in the best of the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41-Ferrari’s.

Giovinazzi’s team-mate Kimi Räikkönen suffered a spin in the damp conditions at La Source, but the veteran Finn had an even more bizarre incident later on as he clipped the inside wall of the pit lane as he made his way into the pits, with damage occurring to the left side of the car.  He ended down in seventeenth.

George Russell was the best placed of the Williams drivers in fourteenth, with team-mate Latifi sixteenth.  They were either side of the second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, who, like Räikkönen, suffered a spin at La Source when conditions were at their trickiest.

Hamilton followed in eighteenth after his wild moment approaching the Bus Stop Chicane late in the day, while the Uralkali Haas F1 Team duo of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher once again brought up the rear of the field.

Should conditions remain dry, it should be a much busier and faster afternoon session at Spa-Francorchamps, and at this stage of the weekend, there are no real clues to see whether Mercedes or Red Bull have the edge or if another team can take the fight to the leading duo.

Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 Result

177Valtteri BottasFINMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula  One Team1:45.199 18
233Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing1:45.363+0.16414
310Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:45.699+0.50020
416Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:45.818+0.61919
555Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPScuderia Ferrari1:45.935+0.73620
611Sergio PérezMEXRed Bull Racing1:46.127+0.92817
75Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team1:46.177+0.97819
84Lando NorrisITAMcLaren F1 Team1:46.336+1.13717
931Esteban OconFRAAlpine F1 Team1:46.497+1.29816
1014Fernando AlonsoESPAlpine F1 Team1:46.612+1.41316
1118Lance StrollCANAston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team1:46.649+1.45019
123Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team1:46.683+1.48420
1399Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN1:46.755+1.55617
1463George RussellGBRWilliams Racing1:46.772+1.57319
1522Yuki TsunodaJAPScuderia AlphaTauri Honda1:46.928+1.72919
166Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing1:47.101+1.90220
177Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN1:48.125+2.92615
1844Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula  One Team1:48.224+3.02517
199Nikita MazepinRUSUralkali Haas F1 Team1:48.705+3.50616
2047Mick SchumacherGERUralkali Haas F1 Team1:49.059+3.86015
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