Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also crashed at Les Combes, Turn 7, where Verstappen’s accident took place
By Olivia Kairu
Formula 1 cars – finally – went back to the track after the four-week summer break at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday.
And Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who is already out of the fight for pole position due to an impending five-place grid penalty set for the race on Sunday for the opening lap crash he caused in Hungary, battled damp conditions to top the first free practice session with a 1:45.199s lap time.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went quickest with a 1:44.472s lap time in the afternoon to claim the FP2 before crashing at the Les Combes, Turn 7 barrier. The Dutchman damaged both right-side wheels and caused a red flag which brought the session to an end.
Two different Mercedes
Bottas was first out on the track leading a handful of drivers namely Kimi Raikkonen, Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris. They all were using intermediate tires, but Norris soon reported on McLaren team radio that track conditions were “completely dry” and fitting for slicks. Rain is expected throughout the race weekend.
Mercedes split their downforce package for the sessions to gather essential data, with Bottas running a lower downforce level than teammate Lewis Hamilton, who enters the race weekend with 99 race wins under his belt.
Further listening: PODCAST l The Chicane Crew Podcast mid-season review
While Bottas set the fastest time of the first session, Hamilton complained of a downforce deficit causing him to be “massively slow on the straights” due to the stocky rear wing attached to his car. The Briton ended FP1 with a disappointingly P18. He was able to make a comeback in second practice leaping into P3, three-hundredths off Bottas, who was second.
Having lost his considerable lead in the driver’s championship in the last race before the summer break and been involved in costly crashes to Red Bull, Verstappen announced his commitment towards regaining momentum by setting a flying lap time of 1m 44.472s in the FP2.
Soon after he lost the rear of his car and went into the barrier off the exit of Les Combes, damaging both right-side wheels and bringing the session to an early end.
Japanese GP cancelled for 2nd straight year leaving two of 12 remaining calendar slots as ‘TBA’
2021 Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championship Standings
Should those responsible for crashes pay for all damage? Teams are divided on cost cap debate
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who began the weekend with a renewed contract to stay on with Red Bull into 2022, was 0.932s off Verstappen’s fastest lap in and finished the second session in P10. He was sixth in the FP1.
Charles Leclerc was the first driver to set off the red flags with 15 minutes left in the second session when he went go off at Les Combes, Turn 7.
The Monegasque lost the rear of his Ferrari on the exit of Turn 6 after carrying too much speed into the corner, clipping the left-hand side of the wall. He was unable to match his fourth fastest time in FP1 and dropped to P18 on the FP2 timesheet.
The same occurred for Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, who dropped from P5 in the FP1 to P11 later in the second practice.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly led a stellar Friday out on the track managing P3 in FP1 and P5 in FP2. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda had a tussle early on in the first session, spinning on the exit of the pit lane due to lack of grip in the damp conditions.
Lando Norris briefly held onto the fastest time during FP1 on the hard compound tyre after suggesting the switch from intermediates to slicks, a 1:47.138s lap time.
The McLaren driver was consistent throughout both sessions and free of mistakes placing eighth fastest on the first practice timesheet and dropping one place in FP2. Aussie teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who will start his 200th F1 weekend at Spa, was only able to claim P12 in the FP1 and P15 in FP2.
Also newly signed and continuing his run into 2022, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso set the fourth-fastest time of the second session. Estaban Ocon carried his race-winning momentum into briefly holding P1 in FP1 at 1:48.087s on his medium tyre runs before going faster at 1:47.250s eventually landing him P10 and further notching up to P7 on the FP2 timesheet. Ocon spun during the second session but sustained no damage.
Aston Martin’s duo, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel both led quiet sessions with finishes in P6 and P8 during FP2, respectively.
Stroll also has a five-place grid penalty as a result of the lap 1 collision in Hungary – a tough blow for the Canadian-owned team who’s looking to bounce back from Vettel’s disqualification from a P2 finish.
Nicholas Latifi led the rest of the pack in P16 during both sessions accompanied by the usual Haas duo of Nikita Mazepin who was ahead of Mick Schumacher.
The German driver is paying tribute to his father on the anniversary of his first Formula 1 race weekend 30 years ago in Belgium.
Kimi Raikkonen was unfortunate enough to lag behind Latifi as well during FP1 in P17 after running into the wall at the pit lane but managed to secure P14 right behind Italian teammate Antonio Giovinazzi during FP2.
Round 12 of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps circuit, is set for Sunday at 9 AM EST, 6 AM Pacific Time. The Qualifying session on Saturday also set for the same time.
See the full FP1 results:
See the full FP2 results: