The first day of training for the Belgian Grand Prix brought a big smile on his face with Max Verstappen. In the first free practice session the Dutchman of Red Bull was let down by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, but was surprisingly the fastest in the second practice session.
Spa-Francorchamps is Verstappen’s favourite circuit. He hasn’t been able to really impress the races there in recent years. Only once he was on the podium (third), but on Friday he was at least able to measure up well on the fast Belgian circuit with the Mercedessen, which dominates this season.
Year-old Valtteri Bottas (31) was the fastest in the first session with 1.44,493, with Hamilton at 0.069 seconds second. Verstappen gave in very little with 1.44,574 (+0,081) and improved a bit in the second practice session (1.43,744). Nobody came to that time.
After the Dutchman surprised Daniel Ricciardo. The former teammate of Verstappen drove his Renault to the second time (1.43,792). Moments later the Australian’s session was over, he parked his car outside the track after the hydraulic pressure in his engine had dropped.
Red Bul on one, Renault on two. And the Mercedes? World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton drove to third place in the second practice session, almost a tenth of Verstappen. Team mate Bottas didn’t make it past sixth place. Team chief Toto Wolff wasn’t satisfied after the first practice session. He certainly wasn’t after the second one.
Ferrari, who last year dominated practice and qualification in Belgium and in Charles Leclerc when the winner of the race had, did not come on Friday like the whole season. Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel remained outside the top-ten in both the first and the second, Ferrari-unworthy.
Leclerc was the best of the two in both sessions, but fifteenth place in the second training gave a lot to think about. Vettel, who hasn’t played a significant role throughout the season, even returned to seventeenth place after the second practice session.
Haas’ cars don’t set any time in the first practice session. Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were watching because there were big problems with the power-unit of the cars. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) had the same problem. Striking, because the three cars are all equipped with a Ferrari engine.
Giovinazzi entered the circuit first at the second practice session and finished thirteenth. Grosjean and Magnussen also had to watch for a long time in the second session, but were still able to enter the track in the end. The result: the nineteenth (Grosjean) and twentieth time (Magnussen).
Short track in Bahrain
In the meantime it has become clear that the second Formula 1 race in Bahrain (December) will be held under artificial light on the short circuit. That track has a length of 3,543 kilometres, after Monaco the shortest circuit of the F1 calendar. The race will soon have 87 laps, with one lap taking about 55 to 60 seconds.