Valtteri Bottas bounced back from his Hungarian GP crash to set the pace in the opening practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.
Formula 1 returned to the track at a cold and damp Spa-Francorchamps circuit where, surprisingly given Spa’s very own little climate, several drivers had never experienced the Belgian circuit in an F1 car in the wet. That was about to change.
The two Ferraris and Mick Schumacher were the first drivers out, and quickly discovered that while some parts of the 7km long track were wet, others were bone dry.
📻 “I’m not sure it’s wet enough for inters.”
Mick’s first take on the track conditions after his installation lap. #HaasF1 #BelgianGP #FP1 pic.twitter.com/cXUswQunRB
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) August 27, 2021
After 14 minutes of single run laps, McLaren’s Lando Norris did a 1:50.191 on the medium Pirellis. That sparked a flurry of activity with Sebastian Vettel going purple, a 1:49.324, and Kimi Riakkonen spinning out of La Sources. Yuki Tsunoda also went spinning, blocking Sergio Perez as he came to a halt on the exit of the pit lane.
As the track dried out and the drivers found their footing the P1 time tumbled with Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, again Vettel, and then Esteban Ocon hitting the front, a 1:47.250 for F1’s newest race winner. George Russell wasn’t overly impressed with Lance Stroll as the Aston Martin driver impeded him on a hot lap.
Max Verstappen, running the hard Pirellis, set the pace midway through the hour-long practice, a 1:46.879. The Red Bull driver, who was using a skinny rear wing, lowered his benchmark time to a 1:46.423, backing off in the final sector due to yellow flags at the pit lane entrance. Those yellows were caused by Raikkonen who hit the concrete wall as he returned to the pits.
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Raikkonen hits the wall as he enters the pit lane
Not the best start to the Finn's weekend! #BelgianGP 🇧🇪 #F1 pic.twitter.com/jOuHyYBLBe
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 27, 2021
Verstappen went even quicker, a 1:45.905, as his team-mate Sergio Perez moved up to second, 1.262s down, while Hamilton, having been as high as P3, fell to 14th. In contrast to Verstappen, Mercedes had decided on a bigger high downforce rear wing for the championship leader.
With 20 minutes remaining in the session, and rain forecast for the afternoon, the drivers began to swap to the soft Pirellis with Bottas hitting the front with a 1.45.199. The Finn ran a low downforce set-up.
Verstappen responded with a 1:45.363 as a few drops of rain began to fall. Hamilton wasn’t able to respond, impeded by the Williams of Nicholas Latifi. Charles Leclerc’s efforts were thwarted by a trip through the gravel at Turn 7 that also dumped a pile of stones on the track.
Bottas finished quickest of all, 0.164s up on Verstappen, with Pierre Gasly third. Hamilton was down in 18th place with only the Haas rookies behind him.
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1:47.85417 laps
2Max VerstappenRed Bull0.164s14 laps
3Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri0.500s19 laps
4Charles LeclercFerrari0.619s18 laps
5Carlos SainzFerrari0.736s19 laps
6Sergio PerezRed Bull0.928s17 laps
7Sebastian VettelAston Martin0.978s17 laps
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1.137s15 laps
9Esteban OconAlpine1.298s16 laps
10Fernando AlonsoAlpine1.413s16 laps
11Lance StrollAston Martin1.450s18 laps
12Daniel RicciardoMcLaren1.484s18 laps
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing1.556s17 laps
14George RussellWilliams1.573s17 laps
15Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri1.729s19 laps
16Nicholas LatifiWilliams1.902s18 laps
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing2.926s15 laps
18Lewis HamiltonMercedes3.025s16 laps
19Mick SchumacherHaas3.860s15 laps
20Nikita MazepinHaas4.736s14 laps
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