Michael Schumacher kick-started his twentieth anniversary celebration weekend in particularly appropriate fashion by going quickest in the first practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix.
That being said, only he and Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg were able to post a lap-time while the circuit was at its driest, before the heavens opened and doused the track.
Rain hit the circuit just ten minutes into the session, and while it abated about halfway through, the conditions never improved for any other driver to stand a chance at overhauling the silver cars’ initial times, which were the only under the two-minute mark.
It was certainly a suitable way for Schumacher – sporting a one-off gold helmet design that will now confuse many viewers into thinking he’s Rosberg! – to start his anniversary weekend.
No one ventured out on track for nearly half an hour once the rain started, preferring to hold off on their wet-weather running given the limited supply of wet-weather tyres available to them this weekend. Several sections of the circuit – most notably in the middle ‘loop’ sector of the lap had significant areas of standing water, as well as a few rivers crossing the track.
Sebastian Vettel was eventually the first man who decided to brave the conditions, heading out for a single exploratory lap. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton did likewise, but he nearly lost it at Blanchimont and decided to head back to the safety of the garage.
Eventually the rest of the field trickled out to test the conditions, with Force India’s Adrian Sutil being the first to post a wet-track lap-time, some 21 seconds slower than Schumacher’s earlier benchmark time.
In the end, Jenson Button would continue his wet-weather prowess by posting the quickest lap time in the conditions, with his time of 2:02.740 still over eight seconds off the fastest time.
With Button’s best time coming at the death of the session, the top ten was completed by Vettel, Hamilton, Sutil, Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, Jaime Alguersuari and Kamui Kobayashi.
The session saw to major incidents, both at the still-nameless Turn 9 left-hander that follows the Rivage hairpin. Bruno Senna’s return to the racing cockpit got off to a poor start when he spun into the tyres, and the Brazilian was quickly followed by Paul di Resta, who backed his Force India into the same spot.
2011 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||1:54.355||13|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 0.474||15|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 8.385||8|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 9.397||10|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 9.946||7|
|6.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 10.308||18|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 10.373||10|
|8.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 11.036||12|
|9.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 12.228||16|
|10.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 12.531||15|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 12.700||12|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 13.126||15|
|13.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 13.878||14|
|14.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 13.884||14|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 14.563||10|
|16.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 15.437||8|
|17.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 17.923||13|
|18.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 18.034||10|
|19.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 18.417||13|
|20.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 18.703||8|
|21.||Karun Chandhok||Lotus Renault T128||+ 18.735||11|
|22.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 19.246||10|
|23.||Bruno Senna||Renault R31||+ 19.985||7|
|24.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 20.578||11|