Michael Schumacher was fastest in the opening practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix

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.

Bruno Senna backs it into the tyres Paul di Resta follows suit and slaps the wall


2011 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 1:54.355 13
2. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 0.474 15
3. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 8.385 8
4. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 9.397 10
5. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 9.946 7
6. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 10.308 18
7. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 10.373 10
8. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 11.036 12
9. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 12.228 16
10. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 12.531 15
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 12.700 12
12. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 13.126 15
13. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 13.878 14
14. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 13.884 14
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 14.563 10
16. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 15.437 8
17. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 17.923 13
18. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 18.034 10
19. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 18.417 13
20. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 18.703 8
21. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 + 18.735 11
22. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 19.246 10
23. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault R31 + 19.985 7
24. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 20.578 11

[Image via Formula1.com and LAT]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.