The Formula 1 drivers and teams dusted off the cobwebs after the four-week mid-season break to tackle the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the long-time home of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Beneath sunny skies, it was the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc who proved the pace-setters in Friday’s opening practice session, with the pair almost a second clear of anyone else around the seven-kilometre lap through the Ardennes forest.

Defending Belgian Grand Prix winner Vettel posted the session’s benchmark lap, a 1:44.574, while Leclerc was less than a quarter of a second slower in the sister SF90.

Behind the two Ferraris came a rather unexpected showing from Red Bull Racing, which finished the session faster than this year’s dominant Mercedes-AMG cars. Hungarian Grand Prix near-winner Max Verstappen was third-fastest – admittedly almost a second off Vettel’s pace – while his new teammate Alexander Albon started his tenure in the senior Red Bull team strongly by lapping fourth-quickest.

Recently re-signed by Mercedes for another season, Valtteri Bottas outpaced teammate Lewis Hamilton, who suffered a worrying loss of power out on track caused by a problem with his throttle pedal. It should be noted, however, that neither Mercedes driver ran the fastest Soft compound tyre during the session, which could suggest their position on the timesheets is not really representative.

Behind the ‘big three’ teams, Lance Stroll led the midfield charge for Racing Point, which brought a number of upgrades to the circuit that include a Ferrari-inspired front wing design. Stroll’s session did not go entirely to plan, however, as part of his engine cover blew off down the Kemmel Straight which triggered a brief Virtual Safety Car. The Canadian’s teammate Sergio Pérez finished ninth-fastest in a positive showing for the Silverstone-based team.

Hamilton and Stroll’s dramas aside, the session was generally incident-free, with the exception of near-identical low-speed spins for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ Robert Kubica, who both harmlessly looped their cars at the exit of La Source.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was ninth-fastest for Renault, while the similarly-powered Carlos Sainz completed the top-ten for McLaren. Ricciardo and Sainz are among several drivers – including his teammate Nico Hülkenberg, Albon, Stroll and Kvyat – who will receive post-qualifying grid penalties for taking on new power unit elements.


FORMULA 1 JOHNNIE WALKER BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1
Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:44.571 20
2. Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:44.788 + 0.214 20
3. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RB15 1:45.507 + 0.933 18
4. Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing RB15 1:45.584 + 1.010 19
5. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:45.882 + 1.308 25
6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:45.973 + 1.399 16
7. Lance Stroll Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:46.198 + 1.624 16
8. Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team RS19 1:46.426 + 1.852 23
9. Sergio Pérez Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:46.433 + 1.859 22
10. Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:46.557 + 1.983 20
11. Nico Hülkenberg Renault F1 Team RS19 1:46.669 + 2.095 23
12. Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:46.670 + 2.096 19
13. Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:47.024 + 2.450 20
14. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:47.176 + 2.602 18
15. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:47.333 + 2.759 22
16. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:47.488 + 2.914 21
17. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:47.636 + 3.062 20
18. Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:47.968 + 3.394 26
19. Nicholas Latifi ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:48.784 + 4.210 24
20. Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:48.966 + 4.392 24

Image via Scuderia Ferrari

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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.

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