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