Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen were the two fastest drivers in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Donning an orange paint scheme on his helmet for his ‘home’ race weekend, Verstappen was three tenths faster in the afternoon session as the teams ran the Super Soft tyre.
Mercedes elected not to run that tyre, instead focusing on the Medium and Soft compounds with both Hamilton, who will start from the back tomorrow with a grid penalty, and Rosberg as they are more likely to be their favoured race tyres.
They also ran the ‘Test’ tyres which all the teams were given by Pirelli, which are designed to withstand some of the abnormal loads excessive kerb abuse can lead to. They also ran the Halo cockpit protection device on Rosberg’s car in the morning session, along with several other teams including Force India on Nico Hulkenberg’s car.
They managed to get into the top five in both sessions with both drivers, having been amongst those to set quick speeds in the speed trap which gained them time in the first and last sectors. Red Bull were gaining their time in the middle sector, which is what allowed their drivers to eek ahead in the afternoon.
Ferrari meanwhile looked like they were mostly getting their lap time from the first sector, while it gradually dropped off as the lap went on. Sebastien Vettel wasn’t best pleased with some of the traffic he encountered on some of his Super Soft runs, ending the afternoon session fourth fastest. Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile was seventh fastest.
Romain Grosjean was just behind Raikkonen having set his time on the Super Soft tyre. Grosjean looked like they were struggling out there, going off the track and at times as he tried to work heat into the tyres. Esteban Gutierrez finished the session 10th fastest, in what looks like it could be a strong weekend for the American outfit since their recent lull in form.
Jolyon Palmer meanwhile got off to a poor start at Renault. After a differential problem caused him to sit out the remaining 30 minutes of the first practice session, the team got his car out for the second, albeit for just six laps before he stopped again on the exit entry to the corner with no name. Palmer reported that he lost drive, however the team told him to restart the car using the MGU-K, which the drivers can do if they have enough fuel pressure and the battery is charged.
Also struggling was Fernando Alonso, who had a water leak in the first practice session which led to the team having to strip the car down. That meant he didn’t get back out until the afternoon, when we heard the louder Honda engine note after the updates had been fitted. He finished that session 12th quickest, as team mate Jenson Button finished eighth fastest.
Elsewhere Esteban Ocon made his Formula 1 debut with Manor, showing some good pace on the test tyres and on the Soft tyres. Team mate Pascal Wehrlein went 11th quickest on the Super Soft tyre at the end of the afternoon, which puts them in a good position to potentially get into Q2 this weekend.
Photo Credit: XPB Images