Ferrari dominates FP1 at Spa as Vettel edges Leclerc

Ferrari enjoyed a productive start to its Belgian Grand Prix weekend, with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc leading the charge in FP1.

Vettel’s best lap was a 1m44.574s that cleared Leclerc by 0.214s. The soft-shod red duo preceded Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and an impressive Alex Albon, with just a tenth of a second separating the teammates.

Mercedes Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were fifth and sixth, with both drivers running exclusively on Pirelli’s medium compound. But it was a disrupted session for Hamilton whose running was hindered by a few technical issues.

Spa-Francorchamps’ epic track was basking in the sun at the outset on Friday as F1 returned to action after a well-deserved summer break.

Red Bull’s Verstappen – a genuine local hero at Spa given the proximity of the Netherlands and the fact that he was born on Belgium – was the first to head out on to the track, under the clamors of an orange sea of supporters.

The slow start to the morning session was marked by an alert in the Merc camp when Hamilton was seen limping on the approach to Pouhon, the Brit complaining over the radio about a sudden loss of power.

Hamilton eventually sped up once gain while teammate Bottas clocked in fastest with a lap in 1m47.535s.

However, the Finn was quickly overhauled by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, but the Canadian himself was dispatched by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who put down a 1m46.790s.

Thirty minutes into the session, the VSC was activated to clean up debris scattered on the Kemmel Straight. A closer look revealed bits of bodywork originating from Stroll’s Racing Point, with the car’s engine cover coming off on the approach to Les Combes.

Verstappen popped up at the top of the timescreen with a 1m45.803s. Meanwhile, the Dutchman’s new teammate Alex Albon was still getting up to speed with his RB15.

But Red Bull’s new recruit’s bets effort at that point was good enough for a P3, 0.281s behind Verstappen and Bottas.

An hour into the running, Ferrari’s chargers, running on the soft tyre, finally got going with Leclerc and then Vettel setting the fastest time, the German edging his teammate by 0.214s with a 1m44.574s.

It was a laborious first hour for Hamilton whose session was marked by another disruption, with no telemetry readings being sent back to the Mercedes garage from the reigning world champion’s W10.

With 20 minutes to go, it was a formation of teammates covering the top six with Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Albon, Bottas and Hamilton. But one noted that the Mercedes pair – contrary to their rivals – had yet to bolt on a set of the soft tyre.

It was a busy final ten minutes but with few improvements overall. The pecking order among the top-six remained unchanged, while Stroll, Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz rounded off the top-ten.

At the other end of the spectrum, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi – replacing George Russell in FP1 – and Roebrt Kubica made up the rear, right behind Kvyat and Pierre Gasly who endured a low-key return to Toro Rosso.

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2019 Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Results

Full results from Free Practice 1 for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, round 13 of the 2019 Formula 1 world championship.

2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 results

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:44.574s 20
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:44.788s + 0.214s 20
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:45.507s + 0.933s 18
4 Alexander Albon Red Bull 1:45.584s + 1.010s 19
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:45.882s + 1.308s 25
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.973s + 1.399s 16
7 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:46.198s + 1.624s 16
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:46.426s + 1.852s 23
9 Sergio Pérez Racing Point 1:46.433s + 1.859s 22
10 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1:46.557s + 1.983s 20
11 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:46.669s + 2.095s 23
12 Lando Norris McLaren 1:46.670s + 2.096s 19
13 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 1:47.024s + 2.450s 20
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:47.176s + 2.602s 18
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:47.333s + 2.759s 22
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:47.488s + 2.914s 21
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:47.636s + 3.062s 20
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:47.968s + 3.394s 26
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:48.784s + 4.210s 24
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1:48.966s + 4.392s 24

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Renault follows rivals with engine upgrade, and penalties

Renault is set to bolt on its new upgraded Spec-C unit to the back of both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg’s cars at Spa.

It will be the third evolution this season of the manufacturer’s V6 hybrid engine.

However, the cost of using the new Internal Combustion Engine will be a five-spot grid penalty for both Renault drivers, a deficit the team reckons will be manageable at the high-speed Ardennes track.

Strategically, the change will also nicely set up Renault for next week’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza’s equally fast sweeping circuit.

It’s uncertain if Renault’s Spec-C upgrade will extend to customer team McLaren.

If so, Carlos Sainz is likely to be the recipient of the new engine, but its usage would also entail a grid drop for the Spaniard.

Renault’s upgrade means that all manufacturers, with the exception of Ferrari, will introduce new engines at Spa.

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Mercedes drivers set to receive Spec-3 engine for Spa

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be powered by an upgraded Mercedes power unit in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said earlier this week that the team’s High Performance Powertrains unit at Brixworth had worked throughout the summer to deliver more performance and reliability to its engine.

While a bit more muscle will be required to fight Ferrari on Spa’s long straights, Hamilton insists the update won’t bridge the gap with the Scuderia in terms of sheer output.

“It’s pretty much the same as the second one, so not really any real improvements,” said the Brit.

The upgrade will also extend to customer teams Racing Point and Williams.

Hamilton and Bottas should not receive any grid penalties following the change, unless the Finn’s engine is also fitted with new control electronics or energy store elements.

However, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll will be demoted on Sunday’s grid for exceeding his 2019 three-engine limit, a result of a power unit failure incurred by the Canadian in Montreal.

As a reminder, Honda has opted to supply a Spec-4 upgrade unit to Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Toro Rosso’s Dany Kvyat.

Both men will be sent down the order on Sunday’s grid following the change.

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Belgian GP: Thursday's build-up in pictures

Formula 1 was expecting a lively Thursday on the news front in Spa and we certainly got at money’s worth.

But in the background of the media frenzy, preparations for the weekend were just as frantic.

Check out our gallery of pics of the build-up to the Belgian GP action.

 

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