Vettel leads Verstappen as Ricciardo hits trouble at Spa

Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT

Vettel leads Verstappen as Ricciardo hits trouble at Spa

Formula 1

Vettel leads Verstappen as Ricciardo hits trouble at Spa


Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the opening free practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix as Daniel Ricciardo managed just four laps for Red Bull.

Armed with the updated Ferrari power unit that was first used by Haas and Sauber in Hungary, as well as a new fuel from Shell, Vettel posted a 1m44.358s to lead Max Verstappen by 0.151s. Verstappen was also using a new fuel from Red Bull’s supplier ExxonMobil, but his productive session was in stark contrast to that of teammate Ricciardo.

In the first session back since announcing his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault in 2019, Ricciardo was confined to the garage for the majority of the session with an engine injector issue discovered after his installation lap. The Australian managed to rejoin the circuit right at the end of the session and registered one flying lap, posting a 1m45.558s to end up sixth-fastest overall.

Between the two Red Bulls were Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, with both Mercedes and Ferrari drivers receiving updated power units. While three of the drivers do so without penalty, Bottas is set to start the race from the back of the grid on Sunday as a result of exceeding the maximum permitted components for the season.

Behind the usual suspects in the top six, Esteban Ocon showed it is business as usual at Force India with the seventh-fastest time. Now renamed Racing Point Force India, the team starts the weekend with zero points as a new entrant into the championship, with the previous Sahara Force India team having been excluded after entering administration.

Despite the turmoil behind the scenes, Force India started the weekend strongly with Sergio Perez in ninth behind Nico Hulkenberg, as all Mercedes-powered teams received the updated power unit. Hulkenberg himself also has a new Renault upgrade — as does 10th-placed Carlos Sainz — but Hulkenberg will join Bottas at the back of the grid due to penalties.

Pierre Gasly was 11th fastest for Toro Rosso ahead of Romain Grosjean, with the Sauber pair of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson 13th and 14th respectively. Haas and Sauber both expect the Ferrari update they used in Hungary to deliver a more noticeable performance step at Spa-Francorchamps.

Lando Norris made his FP1 debut for McLaren in place of Fernando Alonso, with the British teenager ending up 18th quickest and completing the highest mileage with 26 laps. Three seconds off the overall pace, Norris was ahead of only Sergey Sirotkin — who spun at Turn 8 — and Stoffel Vandoorne, but a comparison with the other McLaren was difficult due to mechanical issues for the Belgian.