Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen set the fastest time of Friday practice at the Belgian Grand Prix while Ferrari-powered cars continued to struggle at the back of the field.
Verstappen wielded a set of soft tires early in the session to set a time of 1m43.744s, 0.048s quicker than Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. While it was smooth sailing for the leading Dutchman, the Australian’s positive session ended 20 minutes early with an order by his engineer to stop his car on track shortly after cresting Eau Rouge.
The Renault, stricken by a loss of hydraulic pressure, was cleared with a brief virtual safety car intervention.
Lewis Hamilton completed a tightly contested top three in the quickest Mercedes, the title leader a further 0.048s adrift, though the Briton lost time on his quickest lap with a mistake at the final chicane that might have otherwise left him at the top of the order.
With the soft-compound tire good for only one hot lap at the long Spa-Francorchamps circuit — Pirelli’s tires are a step softer compared to those used at this circuit last season — the top three didn’t attempt to improve their times, instead settling into a rhythm of long-run simulation.
Alex Albon was fourth fastest in the sister Red Bull Racing machine, the Thai driver almost 0.4s behind his pace-setting teammate. Sergio Perez was a further 0.003s behind for Racing Point, enough to best Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes by 0.025s.
Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon were closely matched in seventh and eighth, the McLaren driver besting his Renault counterpart by 0.04s, with Carlos Sainz sandwiching the Renault from ninth.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10, the Frenchman 0.856s off the pace, ahead of Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat.
The mixed order at the front of the grid did nothing to disrupt the hegemony of Ferrari-powered cars bringing up the rear, with six of the bottom-classified eight cars all propelled by Maranello power for the second straight session.
Ferrari customer-engined Alfa Romeo drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen led the way for the Scuderia’s power units in 13th and 14th, both 1.1s off the pace.
Only then came Charles Leclerc in the quickest works Ferrari. The Monegasque, dominant in qualifying here last year on his way to a maiden F1 victory, was 15th and almost 1.7s slower than Verstappen’s benchmark.
Sebastian Vettel was 17th and 0.3s slower than his teammate, with Williams driver George Russell slipping between the two Ferrari cars for 16th.
Nicholas Latifi was 18th in the second Williams ahead of Ferrari-powered Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen at the back of the pack.
The Haas pair had only 30 minutes of running at the end of FP2 to show for the entirety of Friday after problems with their Ferrari engines manifested immediately upon leaving pit lane in FP1. The required double power unit change took the team deep into the second session to finish, leaving both cars more than two second off the pace.