Sainz tops Belgian GP practice 1

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Sainz tops Belgian GP practice 1

Formula 1

Sainz tops Belgian GP practice 1

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Carlos Sainz bested Charles Leclerc to the top spot in a damp first practice session at the Belgian Grand Prix, that was overshadowed by six drivers being confirmed as having back-of-grid starts for Sunday.

Just 0.069s split the Ferrari teammates, with title leader Max Verstappen 0.2s adrift in third for Red Bull. The hour-long session started on a damp and drying track but ended with sudden heavy showers in the final 10 minutes.

Leclerc, however, won’t be contending for pole, having taken new power unit parts and a new gearbox, sending him to the back of the grid. Verstappen, who holds an 80-point advantage over the Monegasque, will join him at the back with several new engine parts of his own.

Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas and Mick Schumacher will all similarly be sent to the back of the grid with combinations of engine and gearbox replacements.

The number of drivers set to start at the back is potentially positive news for Leclerc and Verstappen, who can start as high as 15th and 16th if they beat the other penalized drivers in qualifying, thereby limiting the damage. It opens the door, however, to Mercedes claiming its first win of the season with two leading cars starting at the back. George Russell led the way for the German marque in fourth, 0.858s off the pace and only just ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

Alex Albon bounced his way to sixth, his Williams car aggressively porpoising down the straights and through the high-speed corners despite the FIA enforcing a new technical directive this weekend aimed at reducing the bouncing phenomenon.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for McLaren ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez completing the top 10. Nicholas Latifi was 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu and Lando Norris, while Fernando Alonso beat Sebastian Vettel to 14th.

Esteban Ocon completed just five laps on the way to 16th after complaining his car was pulling to one side early in the session with what he suspected was a gearbox or differential issue.

Kevin Magnussen was 17th after stopping on track a little after halfway through the session, his Haas grinding to a halt out of the first corner with an electronics problem. The Dane had to jump clear of his car after the team said it suspected it could still be electrically live, which in turn delayed its recovery for 14 minutes, disrupting the session.

Mick Schumacher was 18th ahead of AlphaTauri junior Liam Lawson, who completed 14 laps in his first F1 session.

Valtteri Bottas set just two untimed laps to finish last after retiring from the session with an engine problem.

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