After four weeks off for the summer break, Formula 1 finally returned for the first practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix race weekend. After getting some much deserved rest back at home, the drivers took to the track to conduct testing, with a number of teams bringing new parts to Spa to improve performance and pace out on track with only nine races remaining in 2017.
Kimi Raikkonen tops FP1 in Belgium
When the green flag waved to mark the start of the session, a number of teams and drivers were running the Halo around Spa, testing the cockpit protection device which is set to be applied to all cars for next season after being implemented by the FIA recently.
Quickly after the Halo made an appearance out on track, the session was halted for Felipe Massa, who crashed his Williams in the exit of turn 9 of Les Combes. In the accident, Massa lost the rear end of the FW40, which caused him to run through a gravel trap and hit the wall, breaking the front and rear suspension on the left hand side of the car as well as damaging the side pod, meaning that Williams may use a new chassis for the remainder of the weekend. This accident may be a result of driver error, however, as this is Massa’s first race since a bout of illness prevented him from racing at Hungary, the accident could be a result of the vertigo that he has suffered from – a symptom that can be difficult to overcome in a short period of time.
When the green flag waved to resume the session, Kevin Magnussen had a peculiar issue on his out lap, with the head rest on his Haas becoming loose, causing it to rise up from behind his head to block the air box on his car when accelerating out of the pit lane and up into Eau Rouge.
Valtteri Bottas also fell victim to the barriers of Spa in the Fagnes section of the track, dipping a tyre into the grass when avoiding a faster car behind him. This caused him to run into a gravel trap and glance the wall. The incident however, caused minimal damage and he was able continue to drive his Mercedes back to the pits. During repairs on the car, it was clear that the Finn had damaged his front wing and had slightly damaged the floor while there appeared to be an issue with the front right hub.
When the checkered flag waved, Kimi Raikkonen emerged as the early pace setter, setting a best lap time of a 1:45.502, 0.053 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top three, 0.145 seconds slower than his team mate.
Although Ferrari topped the first session of the weekend, Mercedes is still looking very competitive. This can be seen through Hamilton’s time. Although he was slower than Raikkonen in FP1, he set his best time on the soft compound tyre – the slowest compound available this weekend. By comparison, Raikkonen set his on the ultrasofts which are two steps faster than the softs.
Surprisingly, Stoffel Vandoorne was able to set the tenth fastest time of the session for McLaren, despite Spa being a power reliant circuit and McLaren using inferior Honda engines. This time however, was set on the ultrasofts while the times behind him were set on the slower supersoft and soft compounds, suggesting that the Belgian may be filtered down to the lower half of the grid in future sessions this weekend.
Results from Practice 1 of the Belgian Grand Prix:
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:45.502
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:45.555
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:45.647
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1:46.302
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, 1:46.352
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:46.424
- Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1:47.446
- Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:47.670
- Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:47.851
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:47.865
- Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:47.930
- Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:48.037
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:48.252
- Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:48.452
- Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:48.541
- Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1, 1:48.615
- Romain Grosjean, Haas F1, 1:48.626
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:50.160
- Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 1:51.263
- Felipe Massa, Williams, No time
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