After what seems an age, the Grand Prix seasons bursts back into life this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix. The two practice sessions on Friday were again full of battles between Ferrari and Mercedes and a big crash for Felipe Massa.
Ferrari were fastest in the first practice session but it was Kimi Raikkonen who filled top spot 0.053 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was back in third 0.092 seconds behind his chief rival who will be looking to cut the 14-point deficit he carries into this race.
It looks like advantage Hamilton though as he set his fastest lap on the hardest tyres while the Ferrari’s both used the softest. Red Bull filled fourth and fifth places with Verstappen ahead of team-mate Ricciardo but they were 0.7 seconds behind third place. Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes was down in sixth place and he had problems losing control at the Fagnes chicane and sliding into the gravel trap damaging the front wing of his car.
The most dramatic moment of the session came when Felipe Massa crashed his Williams. Just ten minutes into the session, he lost control over the kerb at Malmedy badly damaging the left-hand side of his car. It required a complete rebuild before getting back on the track after hitting the barrier.
Lewis Hamilton finished off an impressive Friday as he finished fastest in the second practice session which was cut short by 25 minutes due to rain. He was 0.262 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with a better session from Bottas seeing him finish third. Sebastian Vettel was back in fifth 0.482 seconds behind Hamilton and just 0.01 seconds behind Verstappen in fourth.
It was a good session for Renault with Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and much better news for his team-mate Jolyon Palmer who was tenth as he continues his battle to keep his seat, though he was 0.3 seconds behind Hulkenberg.
That rain caused a few problems for the teams in second practice with Red Bull telling Ricciardo to show extreme caution due to the poor weather. Fernando Alonso finished 11th in his McLaren but said there was too much rain for him to try out the lightly threaded tyres.
Hamilton set his time on the soft tyres but for the race-simulation runs, Vettel was 0.7 seconds faster than the British driver so we could be in for another fascinating weekend particularly with wet weather being forecast for qualifying though we should be ok for the race itself on Sunday.