The gap at the top of the table was reduced to just 17 points after Sebastian Vettel won the Belgian Grand Prix. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton appears worried over the pace that Ferrari had last week, and he’ll be hoping for an improvement this weekend in Italy with Mercedes already showing concerns about the next race in Singapore. Here’s what happened on Friday in the two practice sessions.
Drivers – 231- Lewis Hamilton 214 – Sebastian Vettel
Constructors – 375 – Mercedes 360 – Ferrari
Rain affected the first practice session, and little was learnt about how the weekend may progress. It was the Force India of Sergio Perez that set the fastest time 0.55 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Estaban Ocon was third in the other Force India with Brendon Hartley in his Toro Rosso in fourth followed by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The other Toro Rosso driven by Pierre Gasly was sixth fastest 0.227 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. Verstappen had a half-spin at the Parabolica when the weather was its worst.
Eighth and ninth went to Renault with Carlos Sainz ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. Where were Mercedes I hear you ask? 10th and 11th is the answer with Bottas ahead of Hamilton. The championship leader was 2.546 seconds off the pace while Sebastian Vettel finished 17th after having just one lap when it was really chucking it down.
The weather was better for the second practice session and we got a result that we’re more used to. Sebastian Vettel finished fastest despite having a spin at the Parabolica corner.
It was a 1-2 for Ferrari (and wouldn’t they just love that on Sunday) with Raikkonen 0.27 seconds behind his team-mate. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest 0.287 seconds adrift of Vettel. Just how far Mercedes are behind Ferrari isn’t really known as Hamilton made some errors on his fastest lap going wide at the second chicane. The race simulation runs did indicate that Ferrari again have an advantage. It wasn’t a good session for Valtteri Bottas who was fourth fastest 0.698 seconds behind Vettel.
The Red Bulls filled fifth and sixth places with Verstappen ahead of Ricciardo by 0.142 seconds. The two Force India’s were next as Ocon edged seventh place by 0.012 seconds. Charles Leclerc was ninth fastest with the top ten completed by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
The big news from this session was the accident that saw Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson see his car somersault several times at the first chicane. Thankfully he wasn’t injured as his DRS overtaking aid failed to shut down as he thought it was going to. It wasn’t just Ericsson who had problems with his DRS as team-mate Charles Leclerc also reported difficulties. McLaren again struggled with Alonso in 18th and Vandoorne in 19th.
So, another decent day for Ferrari and the chances of them winning their home Grand Prix are looking good. I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on the final practice session and qualifying. Til then, enjoy your racing.