Belgian GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

Men at work

Kimi Raikkonen, Belgian GP 2017

Kimi Raikkonen, Belgian GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson in Spa-Francorchamps

After Formula 1's annual summer break it was time to go back to work as the second half of the season got underway with Free Practice 1 for the Belgian Grand Prix. Thousands of people labor to put 20 F1 cars on the track, so that the men in the cockpits can show off their talents. The fastest of those was Kimi Raikkonen who topped FP1 in his Ferrari.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade).

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Vandoorne, Hamilton and Ericsson tried the halo cockpit protector on their cars in FP1, and Vandoorne and Ericsson were the first on to the challenging track.

For the drivers, of course, the 19-turn 4.352-mile (7.004 km) Spa-Francorchamps circuit is heaven.

"Spa is incredible," Alonso said. "For many of us it's one of our favorite tracks. It's got a legendary reputation and it's totally deserved. The feeling when you drive Eau Rouge is completely different to any other corner on the calendar. You're so low in the car and the gradient is so steep that as you go up it you can only see the sky - it's completely surreal."

Pirelli's slick tire compound choices for the weekend were the ultra soft, super soft and soft.

Alonso was back in the McLaren Honda and back to the same old problems as the car developed some sort of problem with the power unit on the first lap.

Massa was back in the Williams after missing the Hungarian Grand Prix because he had vertigo. But he was not in it for long as he crashed 16 minutes into the session and brought out the red flags.

"I lost the car on the curb," he radioed.

The session was restarted nine minutes later, and the drivers began doing flying laps. Hamilton, on the super softs, set the pace with a 1:47.410. That was about a second quicker than last year's best FP1 time. Then Ricciardo, on the ultras, did a 1:46.838 followed by a 1:46.656.

Hamilton, still on the super softs, beat that with a 1:46.439.

At the 40 minute break, the top 10 were: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Vettel, Ocon, Sainz, Perez and Vandoorne.

After the action resumed, Bottas, who had gone quickest with a 1:46.424 on the softs, went clattering off in the gravel trap at Turn 13. He headed back to the pits so that the Mercedes mechanics could check the car over.

Then Hamilton, on the softs, got down to a 1:45.555.

Vettel got up to second with a time of 1:45.647 on the ultra softs.

Just when it looked like there would be no changes as the drivers were on used tires now, Raikkonen used a set of ultra soft Pirellis to clock a 1:45.502. So he was quickest, but with a time on the ultras that was just 0.053 of a second faster than Hamilton on the softs.

The first working session after the break ended with the top 10 being: Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Sainz, Ocon, Kvyat and Vandoorne.


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