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Belgian GP 2018

AUGUST 24, 2018

Practice 1 Report - Back to work

Sebastian Vettel, Belgian GP 2018
© RV Press

By Dan Knutson

After the traditional three-week midseason break, the Formula 1 teams and drivers got back to work as the first day of practice began for the Belgian Grand Prix. And fastest of the back-to-work drivers at the end of Free Practice 1 was Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari – Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Racing Point Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes –Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Honda – Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc.

In FP1, however, Lando Norris got his first ever F1 weekend outing when he drove Alonso's McLaren.

Hartley was looking forward to tackling the 19-turn 4.352-mile (7.004 km) Spa-Francorchamps circuit in an F1 car.

"I've won at Spa in Formula 3 and in WEC," he said. "The venue is another crowd pleaser, very popular with the drivers and the fans. It's old-school and scenic as it undulates through the forest and it's a track that we very much enjoy. On top of that, the weather often comes into play and we've seen some very exciting races over the years because of the changing conditions."

The first drivers to get back to work were Hulkenberg and Bottas. It had been 26 days since the last time the F1 cars had been on track.

Pirelli's slick tire options for the weekend were the medium, soft, super soft. But rain and clouds were in the area, and it was a cool day.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade).

There were, of course, masses of Dutch fans who had made the short trek across the border to cheer for Verstappen. He set the first time of the back to work drivers: a 1:46.916.

Raikkonen lowered that to a 1:45.444.

"Spits of rain," Hamilton reported 25 minutes into FP1.

Missing from action was the Renault-bound Ricciardo whose Renault-powered Red Bull was being worked on by the mechanics. Local boy Vandoorne was also missing due to brake woes.

Bottas, who would have to start the race from the back of the grid due to an engine change, took the lead at the halfway mark with a time of 1:44.998. And now the spits of rain had stopped as Hamilton lowered the top time to a 1:44.676 using the soft compound tires.

At the 40-minute break, when the drivers have to return a set of tires to Pirelli, the top 10 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Vettel, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Gasly and Perez. Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Ricciardo had yet to clock a time.

It was Sirotkin who was the first driver back to work after the break. He then spun at Turn 8.

Vettel soon took the lead with a time of 1:44.358 on the softs. Verstappen was now second, 0.151 of a second slower.

Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas and Ocon rounded out the top six with 15 minutes to go. The top four had all set their times using the soft Pirelli tires.

Most teams were now doing long runs, so the top five remained the same for the rest of the session.

Finally, with just three minutes remaining, Ricciardo got going in the repaired Red Bull. He immediately jumped up to sixth.

Ocon, Hulkenberg, Perez and Sainz rounded out the top 10 of the back to work drivers at the end of FP1.