Carlos Sainz led the timesheets in the first – and only – practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, as the Spaniard led the way through a soaking Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
With just an hour’s run for qualifying later today under the new revised rules for the Sprint format, drivers were greeted on a wet track, with many opting to use the fully wet tires as heavy rain continued to fall on the track .
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After 10 minutes of driving, only six drivers had set a time, with Alex Albon surviving a lock-up at the bus stop chicane to later set the fastest lap. But the rain started to intensify and all drivers chose to stay in the pit lane, waiting for better conditions.
However, after another seven minutes of waiting, a number of drivers took to the track, led by the Ferrari Sainz. And it was the Spaniard who set the pace on the intermediates, with more than half a second ahead of Piastri’s McLaren.
Then came the first red flag of the weekend, with Logan Sargeant crashing into the barrier at Les Combes. The American driver came on the radio to say he couldn’t turn the car, with replays showing the FW45 going straight despite Sargeant’s best efforts to turn the wheel.
However, during the time the drivers spent in the garage while the marshals cleared away Sargeant’s Williams, the rain increased. This meant that even when the session resumed, all drivers chose to remain in the garage for the remainder of practice.
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This meant Sainz’s lap of 2m 03.207s was good enough to remain the fastest time, with Piastri second, 0.585s off the Ferrari driver’s pace.
Lando Norris was third, albeit more than six-tenths behind his McLaren team-mate, Piastri, with Charles Leclerc fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Perez’s leading Red Bull.
Albon was sixth ahead of Williams, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri, who survived a shaky moment in Eau Rouge, to take seventh, while Kevin Magnussen was the leading Haas in the session in eighth.
The drivers worked with a soaking wet track in FP1 at Spa-Francorchamps
Daniel Ricciardo continued his grid comeback with AlphaTauri to finish ninth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s other Haas, with Fernando Alonso leading Aston Martin driver in eleventh.
Mercedes brought a number of upgrades to the circuit this weekend in the form of a new sidepod and floor, and had different rear wing configurations on both cars. They didn’t get off to a great start, however, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in 12th and 13th respectively.
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They were followed by former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and his Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Gunayu in 14th and 15th respectively.
Sargeant finished 16th, ahead of a quarter of the drivers who failed to set a time: Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin, the Alpine duo of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, as well as championship leader and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
The drivers will now head off for a debriefing as they prepare for qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix later Sunday at 5pm local time.