The battle has well and truly resumed between Mercedes and Red Bull in Spa this weekend as the teams finish out the day less than one-tenth apart.
Valtteri Bottas managed to land the quickest lap this morning as the drivers navigated the steep twists and turns of Spa – but Verstappen managed to reclaim the top spot before losing the back end of his RB16B this afternoon, summoning a Red Flag.
Here are the highlights from a busy Friday at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit:
Free Practice 1
Valtteri Bottas set the pace ahead of Max Verstappen in first practice for the Belgian GP, as the close Mercedes-Red Bull battle resumed on Formula One’s return.
Things are tense heading into the second half of the season and Bottas looks ready for the battle after edging Verstappen out to the top spot by a tenth of a second on soft tyres.
Verstappen had been sailing through the first half of the session on the hard compound, while the current championship leader, Lewis Hamilton was far adrift crossing the line down in 18th after his fastest lap was abandoned due to a close encounter with the Williams of Nicholas Latifi at the final turn.
The seven-time world champ had been running a tenth faster than his Finnish teammate – running a higher downforce package – so not being able to complete his flying lap was a frustrating feat.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was down in sixth, and was around a second off the pace of the front runner. He was just ahead of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel in seventh, who has come to Belgium in fierce form after losing his P2 status in Hungary.
In usual form this season, Lando Norris was the lead McLaren in P8 followed by Esteban Ocon in 9th and his teammate Fernando Alonso closing out the top 10 this morning.
Free Practice 2
Max Verstappen fought his way back into the top spot this afternoon before crashing out at the Malmedy Corner.
The Dutchman will be pushing hard this weekend to make up points lost last time out and just about outpaced Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton but ended the session stuck in the barriers.
He was less than one tenth clear of Mercedes on his fastest lap of 1:44.472 at the famously tough circuit on soft tyres, while his closest rivals were on the medium Pirellis.
Fernando Alonso, who is in flying form on track so far this weekend was fourth quickest for Alpine ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Lando Norris once again led the McLaren team this afternoon and was in 9th when time ran out, followed by the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
The final practice session takes place tomorrow morning at 11:00 and will be followed by Qualifying at 14:00.