Fernando Alonso has ended the opening practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend fastest overall, after a damp return to track action for the Formula 1 fraternity. The Spaniard was followed by the Force India duo of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, in a relatively topsy-turvy classification due largely to the weather.
After the traditional summer break, the Formula 1 circus reconvened at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the Belgium Grand Prix. Despite glorious weather conditions on the Thursday, the teams’ and drivers’ were greeted with light rain as preparations for the weekend ahead got underway in the form of practice one. Once again former McLaren and Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen replaced Charles Pic at the Leafield-based outfit for the opening session, alongside Dutchman Giedo van der Garde.
The session eventually got underway on a damp track, with Kimi Raikkonen becoming the first driver to take to the track after recovering from his illness which prevented him partaking in his media commitments on the Thursday. The Finn was quickly joined by Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso, as the majority of the paddock gradually took to the track. Naturally the field only completed installation laps, before the DRS device was enabled as the conditions began to improve.
Marussia’s Jules Bianchi eventually produced the first timed lap of the session with a 02:07.587, as fellow rookie Valtteri Bottas ran wide at Turn 5 and 6 as he strove to get to grips with his Williams in the inclement weather conditions. Jenson Button soon stormed to the top of the timing sheets as the the drivers’ began returning to the circuit, with the former Belgian Grand Prix winner setting a 02:00.510. Just as the circuit began to dry out, light rain soon returned to keep the teams’ and drivers’ guessing. This forced both Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez to run wide at the Bus-Stop, as their preparations continued for the weekend ahead.
As the session progressed the drivers’ braved the typical Belgian elements in a bid to continue with their preparations for the weekend ahead. Sergio Perez rose to 2nd with a 02:01.088 to create a McLaren 1-2 at the top, before Mark Webber became one of the first drivers to opt for Pirelli’s dry tyres. The Australian sensation immediately ran wide at Turn 1, before eventually stringing together a respectable lap to go 7th with a 02:03.956. Sebastian Vettel also switch to Pirelli’s dry tyres as the session continued, with the reigning World Champion rising to 2nd with a 02:01.066 before half-spinning at Turn 1.
Eventually more drivers began opting for Pirelli’s dry weather tyres in the improving weather conditions, which saw Sergio Perez rise to the top for McLaren with a 02:00.429. As the Mexican continued to circulate in the now overcast and relatively dry conditions, rookie Valtteri Bottas spun at Turn 1 but managed to continue circulating. Sergio Perez managed to improve upon his time at the top with a 01:59.004, becoming the first driver to set a time within the one minute mark. Jenson Button soon returned to the top for McLaren with a 01:58.940, before Daniel Ricciardo rose to the top with a 01:58.350 as Toro Rosso once again shone in the inclement weather conditions.
As the session entered its final 30 minutes, the times at the top began to tumble, with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sergio Perez all producing quick times. Sergio Perez continued to improve at the front for McLaren, with the former Sauber driver producing a 01:55.518 to remain at the top of the timing sheets. Paul di Resta soon rose Force India to the top of the timing sheets, with the Scotsman producing a 01:55.224, with team-mate Adrian Sutil also rising up towards the sharp end of the order.
Lewis Hamilton looked set on completing a quick lap for Mercedes, before the former McLaren driver was forced to run wide at the Bus-Stop due to one of the Sauber’s negotiation the chicane at much lower speeds. Whilst the Briton attempted to begin another flying lap, Fernando Alonso asserted his authority over proceedings with a 01:55.198, as the Spaniard searches for his first every victory around Spa-Francorchamps.
The rain continued to fall as the session entered its final few minutes, creating a conundrum out on track with the conditions ever-changing. With only ten minutes of the session remaining the track fell silent as the entire field returned to the pits, before a slight flurry of drivers returned to the track including Jean-Eric Vergne, Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel. However, the order at the top remained unchanged in the final few minutes, with the ever-changing weather conditions forcing some drivers to return to the circuit on the intermediate tyres.
As ever the teams’ and drivers’ will return to the track later in the afternoon, as their preparations for the weekend ahead continue in what is forecast to be drier and warmer weather conditions.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m55.198s 11 2. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m55.224s +0.026s 10 3. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m55.373s +0.175s 11 4. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m55.518s +0.320s 14 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m55.614s +0.416s 10 6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m55.636s +0.438s 14 7. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m55.954s +0.756s 18 8. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m56.110s +0.912s 11 9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m56.770s +1.572s 14 10. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m56.858s +1.660s 18 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m56.863s +1.665s 10 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m57.081s +1.883s 14 13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.084s +1.886s 17 14. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m57.281s +2.083s 14 15. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m57.358s +2.160s 10 16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m57.821s +2.623s 16 17. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m57.887s +2.689s 16 18. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m58.600s +3.402s 14 19. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m58.929s +3.731s 12 20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m59.209s +4.011s 12 21. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m59.441s +4.243s 11 22. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2m03.176s +7.978s 15
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