Boiling hot conditions greeted the Spa-Francorchamps circuit as the Belgian Grand Prix weekend got underway. It was gruelling conditions for the spectators walking their way up and down the hills of the circuit. So imagine how tough it must have been for those in the car, with layers of fireproof clothing?
As expected, Ferrari were the pace setters on Friday, as they carried a significant advantage over the rest of the field. The big question is can they carry that advantage over the rest of the weekend and if so which one of their drivers will be faster? Mercedes can never be counted out as they are likely keeping some pace under wraps as per usual with them on a Friday. Practice 3 will be fascinating to see if they will close the gap. But their day wasn’t plain sailing with Hamilton having an issue in Practice 1. Critically, both Racing Points, who have the same new engine, had issues of their own. Could that be a worry?
Alex Albon had a solid morning, getting within a tenth of Verstappen however both drivers didn’t set a representative qualifying time in Practice 2. But I am still expecting Verstappen to be right there in the Mercedes/Ferrari fight.
In the midfield, the big story of the day has been Racing Point. They have applied big update after another and the car now looks significantly different to what it did before, especially with the new nose. Early signs suggest the upgrades have paid off as both cars were in the top 10 in both sessions. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo also showed pace, the latter despite the fact the Renault looked a little understeery trackside.
A surprise to me is Toro Rosso seemingly lacking in pace, with both drivers quite far down. Haas were similarly far down in Practice 1 but improved in Practice 2. Whilst unfortunately for Williams it is normal service resumed as they still have a deficit to the rest of the field.
It was no surprise to see Nyck De Vries take pole however he was helped by a red flag caused by Sean Gelael spinning at Pouhon that prevented any improvements, however I feel he would have had pole anyway. Many drivers were cost by the red flag, including Anthoine Hubert, who starts thirteenth, the UNI-Virtuosi cars, who start eighth and ninth and crucially Nicholas Latifi, who starts tenth. Sergio Sette Camara qualified in second ahead of Jack Aitken in third ahead of the two Carlins of Matsushita and Deletraz and Mick Schumacher in sixth.
Something interesting to note, sitting at Pouhon for Formula 2, the outside kerb seemed to be quite unsettling, many drivers got a swapper but unlike Gelael, caught it, in incidents unseen by the TV cameras. This could prove interesting not just in F2 but in F1 as well as drivers start to push more.
Formula 3 saw a hectic session which saw drivers constantly fighting for track position and almost making contact on many occasions. Jehan Daruvala took pole in a manner that was good for his title chances, with a buffer between himself and his rivals. Robert Shwartzman starts fourth whilst Juri Vips starts in sixth. Pedro Piauet and Yuki Tsunoda are the drivers that split those two Prema drivers, whilst Jake Hughes splits Shwartzman and Vips. The other Prema had a miserable session as Marcus Armstrong could only manage nineteenth.