A post summer break friday practice meant the drivers using all of FP1 to get back in shape. FP 2 had plenty of giveaways though. More than four teams test the halo and almost all teams got their first taste of the 2017 prototype test tyre in both sessions.
First Free Practice : In FP1, the time-sheets saw Nico Rosberg top the grid with the fastest lap of 1 minute 48.348 seconds. However Lewis wasn’t able to clock similar times and was only a 0.069 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Kimi was in a better shape then most drivers at spa and a glitch-free smooth first session, outpacing Sebastian again. In the sector times Kimi was the fastest in the first and third sector, which are the stronger sectors for Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was the only driver unable to clock a time as there was a water-leak in his upgraded unit and they had to change the power unit for the second session. Esteban Ocon who made his debut with Manor has driven in the FP1 sessions at the last three races and clocked a time a whole second faster than his team-mate Pascal Wehrlein. However later it was noted that Ocon was on the test prototype tyre whereas Wehrlein was running a set of mediums. Both Williams were not in the best of form in this session as both lacked balance.
Second Free Practice : FP2 was more interesting when it came to the front runners, where Max Verstappen clocked the fastest time of the weekend of 1 minute 48.055 seconds, which would be enough for a third place on the grid in last year’s race at Spa. Towards the end of the session, the Dutchman’s car was losing power according to his complains on the pit-radio. His team-mate Ricciardo followed him with the second fastest time of 1 minute 48. 341 seconds. From what one can see from the top-speeds and speed-traps, Ricciardo was running low on downforce and was on a setup to taken the Ferrari’s, where as Max was running high on downforce on a set-up to challenge the Mercs.
On the other hand, both Ferrari’s were running on low downforce taken off the wing, with Kimi’s form the best out of the two with a lower downforce and quicker speeds through the speed-traps. Vettel had high downforce compared to his team-mate and clocked the fourth fastest lap. But Kimi only set one lap on the super-softs and did not improvise the time and if he had he would have outpaced Vettel again, as he was the fastest driver in the speed-traps throughout the session. Kimi’s form at Spa has been better than Vettel, as the latter went off track twice in this session and once in the morning.
The Finn showed his prowess at Spa in the tricky corners at Eau Rouge where he had full control and did not have any off-track moments at Les Combes or any other part of the circuit. In the last 30 minutes of the session, the scarlet squad switched to long runs. It will be interesting to see how close they qualify to Red Bull tomorrow and where that places them on the grid. With Hamilton starting at the back of the grid, there won’t be a better opportunity for them to maximise when it comes to securing podiums.
The Mercs were running sets of the new prototype and mediums for the second session and did not do any sprint laps. Their session concentrated mostly on long runs. Rosberg clocked the sixth fastest time whereas Hamilton was thirteenth on the time sheets. However their times on the medium tyres were good for the compound they were using in the given track conditions. Assuming Rosberg takes pole tomorrow and starts at the back of the grid it will be interesting whether the Red Bull’s are able to pressure him or they manage clamping down under Ferrari pressure who are equally strong at this circuit. One can’t ignore the fact that it the Silver Arrows are the only team strong in the middle sector.
Esteban Ocon clocked the ninth fastest time int he first half of FP2 outpacing Wherein who was 12th fastest then. However after a time-sheet shuffle dropping both to the bottom of the grid, only Wehrlein was able to improvise his time to a 11th fastest towards the end of the session. It will be interesting to see both Mercedes proteges against each other in qualifying and the race. The Sauber’s too are in decent shape with their funding sorted and have had new improvised front-wings and an updated chassis. Ericsson was 13th and 15th fastest respectively in both sessions.
The McLarens are set to have used seven summer-break tokens on the current upgrade on the car but Jenson is the only one who seems to be in form at Spa, as this circuit just suits his experienced style of driving. He clocked the ninth fastest in the second session and had a decent run in comparison with his team-mate.
Both qualifying and Raceday will have 30 degree plus air temprature which means an added 15 degrees to the track temperature and 10 more to the temperatures in the monocoque. Tyres will play key in the dry and sunny weather and Mercedes opting for mediums might mean Lewis making it up to a minimum of fourth form the back of the grid. One can expect an average of 2-3 pitstops on Sunday which will mean a shuffling grid to the penultimate stages of the race.
The current power unit , ECU and Turbo Charger unit changes mean grid penalties for Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson and Lewis Hamilton. Its a 10-place grid-penalty for Marcus Ericsson for using his 6th Turbo Charger, 30 place grid penalty for Lewis so far for using his 7th Turbo Charger, 7th MGU-H and 6th Power unit and a total of 35 grid positions for Alonso for using 6th power unit, Turbo charger, MGU-H, MGU-K, ES and CE. In short all the technical garb adds up to Alonso starting at the bottom of the grid, Lewis starting second last and Marcus Ericsson starting third last on the grid. With third free practice session still left, number of penalties for Lewis could increase.