Fernando Alonso set the fastest time today in practice for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In the afternoon drivers were able to fit intermediate tyres, which seemed to be very fast on the first lap but then suffered quite significant graining and drop off in performance. They ended the session on slick tyres.
The second session was red flagged towards the end, under very unusual circumstances with race control advising that there “may be spectators in a dangerous area”. It left very little time and the final three minute dash meant that everyone treated it like a single lap qualifying run on new tyres with the track at its best. Alonso forced his way to the front of the queue to go out for that lap and as a result was best placed to capitalise. Adrian Sutil was second and Lewis Hamilton third.
Earlier in the session, Michael Schumacher had a huge moment, but managed to control the car, while Timo Glock wasn’t so lucky. He crashed early in the second session, losing the back end of the car after touching a white painted line on the way into Turn 9. Tonio Liuzzi also went off track, lightly brushing the barriers in his Force India, but was able to return to the pits and fit a new front wing.
Ferrari and Renault both had important new parts to evaluate today. Ferrari has a new diffuser this weekend among other aerodynamic upgrades, while Renault is debuting its drag reducing F Duct rear wing. This circuit is one of the most advantageous for F Ducts on the calendar, with the conflicting demands of high downforce in the middle sector, and in contrast two long straights. Kubica went through the speed trap at 321 km/h at the same time as setting the fastest middle sector time at that showing that it seemed to be working well. The Renault was fastest through the speed trap in Montreal, but the advantage here of the F Duct is that they are able to have more downforce for the corners, while still having plenty of straight line speed.
Jaime Alguersuari was the first to put on the slick tyres and went fastest on his second lap, by three seconds. Button tried the soft tyre and he too set a time on the second lap which was two seconds faster than his first while his third lap was a further second and a half faster. It showed how long it takes for the slick tyres to come in and if this drying track situation were repeated in qualifying or the race, then being the first onto slicks would be absolutely crucial. There was no doubt that the soft tyre was faster and warmed up more quickly than the hard tyre on a drying track.
The McLaren looked the most sure footed of the title contenders in the damp conditions, before the track had fully dried out. The Force India car looked pretty good in those conditions too in Adrian Sutil’s hands.
Sebastian Vettel had some brake problems which cost him time, while championship leader Mark Webber had a slow lap while a potential problem with the engine was checked out.
BELGIAN GRAND PRIX, Spa Francorchamps. Free Practice
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m49.032s 25
2. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m49.157s +0.125 17
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.248s +0.216 14
4. Robert Kubica Renault 1m49.282s +0.250 20
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m49.588s +0.556 23
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m49.689s +0.657 19
7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.755s +0.723 20
8. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.081s +1.049 27
9. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m50.128s +1.096 22
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m50.200s +1.168 24
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m50.251s +1.219 24
12. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m50.341s +1.309 23
13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.382s +1.350 21
14. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m50.682s +1.650 25
15. Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1m50.831s +1.799 20
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1m51.520s +2.488 17
17. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m51.523s +2.491 25
18. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m51.636s +2.604 19
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1m53.480s +4.448 15
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1m53.639s +4.607 21
21. Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1m54.325s +5.293 17
22. Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1m55.751s +6.719 24
23. Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1m56.039s +7.007 21
24. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2m03.179s +14.147 3