F1 Belgian GP: Bottas tops FP1 from Verstappen, Hamilton only 18th

Valtteri Bottas led Max Verstappen in a rain-affected first practice session for Formula 1’s 2021 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, where Lewis Hamilton finished down in 18th.

F1 Belgian GP: Bottas tops FP1 from Verstappen, Hamilton only 18th

Rain falling in the hours ahead of the session starting meant there was no early scramble to get out of the pits, with the majority of the field waiting a few minutes before emerging to undertake several slow and untimed laps on the intermediates.

After 10 minutes had passed it became clear that the track was dry across its long length and the drivers switched to the dry rubber – led by McLaren’s Lando Norris.

The Briton duly set the session’s first flying lap, a 1m50.191s, set on the medium tyres, which was beaten a few minutes later by Sebastian Vettel’s 1m49.324s, which was also set on the yellow-walled rubber.

Conditions remained slippery – as proved by the initial times being nearly 10 seconds slower than the 2020 Belgian GP’s pole time and the drivers only gingerly touching the kerbs – and Kimi Raikkonen and Yuki Tsunoda spinning at the exit of La Source as they started their first lap on slicks, the Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri drivers looping around as they put the power down exiting the tight right-hander and spinning off backwards and then into the exit runoff and pitlane exit respectively in separate incidents.

The first place benchmark fell regularly during the following 15 minutes, with Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly enjoying brief stints at the top before Vettel’s 1m48.199s, as his initial run on the mediums continued, put him back in front with 20 minutes completed.

Esteban Ocon then used the mediums to set two consecutive fastest laps to bring the best time down to a 1m47.250s, which he beat a few minutes later on a 1m47.219s.

With nearly 30 minutes completed Verstappen was yet to post a timed lap as he carried on with the inters for longer than most drivers as Red Bull gathered data on the performance of the left-front of his RB16B, which was covered in flow-viz paint during the early running.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The Dutchman finally posted a time just before the halfway point, a 1m46.879s, which put him straight to the top of the times on the hard tyres.

Verstappen’s run continued into the early part of the second half of FP1 and he worked the top spot time down through 1m46.423s to 1m45.905s with just over 20 minutes remaining.

As the final third began, drivers began appearing on the soft tyres for the first time, with Ricciardo and Lance Stroll posting the initial times on the red-walled rubber, albeit nearly a second slower than Verstappen’s best on the hards.

Bottas leapt up the order with his first run on the softs with just under 15 minutes to go, his 1m45.199s putting him into first place.

Mercedes had split the rear wing set-ups on its two cars for the first session, with Hamilton running a much larger wing compared to Bottas, which he initially reported as “massively slow on the straights”.

But the world champion was on course to better his team-mate’s time with his first flier on the softs, but caught Nicholas Latifi’s Williams at the Bus Stop chicane.

With Latifi holding the racing line, likely unaware Hamilton had closed in with a tow throughout the final sector, the Mercedes had to go left and back off on the outside line, which meant Hamilton did not improve his personal best and remained well down the order.

Verstappen’s switch to the softs did not return him to the top spot as his initial run on that compound put him 0.2s behind Bottas despite being a then personal best with the fastest time in the middle sector and time shipped in the final third.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR21

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

This played out again on a Verstappen’s next run, where he trimmed the gap to Bottas to 0.164s, but again struggled in the final corners, where spots of rain were now falling as the final minutes approached.

Those spots, plus gravel on the track at the exit of the final part of Les Combes – the high-speed right of Turn 7 – following Charles Leclerc sliding off the track and through the gravel trap on his first run on the softs, meant the final order remained static in the final minutes.

That cemented Bottas’s top spot, followed by Verstappen and Gasly, who slotted into third during his late run on the softs, followed by Leclerc and his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.

Sergio Perez was sixth ahead of Vettel and Norris, with Ocon and his Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso rounding out the top 10.

Hamilton’s lack of a personal best on the softs meant he ended up just behind Raikkonen’s 17th place, the Alfa driver also having a bizarre incident at the halfway stage where he clipped the inside wall of the pitlane when returning to his garage, reporting damage to the left-hand side of his car.

Belgian Grand Prix - FP1 results

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 18 1'45.199  
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda 14 1'45.363 0.164
3 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 20 1'45.699 0.500
4 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 19 1'45.818 0.619
5 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari Ferrari 20 1'45.935 0.736
6 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Honda 17 1'46.127 0.928
7 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 19 1'46.177 0.978
8 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 17 1'46.336 1.137
9 France Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 16 1'46.497 1.298
10 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 16 1'46.612 1.413
11 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 19 1'46.649 1.450
12 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 20 1'46.683 1.484
13 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari 17 1'46.755 1.556
14 United Kingdom George Russell Williams Mercedes 19 1'46.772 1.573
15 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 19 1'46.928 1.729
16 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 20 1'47.101 1.902
17 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari 15 1'48.125 2.926
18 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 17 1'48.224 3.025
19 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 16 1'48.705 3.506
20 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 15 1'49.059 3.860
shares
comments

Related video

11 F1 drivers take third and final power unit of the season at Belgian GP

Previous article

11 F1 drivers take third and final power unit of the season at Belgian GP

Next article

Button to make historic debut at Goodwood

Button to make historic debut at Goodwood
Load comments
The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots Plus

The floundering fortunes of F1’s many Lotus reboots

Team Lotus ceased to exist in 1994 - and yet various parties have been trying to resurrect the hallowed name, in increasingly unrecognisable forms, ever since. DAMIEN SMITH brings GP Racing’s history of the legendary team to an end with a look at those who sought to keep the flame alive in Formula 1

Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background Plus

Why the 2021 title fight is far from F1's worst, despite its toxic background

OPINION: Formula 1 reconvenes for the Russian Grand Prix two weeks after the latest blow in ‘Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton’. While the Silverstone and Monza incidents were controversial, they thankfully lacked one element that so far separates the 2021 title fight from the worst examples of ugly championship battles

How F1’s other champion to emerge from 1991 thrived at Lotus Plus

How F1’s other champion to emerge from 1991 thrived at Lotus

Mika Hakkinen became Michael Schumacher’s biggest rival in Formula 1 in the late-90s and early 2000s, having also made his F1 debut in 1991. But as MARK GALLAGHER recalls, while Schumacher wowed the world with a car that was eminently capable, Hakkinen was fighting to make his mark with a famous team in terminal decline

Formula 1
Sep 21, 2021
The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey  Plus

The forgotten F1 comeback that began Jordan’s odyssey 

Before Michael Schumacher – or anyone else – had driven the 191 (or 911 as it was initially called), Eddie Jordan turned to a fellow Irishman to test his new Formula 1 car. JOHN WATSON, a grand prix winner for Penske and McLaren, recalls his role in the birth of a legend…

Formula 1
Sep 20, 2021
The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog Plus

The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog

A podium finisher in its first outing but then never again, the BRM P201 was a classic case of an opportunity squandered by disorganisation and complacency, says STUART CODLING

Formula 1
Sep 18, 2021
The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from Plus

The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from

OPINION: The headlines were dominated by the Italian Grand Prix crash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, who had the halo to thank for avoiding potentially serious injury. But two days earlier, Formula 1 had a lucky escape with a Monza pitlane incident that could also have had grave consequences

Formula 1
Sep 17, 2021
How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum Plus

How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum

With two sprint races under its belt, Formula 1 must now consider its options for them going forward. While they've helped deliver exciting racing on Sundays, the sprints themselves have been somewhat lacking - creating yet another conundrum for F1 to solve...

Formula 1
Sep 16, 2021
Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season? Plus

Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season?

OPINION: With Valtteri Bottas already signed up for 2022, all eyes are on the race for the second seat at Alfa Romeo next year. Antonio Giovinazzi is the current incumbent, but faces a tough competition from appealing short and long-term prospects

Formula 1
Sep 15, 2021