Vettel heads Verstappen and Hamilton in 2018 Belgian Grand Prix FP1

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in the opening practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix as Formula 1 returned from its 2018 summer break

Vettel edged Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to the quickest time in FP1 at Spa, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton third despite avoiding using the fastest tyre compound.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas hit the top of the pile at the end of the opening half an hour with the first sub-1m45s lap, a 1m44.998s on softs.

That was quickly replaced as the benchmark by Hamilton's 1m44.676s, also on softs, which stood as the four-time world champion's best lap of the 90-minute session.

Vettel lapped 0.3s faster than Hamilton when he popped in a 1m44.358s, with Verstappen neatly splitting the gap between the two title rivals.

Second place gave Red Bull some cheer to counter the problem that struck Daniel Ricciardo's car - an engine problem confined it to the garage for most of the session and restricted the Australian to just one flying lap, which he used to jump to sixth right at the end.

That put him behind Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Bottas, who was shuffled back to fifth as he also avoided the supersofts and made a slight improvement on mediums.

Esteban Ocon gave the 'new' Racing Point Force India Formula 1 team a strong start to its 'debut' weekend with the seventh-fastest time.

Ocon edged Renault's Nico Hulkenberg to best-of-the-rest honours on a 1m45.786s.

Sergio Perez backed up team-mate Ocon in ninth, with Carlos Sainz Jr completing the top 10 after a late improvement in the second Renault.

McLaren 2019 hopeful Lando Norris made his grand prix weekend debut with the team, driving in place of the outgoing Fernando Alonso in FP1.

He set the 18th-fastest time, 3.006s off the pace, but was just under a tenth quicker than team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who brought up the rear of the field.

Norris and Vandoorne are vying for the second McLaren seat alongside Sainz for next season, with Ocon also a contender.

Vandoorne, who moved to quash speculation suggesting he could lose his McLaren drive as early as next weekend in Italy, was hampered by a brake problem early in the session.

He then lost more track time at the end of the session as the team removed the floor to investigate a suspected leak.

FP1 results

Pos Driver Car Gap Laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m44.358s 19
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 0.151s 20
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.318s 22
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.360s 17
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.366s 25
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1.200s 4
7 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1.428s 22
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1.593s 19
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1.811s 21
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 1.852s 19
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1.942s 25
12 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 2.029s 20
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 2.196s 20
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 2.199s 19
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 2.574s 23
16 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 2.607s 25
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 2.654s 21
18 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 3.006s 26
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 3.009s 23
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 3.094s 13

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