RACE DEBRIEF

    Valtteri Bottas returned from the summer break to top the first session of the Belgian Grand Prix, ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly. Bottas's Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton was down in P18, however...

    Early on, a blanket of fog covered Spa-Francorchamps and the surface was damp, but the drivers reported it too dry for intermediate tyres. Rain is set to fall throughout the weekend, however, leaving teams practicing on slick tyres in FP1 but anticipating wet conditions – and the clouds did indeed unleash some rain at the very end of the session.

    READ MORE: It’s time for battle to resume in the F1 title fight – but will Hamilton or Verstappen set the pace at Spa?

    Verstappen set his first flying lap 30 minutes into the session and immediately put his Red Bull top on hard tyres. But soft tyres were soon bolted on by the field and Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time of 1m45.199s with just over 10 minutes remaining – Verstappen ultimately left 0.164s behind in P2.

    Third-placed driver Pierre Gasly was half a second off the pace while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari, another 0.1s back, ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz. As for Lewis Hamilton, he was down in P18 for Mercedes having been impededed by Williams' Nicholas Latifi on a late flying lap.

    Formula 1 Rolex Belgian Grand Prix 2021

    Belgium 2021

    Practice 1 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes 1:45.199
    2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing +0.164s
    3 Pierre Gasly GAS AlphaTauri +0.500s
    4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari +0.619s
    5 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari +0.736s

    The Mercedes drivers are two of 11 who have opted to take a third new power unit for the Belgian Grand Prix. The others to have taken a new ICE and related components are Red Bull’s Perez, McLaren’s duo, both Alphatauris, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Notably, any further engine changes will incur grid penalties for these drivers.

    Perez finished fifth in this session ahead of Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, who is itching to recover from his "bitter" Hungarian GP disqualification. Vettel's Team mate Lance Stroll was 11th overall.

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    Lando Norris was next on the board, eighth fastest, and ahead of the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon (P9) and Fernando Alonso in 10th – the Spaniard having announced on Thursday that he is set to stay with the team through 2022. Norris's team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 12th overall.

    FP1 Highlights: 2021 Belgian Grand Prix

    With a spin at Turn 1 early in the session followed by a clip of the pit entrance wall halfway through, Kimi Raikkonen endured a messy session to finish 17th. His Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi was up in 13th, however.

    Buoyed by their first points for the team last time out in Hungary, Williams drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi finished 14th and 16th respectively – split by Yuki Tsunoda (P15), the AlphaTauri racer sporting a helmet in tribute to fallen racer Anthoine Hubert.

    READ MORE: Red Bull braced for grid penalties after Honda confirm Verstappen and Perez have both lost engines to crash damage

    The Haas pair finished last in this session, Mick Schumacher – sporting a helmet in tribute to his father, who made his F1 debut here three decades ago – P19 ahead of team mate Nikita Mazepin in P20.

    Ahead of the Haas pair was championship leader Hamilton, who has it all to do in FP2, which starts at 1500 local time. Join us for live coverage and up-to-date reaction from the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

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    Hamilton finished 18th in FP1 having been impeded on a flying lap