FP1: Sainz leads Piastri and Norris in rain-hampered practice session at Spa-Francorchamps
Carlos Sainz topped the timesheets at the first – and only – practice session of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, as the Spaniard led the way at a soaking wet Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
With just one hour of running ahead of qualifying later today under the new revised Sprint format rules, the drivers were greeted to a wet track, with many opting to utilise the full wet tyres as heavy rain continued to fall at the circuit.
After 10 minutes of running only six drivers had set a time, with Alex Albon surviving a lock-up at the bus stop chicane to later set the fastest lap. But the rain began to intensify, with all the drivers opting to stay in the pit lane, waiting for conditions to improve.
However, after a further seven minutes of waiting, a number of drivers made their way out on to the track, led by the Ferrari Sainz. And it was the Spaniard who set the pace on the intermediates, leading the McLaren of Piastri by over half a second.
FORMULA 1 MSC CRUISES BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 1 results
|1 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||2:03.207|
|2 Oscar Piastri PIA McLaren||+0.585s|
|3 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+1.277s|
|4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+4.941s|
|5 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+5.033s|
Then came the first red flag of the weekend, with Logan Sargeant crashing into the barrier at Les Combes. The American driver came on the radio to say he could not turn the car, with replays showing the FW45 going straight on, despite Sargeant’s best efforts to turn the wheel.
However, during the time in which the drivers spent in the garage as the marshals cleared away Sargeant’s Williams, the rain intensified. This meant that even when the session was restarted, all the drivers opted to stay in the garage for the rest of practice.
This meant Sainz’s lap of 2m 03.207s, was good enough to remain the fastest time, with Piastri remaining in second, 0.585s off the Ferrari driver’s pace.
Lando Norris was third, albeit over six-tenths behind his McLaren team mate, Piastri, with Charles Leclerc in fourth for Ferrari, ahead of the lead Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
Albon was sixth fastest for Williams, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, who survived a wobbly moment at Eau Rouge, to go seventh, while Kevin Magnussen was the lead Haas in the session in eighth.
Daniel Ricciardo continued his comeback to the grid with AlphaTauri to go ninth, ahead of the other Haas of Nico Hulkenberg, with Fernando Alonso the lead Aston Martin driver in 11th.
Mercedes brought a number of upgrades to the track this weekend in the form of a new sidepod and floor, and ran different rear wing configurations on both cars. However, they did not get much running, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in 12th and 13th, respectively.
They were followed by former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and his Alfa Romeo team mate Zhou Gunayu in 14th and 15th, with the Chinese racer suriving a trip through the gravel and brush with the barrier at Turn 8.
Sargeant ended up 16th fastest, ahead of a quartet of drivers who did not set a time – the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, the Alpine duo of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, as well as championship leader and Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen.
The drivers will now go away for a debrief as they ready themselves for qualifying for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix later at 1700 local time.