FP2: Raikkonen fastest for Ferrari ahead of Hamilton
Ferrari mean business in Belgium, but after Sebastian Vettel went fastest in FP1, in second practice it was the sister Prancing Horse of Kimi Raikkonen who topped the timesheet at the magical Spa-Francorchamps circuit - though Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton kept the pressure on and finished a narrow 0.168s behind the Finn.
Raikkonen displayed Ferrari’s pace around this power-sensitive track, after the Italian squad and Mercedes both unveiled new-spec power units at Spa, to deliver a mighty 1m 43.355s, but less than a second split the top six.
The sister Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas made up the top three, pipping Max Verstappen in the leading Red Bull, while Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fifth best, some 0.774s behind his team mate. Completing the top six was Daniel Ricciardo, who enjoyed more running in this session after an engine injector issue in FP1, and the Renault-bound Australian came home just over a tenth of a second behind Vettel.
By leading the field in the second practice session of the day, Raikkonen, a four-time winner at Spa, made it two out of two for Ferrari on Friday, after team mate Vettel set the pace in FP1. The team haven’t won at this famous track since 2009, and will be boosted by this performance heading into Saturday.
Best of the rest in FP2? Force India who - racing under a new team entry having come out of administration - repeated their FP1 exploits, with Sergio Perez setting the seventh best time.
Perez’s midfield rivals were some way behind, with nearest challenger Carlos Sainz in the Renault eight tenths slower than the Mexican, who in turn edged Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson by just 0.056s. The Swiss team's other driver - Charles Leclerc - rounded out the top ten.
Elsewhere, Haas endured a surprisingly low-key session again after Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished 12th and 14th respectively, while the sister Force India of Esteban Ocon could only go 13th fastest.
And fans saw Fernando Alonso in action for the first time since announcing he will leave F1 at the end of the season, with the Spaniard back behind the seat of his MCL33 after Lando Norris was given his first run out at a Grand Prix weekend in FP1.
Alonso ended up 16th, while team mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who struggled with brake issues during the opening session, endured a similarly frustrating FP2, with his ‘undriveable’ car requiring a floor change midway through FP2, and he finished rock bottom of the timesheet.
So what can we take from the first day of action? Ferrari look good and seem intent on ending a nine-year spell without a victory here, but Mercedes and Red Bull will be no pushovers…