What the teams said – Friday in Belgium
Not quite the dominant day we expected from the Silver Arrows. Bottas led FP1 narrowly from Hamilton and Red Bull’s Verstappen, while Hamilton was their leading runner in FP2 in P3, 0.096s off Verstappen’s time – although Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner reckoned that Hamilton had around three-tenths in hand before a mistake in the final chicane. A bit of work needed overnight for the Silver Arrows, then, if they want to enjoy their usual crushing qualifying display.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:44.562, P2; FP2: 1:43.840, P3
"It's generally been a good day - I love driving around this track, it's incredible. Fortunately for us it was dry today, which gave us plenty of time to get a lot of running in and understand the car. It's very close out there between Red Bull and us; I think they might be a little bit quicker even at the moment. Racing Point are also looking strong, they're right with us as well and so was Daniel in the Renault. It's really close with everyone and we have to understand why - whether they've taken a step forwards or we've taken a step backwards. So we've definitely got some work to do overnight, dig through the data and try and dial in the car a little more. But it looks like we've got an exciting weekend ahead of us."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:44.493, P1; FP2: 1:44.162, P6
"It's been a good birthday so far for me - I can definitely think of worse things to do on your birthday than driving this track. The first session was good, the second turned out to be a bit more tricky. It was nothing major, and I didn't get the laps quite right, but I think we might have to revert some set-up changes back to FP1. We were struggling with understeer all day and didn't really find a good solution for that. I think once the front end feels a bit stronger and I can get the car into the corners better, we'll find some lap time. Every year you come here, you think 'how can we possibly go faster than this around this track?' But then you come back a year later and it's faster still. The cornering speeds are so high, you feel the g forces - it's just great fun, I'm really enjoying it."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We've had new power units in both cars today and some updated bodywork. So far that all appears to be working as expected. The sessions were a bit messy, although it's always difficult with such a long circuit as you don't get many laps in each run. Both drivers have struggled a bit with the balance, mainly with a weak front end and we looked a bit slower than we normally do on a Friday even when the car seems to be working well. We've got a few areas that we are already looking into and hopefully we can make some progress for tomorrow. On the high fuel runs the midfield appears a bit closer than they did in previous races, so we can probably find a bit of time there. Looking at the forecast, there's a good chance of rain on Sunday, which would make this a very exciting race."
Another fine day at the wheel for Verstappen, who was just 0.081s off Bottas in FP1 before heading FP2 overall, at what is effectively his home track. Albon looked more comfortable than he has done recently in FP2 as well, as he went just 0.390s off his team mate in P4 – the Thai driver lauding the benefit of returning to a track for a second consecutive year as a Red Bull driver, having made his debut for the team here 12 months ago.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:44.574, P3; FP2: 1:43.744, P1
“The car seems to be handling well, it is of course early days but from our side it was a positive Friday and overall I’m pretty happy. A racing car is never perfect and you always try to find things on the car and with the tyre prep that you can improve, so we will be looking at that tonight. Personally, I think Mercedes are still struggling a bit with the balance and I expect them to be stronger tomorrow. You can see already that they are very competitive on the long runs and I don’t think I will be fighting them for pole because we can’t really follow when they turn it up in qualifying. If we can at least be a bit closer that would be good ahead of the race. It was important to get some decent dry running today, even if the conditions change over the weekend, so we can find a good baseline. It’s never easy around Spa to find the perfect downforce level and you can see everyone trying different things, but I think we are in a reasonable place and we will find out tomorrow exactly where that puts us.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:45.049, P6; FP2: 1:44.134, P4
“It’s been a promising day and I felt good with the car from the very first lap. It felt strong and the car is gelling better. The corner balance feels good and so I’m happy things are progressing the right way. I think it’s actually helped a lot having that experience in the car from my first race with the team here last year as coming into this weekend I knew what we were going to do, what worked at this track and what didn’t – having that experience is really beneficial. It’s hard to say what everyone else is doing as it’s practice and people are running different engine modes and fuel but you can see some people are targeting straight line speed more than others so let’s see how tomorrow plays out. The times are surprisingly close and so we’ll continue to fine tune the car and dial out what we can but it will be tight tomorrow.”
There’s definitely pace lurking in the Racing Point RP20, Perez extracting more of it then Stroll on Friday as he finished FP2 just 0.03s off Albon’s time in P5, at what is statistically his best circuit. An error for Stroll in the final sector on his soft tyre run in FP2 meant he didn’t improve on his medium-shod effort, as he wound up P11 – with Verstappen predicting that Racing Point could be a serious threat in qualifying.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:44.629, P4; FP2: 1:44.137, P5
“I felt really good in the car today and we can be happy with a positive Friday programme. I’m excited to go away tonight and see if we can find a few extra tenths in the car and fight for a strong starting position for the race – I think we’ve shown today we’re certainly capable of that. We can be optimistic considering our pace in the short and long runs today. Like everyone else, the red flag late in FP2 means it’s harder to figure out the pecking order, but I’m confident we’re in a good place right now. We didn’t get any truly wet conditions, so we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings. I think we’re better prepared for wet conditions than we were at the beginning of the season, so we’re ready for whatever tomorrow brings.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:44.868, P5; FP2: 1:44.678, P11
“It’s been a good day and I'm happy with how the car feels – I just wasn’t quite able to put together a clean and quick lap in FP2. But we've already shown that the pace was pretty good in FP1, so I’m happy with today’s work. Checo was able to put together a strong programme, so we’ve got plenty of positives to take from today. I also think we’ve found a couple of small areas where we can make a few tweaks and find some improvements for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to trying to take a step forward in FP3 and then fighting for a good starting position inside the Top 10 for Sunday.”
In what hasn’t been a great season for the Scuderia, this was arguably their nadir, as Leclerc and Vettel ended up P15 and P17 in FP2, split on genuine pace by the Williams of George Russell. Leclerc was once more the fastest runner – but finishing nearly 1.7s off the ultimate pace, and behind the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeos, was definitely not in the libretti.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:46.179, P15, P20; FP2: 1:45.683, P17
"It was a difficult day for us. The car was tricky and difficult to drive and we are not quite where we should be as we struggled with the balance. We are looking to find options for the set up and we tried something different. I am sure tomorrow will be a bit better, but we don’t yet know what the weather will be like. We had a glimpse of wet conditions this year in Austria therefore we are aware it won’t be the easiest thing to deal with, but it always provides a chance to mix things up, so let’s wait and see what happens."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:45.759, P14; FP2: 1:45.440, P15
"It was a very difficult day. We are really struggling with the balance of the car. We tried quite a few things in the second session, including something quite aggressive in terms of downforce level but it didn’t quite work out. It’s probably a surprise to be so far back, but we are just lacking pace at the moment and have to work hard to catch up. But I’m not expecting any miracles this weekend. Our job as drivers is to give our best and that’s what I am trying to do. It has happened before that we have been struggling on Friday and then come up with a solution on Saturday, so I hope this will be the case tomorrow."
Daniel Ricciardo shocked the establishment by sticking his R.S.20 in a lofty P2 in second practice, just 0.048s shy of Verstappen. His joy was short-lived, though, a hydraulic issue forcing him to pull up on the Kemmel Straight, before the cameras picked him up diligently cleaning his Pirellis for good measure. Team mate Ocon was around four-tenths adrift in FP2 – although there was a suspicion that Ricciardo may have had the wick turned up somewhat to nail such an eye-catching time.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:45.099, P7; FP2: 1:44.208, P8
“Today was decent and we seem to be competitive as a team. We’ve made a good step from Barcelona and I’m happy with today’s running. There were lots of things we understood, which we’ll aim to put into tomorrow and Sunday. It definitely looks promising for qualifying. It’s always nice to see a purple sector next to your name and that shows we have the speed. The long runs are hard to read especially with the red flag. We might see some cars running high fuel in FP3 to make up for the lack of running.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:45.225, P9; FP2: 1:43.792, P2
“It was another good FP2 as has been the case for us at the last few rounds. We have to do it tomorrow, though, as that’s when it counts. Today was strong, even with the issue at the end. For safety, we pulled the car over as there’s no point taking risks with mechanical issues on Fridays. Our low fuel run was a good one. During the lap, I knew it felt good and sometimes you just know when the car’s working. I knew it was competitive and I wasn’t that surprised it was up there on the timesheets. It was a good day and we certainly understood a lot from it.”
Ciaron Pilbeam, Chief Race Engineer
“We’re mostly happy with today’s running. The morning session went smoothly and to plan. There was some rain before FP2, which meant most teams held back before going out on track but, by the time we went out, the track was completely dry, and it didn’t have a significant effect on our overall run plan. Both drivers are reasonably happy with the car today. Daniel’s Soft tyre run was competitive; however, we’ve seen that before on a Friday so I would say only that we are cautiously optimistic. Esteban was also happy with the balance on his car. Daniel’s long run was going well but, after a couple of laps, the car stopped on track with a problem. That interrupted everyone’s long runs, including Esteban’s, but his run on Mediums looked consistent. We have everything we need to look at tonight to work on our qualifying and race strategy.”
A slightly quiet day from the Mighty Papayas (as they’re not known by anyone), Norris leading the way for McLaren in FP2 narrowly behind the Mercedes of Bottas in P7 – and overcoming a brief power unit scare when his engine appeared to be misfiring – with Sainz ending up two places further back in P9, but over three-tenths adrift, at a track he admitted on Thursday he’s never quite got in the groove of since his graduation to F1.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:45.222, P8; FP2: 1:44.474, P9
“A normal Friday for us. We used both sessions to try some alternative set-ups and ideas that we had from the last race, which were interesting. We were competitive pace-wise and we seem to be in the mix for the top 10, but it’s only Friday. The Racing Points and the Renaults looked particularly quick here, so if we want to battle them this weekend we need to keep finding pace going into tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:45.274, P10; FP2: 1:44.168, P7
“A decent day – the car is feeling pretty good. There are some things I’m struggling with a little bit, but on the whole I have good confidence in the car and it’s probably a better start to the weekend than in Barcelona. We completed all the testing items on the car and did everything we needed to in the session. The car balance is feeling pretty nice, but we have to wait until tomorrow to really see what the weather does – and when everyone turns up their engines.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“We’ve had a productive Friday. The rain that was expected at some stage didn’t show up, so we were able to run consistently with both cars and get through the programme. Today, that involved assessing some aerodynamic and mechanical parts being introduced at this race, and, of course, understanding the tyres – in case it’s a dry race.
“Going forward, I think we have a good baseline both in low fuel and high fuel, but at the same time we know there’s weather around which can affect qualifying, Sunday’s race, or both. We have to be prepared for every eventuality and be ready to give our best whatever the weather.”
On an emotionally-charged return to Spa-Francorchamps for Pierre Gasly, he was at least able to show some potential Q3 pace in his AlphaTauri, as he took 10th place in second practice, two spots up on team mate Daniil Kvyat, who’d narrowly out-paced him in FP1.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:45.503, P12; FP2: 1:44.600, P10
“Another Friday finished and it was good to end the day in the top 10. However, at the moment I’m still not fully satisfied with the car balance and I have the feeling we haven’t found the sweet spot yet. I think we have a bit of work to do tonight to find more performance because I’m sure we can do even better. We’ll analyse everything and try to make the right changes to take the fight for the top 10 this weekend.”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:45.447, P11; FP2: 1:44.826, P12
“I think it was an OK Friday, we ran the usual procedures and did as many laps as possible today. We were able to get the car in a decent place straight away, so we will put in some good work overnight to make the balance better for tomorrow. Hopefully, it will put us in a good position to fight for Q3 in Qualifying.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“Coming to Spa, we faced the usual uncertainties around the weather as the forecast was changing daily with a mix of rain, overcast and sunshine. This made planning for the weekend more difficult when it came to rear wing level and downforce choice because when the track’s dry, it favours one level, but when it’s wet it favours something completely different. We built that into our plans and the weather today has been good with no rain affecting the sessions, so we could run a completely dry programme to gather a lot of useful data. FP1 was quite a productive session, the performance was in line with expectations, particularly over the short run, and our top speed was looking competitive. We lost a bit of time with Pierre’s car due to some damage to his floor after having hit a kerb, which was unfortunate, so he didn’t get all of the running that we would have liked in that session. You can run a car quite low and aggressive here, but the downside is that if you run a bit wide you can cause quite a bit of damage. While this cost him some time, we were still quite positive at the end of FP1. We made some changes heading into FP2, but the balance went to more understeer for us, which wasn’t ideal, and I think overall, we didn’t quite show the competitiveness in FP2 that we hoped to, so we will look to make some changes tomorrow to help with the balance. Our long runs weren’t as clean as we would have liked as there was a VSC and a red flag. With Spa having such a long lap, it means if there's an interruption on track, the number of laps you get on each tyre is reduced and this makes it a bit more difficult in understanding the compounds in preparation for Sunday. However, we have information on all three compounds now, and we’ll complete our analysis with the view of making the best choice for tyres and downforce level heading into tomorrow and the race.”
A tricky day for the American team, as they suffered what Team Principal Guenther Steiner ruled were “non-related” power unit issues in FP1 which prevented either driver setting a time. Engine changes were required on both cars, which emerged with around 35 minutes of FP2 left to run before slotting into 19th and 20th – the team managing just 27 laps across both cars on Friday.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: No time set, P19; FP2: 1:45.834, P19
“It was a tough day for everyone, especially the mechanics. Going out in the morning, then having to straight away change the engine – that’s not ideal, especially with both cars and at Spa where you really want to get laps and knowledge. We at least managed to get out in the afternoon – the boys did a mega job. The car didn’t feel too bad. We’re obviously not at the top of the timesheets, but that’s understandable after doing just one timed lap on a one lap tire. Being two tenths away from Vettel after having only done one lap, it’s not bad. The car actually felt good, so that’s nice, but we’ll pay the price for the straight line here. I believe we’ll be in the fight for 15th to 20th – I just don’t really see much more, but I hope I’m wrong.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: No time set, P18; FP2: 1:46.242, P20
“It wasn’t the ideal day. We didn’t get out in FP1, then because we had to change the power unit, we were also delayed in FP2. Not a great start to the weekend but of course we’ll try and make up for it tomorrow. The car didn’t feel too bad, you only really get one lap on the C4 soft tire – and that’s your first flying lap. It’ll come though. We’ll see where we are tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get on top of the pace. You can’t just go into your first lap and be right on the pace. There’s a lot of lap time missing from us just getting up to pace. If it rains tomorrow though it doesn’t give any value to the experience anyone else gained today, so maybe fingers crossed for that.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It’s been a very disappointing day today. We didn’t do any laps in FP1, other than the installation laps, because of both engine failures. The only good thing from today is that the guys did a fantastic job to get the cars together again. We at least got back out in the afternoon to find some kind of balance on the car, that’s what we achieved. We just need to get the best out of tomorrow’s one-hour practice session. Again, I just want to say a big thank you to the guys – they kept on working hard to get us back out there.”
At a track where they may have been expected to struggle, this was a relatively positive showing from Alfa Romeo, who ended up as the fastest Ferrari-powered cars in FP2 (on the 1,000th Grand Prix that Ferrari engines have contested), Giovinazzi recovering well from a technical issue in FP1 to head four-time Spa winner Raikkonen, who was late in nailing his soft tyre run in FP2.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:45.704, P13; FP2: 1:44.896, P14
“It has been a relatively straightforward Friday for me. As always, there are still many things to improve but the feeling is that if we put everything together, we can be a bit more competitive. It’s still very early in the day, we need to build on what we did today and see where we are tomorrow when it matters.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: No time set, P20; FP2: 1:44.861, P13
“Missing out on FP1 was not ideal, but we made good progress in the afternoon so we made up some of the ground we missed. I felt good in the car and, when you do, everything becomes easier, so I am happy now. Hopefully we can find some more performance tonight and see where we stand tomorrow. The weather is still a big question mark for the race, but for now our focus is firmly set on qualifying. My target is to make it to Q2 for the first time in the season.”
A solid day for Williams, who were a ginormous 2.424s quicker in FP2 than they had been in 2019. Russell took his usual spot as the team’s fastest runner in second practice, splitting the Ferraris to take P16, while respectably, Latifi was less than three-tenths off his team mate on only his second outing in an F1 car at the daunting Belgian track, ending up P18, and just 0.091s off three-time Spa winner Vettel in the Ferrari.
George Russell – FP1: 1:46.570, P17; FP2: 1:45.463, P16
"It is always great to drive around Spa. We tried some different set-ups to try and get a bit more straight-line speed. Some were more beneficial than others, but I think we have a good understanding to gather the data and make the most of it tomorrow. It is going to be a tricky Saturday, Q2 is still the target and beating the Haas and the Alfa. We would like to see some rain to mix things up which would give us a chance to get a good result if we can maximise it. Nevertheless, we have got to make the most of whatever the conditions throw at us, and I will be ready to do that."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:46.488, P16; FP2: 1:45.774, P18
"It was an average day and there are some things we have to work on. We don’t have a true reference to the Haas from their missed running in FP1, so they were always going to be on the back foot.
"We definitely seem to be struggling a bit more to the Alfa, we knew it was going to be a weaker track for us because of the efficiency of the circuit that is all dependent on straight line speed. There are some things to work on but it wasn’t a bad day overall. It would be nice to have some mixed conditions in either qualifying or the race to create a bit of a challenge. I see that as a positive for us and something that we will try to capitalise on. However, even if its dry we will be able to make some gains tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Both drivers had solid days as we looked at some downforce configurations and general set-up. We had no issues with the cars, and we are now in a good position to push things along tomorrow. Although today was dry for the F1 sessions, the forecast for tomorrow and Sunday remains mixed and we will need to be alive to any rain during qualifying and the race.
"The cars are running well, and the drivers are enjoying each lap of this great circuit. We need to find a bit more pace if we are to compete with Haas and Alfa Romeo tomorrow, but we have a good baseline on which to build that performance."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
“With a softer compound choice here compared to last year, the work today mainly consisted of assessing the performance of the soft, to see how it could fit into the overall race strategy. With Spa being the longest lap of the year, the differences between the compounds are magnified and the difficulty of putting together a perfect lap increases. Conditions today were tricky but quite normal for Spa, with ambient temperatures consistently under 20 degrees centigrade and a track made slippery by some light rainfall, but all three compounds still offered performance in line with expectations and this weather seems set to be representative of the rest of the weekend. We’re seeing a bigger time gap between the medium and soft compounds than anticipated so far, which will clearly have an effect on qualifying strategies tomorrow – making it harder to get through Q2 on the medium.”