A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2017 Formula 1 Pirelli Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps...
It was a pretty clean day for the Silver Arrows, bar the silly off Bottas had at Fagnes when he moved over for a faster car on his in-lap, got pulled up over the kerb into the gravel, and damaged his front wing against the tyre wall.
Hamilton had the upper hand all day, and though he was ‘beaten’ by Raikkonen in FP1, it should be pointed out that both Ferraris were on the ultrasoft Pirelli tyres, both Mercedes on the soft compound. He described the day as one of the best Mercedes have had all year.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:45.555, P2; FP2: 1:44.753, P1
“It's great to be back! Today felt like one of our strongest Fridays so far this season. The car felt strong all-round straight out of the box. We made some good steps with the set-up right from the start of FP1, which is a really encouraging way to kick off the weekend. It looks tight at the top on the long-run pace, but we've started the weekend in the best way possible.”
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:46.424, P6; FP2: 1:45.180, P3
“Overall, it was a tricky day. We had some trouble setting up the car and I didn't feel too comfortable in the beginning. But in the end it was getting better, we made quite big steps. The performance of our car in general is looking good; however, there is still a lot of margin to optimise the car. The long runs in the end were interrupted by the rain, but that was obviously the same for everyone. I'm glad that we at least got a few laps in with high fuel.”
Andrew Shovlin, Chief Race Engineer
“The car is working pretty well, the drivers are quite happy with it on a single lap. The day was obviously affected by the rain at the end of the second session. We were not expecting it early on but then as the session progressed you could see the weather coming in. So we were trying to bring the programme forward a bit, as other teams were too. That has left us missing a bit of tyre data that we would normally have. We had new power units in the car which have been signed off well and we also brought our low-downforce package for this circuit which has performed in line with expectations. Overall, the drivers are reasonably pleased with the car but there are a few more unknowns than normal. We will work hard overnight to try and improve the car and fix the few issues that we've found in terms of the handling today.”
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 Hybrid with halo at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
It was a straightforward day for Ferrari, too. They improved the SF70H during the sessions, and neither driver had any real problems - although Mercedes' pace on the soft tyre will be a slight cause for concern overnight...
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:45.502, P1; FP2: 1:45.015, P2
“Today we somehow expected how practice was going to be and it was not too bad as a start. Obviously there are always things you want to try more and the rain in the end did not help, but it was a pretty normal Friday. It’s hard to compare driving here to a year ago, but it doesn’t feel very different, as we are now quite used to going a bit faster everywhere. We’ll keep working today, this evening and tomorrow morning, in order to be stronger for qualifying. There are things we have to go through to do better, as is the case with any Friday at any race circuit. There’s no point now to start guessing what the others are doing, we’ll see tomorrow in qualifying, but I’m sure we can be fast.”
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:45.647, P3; FP2: 1:45.235, P5
“I am not entirely happy but overall I think the car is ok. We just need to put a little bit more together. This is a nice track and the cars have more grip, so it is more fun. It should be nice tomorrow even if I don’t know what the weather will be like. This is a long track, so it is not that easy to put everything together. I didn’t really find the rhythm today but the long run was better. So, overall the car is capable of being fast, but we need to get it right. I need to do my job and I know I can go faster. On Friday it is always difficult to judge the situation, because on Saturday it seems that everyone makes a step forward. If we can do that, then we can be very close. We are here to give a hard time to our competitors.”
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari SF70-H at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Verstappen was reasonably happy with the set-up on his RB13, which inevitably was a compromise between the downforce you need in Sector 2 and the minimal drag you want in Sectors 1 and 3. Ricciardo ran a different configuration and said that even if he hadn’t encountered traffic in Sector 2, he wouldn't have been able to get into the top five - his deficit of 1.5s in the middle sector simply too big. Changes will be made overnight.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:46.302, P4; FP2: 1:45.225, P4
“An OK first day back here at Spa but nothing special. Between Daniel and myself we tried a few set-ups to improve speed on the straights, it’s somewhere we need to improve in order to fight so we are trying to find a good compromise. At the moment we don’t seem too far off the two top teams but it is only Friday, I’m sure it will be a different gap tomorrow. It’s hard here to find the set-up to be competitive on the straights but also balanced in the corners, we will make some steps in the right direction tonight, hopefully. In the dry I think we will be the solid third team like we have seen so far this season. Although it’s raining at the moment I don’t think there is much more forecast. This is a shame as it would definitely help us; fingers crossed we get a bit more for the race. There is already a lot of orange to be seen in the crowd and it’s only Friday, I’m expecting to see a lot more tomorrow and Sunday which is really great and nice to see so many fans supporting me, it always helps come race day.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:46.352, P5; FP2: 1:46.072, P6
“This track is always a bit of a compromise. The first and third sector is very fast and in the second sector you need the downforce. I tried to be quick in the first and third part, but the compromise wasn’t good enough. I still lost too much in the second sector. Yes there was some traffic as well and without that I could’ve probably gone a few tenths quicker but it still wouldn’t have put me in the Top 5. For sure we won’t keep the same set-up tomorrow. Whether we’ll go in Max’s direction or try to find a better compromise between the two we’ll see, but we’ll definitely be stronger tomorrow. The objective is not to lose too much time on the straights. For tomorrow it would be good if it was dry, because I’d like to try the ideal set-up and see how much potential we have.”
Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Both drivers had reliable runs and ended the day quite happy with the progress they had made and the baseline they established for tomorrow.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:48.037, P12; FP2: 1:46.441, P7
“It got a little fruity out there at the end of the day with the rain, but we had a decent Friday and could show decent enough pace in the dry. It was the usual work on set-up and we made positive steps to get a positive balance and harmony around the track. It’s going to be interesting to see what the weather does for the rest of the weekend as we didn’t expect as much rain as we saw today; that’s one of the delights of Spa.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:47.930, P11; FP2: 1:46.670, P10
“I love Spa as a circuit so it was great to be able to get some good work done on the car throughout today’s sessions. By the end of FP1 the car felt pretty special. FP2 was interrupted by the rain, but we were able to get further understanding of the tyres before the heavens opened. It was a good start to my weekend so I’m hopeful it continues in a positive manner.”
Nick Chester, Technical Director, Chassis
“It was good to get back in action after the summer shutdown and it was a positive Friday for us. We evaluated aero updates in the morning which performed as expected and will be retained for the rest of the weekend. Both drivers made strong progress on set-up over the course of the day, even if rain stopped play a little early. We’ve got a decent baseline with the car for the weekend ahead.”
Ocon was able to get on it straight away, and said he took Eau Rouge flat on his first lap. Perez wasn’t so happy with his car in FP1, but small changes led to progress in FP2, and Force India look in reasonably strong form.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:47.670, P8; FP2: 1:46.473, P8
“The day was reasonably clean and tidy and I managed to cover a lot of laps – even with the red flag and the rain shower in second practice. The feeling with the car is already pretty good and things look promising for a strong performance tomorrow. This track is very impressive in a Formula One car and, as we expected, I was able to take Eau Rouge flat on my first lap.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:48.452, P14; FP2: 1:46.984, P12
“The morning session was compromised a little bit with a few small issues. We were changing a lot of things on the car so I didn’t do a huge amount of laps – not as many as we would have liked. The afternoon was better and I was beginning to find a good feeling with the car. The important thing is that we know where we need to work and the direction we need to take. So I’m feeling confident we will be in better shape tomorrow. As Esteban has shown, the pace of the car is quite competitive and we have a good opportunity to qualify well tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer
“It has been a fairly typical Spa Friday with a red flag this morning and heavy rain this afternoon. We started the day with both our cars out on track nice and early to allow us to progress with the test programme we had planned. The red flag compromised things slightly and Sergio didn’t have the smoothest session with some downtime in the garage. In the afternoon we thought the rain was coming and so we prioritised our runs to ensure we collected the most important tyre data with the race in mind. We’re not expecting much more rain over the weekend, but in Spa you can never predict the weather with a huge amount of confidence. The drivers are generally happy with the car balance, but there are some areas we can improve overnight which will give us more performance heading into qualifying.”
Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India VJM10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Sainz had a strong day, which was better than he and the team had expected. Kvyat wasn’t much slower at times, but had technical issues which were not disclosed - but which Toro Rosso are confident they can fix ahead of Saturday.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:47.446, P7; FP2: 1:46.561, P9
“It’s been a good day for us. We were a bit quicker than what we all expected before coming here, which is positive. On the other hand, we know that on Saturdays our competitors normally do a bigger step than us, so we need to keep an eye on them if we want to stay inside the top ten, but I’m happy with how we’ve started the weekend. Regarding the crazy weather, it doesn’t surprise me, this is Spa! This is the seventh time I race here and every time I’ve come this kind of thing happens, where it’s sunny one moment and the other it starts to rain… It’s typical from here and you just need to be ready for anything – I wouldn’t mind a bit of this tomorrow or Sunday!”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:47.851, P9; FP2: 1:47.450, P15
“A decent Friday. We were able to get plenty running in even though we had a few issues throughout the day – we will recover for tomorrow. FP3 will definitely be a busy one, but we know what we’re missing and what we need to do, so I’m confident we can end up doing a good job tomorrow and I look forward to the rest of the weekend.”
James Key, Technical Director
“A little bit of mix fortunes today for the drivers. We had a reasonably straight-forward couple of sessions with Carlos – he was quite happy with the car from the start and we hit our targets with some of our set-up parameters for him. He looked reasonably good in FP1 and we were all quite happy with the performance. Nevertheless, we needed to make some changes for FP2 to make some further steps and see if we could attack some of the weaknesses we felt we had. We did this and generally seemed to go in the right direction; Carlos did a good job and gave clear feedback, so that was a positive day for him. Sadly, when the rain came we missed the opportunity – as did everyone else – to understand the crucial race information for these tyres. Regarding Daniil, not such a smooth ride… We had a few issues on his car, which meant that he wasn’t quite in the window that we expected for some of the set-up plans that we had for him, so we had to tune that out before we could begin to make progress. Considering that was the case also in FP1, he looked quite competitive knowing that he wasn’t entirely happy with the way the car was feeling for him, so that was also a good job for him. We then needed to make slightly bigger changes in FP2 – some of those changes appeared to give the desired effect, but we didn’t attack all the problems as well as we hoped, so there’s definitely more work to be done there. Unfortunately, his FP2 was compromised by some problems with the car, which we apologise to him for; it’s something we can see in the data but that’s not easily fixable in the session, so, sadly, we didn’t get to run the full programme to asses more set-up changes. We missed out there a bit but we’ll fix the problems overnight. However although we have work to do the underlying performance seem ok at present and we will work on both cars to make the steps needed for tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz jr (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12 at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Kym Illman/Sutton Images
Both drivers started the day with new power units, which Yusuke Hasegawa described as “Spec 3.5/3.6 rather than Spec 4”. This meant Vandoorne taking 35 associated grid penalties, but the team reckoned that was worth it if it meant getting the upgraded units into action as soon as possible. Both drivers also had DRS issues at first in FP1, but said they eventually had reasonable days.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:48.252, P13; FP2: 1:46.743, P11
"Spa is probably the best circuit in the world, and every lap you do here is magic. Having said that, we lose so much on the straights, but then we gain in the corners, so it's a difficult weekend for us here.
"We didn't have a great day today, especially in the first session, where we had some issues. The second session was business as usual and we eventually got to a reasonable car, which we can work on tonight with the engineers and try to find some tenths for tomorrow. When it started raining, we went out in the wet conditions to check how the car would behave in case there's more rain over the weekend. We didn't expect it to rain that much, so I quickly came back into the pits to bring the car home safely.
"We need a good qualifying, a good start and a good strategy to make everything perfect if we want to take points, and we need to be focussed and concentrated. It's going to be difficult, but maybe the weather will help us – mixed conditions would be ideal."
Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:47.865, P10; FP2: 1:47.303, P14
"The feeling in the car was quite positive today, the handling felt quite good. From my position, this weekend we know we are starting last, so we had a bit of a different run programme today compared to a usual Friday, concentrating more on high-fuel runs to set up the car for the race. That's where our main focus is for this weekend, and hopefully with a bit of changeable weather we can still have a good result.
"The penalty doesn't affect my motivation at all. It's a shame that it's happened in Spa, but it's the way it is. The penalties were inevitable considering the issues we've had at the beginning of the season, so it was always going to be like this. We need to think about the future, and hopefully it will help us at other grands prix.
"I feel confident about the rest of the season. As usual, there are circuits that will suit us better and circuits that will not suit us as much – but when the chance is there to grab some points, we need to take advantage of that."
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
"Today was a relatively productive day despite the stoppage for rain, and we were able to conduct a number of useful evaluations on the chassis side with aero and handling. Spa is a tough circuit on the cars, and we want to make sure we're as prepared as possible for the weekend ahead.
"I'm pleased that we managed to run reliably in both sessions - it's given us useful information to take forward into tomorrow's all-important qualifying session. We know that Stoffel will unfortunately be starting at the back, but for Fernando a good grid slot will be key to a solid result on Sunday. For Stoffel, we're focusing on giving him the best race car we can for his home grand prix, and he put a solid performance today in front of his home crowd.
"As we can see, the weather is typically unpredictable here at Spa, and conditions can change rapidly. We're working hard to optimise our set-up for all eventualities, and a bit of rain on Saturday could really spice things up for qualifying. And that means on Sunday, anything could happen."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
"Today we used the updated PU for both drivers in FP1 and FP2. I'm satisfied that we were able to confirm the effectiveness of the updates we brought here, without any major issues. I think it was a positive day overall. I'm also happy that both drivers finished close to the top ten, even though we expect a tough weekend at this power-hungry circuit.
"It's a shame that Stoffel has to start with grid penalties at his first home race in Formula 1. However, we decided as a team to change his PU in order to introduce the updates as early as possible. In spite of the situation, he showed solid running in front of his home crowd today. Fernando improved his position in the afternoon session and I think both drivers are in good shape going into Saturday's qualifying.
"With the famous Spa weather, the weekend may still be tricky. That said, I think we have a chance for both drivers to get some points from the race."
Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MCL32 at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
The drivers ran differing levels of downforce in an effort to strike the best compromise between straightline speed and downforce, but the bottom line is that the VF-17 just doesn’t go well on low downforce tracks.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:48.626, P17; FP2: 1:47.285, P13
“Generally, we’ve been struggling a little bit on low-downforce circuits and that seems to be the case here again at Spa. We’re trying to find the setup between drag and downforce, but we’re struggling a bit with it. We’re going to see where we can do better tonight, work hard, find the last few tenths and decide on the downforce level – which will be a big decision for us. It’s a tricky one getting everything to work and the right top speed. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll have slightly more performance and that’ll put us in a decent place.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:48.615, P16; FP2: 1:47.556, P16
“I think we’ve got a lot of information from today on different things. There’s a lot to look at and analyse for tomorrow, so I’m keeping positive. I wouldn’t read too much into today. The challenge for tomorrow is looking at downforce levels and finding the right set-up. That’s what’s going to be key. It was good fun driving these cars here, no surprises, but good fun.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“We always wanted to test two different levels of drag on this track, so we did that and came out with what we need to do. We had a little bit of an issue in FP2 at the beginning, with the DRS system, which was sorted pretty quickly. Tomorrow we go out again and we know which drag level to use and we’ll try to get a good set-up for qualifying.”
Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas VF-17 at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Williams had a tough day. Stroll was only 15th in FP1 and they got penalised for running the P140 Pirellis too long and fined 10,000 Euros. Massa, meanwhile, had done sufficient damage to his FW40 with what seemed like a relatively minor off on the approach to Rivage, that the team had to build him a new car around the spare chassis.
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:48.541, P15; FP2: 1:47.861, P17
“That was not where we were hoping to be. We are just struggling to carry speed through the corners and be as competitive as we want to be. We need to improve in the high-speed corners, as we are still suffering with the same kind of problems we faced in Silverstone and Austria. We just can't seem to carry the entry speed in those typical high-loaded, long corners. We need to work on the balance for tomorrow and understand how we can be more competitive in FP3. But things can change, as we have a lot of people looking how to improve and I am sure after the briefing we will understand more.”
Felipe Massa - No time, P20; FP2: DNS
“A session to forget for me. On the first lap I had big oversteer in corner seven when I touched the inside kerb. It was my mistake and I feel really disappointed to do only one lap in the day. It’s not positive for the weekend because when you lose two sessions like that it’s difficult to understand everything about the car. Tomorrow will be a day to learn everything from zero. I think the session was not great for Lance as well, looking at the car it didn’t seem as competitive as we want to be yet. There’s a lot to learn and understand tomorrow, and I really hope we can improve.”
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
“It wasn’t the best Friday of the year. Unfortunately, Felipe lost the car in Turn Seven on his first timed-lap with fairly heavy damage to the left-hand side of the car, including some damage to the chassis which we couldn’t repair. We’ve therefore changed his chassis and that will be re-scrutineered in the morning for him to run in FP3. As we were unable to get any more mileage for Felipe today it is a big loss in terms of the test programme we had, both parts and homework, for the weekend and indeed Felipe needed time in the car, given that he missed out on the Hungarian race. On Lance’s side we had a pretty good session in FP1, doing some aerodynamic tests. In FP2, due to various more lengthy changes, he only managed the running on low fuel before the rain came in and even then, within that there was traffic on his ultrasoft laps. So, not great on the timesheet but we’ve learned some good information so we’ll be doing a lot of work tonight to be in the best place for running tomorrow.”
Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Ericsson had a relatively straightforward day, but Wehrlein lost a lot of time with undisclosed technical issues in FP1.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:50.160, P18; FP2: 1:49.214, P18
"Today's sessions went quite ok for me. We were able to work through our programme and evaluate the car by testing different setups. In FP2, we continued to work through the planned programme and gathered lots of data. However, the rain came down quite hard towards the end which prevented us from completing long-runs. We will analyse our data now and work on improving our performance for tomorrow."
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:51.263, P19; FP2: 1:49.725, P19
"Today was not the best day for me, as I had technical difficulties in the morning, followed by rain which had an influence on our FP2 programme. My team of mechanics worked hard in FP1 and managed to fix the issues we were having and get me back on the track. Due to the circumstances, however, I was unable to complete as many laps as I would have liked today. I am positive that after we sit down and look into our data we can improve our performance for the rest of the weekend."
Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber C36 at Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 25 August 2017. © Sutton Images
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“Although it’s still very early in the weekend, we can already see that there’s around a one-second performance gap between supersoft and ultrasoft, while the soft compound appears to be an effective race tyre too. With many drivers taking full advantage of all three compounds available in their pre-race selections, a number of different race strategies are possible, so gathering as much information as possible during free practice was paramount. The typical Spa weather, with rain falling during the long runs, made it hard to fully assess tyre degradation. While Hamilton’s fastest time on the ultrasoft was remarkable, close to the all-time Spa record, initial projections of race pace seem closely matched between the frontrunners. As usual at Spa, it looks like we’re in for an unpredictable weekend.”