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What the teams said – practice in Belgium

24 Aug 2018

A round-up of the opening day's events from the Formula 1 2018 Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...


Ferrari have been accused of sandbagging on Fridays in the past but not here at Spa - they stamped their authority in solid fashion as the season got back underway, topping both sessions with Vettel and Raikkonen respectively. Vettel didn't get a clean flying lap in FP2 and thus could have more pace in the bag. Can they carry this form into qualifying though?

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:44.358, P1; FP2: 1:44.129, P5

“Overall, I think it’s going the right way. Today it was a bit difficult to figure out where we are and I think we’ll have to wait for tomorrow to have a better idea. The new engine has done what it was supposed to do. Today everything was working well. Now we’ll see about tomorrow: rain shouldn’t give us any more problems and, should we have wet conditions, it would be quite nice to have confirmation that we found the right things to do. On this track everything seems to happen faster, so it should be a lot of fun and if we have dry conditions tomorrow for qualifying, we should be ok. There are still some special tracks on the calendar and for sure this one in Spa is very exciting in terms of cornering speeds. We still need to do some work, but we have time to do it”.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:44.718, P4; FP2: 1:43.355, P1

“That was our first day of practice after the break; we did our pretty usual job to get a feeling for the car once again. I enjoy driving on this track, it has a good flow and this generation of cars are pretty nice to drive here. I think Spa is a great circuit, but obviously this doesn’t make you faster or slower! We always say that Friday is Friday and times don’t really matter today; it was ok, but for sure we still have some work ahead of us. Tomorrow we’ll try to do our best and see where we end up. We expected some rain today but it did not come. But the weather can still be a key point this weekend, as it changes very quickly here”.


The Silver Arrows couldn't quite match their Scuderia rivals for pace on Friday, but there were positives nonetheless. Hamilton locked up when pushing and should he hook together a clean lap, he looks mighty fast around this iconic track. Bottas likewise had a solid day, but will be hampered on Saturday by a grid penalty for exceeding the allowance of PU components.

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:44.676, P3; FP2: 1:43.523, P2

"It's good to be back. The break is never really long enough, but there is a point when you start to miss driving, so I'm happy to be back in the car again. These are the fastest F1 cars we've ever had, and you really feel it at this track. You go almost flat through Pouhon - it's crazy. We've brought a new engine today and everything was running smoothly. It's really close between us and Ferrari; it seems like we've both been bringing new updates at a similar rate. For the middle sector, you want to have a good amount of downforce, but you want less in the other sectors to gain speed down the straights. The challenge is to find the right balance and thankfully I have a great team working on that. Coming into the weekend I heard that it was going to be raining all weekend. There were some spits of rain on certain parts of the track in FP1, but in FP2 it was nice and dry. I hope it stays that way as this track is just awesome to drive in the dry."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:44.724, P5; FP2: 1:43.803, P3

"In general, the car felt pretty good today. The balance was slightly off in the beginning of the day, but we managed to correct that so that the car felt nice pretty much everywhere on the track. The lower speed sections were a little more challenging for us, as we struggled a bit with traction coming out of the corners. Ferrari looked a little bit quicker in some corner combinations like Turn 5 to Turn 7, but I don't think we're far off. However, it's always difficult to make any detailed predictions on Friday for the weekend as it is usually really close in qualifying. In terms of set-up it is usually a compromise between qualifying and the race; but given my grid penalty this weekend, the focus for me will obviously be the race. Fortunately, the long-run pace felt good and I am confident that it is possible to come up through the field here in Spa. The new engine also felt good today, so I'm looking forward to the race - it should be fun."

James Allison, Technical Director

"It was a curate's egg of a day. The good part of it was that we ran through the programme we planned without any mechanical dramas to the car and we picked up the information we need to have from the tyres. The other good parts of it were that both drivers at various points of both session looked quick and that the new engines ran reliably and showed a promising performance. The area where we need to do more work is that the long runs were poor and scrappy affairs with both drivers. A mixture of traffic and flat-spotting meant that we didn't establish the rhythm that gives you a warm feeling going into Sunday. So it was not a bad day, but it could have been better and we will do our traditional job of tucking-in overnight to see what we can improve to make sure that the cars have got a good combination of single lap pace and long-run speed."

Red Bull

A mixed day for Red Bull. Ricciardo was sidelined for much of FP1 with an engine injector issue, and lost valuable running as a result. Verstappen did manage a full programme and looked competitive on the soft tyres, before dropping back on the supersoft runs. With rain predicted across the weekend, the flying Dutchman cannot be ruled out though.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:45.558, P6; FP2: 1:44.250, P6

“This morning I had some issues and the mechanics had to take the back off the car, which was time consuming, so I only completed one timed lap. Maybe they thought I needed an extended summer break (laughs) but I was definitely ready to drive. This afternoon we made lots of changes and went back and forth on set-up. We learnt quite a lot but I felt that maybe as we improved one thing we created a problem with something else. With the limited running we haven’t found the optimum balance yet and need to improve on both short and long runs. We will do a bit of homework tonight to find the best compromise and some more pace.”

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:44.509, P2; FP2: 1:44.046, P4

“It is always difficult to judge how you compare after day one as not everyone is pushing 100%. Today we mostly concentrated on setting up the car with very low downforce. Of course we know this won’t be our strongest track so we are focusing on getting as close as we can on the short runs. Our long run pace doesn’t look bad at the moment either so I’m quite happy with that, with a bit more grip it should be even better. We have to be realistic, fifth and sixth is about where we expect to be around here due to our power deficit but we are trying to optimise everything on the car to be as close as we can. Over the last few days the chance of rain has decreased which is a bit of a shame as this helps us close the gap. Already the orange flares have been lit which is great to see, it’s nice to see so many fans out here supporting me on a Friday.”


Haas have been vying for best of the rest for much of the season, but seemed to have taken a step back based on Friday's performances. Solid and unspectacular, their drivers kept it clean but struggled for pace and wound up outside the top 10. Can they reverse this form on Saturday when it matters?

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:46.387, P12; FP2: 1:45.817, P12

“We were consistent, but not as fast as we wanted, so there’s a lot of work to be done. We’ll look to get a better performance for qualifying. The race looks a bit better, which is always encouraging. Being here at Spa is always amazing. Driving this circuit, it’s very special. We got away with no rain today, so from that side, it’s been a happy day. It was good to have a break and have some time with the family, but it’s good to be back in the car. I missed it.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:47.012, P17; FP2: 1:46.078, P14

“It’s been nice to get back in the car again, especially around here at this track in Belgium. It’s great fun to drive. It wasn’t as good a day as we’d hoped for. I think we have some work to do, but I don’t think it’s too bad. I think we can make up for some of it tomorrow. I’m confident we can make steps forward, so we’ll see how much we can progress. We have a few new parts here, and I think we can get more out of it. Let’s see how we go tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“They weren’t perfect sessions today, but we are working to make it better – to find the right balance between downforce and drag. By no means are we happy with what we did today, but there’s another day tomorrow, and we will work on it.”


Vandoorne had a tough day - he suffered a brake problem in FP1, before sitting out of much of FP2 due to a floor change after labelling his car 'undriveable'. In the other MCL33, Norris had control of the cockpit in FP1 and delivered a composed performance in his first Formula 1 session, before Alonso took over in FP2. Despite the Spaniard's vast experience, he couldn't extract much more out of the car and came home a lacklustre 16th.

Fernando Alonso - FP2: 1:46.153, P16

“I missed FP1 today but it was not a big loss, as straight away I felt comfortable with the car and the circuit, which I know pretty well, so it was fine on that side. 

“I’m happy that we tried both tyres and did some interesting tests, especially on Stoffel’s car, so let’s see what we can do to improve for tomorrow.

“It seems like it was difficult to find the right rhythm in the first session. We’re lacking a little bit of performance so far this weekend, so we definitely need to work out where we can find a couple of tenths for tomorrow if we want to be in the fight. 

“We don’t seem to be lacking in one sector or one area in particular, as all of them seem to be quite similar. It’s not just on one part of the circuit, which makes it even more difficult, but we have a couple of ideas to improve for tomorrow and Sunday. 

“The target remains to be in the points on Sunday, and for that we know how important tomorrow’s qualifying is.” 

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:47.452, P20; FP2: 1:46.496, P20

“I had a day full of problems again today and it’s not been the best start to the weekend. I had some brake problems at the start of FP1 and then some engine-related problems, so I didn’t really manage to get any proper laps in and it didn’t really feel like I’ve been working today. 

“I started off with some problems again in FP2, so I had maybe one run that was more or less representative. It’s been a very frustrating day for me, especially in front of my home crowd. I came here very optimistic, looking forward to racing here, with a lot of positive energy and a lot of support from the fans, and to start off the weekend like this was definitely not ideal. It feels like we’ve had so many problems lately and I’m really hoping to get some normal running. It’s obviously very frustrating. 

“The performance today was definitely not there. We’re still lacking a lot of pace and competitiveness and there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think we need a bit of a miracle this weekend to be able to extract some kind of good result. The only thing that could maybe push us up a bit higher is some rain or some tricky conditions. Maybe the rain will come – we’ll see – but there’s still a long way to go and it’s hard to see us progress a lot this weekend. 

“I think the team is definitely expecting me to perform and I think I’ve performed quite well over the last couple of races. We’ve had our issues, but we’ve showed some very good performance in Hungary. Obviously they want to see how we compare, but I think first of all the team should give me a car that is able to run on track before we can be compared.” 

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:47.364, P18

“It was a very busy day today, juggling between F2 and F1. I had to get on my bike to get up to the F1 paddock in time for FP1. It was a bit stressful but it was worth it! 

“It’s been a good day, anyway. I was a bit nervous this morning as it’s obviously very exciting to be back in the car, especially in Spa, which is probably one of my favourite tracks. We got through our programme nicely and I got in a good amount of laps. 

“I’ve driven here in the past in F4, Formula Renault, Formula 3, Formula 2 and F1 now, so I know how every car goes around here!

“We did some aero tests and none of my runs was a proper performance run, which was a nice thing to do, so it was not about speed but more about consistency and feedback.

“It’s very different to drive in Formula 1, mainly because of the pressure. There are a lot more people here. I think it’s a good thing that I get to see first-hand what it’s like to drive in a race weekend, and to have a rough idea of where I stand compared to Stoffel and Fernando. 

“After doing the Budapest test I feel pretty ready for any opportunity to jump in the car, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with everything I do, so it doesn’t take me a while to build up. 

“With so few opportunities in F1 in general to be in the car, I think you need to make the most of any chance to drive, to learn and to prove yourself, be consistent, be fast, be reliable and give good feedback, which I feel like I did today.” 

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director

“Overall today has proved to be a difficult day for us. This circuit with its long straights is really exposing one of our biggest weaknesses in straight-line speed. In addition, we had a few mechanical issues with Stoffel’s car in FP1 that curtailed our running. 

“Lando, in the manner that has become typical for him, acclimatised himself to the car and the track very quickly, and produced a good, clean session for us. 

“Our engineers have a lot of homework to do to sieve through all the data in preparation for tomorrow. It seems that the weather could be somewhat uncertain, which at the very least is likely to provide some excitement for the fans.” 

Force India

A good day for Force India, who had both cars in the top 10 in the first practice session, and Perez coming home best of the rest in FP2. Indeed the Mexican was a handy eight tenths quicker than the rest of the midfield pack, which bodes well for them on Saturday. Ocon was hampered in second practice by a suspected puncture.

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:46.169, P9; FP2: 1:44.662, P7

“I love this track and I’ve really enjoyed getting back in the car today. When you spend a few weeks off, there is nowhere better than Spa to return to action. The car felt very good today and I’m happy with the balance. It’s probably the best balance we have had all year. So there is the potential for a strong weekend, regardless of what the weather does.”

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:45.786, P7; FP2: 1:45.935, P13

“It’s great to be racing again. The car is performing well and I felt very comfortable in the first session. We tried a different direction in the afternoon, which didn’t really work and I also had a puncture which meant I had to do most of the session on one set of supersoft tyres. Even so, we have made some good progress today and I think we can fight for a place in Q3 tomorrow.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal

"The conditions remained pretty consistent throughout the day, which is always a bonus here in Spa, and this helped us evaluate the different tyre compounds and rear wing levels. The first practice session was pretty straightforward, but in the afternoon we had a puncture on the out lap of our baseline run with Esteban. This means he only had one set of tyres available and put him on the back foot. Sergio, on the other hand, was able to carry on with the standard programme. We still have some work to do, especially on our long run pace, but overall it was a reasonable day and we were able to collect a lot of data for our engineers to analyse tonight.”


A solid day down at Renault, with Hulkenberg and Sainz delivering full programmes and looking to be up there in the midfield battle. The German is often successful around this circuit, and will be looking to continue that form with another Q3 appearance, while Sainz will be hoping to back up his impressive qualifying from last time out in Hungary.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:45.951, P8; FP2: 1:45.753, P11

“I think the new floor does make a positive difference and we were able to work through our programme without interruption, which is always nice. It’s pretty much a standard Friday story – we have a direction with the car and we can make it better. That’s the plan for tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:46.210, P10; FP2: 1:45.481, P8

“It’s great to get back into the car relaxed and refreshed. It was an uncomplicated day and we managed to follow our program quite well. The team brought some new parts that seem to work as expected, especially the new floor, which I tested in FP2. Good progress was made through the day. Spa-Francorchamps is a superb circuit so it’s great to get any laps around here and I have good feelings for the weekend ahead. Now it’s time to analyse both sessions and look for more performance with my engineers."

Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer

“We completed a full programme with no issues meaning we have a full set of data looking to tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, which is the best place to be at the end of a Friday. The new floor seems to be working as expected. We still have a little more work refining the set-up, but overall a positive day.”


Sirotkin provided one moment of drama in FP1, spinning at Turn 8 and sliding into the run off area before continuing. Stroll had a quieter day, but once again the FW41 seems to be lacking in pace and Williams will have work to do overnight if they are to get one or both cars into Q2 on Saturday.

Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1.47.367, P19; FP2: 1:46.451, P18

"It was a usual Friday for us. It was busy, and we went through some interesting things. We don’t see it from the point of view of the timing results, as they probably don’t seem that positive, but I think we’re finding a more stable base. The weather helped us and the track isn’t the worst for our car. We still have the same balance limitations that have always been there, but the car is becoming more predictable and we’re finding a better base than we’ve had previously. These are small steps, but they are in the right direction. It won’t change our story massively, which we all know, but we’re trying to squeeze the very best from what we have. I think we’re in a good way."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:46.965, P16; FP2: 1:46.470, P19

"We had some consistent running and were getting back into it after the break. We were working on set-up and the usual, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings as you never know what everyone else is doing, so it is just best to wait for qualifying and surprise yourself or disappoint yourself! We still need another step in general grip and balance. The circuit is cool, especially sector two with the high-speed stuff, as it is always fun when you hook it up. The atmosphere around the track on a Friday is great and you can see some real proper racing fans enjoying the cars, which is always nice."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

"It has been a fairly straightforward day. We had a few aerodynamic tests to do this morning, which we ran through, but principally, we were concentrating on car set-up and, in particular, the rear wing level. I think we managed to understand from the first session where we needed to run with the rear wing level, so we did that and rebalanced the cars a little bit. The second session was just about trying to optimise the cars for low fuel and then get the long runs in. I think overall it is quite a difficult circuit, and you never get it dead right on a Friday, but both the drivers have done a decent job and we look like we may be able to edge forward slightly in relation to where we have been recently. We also brought forward some successful experiments from the Hungary tests, which will hopefully help us over the rest of the weekend."


A good day for Sauber, with both drivers finishing in the top 10 in FP2. There was very little to choose between the two, with Ericsson just edging his team mate by one tenth, and Leclerc likewise beating the Swede in FP1. Leclerc has several Q3 appearances to his name this season and so can build on Friday with confidence - but can Ericsson make his first top 10 shootout of the year come qualifying?

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:46.557, P14; FP2: 1:45.537, P9

“It is nice to be back in the car after the summer break – especially on a track like this. The day was trouble-free for us. We went through the planned program, and the car felt good. We tried some different set-ups and will analyse the data tonight to decide which direction to go in for the rest of the weekend. We are competitive and confident that we will stay in the fight tomorrow and on Sunday.”

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:46.554, P13; FP2: 1:45.622, P10

"It was a positive day for us. The car feels good and I am happy with our performance as we finished the two free practice sessions in the midfield. We still have some work ahead of tomorrow, and will work tonight to make the step we usually do from Friday to Saturday. It is good to get back to racing after the break, and I look forward to being in the car again.”

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso looked to be solidly in the midfield battle in first practice, before dropping back when the supersoft tyres were fitted and qualifying simulations completed. Nonetheless, with the possibility of mixed conditions for the weekend, don't discount Gasly or Hartley from springing a surprise or two.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:46.300, P11; FP2: 1:46.080, P15

“Overall, I would say it was a clean day for us. We knew we would struggle at this track because the characteristics of this circuit don’t really work in our favour, so we tried to make the best out of our package. The car feels pretty good at the moment, but some of our main competitors were quite fast today so we need to work and improve to have a stronger day tomorrow. Hopefully we might see some rain, which could definitely make it more exciting!”

Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:46.932, P15; FP2: 1:46.337, P17

“It was nice to take my first laps around Spa in a Formula 1 car after the summer break. It definitely woke me up going through Eau Rouge flat out the first and second lap! The day went pretty smooth without any technical issues with the car. There’s plenty of data to look into, but unfortunately it seems both cars were a bit off the pace. We definitely have some work to do overnight, but it’s once again quite tight from where we are to the top 10.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“It’s great to be back on track after the two-week summer shutdown, and what better place to start the second half of the season than in Spa! It’s a fantastic track that offers unpredictable conditions and can lead to very exciting races with many opportunities. Although there was a reasonable chance of rain during the day, in the end it never came so we had two clean sessions. After the successful test in Hungary, we came here with a number of setup ideas to try on a different track, so the majority of FP1 was spent trialling these, splitting the test across the two cars.

"Brendon focused on aero related tests while Pierre focused on mechanical side. These gave us the results we were expecting and we came out of the session looking reasonably competitive, especially given the circuit nature not necessarily suiting our car. Across the session we analysed all of the data and put the best setup options on the two cars. The FP2 session was a standard one, with the normal short runs followed by long runs. The mediums are quite difficult to warm up in the cooler conditions, but the drivers were generally happy with the balance on the supersoft. We didn’t really find the lap time we expected, and our competitiveness dropped a little in FP2, which is something we will need to understand and work on tonight.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“It was meant to rain today, but it did not, so we were able to have a trouble-free day, completing our planned PU programme. We focused on optimising energy management. For tomorrow, there is a forecast for rain again, so we just have to be prepared for any situation over the next two days.”


Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing​

“The track was very quick right from the first session this morning, also as a result of the rubber laid down by the recent Spa 24 Hours, which we supply exclusively as well. There were no real surprises from the practice sessions, apart from the fact that the performanc gap of around a second between the two softest compounds was somewhat bigger than the 0.6 seconds we expected. We’re expecting the gap between soft and medium to be in the region of 0.8 seconds, but we still have to look at all the data carefully tonight. Tomorrow, everyone is expecting rain, although the weather forecast seems to be constantly changing, which is not unusual here. So far, the tyres have performed consistently and strongly on what is well-known as one of the most demanding tracks of the year, with only a few small cases of blistering reported in the afternoon.”