Indeed, with Red Bull 1-2, Force India 3-5 and Mercedes 6-13, the afternoon session in Belgium certainly had a different look, as teams followed varying strategies.
Verstappen delighted his many fans in the crowd with the fastest time of 1m 48.085s set on the red-marked Pirellis, as team mate Ricciardo used the same rubber to record 1m 48.341s. Later the Dutchman’s engine lost power, but he was able to carry on.
Hulkenberg, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez in the second Force India likewise went for the softest compound. Hulkenberg and Perez had turns at the top and ended up on 1m 48.657s and 1m 49.100s respectively, while Vettel had a rather scrappy session with several untidy laps on his way to splitting them with 1m 49.023s.
Rosberg was Mercedes’ primary runner with 1m 49.161s on the softs, while Hamilton used only on the mediums and Pirelli's unmarked prototype tyres.
The Englishman’s 15-place grid penalty became 30 when his F1 W07 Hybrid left the pits at the start of the session with its fifth ICE, fifth MGU-K, seventh MGU-H and seventh turbo of the season. That means a start from the back on Sunday, and Mercedes have not ruled out the possibility of him using even more fresh parts and gaining a notionally bigger penalty before FP3 tomorrow morning. Thus one race’s worth of penalties could free him up with fresh equipment for the remaining eight races after Spa.
The world champion thus concentrated on running the medium tyres, and set his fastest time of 1m 49.782s on them; it was quickest for a while, until others hit their stride. Like several other drivers, he complained of tyre vibrations after a 14-lap run; Vettel had something similar develop after 12 laps on supersofts. Once again, some drivers tried Pirelli’s prototype rubber.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth for Ferrari with 1m 49.244s, while despite endless complaints about his Haas Romain Grosjean took eighth with 1m 49.419s and later saw that matched by Jenson Button, whose McLaren was running well. Making it a good day for Haas, Esteban Gutierrez was 10th on 1m 49.648s.
Esteban Ocon continued to show well at Manor and was faster than team mate Pascal Wehrlein initially with 1m 50.659s on supersofts; while he did not improve subsequently, the German moved ahead on similar tyres with 1m 49.716s for 11th.
After his morning woes, Fernando Alonso had a better session for McLaren with 12th fastest time, though, like Hamilton, he too will start from the back of the grid thanks to the team changing several power unit elements following his water leak in FP1.