Free Practice 1
Following a four week gap for the summer break, Formula 1 returns with a visit to the glorious Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium and with a certain inevitability, the dark clouds rushed in and the expected rain caressed the circuit.
The track was at its most damp during the morning session with heavy rain and occasional strikes of lightning; however as the day wore on, the sun would gradually reveal itself.
While some fans would certainly have shown a level of dismay for the rather inclement weather, some of the teams were also having mild feelings of dissatisfaction. A number of squads showed up with large updates and the conditions were not conducive to running them properly.
Ferrari arrived at Spa with a brand new floor and an upgraded blown diffuser as they try to get Fernando Alonso from the fringes of the World Championship right into the thick of battle. It helped a little as Alonso was quickest in both Friday sessions, a long way faster than team mate, Felipe Massa.
Both McLaren and Renault appeared with minor upgrades, including the début of the F-duct for the French team – both teams saw an improved pace, but cancelled out by their opponents.
Red Bull have a new rear wing package and the same front section that has caused such controversy in recent weeks – although the section has passed the revised FIA front wing flex tests, questions still remain as to whether the strength of the test itself amounts to anything.
Toward the mid-pack, Williams have whole new front and rear wing sections. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of starts to Rubens’ Barrichello’s weekend – the Brazilian, who will be taking part in his 300th race this weekend, missed much of the first session stuck in the garage; however the veteran was still 9th fastest.
Mercedes brought a refined floor to Spa-Francorchamps and a slightly upgraded F-duct. Michael Schumacher brings a 10-place grid penalty into this race following his Hungaroring antics with Barrichello, leaving the German rather hamstrung before the cars even hit the track. Schumacher did still manage a top-10 in practice ahead of his fellow Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg.
Force India return to the track where they had their 2009 pole position and single podium (both Giancarlo Fisichella) with their new blown diffuser for Vitantonio Liuzzi, while Adrian Sutil maintained the previous version of the VJM03. Sutil topped the opening session for a time, before being toppled by Alonso – the German driver eventually claiming 5th.
It was a poor session for Sebastien Buemi as gearbox issues left sitting in the garage for much of the morning and down in 18th spot, while Hispania replacement driver Sakon Yamamoto missed the early part of the morning with undisclosed engine problems and tests, finally getting a lap in to come last and ten seconds off the pace.
Free Practice 2
Red flags don’t happen that often in motor racing. Normally they signify a huge crash of some sort that requires on site medical assistance or possibly a wreck so big, that it requires extensive clean up work or safety fixes. Rarely are red flags thrown because children are climbing the fences by the circuit.
With just 15 minutes left on the clock in the afternoon practice session, that is exactly what happened at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The perimeter of the track is rather huge and as was discovered at the Hockenheimring in 2000, it is sometimes impossible to marker every inch of a track steeped in the forests.
There were incidents during the 90-minute run, although they were ably covered by local yellow flags – Timo Glock smashed his Virgin into the barriers at Liege corner, heavily damaging the car’s right side, while Liuzzi knocked his front wing slightly after an off near Bruxelles. This was followed by a number of other spins as drivers took slick tyres out onto a track that still had a number damp patches.
On track, the second session delivered better weather conditions, something which Adrian Sutil took a hold of as the Force India driver was fastest just behind Alonso’s Ferrari.
Kubica obtained the fastest straight-line speed of the day with an incredible 331 kph nearing the top of the Kemmel straight as the new F-duct on his Renault was put through its paces. The Pole would eventually record the 4th fastest time of the day, just marginally slower than Hamilton. Massa, Vettel and Button were next up in 5th-7th respectively, while Championship leader, Mark Webber was only 18th fastest.
Sakon Yamamoto ended the session trackside, as his Hispania machine raised an alarm inside the cockpit.
Belgium, 2nd Free Practice (August 27th)
1 ALONSO Ferrari 1m49.032s
2 SUTIL Force India 1m49.157s
3 HAMILTON McLaren 1m49.248s
4 KUBICA Renault 1m49.282s
5 MASSA Ferrari 1m49.588s
6 VETTEL Red Bull 1m49.689s
7 BUTTON McLaren 1m49.755s
8 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m50.081s
9 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m50.128s
10 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m50.200s
11 PETROV Renault 1m50.251s
12 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m50.341s
13 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m50.382s
14 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m50.682s
15 HULKENBERG Williams 1m50.831s
16 LIUZZI Force India 1m51.520s
17 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m51.523s
18 WEBBER Red Bull 1m51.636s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m53.480s
20 TRULLI Lotus 1m53.639s
21 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m54.325s
22 SENNA HRT 1m55.751s
23 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m56.039s
24 GLOCK Virgin 2m03.179s
Belgium, 1st Free Practice (August 27th)
1 ALONSO Ferrari 2m00.797s
2 HAMILTON McLaren 2m01.567s
3 KUBICA Renault 2m02.081s
4 VETTEL Red Bull 2m02.450s
5 SUTIL Force India 2m02.646s
6 BUTTON McLaren 2m02.913s
7 WEBBER Red Bull 2m02.926s
8 KOBAYASHI Sauber 2m03.401s
9 BARRICHELLO Williams 2m03.424s
10 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 2m03.489s
11 MASSA Ferrari 2m03.601s
12 HULKENBERG Williams 2m03.649s
13 ROSBERG Mercedes 2m03.654s
14 DE LA ROSA Sauber 2m03.851s
15 LIUZZI Force India 2m04.145s
16 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 2m04.250s
17 PETROV Renault 2m04.690s
18 BUEMI Toro Rosso 2m05.680s
19 GLOCK Virgin 2m05.697s
20 DI GRASSI Virgin 2m06.695s
21 TRULLI Lotus 2m07.189s
22 SENNA HRT 2m07.737s
23 KOVALAINEN Lotus 2m07.955s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 2m10.507s