On the weekend of his 20th anniversary Formula 1 début, Michael Schumacher topped first practice at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps.
The Mercedes veteran secured the top of the time sheets with a best of 1:54.355 – just under half-a-second quicker than teammate Nico Rosberg.
It is unlikely that this will be seen as a Mercedes resurgence however.
Within ten minutes of the green flag, rain clods drew in, quickly releasing its contents onto the circuit below. Cool conditions in the region made sure that track would fail to reach optimum conditions during the session.
For McLaren and Williams, the rain was far from ideal. McLaren arrived at the Belgian arena with a heavily updated rear wing and DRS, while also having made modifications to their exhaust system.
Throughout the session, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button ran different rear wings as they attempted to draw a picture of where they were in comparison to Red Bull and Ferrari, but with Button only completing eight laps and Hamilton running only seven, little useful information was gained.
Indeed Hamilton curtailed a run early in the session after narrowly avoiding a big crash at the fast Blanchimont corner. The Englishman chanced upon a river running across the circuit half way around the bend, sending the McLaren in a violent wobble.
Williams brought a somewhat bulbous rear wing design to the Belgian Grand Prix as they fight to bring themselves back up the order.
Again the tricky conditions made it difficult to judge whether the upgrade was worth the effort – something that will hopefully become more apparent in the dry.
Ferrari, too, lost time as they endeavoured to test several upgraded components – the damp conditions leaving them little opportunity to form a true picture of their machine at this stage.
It was not a good morning for Renault. The French / Swiss team curtailed Vitaly Petrov’s session early due to power steering issues, but suffered another set back when Bruno Senna backed his R31 into the barrier at Bruxelles.
The Brazilian incurred rear wing and rear suspension damage to his machine, ending his practice thirty minutes early.
Senna was not the only driver to have an off there. Paul di Resta also suffered as he slid helplessly into the same spot, damaging the right rear suspension of his Force India machine.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m54.355s 13 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m54.829s + 0.474s 15 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2m02.740s + 8.385s 8 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 2m03.752s + 9.397s 10 5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 2m04.301s + 9.946s 7 6. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 2m04.663s + 10.308s 18 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 2m04.728s + 10.373s 10 8. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 2m05.391s + 11.036s 12 9. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2m06.583s + 12.228s 16 10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2m06.886s + 12.531s 15 11. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2m07.055s + 12.700s 12 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 2m07.481s + 13.126s 15 13. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 2m08.233s + 13.878s 14 14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2m08.239s + 13.884s 14 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 2m08.918s + 14.563s 10 16. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 2m09.792s + 15.437s 8 17. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2m12.278s + 17.923s 13 18. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 2m12.389s + 18.034s 10 19. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 2m12.772s + 18.417s 13 20. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 2m13.058s + 18.703s 8 21. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 2m13.090s + 18.735s 11 22. Vitaly Petrov Renault 2m13.601s + 19.246s 10 23. Bruno Senna Renault 2m14.340s + 19.985s 7 24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 2m14.933s + 20.578s 11