Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in the first practice session ahead of the 2018 Belgian Formula One Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Friday, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the second session.
F1 is returning from its summer break, and Ferrari's Vettel—second in the drivers' championship—clocked the quickest lap of FP1 at one minute, 44.358 seconds. Raikkonen did even better later in the day, passing the finish line with a time of one minute, 43.355 seconds.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes used new engines, and the Italians clearly had the advantage over the duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen finished ahead of Vettel in FP2, while Daniel Ricciardo had to settle for sixth place.
Here are the timesheets from the second practice session:
Ferrari showed off the power of their new engine early, with Raikkonen surging to the top of the board, going significantly faster than compatriot Bottas.
Hamilton eventually passed the Ferrari man―but not for very long―but the speed trap splits showed just how quick the new Ferrari engine is:
With Raikkonen and Vettel both moving to the supersoft tyres, it was the former who took top marks, with Vettel ducking out of his first run and never bridging the gap. Max Verstappen impressed in his Red Bull, going faster than the German, and Sergio Perez was the only driver in a midfield car capable of staying close to the top six.
Local favourite Stoffel Vandoorne was a long way down the board:
Ricciardo was able to get some laps under his belt, a welcome development after his struggles during FP1. The Australian was off the pace, which wasn't a surprise given the fact he had fewer laps to work with.
Wth half an hour left in the session, the focus shifted to the long runs. Hamilton gave the engineers good data, but he struggled with multiple lock-ups, an indication there's a significant problem with the car that will have to be remedied ahead of qualifying.
Fernando Alonso did his first laps after sitting out FP1, and the Spaniard was significantly faster than Vandoorne immediately. That's bad news for the Belgian, who is believed to be fighting for his future at McLaren, as reported by Motorsport.com's Scott Mitchell.
Here is the timesheet, with the four quickest laps set on the soft compound tyres:
After a quiet start in which Verstappen was the only driver to set a time in the first quarter of an hour, the times quickly piled onto the board when Mercedes and Ferrari—both running on upgraded engines this weekend—took to the track.
Bottas topped the timesheet with his first serious effort on supersoft tyres, and he was soon replaced by team-mate Hamilton.
The pair held the top two spots midway through the session, with Hamilton—who has won the last two races—appearing to have picked up where he left off before the break:
However, Vettel was able to leapfrog the Silver Arrows duo along with Verstappen, while Vettel's team-mate Raikkonen went slightly quicker than Bottas to split them.
Though he failed to trouble the top spots on the timesheet, it was also a memorable morning for 18-year-old Lando Norris, who made his debut driving Alonso's McLaren.
The team appeared to be happy with his efforts, per Sky Sports F1:
Although traffic was occasionally an issue, the session was light on incidents save for Sergey Sirotkin's spin at Turn 8, which he came through unscathed:
Ricciardo looked set to be the only driver not to set a time, as he completed just one lap before having to return to the garage with a power unit issue.
However, the Australian managed to return to the track with just over three minutes remaining in the session. With his one attempt, he was able to finish P6, 1.2 seconds back on Vettel.